This week's Sunday School lesson was about God's foreknowledge, particularly in relation to his providence. God knows everything that ever has happened in history, everything that is happening now, and everything that will happen. How does he know these things? Because he planned them.
In order to illustrate this, before the lesson I went to the church kitchen and got two kettle covers and hid them behind one of the bulletin boards in the classroom. After class began, I welcomed the students as I usually do, and we reviewed the content of the previous week's lesson. Then I calmly excused myself from the table and walked over to the counter where I had previously placed a pair of earplugs. I proceeded to put the plugs in my ears, in full view of the students. I then reached behind the bulletin board to retrieve the kettle covers, and they watched me do the whole thing. I proceeded to bang them together, making a loud crashing sound, at which a couple of the students jumped in their seats, and all of the students covered their ears quickly to guard themselves from the loud sound.
After I took the earplugs out we talked through the scenario. Did the students know what I was doing? No. Were they surprised by what I did? Yes. Was I surprised? No. Why not? Because I had planned the whole thing. I cannot be taken by surprise by what I have planned. Also, I'm the one doing the action, so I can't be surprised by it.
After we talked through this process, I illustrated the point again by dipping my fingers in a cup of water that I had stashed near my chair and flicked the droplets at one of the students. She jumped back and let out a squeal. Was she expecting me to do that? No. Was I expecting me to do that? Yes. Why? Again, because it was I who had planned in my heart and mind to do it.
This can help us understand what God's foreknowledge is like. God knows the future because he has planned it. And it unfolds exact in the way he has planned for it to unfold, so he is never taken by surprise.
And when it comes to our plans as compared to God's plans there are significant differences. For instance, I can plan to do something, but there are several external factors over which I have no control that can effect my plans, and can even negate what I have planned. For example, if I plan to play a game of baseball with my friends, the weather can change my plans. So could an injury to my foot on the way to the game; so could the possibility that although I have planned the game, none of my friends want to play.
This is nothing like God's plans. What God plans always happens. He always achieves what he sets out to do.
This should offer those who trust in God a certain measure of security in life, no matter what they face, especially when we consider that everything that God does is for the good of those who love him. First, we can take heart that God is never surprised by anything that happens to us. Although we might be caught off guard, he never is. He is therefore always able to help and support us in our hour of need. Second, if God is truly working all things together for our good, this means we can look at even trying and difficult times in life as times when God is doing something good for or to us. Third, we can more readily identify those times when failing to trust God when we doubt the fact that he has the future always in view.
I think I am instructed and encouraged by this Sunday School class as much, if not more, than the students!