I once worked as a security guard at a private Catholic high school in Spokane, Washington.  My job was to prevent students from sneaking off campus, especially during the lunch hour, and to prevent other people from sneaking onto campus and breaking into the students’ and teachers’ cars.

The problem was that the school had two parking lots, one on either side of campus, with several large buildings in between.  This made the job basically impossible, because I could only be in one place at a time. While I was in one parking lot, bad things could be happening in other one, and I would have no way of knowing.  Also, it wasn’t reasonable to expect that I’d be in constant motion for 8 hours a day.  At times I would have to sit still and rest.  Furthermore, as this was an outdoor job in Spokane, for much of the year I was bundled up in boots, long johns, jeans, several layers of shirts, a bulky coat, a hat, and gloves, so I didn’t exactly move very quickly.  Still, I had my orders.  In order to prove to my boss that I was doing my job well, I needed a certain amount of success in catching perpetrators in the act.

Early on in that year, I heard a pastor teaching on the life of Joseph from the book of Genesis.  He talked about what it meant when the Bible says that God was “with” Joseph and gave him success in His work.  Here are a couple of statements from Genesis chapter 39:

The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.  When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. –Genesis 39:2-4

The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.—Genesis 39:23

The Lord was with Joseph and gave him success.  Now, to be clear, the Bible tells us that Joseph was a hard worker.  He wasn’t lazy; he didn’t sit back and expect God to dump blessings in his lap.  No, he did his part, but the Bible also says that God took his hard work and made the most of it, and in a supernatural way caused him to be more successful than he otherwise would have been.

I decided to put this to the test in my security guard position.  I would not spend my days fretting, stressing myself out and running anxiously from place to place, chasing high-schoolers here and there, hoping to be in the right place at the right time.  But I would also not spend them sitting in a chair.  I would faithfully do my rounds and trust that God would honor my diligence, and I would pray that He would grant me success, for His glory.  (In between those rounds, I actually did sit in a chair, on a fire escape overlooking one of the parking lots, and I read a tremendous amount of the Bible that year.  I also walked over 5 miles a day on the frozen concrete and wore out a pair of really good boots.)

And it worked.  It was amazing how often I did just happen to be in the right place at the right time.  My boss began to comment on my effectiveness.  Students started calling me “the ghost” because of how often I appeared out of nowhere, and theorizing that I had hidden cameras on the property.  I prevented a number of thefts.  Meanwhile I was reading a ton of Scripture and getting plenty of exercise, all without any real stress. God was prospering the work of my hands.

What does it look like when God is at work in our lives?  So often we pray for miracles, and wonder why we don’t see more of them.  I believe our God can and does do miraculous things, but the truth is that miracles, at least in the sense we usually use that word, have not been a major part of my life. 

I take comfort in the fact that this is true for most of the people in the Bible, too.  Some people don’t realize that in the whole big story of human history, the miracles of the Bible only take place in a few little pockets of time.  With a couple of small exceptions, they are basically confined to the time of Moses (1400 BC?), the time of Elijah and Elijah (900 BC?), the time of Daniel and his three friends (600 BC?) and the time of Jesus and the early church (2000 years ago).  Other than that, God’s people have lived as you and I do, hearing rumors of great things He has done, and seeing His work in the ordinary details of our daily lives.  Sometimes it feels like we are just trudging through on our own, and only when we look back on a situation do we say, “Wow, look what God has done!”

One person who never witnessed a major miracle was King David. (Okay, there’s the one weird story about the sound of an army marching in the treetops, but I’m not calling that one “major”).  What David did see was that time and time again, God took his very human efforts and did great things with them.  Guiding the stone to Goliath’s forehead.  Strengthening Israel to stand up to her much stronger enemies.  Lifting the nation from poverty to prosperity.  In all of it, David knew that God was at work and deserved glory for it.

Among other things, people thought of David as a mighty warrior.  They sang songs about his incredible success on the battlefield.  But David knew the truth: in the chaos of battle, when the swords are swinging and the arrows are flying, and one person just never seems to get hit, is it because of his skill?  Only in part.  Look what David wrote in Psalm 18:

He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
    he causes me to stand on the heights.
He trains my hands for battle;
    my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You make your saving help my shield,
    and your right hand sustains me;
    your help has made me great.
You provide a broad path for my feet,
    so that my ankles do not give way.—Psalm 18:33-36

And again in Psalm 140:

Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer,
    you shield my head in the day of battle.—Psalm 140:7

Your help has made me great, David says to God.  You shield my head.  You clear the path where you know my foot is going to land.  In little unseen ways, all the time, you are prospering the work of my hands.

Is God at work in your life?  In mine?  Far more than we know.  Who knows what arrows He has shielded me from even today?  It’s impossible to see or account for all the little ways He guides and blesses and protects.  All the times he makes sure I’m in the right place at the right time.  All the little nudges of the Holy Spirit, all the opportunities and coincidences.  Take a moment to look back at the last few weeks of your life and consider all the times God has been quietly at work.  Then look ahead and know that He will continue to show up in large and small ways as you and I faithfully walk the path He has laid before us.

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