But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. [Acts 2:23 (NLT)]

purple flowerAn “own goal” is when a player scores in his own team’s scoring area; it’s an embarrassing and costly blunder since the point goes to the opposing team. Satan’s team has made a fair share of own goals. Caesar Augustus ordering that census so Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem for Jesus’ birth, Judas betraying Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, and Roman soldiers gambling for His clothes and piercing Christ’s side rather than breaking His legs were all acts by evil people. Nevertheless, they accomplished God’s will and fulfilled Biblical prophecy. Joseph’s jealous brothers sold him into slavery and Potiphar’s wife wrongly accused him, but without their despicable acts, Joseph wouldn’t have ended up in Egypt working as Pharaoh’s prime minister. He and his family would have perished back in Canaan during the famine and Genesis would have been the end of the story instead of the beginning! God is not beyond allowing Satan’s forces to make a goal for him and I can attest to that.

Although I’d been raised in a church-going family and considered myself a Christian, I was a troubled and confused young woman when I entered college. Freshman year, I took a course in Discussion. Our first day, the class was divided into small groups for a major assignment. We were to select a campus organization that had discussions and observe several meetings. Our purpose was not to scrutinize the subject matter but to analyze and evaluate the way in which it was discussed. We freshmen knew nothing about any campus organizations so when Dave, the group’s lone upper classman, assured us that Campus Crusade for Christ would make for a great term paper, we deferred to his wisdom. The fact they met Sunday nights and served supper was the real selling point for most of us.

What we didn’t know until after starting the project was that Dave’s purpose in choosing Campus Crusade had nothing to do with observing discussion methods or eating a free dinner. An angry atheist, his sole reason for choosing the group was to write a paper that denigrated and ridiculed Christians. Having read the assignment, the rest of us insisted on keeping our focus on discussion methods rather than the topic of discussion. When it became clear that our paper wouldn’t accomplish his purpose, Dave dropped the class. In fact, he dropped out of sight and I never saw him again!

While I remember getting an A on the paper, I remember nothing of the mode of discussion at the Campus Crusade get-togethers except that it was spirited and friendly. What I do remember is their message of God’s grace and salvation through Jesus Christ. This wasn’t the God of judgment and condemnation with whom I was familiar; this was a God of unconditional love and forgiveness, a God of relationship rather than religion. Jesus became real to me and I learned more about Him in a few Sunday evenings than I had in years of Sunday school and church. I’d been baptized as an infant and confirmed as a young teen, but it wasn’t until I knelt in the university chapel and asked Jesus into my life that I truly became His disciple. I continued attending those Sunday meetings long after our paper was completed.

Our Heavenly Father works in strange and wonderful ways and has no problem allowing evil people to accomplish His purposes. There’s a certain amount of poetic justice when Satan’s plans backfire! Thank you, Jesus, for the atheist who brought me into your arms!

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. Genesis 50:20 NLT

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. [Romans 8:28 (NLT)]

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