November is Adoption Awareness Month. on November 12th this year, many churches across the globe celebrate Orphan Sunday and think about adoption and God’s care for the orphaned and vulnerable children. Saturday November 18th is National Adoption Day. For these reasons, this is a good time for me to share a truth from Scripture that is very precious to our family.
This is about what I call an “anchor verse”. What do I mean by this? Well, since the Bible is the Word of God, it is an eternal spring of spiritual nourishment for our souls. However, there are some verses that we find ourselves repeatedly going back to. They are very effective weapons against Satan, and help in anchoring our faith in the midst of storms of doubt. There are several such verses that have become very effective weapons in our spiritual arsenal. Today, I want to share the tremendous implications of this particular one:
And [God] made .. every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. (Acts 17:26-28)
I do not want to pretend to fully understand this passage, or to have answers to all the questions that arise from it. However, it makes a tremendous assertion – one that is re-affirmed in other parts of Scripture (e.g. Psalm 139:16, Eph 2:10). God has determined in advance every single day of our lives starting with the moment of our births, and ending with the exact instance of our deaths. He has also determined the places that we will spend each day of our lives!
This passage packs an extra punch because it applies to every single human being who has ever lived on the face of this earth, including you and me, and including each member of our families. There are many valuable insights we can glean from this. Here are some of the powerful implications of this truth.
God has Put Our Family Together
Vanita and I were born in India, as were our two adopted children, Sandeep and Ruth Sneha. Our youngest daughter Sarah Rachna was born to us many years later. Our family of five lasted for twelve years, and then God brought our daughter-in-love Shirley into our family as Sandeep’s wife. Yes, yes, strictly speaking Sandeep and Shirley have now launched off to start their own family together. But our family has not shrunk from this union, but rather grown! And we can bask in the wonder of the knowledge that God knitted our entire family together and has a purpose for our family!
How do we know that Vanita and I were meant to be married? Acts 17:26! How do we know that Sandeep and Ruth Sneha were meant by God to be adopted into our family? Acts 17:26! How do we know that Sarah Rachna was meant to be born to us 6 years later? Acts 17:26! How do we know that Sandeep’s meeting and subsequent marriage to Shirley was not an accident but part of God’s eternal plan? Acts 17:26!
While it is not the case for our family, we have heard horror stories of unscrupulous organizations offering families money to send their children to a better life and education, and then having whisking their children away, masquerading them as orphans to unsuspecting adoptive parents overseas. Imaging the shock when the parents of these children discover that they had been deceived! The adoptive parents are also devastated when they later come to know the truth, and the adopted children themselves are also shattered when they learn that their birth parents are still alive. How can all of these deeply wounded people deal with this horrible exploitation and injustice? The issues are complex and need to be taken on a case-by-base basis. However, this truth from Scripture can help those who put their trust in God, as they process the truth of their situations, and deal with its implications. And He will be faithful to see them through!
We are Living Exactly Where We were Meant to Live
Another very significant truth is that we are living exactly where we were meant to live.
I was born in Bangalore, India. Then I moved to Pune and then Mumbai, to continue my education. This is when Vanita and I got married and she joined me.
Vanita’s family had moved from Bangalore to California, then to St. Louis, MO. Vanita went back to Bangalore to complete her Bachelor’s degree. Vanita then completed her Master’s in Rolla, MO, before moving back to Mumbai, India to live with me after our marriage.
A year later, Vanita and I both moved from Mumbai to Long Island, NY for my post-doctoral fellowship! From Long Island, we moved to New Jersey, and then later to Bellevue, and then Redmond, WA. We will remain here until (or unless?) God wants us to move again!
With all of this relocation, our anchor verse tells us that we are living exactly where we were meant to live! For example, we could never have adopted Sandeep and Ruth Sneha, if we had not been living in the United States. But what if we had made wrong decisions along the way? What if some of our moves were mistakes? How would this verse work then? That is a more complex question, and I will briefly address it later.
The One Over-Arching Reason is to Know God
So we have now seen that God has placed us where we are. In His gracious provision, God is the One who has given us the jobs we have. But the reason God has taken all of this effort on our behalf is not to make our lives easy or comfortable. In the context of adoption, this anchor verse tells us that the primary reason God has brought our children into our homes, is in order “that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him” (Acts 17:28).
This is the ultimate reason why God called us to adopt! God wants us to be His instruments in introducing our adopted children to our Savior Jesus Christ. Thus when we teach and train our children about Jesus, we can have full confidence that this is exactly what He wants us to do! Are the results guaranteed? No, there are no assurances! Notice the word “perhaps” that God has included in His inspired Word. He neither promises that our children will get to know Jesus, nor does He even reveal to us what the outcome of our witness will be. But it is nevertheless our responsibility to faithfully point them to Jesus, falling on our knees before our Father on their behalf. And then we must leave the results in His hands!
God’s Plan is Bigger Than Our Mistakes, Failures and Sins
One of the reasons this verse has such power to dispel doubt is because it releases us from the tyranny of the past. Yes, looking back over my life, I know that I have made countless mistakes, and sinned against God countless times. Yes, there are many times I have made choices and decisions without seriously seeking God’s will, and yes, many of these decisions have been wrong.
However, in some wonderful way that I do not understand, God takes all of this sin and failure and presumption, and channels them to be His agents in drawing us closer to Jesus, and giving us the grace to press on (see Romans 8:28). I used to think that the Christian life was a single decision we make to accept Jesus into our lives, and then for the best of our lives we were to try our best to do what is right and strive to please Him. However, that is a sorry caricature of the real truth. Someone said that this is like putting the gospel in the rear-view mirror, and continuing to live a life of legalism. We accepted Christ one day in the past, and now we are working hard to live a moral life. This is actually a false gospel, and it misses describing the infinite resources that God has made available to us in our journey. The full truth of the matter is that the Christian life is a life of faith starting from the day we put our trust in Jesus, and ending on the day of our deaths. Each day, He equips us with the strength to make choices out of our trust in Him that we would not otherwise do. God empowers us through the indwelling Holy Spirit to follow-through on our choices. When we are obedient, we sometimes experience the exhilaration of seeing God show up, and that further strengthens our faith. However, we do fail making the right choices very frequently – either because our faith is too weak, or because we are too distracted by the things of this world, and value something or someone above the value we place for God in our lives (the Bible calls this “idolatry”). However, each and every time we fail, God gives us the grace to return to Him in repentance, and each and every time He faithfully restores us (see 1 John 1:9). Then He gives us the strength to press on without a word of condemnation (see Romans 8:1), because Jesus has already born the punishment for our faithlessness and sin (see 1 John 2:1)! In the light of the relationship we have with this amazing God, this anchor verse renders powerless, all of the “what if”s and the “if only”s that Satan wants to haunt us with, leaving us with just the hopeful expectation of tomorrow.
These are the reasons why this verse is so precious to our family. I have written this with a prayer for each of you, dear readers. May God encourage you through the power of His written Word, and may He liberate you in your walk with our King. God bless you!