Surprise! This is an expression given to somebody who doesn’t expect something. Almost always the word connotes a positive or happy occurrence because it is done when a secret birthday or anniversary celebration is planned. Once in a while you get someone that doesn’t like or appreciate the surprise, but that is a rare event.
The Bible has numerous God surprises that happen to people. Many of them are amazing happenings that bless people to no end. But some of those situations initially aren’t positive, but always lead to a wonderful outcome.
Look at how many unexpected occurrences happen around the birth narrative of Jesus. Mary, a young unmarried teenager, receives a visitation from the angel Gabriel to announce that while being a virgin she will give birth to the Messiah. As far as we know Mary wasn’t praying for this to be a part of her life. Surprise!
Matthew 1:19-24 describes how Joseph, Mary’s fiancé, was going to divorce her privately, implying that he didn’t buy her story of the way the baby was conceived. But then Joseph has a dream, where an angel tells him that what happened to Mary is indeed true. Surprise! As a result, Joseph takes Mary to be his wife.
A couple of years later several wise men from a foreign country come and bring gifts to the young child and worship him, referring to him as the King of the Jews. Surprise!
When Jesus grows up and starts his public ministry, he chooses twelve men to be his constant companions for the next three plus years. Throughout the times they are together, these twelve men witness many miraculous and have many surprising experiences.
One of the repeatable things that Jesus tells his closest disciples is that he is going to die. One time Peter actually rebukes Jesus for saying that. This causes Jesus to look at Peter and declare for Satan to get behind him. Now Jesus was not accusing Peter of being Satan, but Peter’s comments were influenced by the enemy. Peter loved Jesus dearly, but for Jesus to say that to him, must have been a shock. Surprise!
After Jesus death, the twelve disciples thought that maybe Jesus wasn’t who he claimed to be and that their lives would go back to the way they were prior to meeting him. But then the resurrection happens. Big Surprise! This now causes these men to continue the work of the Lord and help to change the world.
But then more unexpected things happen. Even though Peter is a Christian, he still is a Jew by birth and wants to live not only following Jesus, but also by following the Jewish customs. Then in Acts 10 Peter has a vision while in prayer of God asking him to eat unclean animals. Of course this goes against his understanding of right and wrong, but out of this God shows Peter that he can make anything clean. Specifically, Peter can go to a Gentile’s home (not allowed for a Jew to do) and preach the gospel. Surprise!
Possibly the biggest shocker in the book of Acts is Paul’s conversion. Here is a fanatical Jewish man bent on killing Christians, who then meets the resurrected Jesus on the Damascus Road. This dramatic encounter leads to Paul being born again and his becoming the most effective first century apostle and missionary. Such a surprise, that initially most of the Christians didn’t even believe it possible.
My Christian life has been characterized by God surprises. I was planning on being a high school math teacher, but then out of nowhere in my sophomore year of college I loathed going to my math class. I couldn’t figure out why until a week later I experienced with what I believe was a type of vision where God spoke to my heart and said he wanted me in full time ministry. Surprise!
When I went through my divorce, my ex-wife’s sister introduces me to Maria, my current and final wife. She has been God’s greatest gift and we are going on thirty eight years of marriage. Out of a horrible divorce comes God’s greatest blessing. Surprise!
When I contacted our local newspaper to see if I could advertise my Financially Free seminar, the editor asked if I would be willing to write a monthly column on saving money. Never did that before and it lasted six years.
Several years ago I met with a man who did investment consulting thinking my budget seminar would help his clients. When I found out he had very wealthy clients, I wondered why he would meet with me. He said as a Christian he wanted to give back to the community and would I do a radio show in which he would pay me a monthly salary. I certainly couldn’t have predicted that in my wildest dreams. Surprise, surprise, surprise!
So my counsel is to be diligent in praying and seeking God every day. It can be quite an adventure if you choose to listen carefully to his voice. You might discover that he will do things for you that you didn’t expect. Who knows, you just might hear the Holy Spirit say to you, “surprise”! Wouldn’t that be fun?