Things Aren’t Always As They Seem by Tony Cooke

Things Aren’t Always As They Seem
Tony Cooke

Tony CookeCharles Spurgeon and his wife owned chickens, and people noted that they never gave any of the eggs away, but would only sell them. Some people felt they should have been more generous and accused them of being stingy and greedy. The Spurgeons were aware of these rumblings and criticisms, but never responded. It was only after Mrs. Spurgeon had passed away that the full story was revealed—the profits from the sale of the eggs were used by the Spurgeons to support two elderly widows.

We run into problems when we make rigid, iron-clad determinations about people or situations when we don’t have sufficient information. Proverbs 18:13 (AMP) says, “He who answers a matter before he hears the facts—it is folly and shame to him.”

In John 7:24, Jesus said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” The NLT renders that, “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.”

The human race was plunged into darkness (at least in part) because things were not as they seemed to Eve. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate” (Genesis 3:6). Would Eve have eaten the fruit if she could have seen what was really going to happen? Her first-born son murdering her second-born? All the diseases, plagues, wars, and heartache that would ravage the human race as a result of sin? Things aren’t always as they seem.

Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25 both say, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

How many people have been hurt because they were deceived and taken in by a wolf in sheep’s clothing? We need wisdom and discernment to know the truth, because things aren’t always as they seem. The story of Ananias and Sapphira is a good example of this (Acts 5:1-10).

Seldom do we know all the facts, but sometimes, even when we are aware of certain information, God sees a greater redemptive reality beyond our perspective. Dottie Rambo penned the words, “He looked beyond my faults and saw my need.” When Jesus was here on this earth, He didn’t simply see who men were on the outside, but He saw their heart, their needs, and their potential.

Jesus looked beyond…

  1. the clumsiness and impulsivity of Peter and saw an empowered preacher.
  2. the rambunctious turbulence of John and saw the “Apostle of Love.”
  3. the checkered past of the woman at the well and saw a transformed testifier.
  4. the rage of Saul of Tarsus and saw a church builder and an epistle writer.
  5. the suffering He Himself would endure on the cross and saw us coming to Him as a redeemed and purified people.

This penetrating gaze—one that looks beyond the superficial—has been around a long time. In 1 Samuel 16:7, God told Samuel, “For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” Later, Paul asked a congregation this question: “Do you look at things according to the outward appearance?” (2 Corinthians 10:7).

Earlier, Paul admonished this same church not to, “…get ahead of the Master and jump to conclusions with your judgments before all the evidence is in. When he comes, he will bring out in the open and place in evidence all kinds of things we never even dreamed of—inner motives and purposes and prayers. Only then will any one of us get to hear the ‘Well done!’ of God” (1 Corinthians 4:5, MSG).

Sometimes it’s hard not to react quickly and jump to conclusions, but wisdom teaches us not to be rash. James 1:19 (NLT) says, “You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”

A pastor was once informed by a few different people that a certain church member had been bad-mouthing him and the church. As he thought about it, the pastor became angry, and he thought of calling the man in, rebuking him sharply, and giving him an ultimatum—Repent or leave! As the pastor prayed, though, his heart was quickened by the Holy Spirit not to react carnally to these reports.

The pastor prepared himself for the meeting spiritually, and when he visited with the man, it was not to counter-attack, but to reach out to him in love and concern. He said, “John, I’ve heard from more than a couple of people that you’ve been saying some pretty harsh things against me and the church. I’m concerned for you, John, because I know you’re a good man, and I know something drastic must have happened in your life for me to be hearing these things. How can I help you?”

At this, the man broke down and said, “Pastor, I’m so sorry. I have said bad things, and I had no right saying them. The truth is that I’ve been told by my company that I’m going to be laid off. My wife told me that if I lose my job, she’s going to leave me. I’ve been mad at God, and I’ve taken it out on you and the church. I’m wrong. I repent. And I ask you to forgive me.”

The two men prayed together, and God did a work of healing and restoration in the man’s life. Isn’t that wonderful? Instead of reacting carnally to the “fact” of the man’s criticisms, the pastor responded to a deeper need in the man’s life. This is a beautiful illustration of Proverbs 10:12, which says, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.” Love doesn’t condone, justify, or excuse sin; love is more interested in healing the person than in exposing or punishing him.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow made a couple of great statements that would be good for us to keep in mind as we go through life:

    1. “Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”
    2. “If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”

Plato even weighed in with some good, common sense advice along these same lines: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

It is good to be reminded that we are not omniscient, and even when something appears a certain way, our perception is not necessarily accurate. When Jesus died and was laid in the tomb, it appeared to be nothing but an absolute, totally demoralizing defeat. Two sad disciples on the road to Emmaus said to the risen Lord (they did not recognize Him at that time), “…we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21).

The greatest miracle in all of human history had occurred. The Resurrected Jesus was right in front of them. Yet they were downcast and despondent because they were only seeing things according to their perception and according to the appearance of things that had happened!

When we face adversity, and things appear entirely negative, we need to remember that things aren’t always as they seem. 2 Corinthians 4:18 says, “…we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

There was a time when one of Elisha’s servants was in major panic mode because they were surrounded by enemy troops. In the natural, they were grossly outnumbered and outgunned. Elisha, who didn’t seem to be the least bit concerned, told him, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then, “Elisha prayed, and said, ‘LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:16-17). Things aren’t always as they seem.

What is it that you’re facing that may not be as it appears? Is there a seemingly good opportunity before you that, in reality, is more of a mine field than anything else? Is there a situation that looks rough, but in reality, it’s a gold mine? May God help us have spiritual insight and keen discernment, and may we never forget that things are not always as they appear.