It is human nature that we seek out those who agree with us, who have the same beliefs and practices. That’s our comfort zone. And we tend to avoid those who don’t think or act like we do.
Someone once said, “Most people don’t want to hear the truth, they just want reassurance that what they already believe is the truth.”
In Isaiah 55 the prophet tells us to to seek someone who does not think like us or act like us. That someone is God.
“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;  let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:6-9, ESV)
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s ways higher than our ways and God’s thoughts higher than our thoughts. But still Isaiah urges us to seek him and call upon him.
A couple of passages from Scripture illustrate how God’s ways and thoughts are not our ways and thoughts.
Paul’s letter to the Philippians was written when he was in prison. I’m sure as the prison doors slammed behind him Paul was wondering how this all fit into God’s plan. And yet, Paul’s imprisonment turned out to be a blessing:
“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel,  so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.  And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” (Philippians 1:12-14, ESV)
Paul’s imprisonment meant advancement for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That was more important to Paul than his personal safety. The whole imperial guard and others heard that Paul was imprisoned for Christ.
In addition, Paul’s brothers outside the prison became confident in the Lord by Paul’s imprisonment and were much more bold to speak the word without fear.
If going to prison is what would make people more bold to speak the word without fear I might be willing to consider it.
The parable that Jesus tells in Matthew 20 is another illustration of how God’s ways are not our ways:
[Jesus said] “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.  After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.  And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,  and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’  So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same.  And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’  They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’  And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’  And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius.  Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius.  And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house,  saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’  But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?  Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you.  Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’  So the last will be first, and the first last.” (Matthew 20:1-16, ESV)
Paying those who only work one hour the same as those who work all day? What employer would think that way? But that’s what God does, all for the purpose of showing his generosity.
These are just two examples of stories in the Bible where God has shown that his thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are not our ways. There are many others. And we can all think of times in our own lives where our thoughts and ways have been different than God’s thoughts and ways.
So why should we keep seeking and calling upon God who lets his apostles go to prison and who likes it when the first are last and the last are first, when he flaunts his generosity?
First, we all have to admit that there are times when we thought our way was the best but it wasn’t. God had a better plan. When we seek God and call upon him, he helps us see how his plans are the best.
Then there are times when our thoughts and ways have actually been sinful and just plain wrong.
And speaking of sin, what about the way that God decided to deal with our sin? Instead of forcing us to pay for our own sins, he placed all our sins on his own, sinless, beloved Son, Jesus Christ, when Jesus died for us on the cross.
We often underestimate the seriousness of our sins. But at the foot of the cross of Jesus we see the full weight of our sins. Jesus, the beloved Son of God had to suffer and die on the cross to pay for our sins. That’s how serious our sins are. Our sinful thoughts and ways cost Jesus his life.
But as Isaiah says, when we seek him and when we turn to him he will have compassion on us and he will abundantly pardon us.
The grace and mercy we have received in Christ is so transformative that it motivates us to reach out to those who are different than us.
Even if we have been workers in God’s vineyard our entire lives there are still going to be times when we don’t understand God’s ways. But let’s always be clear on this one thing; in Christ we have complete pardon for all our sins.