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"Time and chance"? What's that?

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The author of Ecclesiastes made a puzzling statement when he wrote that “time and chance happen to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11 Ecclesiastes 9:11I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happens to them all.
American King James Version×
). Some interpret this to mean that, sometimes, bad things happen for no real reason. But is that true?

Bad things certainly happen. But it would be completely out of character for the same God who does not forget so much as a sparrow, and who assures us that “you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7 Luke 12:6-7 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? 7 But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: you are of more value than many sparrows.
American King James Version×
), to allow anything to happen without a reason.

Think about the implications of something happening without any reason. It means one of two things: either God wasn't paying attention or didn't care. That's like calling the Almighty either incompetent or apathetic.

We know that neither is true. God is all-seeing (Psalms 33:13-15 Psalms 33:13-15 13 The LORD looks from heaven; he beholds all the sons of men. 14 From the place of his habitation he looks on all the inhabitants of the earth. 15 He fashions their hearts alike; he considers all their works.
American King James Version×
), never-sleeping (Psalms 121:3-4 Psalms 121:3-4 3 He will not suffer your foot to be moved: he that keeps you will not slumber. 4 Behold, he that keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
American King James Version×
) and cares deeply about His people (Romans 8:38-39 Romans 8:38-39 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
American King James Version×
). So we must examine the alternative—that, while God does not directly cause evil, He knowingly allows it to happen.

Because humanity has elected to follow its own way instead of God's, God “gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful” (Romans 1:28-31 Romans 1:28-31 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
American King James Version×
). God has, in essence, taken a step back from a world that says it doesn't want Him around. He is allowing its inhabitants to see the result of a life without Him.

That result is, from a human perspective, time and chance. Though God has not lost the ability to restrain Satan and his demons at will, humanity has forfeited God's protection by turning its collective back on Him. As a result, “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11 Ecclesiastes 9:11I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happens to them all.
American King James Version×
). Bad things happen as a result of humanity's choices; as a result of sin and forsaking God. But none of them happen “accidentally” or apart from God's will.

As it is written in the Psalms, “the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy” (Psalms 33:18 Psalms 33:18Behold, the eye of the LORD is on them that fear him, on them that hope in his mercy;
American King James Version×
). That is a promise. (What about when bad things happen to God's people? See the Related Online Resources below.)

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