The Neglected Doctrine of Providence
Providence is not a word the world uses, unless you live in Rhode Island. It is also a word missing in much of our Christian communications. Do most Christians even know what providence is, or what it does? What if we actually believed in providence as a way of life?
Providence is the super-intentional work of God in everything (Eph 1:11). With the saturation of man-centered theology in most of American Christianity, it does not take much to see why providence is a neglected topic.
Man-centered theology argues, “We have kicked God out of our public schools,” and, “It must break God’s heart to watch us slaughter our babies.” Man-centered thinking is as pervasive, as it is insidious. Christians surely have a deficient view of God when we project His attributes as less than perfect. He is omnipresent. He is omniscient. He is omnipotent. He is working all things, as He sits in the heavens and does as He pleases (Ps 115:3; 135:6). There is nothing lacking in God, and there is nothing deficient in what He does.
There is no suggestion that anyone can truly grasp God’s providential working, say, in the death of a sparrow, nor in His interest in every single blade of grass. We are so limited with our language about God; and our theology, in total, is miniscule.
A glimpse at today’s news will certainly fuel our belief in chaos. Everything is perceived to be random, but this is the remarkable element to understanding providence. The more things that happen in the world, and in the universe, the more we are amazed — only if we include thoughts of God in our contemplations. Otherwise, we are stuck with time and chance…and despair.
The total depravity of man wants to exclude God from everything, which only proves God’s Word is true about us (Rom 1:18–32; 3:9–18). God is not moved by the machinations of man. God is immutable. He does not change, nor does His eternal decree — grass and sparrows included.
There is nothing in the disciplines of university research and knowledge that God did not design and employ. Our task is to keep providence at the forefront of every observation, thought, knowledge-known, along with every event and relationship. This is no easy task because there are very few who make God, or for that matter, Christ, as the all in all of their communication. The secular atheists would insist this is mental illness. Call me crazy, but they did so my Lord (Mt 11:18).
The Bible is God’s revelation to man about what God wants man to know. Man can also learn some things about God, by studying the natural world. To know the person and work of God, by special revelation, comes by His grace — an unmerited favor to get to know the architect and builder of all things (Heb 11:10). This personal knowledge of God, from the Bible, brings the realization that He is one’s personal Maker. Man says, “Know thyself,” but God’s Word says, “Know God.”
To know God is to learn of His providential care in all things: rainy days, Mondays, and why you are down. To trust providence is to enter God’s rest. Remembering He is working all things should be our comfort (Eph 1:11), all things for good — our peace (Rom 8:28).
Human abuses would abate if we had this trust in providence. At the first news of anything, God would enter our thoughts. Our trust that He is working, for better or worse, in each person’s life would relieve us of trying to play the part of God. In this, we become witnesses, instead of controlling manipulators. Our thoughts are occupied with what God has already done, what He is doing now, and with excited anticipation, “What will He do next?”
Trust in the Lord. Rest in the Lord. These ideas make more sense to us when we realize Jesus is Lord, and He is the One at work in the midst of all His creation. We can rest assured that the Alpha and the Omega decreed it all, and He will do it…whatever “it” is. This is providence…glorious providence. For from Him, through Him, and to Him, are all things (Rom 11:36).
Spokane Valley, Washington
September 13, 2021