When I was growing up there was a pop psychology book entitled, I’m ok, you’re ok. That, of course, is not true; however, if someone were to write a Christian book on providence, it could be entitled, “God’s ok, you’re ok.” That is the essence of providence.
Providence is a vague Christian concept even for most Christians. We have heard of chance, accident, destiny, luck, and fate, and often, we are more comfortable with those godless ideas. Providence is all about God, which is why the world neglects the use of the word in favor of the others. In fact, providence is all about God controlling destinies and fates.
People, even Christians, get nervous when the concept becomes clearer. We are not completely sure if God is good, or not. For instance, add another word, like “sovereign,” to the word “providence” and the picture becomes quite obvious. God sits in the heavens and does as He pleases (Ps 115:3; 135:6). That is sovereignty. God sits in the heavens and does as He pleases with you (Ps 57:2; 138:8). That is providence. If God is good, then providence is incredibly comforting. If God is perceived to be not good, or bi-polar, then we will keep our distance from Him and withhold our trust.
Sovereign providence takes into consideration all of God’s attributes to accomplish all of God’s plans, derived from His will and eternal decree. He creates a three-toed sloth, and no one can question Him. He causes the dinosaurs to become extinct, and no one can question Him. He is ever-present for every good and every evil.
One may inquire, “If God is present at every evil, and claims to be all-powerful, then why doesn’t He do something about evil?” The answer is providence. Evil is a joint operation of demons and men in rebellion against God. In providence, God made provision for evil in the world. We got what we wanted, even after God’s warning we would not want what we eventually got (Gen 2:17). In addition, we might not want to be too quick to judge God for not judging us more efficiently.
I love the subject of providence, and assuredly, that is providential. God puts desires in His people to want to know Him. I have been a privileged witness to God’s providence so many times, that I can only marvel when people, especially Christians, are not more interested in God working His plan in our lives.
Providence causes me to praise God, even when it is sad or bad providence. The reason is another rich providence passage, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28).” Remember, “God’s ok, you’re ok.”
When a Christian becomes too wealthy for his own good, God knows how to remove his wealth for his own good. Thus, immediately, we can see how painful providence can be when it includes discipline for the child of God. Sinful men are hell-bent on destroying themselves; but when God reveals Himself to someone, He demonstrates His commitment to work out His adopted child’s salvation by grace. The mind-boggling aspect is how God works everything in the world in His providence, and at the same time, He is intimately working the life story of every elect soul. Providence is global, historical, eternal, and personal.
A Son of God from heaven is perfect, but a child of the devil, adopted by God as His own child, needs a stunning amount of work. God’s providential work of re-crafting a person is called, “sanctification.” He has chosen to make some people holy, and He has promised to finish what He started.
God’s promises to His regenerated people are precious to us. God’s Word guarantees we are in good hands, for the gracious hand of God upon a person is the assurance of salvation. What did Job have to hold onto except the truth of God? A bad company of deficient theologians, positioned as “friends” by providence, may not be pleasant, but it ultimately has its perfect work, too.
Providence was at work with the Hebrew midwives as much as with Moses. Providence assured Samuel that he would find the youngest son of Jesse to anoint as King of Israel. Providence brought food to Elijah in the wilderness. Providence gave Isaac and John the Baptist to very elderly parents. Providence is operating in the miraculous and the mundane. My life is pretty mundane, but when I see providence, I like to ask, “What is the probability this or that just happened?”
Chance encounters are never by chance. They are providential. The person in your life, whose last name is pronounced, “thorninmyside,” is there by providence. The rise and fall of kings and nations is by providence. Jesus could say to Pontius Pilate, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above…(Jn 19:11a)” Providence gives and providence takes away, blessed be the God of providence.
When one says, “God’s will be done,” she is acknowledging God’s working all things. It is impossible to escape God’s providence. So even if one says, “Not Your will, but my free will be done,” she is still subject to God’s will being done. God works all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph 1:11). By the way, “all things” translated from the Greek means, “all things.”
Rebellion against God is not only ill-advised, but also insanity. We must acknowledge, the course of rebellion is the way of the world. Jesus called it, “the broad path that leads to destruction (Mt 7:13).” Many travel that way because they are blinded to the Gospel (2 Cor 4:4), which calls all men everywhere to repent to God (Acts 17:30). Truly, it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of an angry God (Heb 10:31).
We learn theology by God’s providence, and in theology we learn about God’s providence. God is patient. That is theology. God causes us to be patient. That is theology and providence. Joseph had to patiently wait in jail. David had to wait for the throne, while being hunted by Saul and the Philistines. The three boys of Babylon had to wait in the fiery furnace. Daniel had to wait with the lions. The world, especially Israel, had to wait for the fullness of time for the Messiah to come. Learning providence, in the lives of others, helps us to learn to live in providence ourselves. Blessed is the man who waits on the Lord.
Providence is not just about time, but it shows up when and how God wants it to. Abigail steps in David’s path and saves David from even more blood on his hands at Nabal’s house. Providence later provided for Abigail to be married to David. Providence showed up at Endor when King Saul consulted with the witch. The ghost of Samuel providentially spooked the witch. Angels often appear on the scene in God’s providence, as they did with Abraham, Lot, Elijah, Gideon, Zacharias, Mary, and Joseph.
My point in writing to you, today, is to encourage you to have confidence in providence. We are often subject to dark days, weeks, months, and even years. God is good. His purpose for His people is holiness. He is committed to our holiness far more than we are committed to our holiness. God is ever-present with His people. We are never abandoned. Like the prodigal son, we are drifters. The remedy is to acknowledge God and have Him direct our steps on His narrow path of righteousness. We are heading home to our Father by His providence. If only we would resist the devil, instead of resisting God. Providence is God’s work to help His people with this change of allegiance and affection.
We are called to study God’s Word, and when we do, God reveals His providence. We can look at the lives of people of faith on the pages of Scripture to see God’s providence. We can look at church history, and see God’s loving care and protection of Christians, even in their being martyrs. Hopefully, you will take time and remember God’s providence at your birth, in your being raised in a Christian home or with Christian friends, in your receiving salvation, in your marriage, in your work, in your family, and in your growing in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Providence chose all of these things for you; therefore, there is no reason to balk or bemoan your condition or circumstances.
In His providence, God has made provision for prayer. One might question why we even pray if God is sovereign and working all things. Well, one of those things is prayer. God has given us full access to His throne of mercy and grace, through the blood of Jesus Christ. God communicates with His people through His Spirit and His Word, and we communicate with God through prayer. Prayer does not change providence, but it helps us better align with God’s providence.
Learning to live with God’s providence is integral in His providence. The Bible calls it, “submission to God,” which usually means being “subject to one another.” The people in your life are chosen for you by providence. Your paths did not just happen to cross. God is working. God is teaching. God is crafting and conforming. We are never encouraged to question the Potter’s right to His own clay (Jer 18; Rom 9).
We must submit; and when we do submit, providence becomes our delight. Providence led Paul and Silas to jail and to sing hymns and spiritual songs. In fact, God’s people in jail have encountered liberating angels, liberating earthquakes, and liberating ministries to households of emperors. Some of the best writings God’s people have produced have come from jail, whether in Rome or Birmingham.
Providence is never ludic behavior on God’s part. He is working. He is working all things. He is working all things together. He is working all things together for good. He is working all things together for good for those who love Him. He is working all things together for good for those who love Him, and who are called. He is working all things together for good for those who love Him, and who are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28). We know this because in God’s providence, He has told us; and what He has told us is all about providence. What we have learned is that God is ok, and by extension, God’s people are ok. This is why we must have confidence with providence.
Spokane Valley, Washington
February 9, 2021