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Divine Providence

Written by Pastor Colin Wong

Do you believe in divine providence? Do you believe nothing happens to you by accident? I do. I believe every single event (good or bad) that happens in my life does not happen by chance. I do not believe things happen to me without God knowing it. I believe that whatever happens to me is within the will of God and it is good for me in His eternal plan for my life (Romans 8:28, 29). Though I may not understand why something happens to me, as a child of God, I can safely entrust my life to Him who fulfills all His purposes of me, in and through me (Psalm 20:4).

What is divine providence?

Irenaeus, one of the early Christians, said, “The Maker of this universe…. exercises a providence over all things, and arranges the affairs of our world” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 25.1, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers). St. Augustine wrote “The City of God” in part to teach the providence of God over nations and civilizations, especially in light of the crisis caused by the fall of Rome to the barbarians (Benjamin W. Farley, The Providence of God). He said that events did not happen by luck or by fate but by the will of God (St. Augustine, The City of God). Thomas Aquinas wrote, “All things are subject to divine providence, not only in general, but even in their own individual selves…. All things that exist in whatsoever manner are necessarily directed by God towards some end” (Aquinas, Summa Theologica, pt. 1, q. 22, art. 2).

“Nothing happens by chance and without a very decree of God”

John Calvin said it would be cold and barren “to think of God as a Creator who leaves creation to itself” and asserted “He is also everlasting Governor and Preserver…. He sustains, nourishes, and cares for, everything he has made, even to the least sparrow” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion). He added, “God so attends to the regulation of individual events, and they all so proceed from his set plan, that nothing takes place by chance” (Calvin, A Defense of the Secret Providence of God). God, our Creator, Sustainer, and Ruler of all things, is Sovereign. Therefore, “Nothing happens by chance and without a very decree of God” (Shawn D. Wright, Our Sovereign Refuge: The Pastoral Theology of Theodore Beza).

The teaching of the Divine Providence in the Bible has been a tremendous blessing to my soul. Truly, whatever that had happened to me and is happening to me and shall happen to me eventually leads to the glory of God. In his Marrow of Theology, William Ames said, “God often works through means, though He does not need those means. His providence both preserves all things (Psalm 104:19, 20; Acts 17:28; Hebrews 1:3) and governs all things (Psalm 29:10; Genesis 50:20).

God accomplishes His purposes through His governing providence. Ephesians 1:11 and 12 affirms that the Sustainer of the whole universe “… works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory” (NIV). Paul said God would work out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will. That means God’s providence includes every minute detail of our lives (Matthew 10:29, 30). He will work it out for the praise of His glory (Philippians 1:6).

Let me share with you how providence can be observed in the life and experience of Christians.

1. A man from Ethiopia meets Philip the evangelist in the desert (Acts 8:26-39).

2. A Syrian general is advised by a slave girl how he may be healed of disease (2 Kings 5:1-4).

3. A woman makes a lonely journey to the city well and finds a thirsty stranger, Jesus (John 4:1-42).

4. A minister wanders from the main point of his sermon, and through “chance” remarks someone in the congregation is converted.

5. A Christian is jailed because of some church matters. While in prison, a fellow prisoner is converted through his testimony.

6. An uneventful thing happens to you, but out of it something wonderful emerges.

7. Even evil deeds of man can be used by God for His purpose and glory. A story is told of John Flavel returning from Virginia to Dartmouth by ship. A young surgeon on board was contemplating suicide. As he lay dying, Flavel visited him and shared with him the Gospel. He was converted and recovered from his injuries. Here we see God providentially used an attempt at suicide to save a man from hell. He used a man’s evil for good (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28, 29). Can God work out something good out of the Covid-19 pandemic? As the saying goes, “God can draw a straight line with a crooked stick.”

What I would like to do is to encourage you to spend time meditating on the Providence of God, particularly on God’s ways through your life. We are living in a rapidly changing world.

You and I need to be reminded that nothing happens to us without God’s knowledge.

Following are some biblical truths that Christians today desperately need to hear:

1. God is sovereign.

2. God is working out His perfect purposes for me in my life.

3. God’s ways are far more mysterious and wonderful than I can understand.

4. God’s timetable is not the same as mine.

5. God is always good. I can always trust him.

6. God is far more interested in what I become than what I do.

7. Freedom of suffering is not promised in the Christian Gospel.

8. Suffering is part and parcel of the Christian life.

9. God works through trials of life to fulfill his purposes of me in me.

10. God’s purposes, not mine, of me fulfilled in me, are what bring Him glory.

11. God enables me to know His providences through my reading the Word.

12. God is not the one who serves me.

I believe in divine providence. Do you? If you do, may I exhort you to commit every detail of your life to the Lord and trust Him to work out every single detail of your life (for He will bring it to pass) according to His good pleasure. Amen.

“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

Posted on 19 May 2020

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