Saturday, February 11, 2006
Resting In God's Providence
Providence is the teaching that God is in control. Otherwise know as the Sovereignty of God. In it’s full biblical glory, it is expressed quite clearly in Ephesians 1:11, where it says "…being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will."
And when we say God is in control, we don’t just mean that He is controlling a herd of cats that He can barely get his hands on. Or that He reacts to things by some corrective measure that barely averts tragedies sometimes, and sometimes, "Ooops, I missed that one."
That borders on blasphemy. When we say God is in control, we are saying that He has determined all things before the foundation of the world. For example, the Scripture says that he has chosen us before the foundation of the world and that even the Lamb of God was slain before the foundation of the world.
God is never surprised. He’s never amazed. He’s never shocked. But He doesn’t just see the future, He determined it.
Now there’s a mystery there, as in so many other things about God. Clearly the Scripture doesn’t portray us as robots. We are thinking, choosing, feeling beings. We might say our mind is our thinker, our will is our chooser, and our emotions are our feeler. And we do choose. We do make decisions.
Yet God "works all things according to the counsel of His will." Before time began, He set forth history. And a thorough study of the sovereignty of God will convince you that when a car drives down a dusty road, not one speck of dust will fall back to earth, but that God determined beforehand where and how it would fall.
And here’s my concern. I see those who believe in the sovereignty of God often in a state of discontentment. I see them mouthing the truth that God is in control, then living as if every circumstance of life was cause for being upset. Knowing that God is sovereign, yet they lack the peace of God too often. Knowing that Romans 8:28 is true, yet they live as if it weren’t.
Romans 8:28 says, "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
Some have rightly called this verse the "soft pillow that a Christian can rest their head on." But too many are not resting on that pillow. At some level, they know it’s true, but at some level they deny it in their mind, emotions, and will.
I think there are three main reasons why one doesn’t rest in the Providence of God:
1. We forget that He is in control.
Whether it's other people (I always say you can't live someone else's life), or circumstances beyond our control, or even the weather, He is in control. The old "Serenity Prayer", which is more asssociated with secular gift stores than the church, has a lot of wisdom: "Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference." But if He is in control, then things are not out of control. That alone can be a comfort. Serenity.
2. We forget that He loves us.
Mainly because of Performance-based religion – deceived by the world, the flesh and the devil. We don’t spend the time communing with Him, so we don’t experience the warmth of His open arms. We don’t draw near to Him with the promise that He will draw near to us. When we do spend that time with Him, and when we are reminded through His word that we live by grace, and not performance, then we can experience His love. And not just the intellectual, "Oh yeah, I know He loves me."
3. We doubt His righteousness or goodness.
This is close to #2, forgetting that He loves us. But it extends to all the world. We have the "If I Ruled the World" complex. You know the old song, "If I ruled the world, every day would be the first day of spring."
All I can say is it’s a good thing that neither you nor I ruled the world. I much prefer an all-knowing, all-wise, all-powerful holy, righteous and good God ruling the world. And He does.
Here again, we need to spend the time in His presence and in His word, to really grasp this in our hearts.
The word is filled with the truth of the goodness of God.
Even His justice for the wicked is a reflection of His goodness and righteousness, isn’t it?
"Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God." (Romans 11:22)
Even our repentence is driven by His goodness. "Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?" (Romans 2:4)
But we need our minds renewed by the word, to really get it. "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what [is] that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (Romans 12:2)
May I ask you a simple question? If you knew God was completely sovereign, and that He completely loves you and accepts you in Christ, and that He is completely good and righteous, wouldn’t that make a difference in your life? Wouldn’t that give you a level of rest in the Providence of God? Wouldn’t that take away some of the anxiety that may have plagued you regarding everything from a rained out picnic to a friend who just won’t be the way or live the way you know they should?
Believe me, the more you commune with this Lord of ours, the more you get to know Him, the more you will be filled with His Spirit, and the more you will have the peace of God that passes understanding, the peace of God that rests in His Providence, that rests in His Sovereignty over all.
(Sidebar: The excellent book portrayed above in the photo is A.W. Pink's best work. In glorifying God in His sovereignty for initial salvation, he does a wonderful job, and I highly recommend the book. But in my opinion, Pink is weak in understanding Grace after salvation, advocating law-based Christian living. So I would be very cautious in recommending any other of Pink's books to any but the most discerning Grace-oriented reader.)
Listen to "Grace For Life" Radio Program.