TRUST & GOD’S PROVIDENCE (John 16:33)
Today’s Passage: John 16:33
Many “old school” ideas have fallen into the hole of becoming phrases, or cliché, or even worse, obsolete.
We, the more informed and enlightened, have little time for them. Yet, we dismiss them at our spiritual peril.
Providence is one such idea. In a related reflection I suggested providence was somewhat (please note “somewhat”) equal to trust. Today, let’s honor our forebears and think about providence, God’s providence.
Sometimes it is easier to enter into a discussion from the opposite end. When somehow, we feel God’s care and concern (His providence) for us is lacking, we ask, “Where are you, God?”
The silence can be deafening.
Many have had their living faith in God, and His gracious interaction with His world, extinguished. “Their eyes see only the flow and counter-flow of events and experiences; their minds can discern no pattern or meaning; and they have lost hold of, or have never reached out to grasp, the hand of the unseen God who rules all, plans all, and whose purposes give meaning to history both on world and on individual levels.” (D. Atkinson, The Message of Ruth, p.11)
By contrast, faith that God is presently active not just in His world, but in my individual life, completely changes how I process the “flow and counter-flow of events” in and around me—faith, trust, in God’s Providence gives meaning to my muddles.
I indicated we have lost the “old-school” understanding of this concept—here is one “old-school” explanation.
God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose and govern all creatures, actions and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness and mercy. (Westminster Confession, chapter 5, section 1.)
Or, to update the language somewhat, Christians believe that God not only created the world (therefore we are dependent on Him for our existence) but He also sustains and rules His world, (therefore we are continuously dependent on Him) – and finally He is best at this, He does it for the least and great—and He does it so completely well that He receives glory.
Do you think God is “doing it”, “overseeing the world, so completely well”?
Kind of a mind-blowing question, isn’t it? As Christians, we are quick to say how the world is getting “darker”. We fret and worry about it. Yet to do so is, to a fair degree, to be abandoning the ideal of God’s Providence—that God knows what He is doing even as the tsunami sweeps across.
I am not being flip. Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation…” and He meant it. But “take heart”, He said, for I have overcome this world.” (John 16:33)
It means we do not find our full meaning in this earthly world. Nor do we live as if this world does not matter. We must learn to live with our feet firmly planted in the world God has placed us, all the while looking to the destination—eternity with God.
Faith in God and in His Providence sustains us on this journey, which will have tribulation. Faith in God’s Providence can give us His peace that surpasses understanding.
“God could have created it (our world) different. ‘Providence’ acknowledges both God’s sovereign lordship in his world, and man’s freedom to live responsibly within God’s limits. ‘For Christians, the world and history are not ultimately meaningful in themselves, but in relation to God and his purposes.” (P. Forster, ‘Providence and Prayer’, in T. F. Torrance (ed.), Belief in Science and in Christian Life (Handsel Press, 1980), p. 111.)
“All God’s interaction with his world – whether by choosing Abraham to father a nation; by establishing his covenant on Sinai; by the events of the birth and life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; by the establishment of the Christian church and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; in the contemporary experience of Christians – all God’s interactions with the world at the global and the personal levels are in line with his over-all purpose for his creation ‘to share his life and love and glory with another reality over which he would be Lord.” (P. Forster)
Amazing—the Cross—is part of God’s Providence.
How do you process this belief about God and His Providence? Is it helpful?