It happened on a regular basis at our house.
In fact, it was the norm to hear this comment almost daily as we were growing up.
Long before the days of cell phones, video games, 500 TV channels, and X-Box; our parents sent us to the ultimate destination to play.
It was called, “OUTSIDE.”
When we got restless, bored, or had watched too much TV, we were encouraged to,
“Go outside, and play!”
Outside was actually a lot of fun.
There were sports to play, bikes to ride, games to play, and lots of friends with which to play. (Their parents had sent them outside too!)
On the days when it was raining or we had nothing else to do, we used this awesome toy that we called, “our imaginations.”
Whether creating something, taking something apart, or making up a new game; those boring days pushed us to come up with new ideas—new things to do.
One of our crazy creations was a game where each person placed a small stack of coins on their arm while holding this arm back by their shoulder – palm facing up.
Once the coins were balanced on their arm, the person would then flip this arm over quickly and try to catch all of the coins in their hand. The goal was to catch all of the coins before any fell to the ground.
Truth be told… I was the coin catching champ!
In fact, at one point, I could flip 30 pennies, or 25 nickels, or a large stack of dimes over and catch them in my hand.
It took a great amount of concentration, balance, and some very fast reflexes.
What does all of this have to do with the Providence of God?
It’s pretty simple really.
As we think about our great God, we need to understand the unique balance that takes place throughout the Bible.
My friend Debbie calls this, “God’s Perfect Tension of Balance.”
GOD PERFECTLY BALANCES EVERYTHING…
- In our world and in the entire universe.
- In our lives and in everyone else’s – at the same time.
- Involved in the past, the present, and the future.
- In heaven and in hell.
- In life and in death.
God has incredibly perfect balance, skill, and the ability to handle all things at all times for all people.God has incredibly perfect balance, skill, and the ability to handle all things at all times for… Click To Tweet
What is the Providence of God?
In laymen’s terms, God’s providence is the way that our heavenly Father is involved in our lives and with our world.
Providence is the way God keeps, maintains, and holds everything together. He preserves our lives, He gives us breath, and He sustains our world.
In Colossians 1:17 we read, “In Him, all things hold together.”
Additionally, providence involves the way that God directs the actions of His creation. The seasons and the weather elements are at His command. He graciously cares for the wild animals.
Psalm 135:7 tells us, “He causes the clouds to rise from the end of the earth, makes lightning bolts accompany the rain, and brings the wind out of his storehouses.”
Further, He’s involved in the affairs of nations and in all aspects of our lives – providing direction, support, help, assistance, blessing, justice, and governance. He’s not some distant deity.
Our God is actively aware and intricately involved in all that is going on in our lives.Our God is actively aware and intricately involved in all that is going on in our lives. Click To Tweet
According to Romans 11:36, “From him and through him and to him are all things.”
How should we respond to His providence?
1} Carry on responsibly.
Yes. He is in control, but we are still responsible for our actions.
And, our actions have consequences.
2} Pray on.
Prayer changes things!
We may not understand how they do or when they will, but our prayers matter.
Jesus regularly talked about prayer and taught on prayer while He walked this earth. In Matthew 7:7, He said, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”
In the words of Martin Luther…
“Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness.”
3} Walk on.
We live our lives day to day completely trusting Him to guide, provide, protect, and care for us.
We do the next thing.
Yes, God will and does provide. And, yes, His provision will likely come through that job we do each day.
Why does the providence of God matter to you and to me?
The providence of God matters because it keeps us from going to extremes.The providence of God matters because it keeps us from going to extremes. Click To Tweet
There is a balance needed when we begin to think about our part and God’s part.
So often, well-meaning believers end up on one end of the spectrum or the other. As we grow in the Lord and become more zealous, we can move too far to one perspective or the other.
Check out the continuum below…
On the far left, you have those believers that feel like their lives and their Christian walk is all UP TO THEM. The problem with this view is that we can become extremely independent, proud, and self-sufficient.
We can also become big, old legalists, if we aren’t careful.
On the far right are the believers that feel like everything is totally up to God. They really have no say, no choices, and no part of living their lives. These believers can become lazy, overly lenient, fatalistic, and can begin to live with license – doing whatever they want whenever they want. This is an extreme as well.
We can become fatalists who do whatever we want if we aren’t careful.
In the middle is the balanced believer. This person believes that God is completely sovereign and in control of things.
However, this person also takes personal responsibility for their actions and believes they have consequences. This type of believer knows that prayer changes things that sharing the gospel results in people being saved and that blessings follow obedience.
This group in the middle has found liberty and freedom in Christ.
Galatians 5:1 tells us, “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.”So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don't get tied up again in… Click To Tweet
Can you make “providence” a little clearer?
As an illustration, let’s compare this type of spiritual thinking with physical fitness. Most of us want to be thin, toned, and healthy. We like the idea of being physically fit.
However, we can’t get “FIT” by quietly letting gravity and time take their course on us.
Gravity, time and life will take their toll on our bodies. There is no way around this; however, we have a choice in how we respond to gravity and time.
We can idly sit by, eat whatever we want, watch TV all the time, and live as we wish—all while waiting for the providential hands of gravity, time, and life to do what they always do.
Or, we can choose to eat well, move our bodies, work out, and take care of ourselves while we are living on this planet. Yes, time and gravity will still take their toll, but we always get to choose how we respond to these immovable forces.
What do we do with these truths?
Similarly, our God is providentially involved in directing, leading, and guiding our lives.
We can idly sit by and wait for heaven to arrive or we can roll up our sleeves and join our Father in His work.
I close with the words of St. Augustine that seem to well sum up this lesson on providence:
“Pray as though everything depended on God.
Work as if everything depended on you.”
Join us as we take a clear and practical look at some of the most basic and essential tenants of the Christian life – the doctrines of the faith.
Each week, we will highlight and explain a core doctrine. Then, we will pose the question, “Why does this matter to you and me?”
You can catch all of this year’s “Delight in Doctrine” posts by clicking HERE.
For the purposes of the study, our main texts will be first, the Bible, of course, and Wayne Grudem’s classic, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine.
It is our prayer that by the end of 2017, we will all find more delight in understanding what we believe and why we believe it.
“…And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27 (ESV)
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