Finding God's Winning Spirit

Providence: "God's Ever-Present Hand"

August 1, 2014 | Greg Smith | Christianity

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I would have to say that the number one Christian doctrine that comes up during Christian counseling revolves around providence. The simple definition of providence is "God's intervention in the world". There tends to be a distinction between “general providence”, which refers to God's continuous upholding of the natural order in the universe and “special providence”, which refers to God's extraordinary intervention in the life of individual people.

Unfortunately, most discussions about providence go the same route as any discussion about predestination – from confusion to frustration. I would agree that these are heady theological concepts and can, at times, be intimidating.  In my opinion one can postpone any discussion about predestination but we must deal with providence if we desire to live the abundant Christian life. It is important that we determine what we believe about God's involvement in this world and our lives.

Most theologians and commentary authors tend to agree in the general idea of what Providence means. John Calvin concludes that, “God’s providence is a watchful, effective, active sort, engaged in ceaseless activity.  Hence, nothing takes place without his approval. However, this carnal knowledge falls short of what is known by faith: that God is the Governor and Preserver, actively sustaining, nourishing and caring for everything in his creation”.

John Wesley’s view of providence is put forth in his Sermon 68 “On Divine Providence” when he says, “He hath made us, not we ourselves, and he cannot despise the work of his own hands. We are his children: And can a mother forget the children of her womb? …. So consequently, he is concerned every moment for what befalls every creature upon earth; and more especially for everything that befalls any of the children of men.”

Martin Luther, in Luther's Small Catechism (1529), writes, “Divine providence began when God created the world with everything needed for human life, including both physical things and natural laws”. Luther goes on to say, “That everything people have that is good is given and preserved by God, either directly or through other people or things.”

No renowned Bible scholar worth his/her salt will tell you that God is a "watchmaker" who created the world, sits back, hoping things run well. It's not like God himself is vague about his involvement in the world. Here are a few things he tells us about His buy in:  

I feed the birds of the air (Matthew 6:26)

I am always working (John 5:17)

I feed everything else, so I will care for you too (Matthew 6:26)

I will keep you safe (Psalms 4:8)

I am before all, holding everything together (Colossians 1:17)

I cause the sun to rise (Matthew 5:45)

I will always be with my children to the end of the world (Matthew 28:20)

Providence, as far as Christian doctrines go, is very important. What we think about God's involvement in the world and our lives determines a lot about how we live our Christian life. Are we alone? Is anyone listening? Does God care about my decisions or how I live my life? Does He hear me when I pray – do I need to listen for him? The obvious answer is that He's there and cares. I know it's hard sometimes to comprehend such an omnipotent and caring God but we must not let our limited minds restrict who God is, what He can do and what He is about .

Once we trust that He is there we can then turn our attention to what He has for us to do. It is through faith that we can once and for all let God be God and spend our time being all we can be.     

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