The Providence of God

       God’s providence refers to His wise and personal acts, whereby He creates and controls circumstances in order to direct history according to His predetermined plan, all for His glory and the benefit of His elect.  People live in the flow of history, and are moved by the circumstances God controls.  God is good and “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11; cf. Ps. 103:19; 135:6; Dan. 4:35), and “causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28).  By His sovereign will God created all things in heaven and earth, and sustains and directs them as He desires.  The wicked are also under God’s sovereign control, and He uses them for His own ends (Prov. 16:4).  “To be sure, evil has entered the universe, but it is not allowed to thwart God’s original, benevolent, wise, and holy purpose.”[1]

Providence is normally defined in Christian theology as the unceasing activity of the Creator whereby, in overflowing bounty and goodwill (Ps. 145:9 cf. Mt. 5:45–48), he upholds his creatures in ordered existence (Acts 17:28; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3), guides and governs all events, circumstances and free acts of angels and men (cf. Ps. 107; Jb. 1:12; 2:6; Gn. 45:5–8), and directs everything to its appointed goal, for his own glory (cf. Eph. 1:9–12). This view of God’s relation to the world must be distinguished from: (a) pantheism, which absorbs the world into God; (b) deism, which cuts it off from him; (c) dualism, which divides control of it between God and another power; (d)indeterminism, which holds that it is under no control at all; (e) determinism, which posits a control of a kind that destroys man’s moral responsibility; (f) the doctrine of chance, which denies the controlling power to be rational; and (g) the doctrine of fate, which denies it to be benevolent.[2]

       God’s providence is seen throughout the Bible.  God brought Joseph to Egypt, by the evil actions of his brothers (Gen. 37:23-28), and later used Joseph to deliver the very ones who betrayed him (Gen. 45:5-8; 47:11, 27-28; 50:20).  This was done to fulfill a promise given to Abraham (Gen. 15:13; 47:11, 27-28).  It was God’s providence that drove Saul to chase after his father’s donkeys, and then be led to the prophet Samuel and anointed king of Israel (1 Sam. 9-10).  It was God’s providence that directed Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, so the baby Jesus would be born at the appointed time and place (Mic. 5:2; Luke 2:4-6; Gal. 4:4).  Later, Joseph and Mary were compelled to go to Egypt, in order to preserve the baby Savior (Matt. 2:13-15).  It was God’s providence that forced Aquila and Priscilla out of Rome by the emperor Claudius’ decree, only to meet the apostle Paul in Corinth and join him in Christian ministry (Acts 18:1-3; Rom. 16:3; 1 Cor. 16:19).  It was God’s providence that put the Lord Jesus on the cross to be crucified by the hands of godless men (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28).  Jesus died a substitutionary death, even for those who crucified Him (Rom. 3:25; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; 1 John 2:2; 4:10).

       God’s sovereignty, expressed through His providential control, produces confidence in His children.  The growing believer knows “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).  Where the Bible is silent, the believer seeks to discern God’s will through His providential direction as He directs people and circumstances as He pleases.  God controls all of life (Gen. 2:17; Job. 1:21; Ps. 104:29–30; Eccl. 12:7; Dan. 5:23), human birth and calling (Ps. 139:13-16; Jer. 1:4-5; Gal. 1:15), nature (Ps. 147:8; Jonah 1:4; Mark 4:39-41), plagues (Ex. 7–11; 12:29; Rev. 16:10-11), the roll of dice (Prov. 16:33; cf. Ps. 22:18; Matt. 27:35), health and sickness (Deut. 28:27-30; 2 Chron. 21:18; Ps. 41:3; Acts 3:16), prosperity and adversity (1 Sam. 2:7; Job 2:10; Isa. 45:5-7), suffering (Ps. 119:71; Heb. 12:5-11), and the development of Christian character (Rom. 5:2-5; 2 Cor. 12:7-10; Jam. 1:2-4).  The growing believer takes great delight in knowing his good, loving and wise God is in control of His creation and is directing all things according to His providential plan. 

Steven R. Cook, M. Div.

Related Articles:

[1] Henry Clarence Thiessen and Vernon D. Doerksen, Lectures in Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979), 122.

[2] J. I. Packer, “Providence” in New Bible Dictionary, ed. D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard and D. J. Wiseman, 3rd ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 979-80.

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Trust in God – Charles H. Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon

“Now on whom dost thou trust?”

— Isaiah 36:5

Reader, this is an important question. Listen to the Christian’s answer, and see if it is yours. “On whom dost thou trust?” “I trust,” says the Christian, “in a triune God. I trust the Father, believing that he has chosen me from before the foundations of the world; I trust him to provide for me in providence, to teach me, to guide me, to correct me if need be, and to bring me home to his own house where the many mansions are. I trust the Son. Very God of very God is he—the man Christ Jesus. I trust in him to take away all my sins by his own sacrifice, and to adorn me with his perfect righteousness. I trust him to be my Intercessor, to present my prayers and desires before his Father’s throne, and I trust him to be my Advocate at the last great day, to plead my cause, and to justify me. I trust him for what he is, for what he has done, and for what he has promised yet to do. And I trust the Holy Spirit—he has begun to save me from my inbred sins; I trust him to drive them all out; I trust him to curb my temper, to subdue my will, to enlighten my understanding, to check my passions, to comfort my despondency, to help my weakness, to illuminate my darkness; I trust him to dwell in me as my life, to reign in me as my King, to sanctify me wholly, spirit, soul, and body, and then to take me up to dwell with the saints in light for ever.” [1]

Posted by Steven R. Cook, M. Div.

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[1] Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings, “October 7”, Complete and unabridged; New modern edition. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006).

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The storm that drives us to God – Charles H. Spurgeon

charlesspurgeon

“On mine arm shall they trust.”

— Isaiah 51:5

In seasons of severe trial, the Christian has nothing on earth that he can trust to, and is therefore compelled to cast himself on his God alone. When his vessel is on its beam-ends, and no human deliverance can avail, he must simply and entirely trust himself to the providence and care of God. Happy storm that wrecks a man on such a rock as this! O blessed hurricane that drives the soul to God and God alone! There is no getting at our God sometimes because of the multitude of our friends; but when a man is so poor, so friendless, so helpless that he has nowhere else to turn, he flies into his Father’s arms, and is blessedly clasped therein! When he is burdened with troubles so pressing and so peculiar, that he cannot tell them to any but his God, he may be thankful for them; for he will learn more of his Lord then than at any other time. Oh, tempest-tossed believer, it is a happy trouble that drives thee to thy Father! Now that thou hast only thy God to trust to, see that thou puttest thy full confidence in him. Dishonour not thy Lord and Master by unworthy doubts and fears; but be strong in faith, giving glory to God. Show the world that thy God is worth ten thousand worlds to thee. Show rich men how rich thou art in thy poverty when the Lord God is thy helper. Show the strong man how strong thou art in thy weakness when underneath thee are the everlasting arms. Now is the time for feats of faith and valiant exploits. Be strong and very courageous, and the Lord thy God shall certainly, as surely as he built the heavens and the earth, glorify himself in thy weakness, and magnify his might in the midst of thy distress. The grandeur of the arch of heaven would be spoiled if the sky were supported by a single visible column, and your faith would lose its glory if it rested on anything discernible by the carnal eye. May the Holy Spirit give you to rest in Jesus this closing day of the month.[1]

Posted by Steven R. Cook, M. Div.

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[1] Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings, “August 31”, Complete and unabridged; New modern edition. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006).

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What does it mean to be a man?

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Mic. 6:8)

       What does it mean to be a man?  The answers are as varied as the people who give them.  Some would point to genetics, anatomy, or character.  Others measure men by their accomplishments, by the battles they fight or trials they overcome.  The first man (like the first woman) was created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27), and was given specific responsibilities (Gen. 2:15-18).  God created the man to be in a relationship with Him, to think and act in ways that conform to His character.  Man was also created to be in a relationship with a woman (Gen. 2:21-25).  However, since the historical fall (Gen. 3:1-7), manhood has been diminished and perverted, as men seek to define themselves independently of God and contrary to His original design.  The world has many worthless men (Deut. 13:13; Prov. 6:12-14; 16:27-28), and some have perverted their relationship with women (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom. 1:24-32; 1 Cor. 6:9-10).  But the godly man delights himself in the ways of the Lord (Ps. 1:1-3), loves his wife (Eph. 5:25; Col. 3:19), walks humbly, and pursues righteousness, justice and love (Ps. 132:9; Mic. 6:8; Tit. 2:11-12). 

       There is no greater expression of manhood than the Lord Jesus Christ.  The eternal Son of God became a man (John 1:1, 14), manifested grace (John 1:17), lived holy (John 6:69; Heb. 7:26), faced adversity with Scripture (Matt. 4:1-11), and perpetually pleased His Father (John 8:29).  He came not to be served, “but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).  He always spoke truth, both strong and gentle (Matt. 23:13-39; John 8:1-11), even in the face of hostility (John 8:40).  He welcomed children (Matt. 19:13-14), cared for the sick (Matt. 8:14-16; 14:14), fed the hungry (Mark 6:35-44), and made the humble feel loved and forgiven (Luke 7:36-50).  Jesus Washing FeetThe King of kings and Lord of lords manifested Himself as the Servant of servants when He humbled Himself and washed the feet of His disciples that they might learn humility (John 13:1-17).  By the end of His earthly life He’d completed His Father’s work, saying, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:4), then He faced the cross and laid down His life for others (John 10:11, 15, 17; 1 Cor. 15:3-4).  The Giver of life has given His life that others might know His Father’s love (1 John 3:16).

       A man, in the biblical sense, is a man who models his life after Christ.  He is a Christian in the fullest sense of the word.  He is, first and foremost, in a relationship with the Man, the Lord Jesus Christ, and has been born again into a new life (1 Pet. 1:3).  He puts on “a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col. 3:12), and denies “ungodliness and worldly desires” and lives “sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Tit 2:12).  He continually studies Scripture in order to live God’s will (2 Tim. 2:15; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18), and strives toward spiritual maturity (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Eph. 4:11-16).  He regards others as more important than himself, and looks out for the interests of others (Phil. 2:3-4).  He is filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18), and walks in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16).  He lives in fellowship with God (1 John 1:5-7), trusting Him to guide and sustain him in all things.  His life is being transformed, to think and act less like the world (Rom. 12:1-2), and conform to the image of the One who saved him (Rom. 8:29).  He does not love the world (1 John 2:15-17), but shows gracious love to his enemies who live in the world (Matt. 5:43-45; Rom. 12:19-21).  He shows love within the body of Christ (1 Thess. 4:9; 1 John 3:23), and helps the needy, widows and orphans (Jam. 1:27).  As a son, he honors his father and mother (Eph. 6:1-3), as a husband, he loves his wife as Christ loves the church, providing, protecting, and honoring her always (Eph. 5:25; Col. 3:19; 1 Pet. 3:7), and as a father, he teaches his children the ways of the Lord (Eph. 6:4; cf. Deut. 6:5-7).  These are not all of the characteristics of the mature Christian man, but they are among the most important. 

Steven R. Cook, M. Div.

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God’s Provision – Charles H. Spurgeon

Charles H. Spurgeon

“There is corn in Egypt.”

— Genesis 42:2

Famine pinched all the nations, and it seemed inevitable that Jacob and his family should suffer great want; but the God of providence, who never forgets the objects of electing love, had stored a granary for his people by giving the Egyptians warning of the scarcity, and leading them to treasure up the grain of the years of plenty. Little did Jacob expect deliverance from Egypt, but there was the corn in store for him. Believer, though all things are apparently against thee, rest assured that God has made a reservation on thy behalf; in the roll of thy griefs there is a saving clause. Somehow he will deliver thee, and somewhere he will provide for thee. The quarter from which thy rescue shall arise may be a very unexpected one, but help will assuredly come in thine extremity, and thou shalt magnify the name of the Lord. If men do not feed thee, ravens shall; and if earth yield not wheat, heaven shall drop with manna. Therefore be of good courage, and rest quietly in the Lord. God can make the sun rise in the west if he pleases, and make the source of distress the channel of delight. The corn in Egypt was all in the hands of the beloved Joseph; he opened or closed the granaries at will. And so the riches of providence are all in the absolute power of our Lord Jesus, who will dispense them liberally to his people. Joseph was abundantly ready to succour his own family; and Jesus is unceasing in his faithful care for his brethren. Our business is to go after the help which is provided for us: we must not sit still in despondency, but bestir ourselves. Prayer will bear us soon into the presence of our royal Brother: once before his throne we have only to ask and have: his stores are not exhausted; there is corn still: his heart is not hard, he will give the corn to us. Lord, forgive our unbelief, and this evening constrain us to draw largely from thy fullness and receive grace for grace. [1]

Steven R. Cook, M. Div.

Related Article: Illumination and the Doctrine of Election

[1] Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings, “May 21”, Complete and unabridged; New modern edition. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006).

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God’s Gentleness – by Charles H. Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon

“Thy gentleness hath made me great.”

— Psalm 18:35

The words are capable of being translated, “thy goodness hath made me great.” David gratefully ascribed all his greatness not to his own goodness, but the goodness of God. “Thy providence,” is another reading; and providence is nothing more than goodness in action. Goodness is the bud of which providence is the flower, or goodness is the seed of which providence is the harvest. Some render it, “thy help,” which is but another word for providence; providence being the firm ally of the saints, aiding them in the service of their Lord. Or again, “thy humility hath made me great.” “Thy condescension” may, perhaps, serve as a comprehensive reading, combining the ideas mentioned, including that of humility. It is God’s making himself little which is the cause of our being made great. We are so little, that if God should manifest his greatness without condescension, we should be trampled under his feet; but God, who must stoop to view the skies, and bow to see what angels do, turns his eye yet lower, and looks to the lowly and contrite, and makes them great. There are yet other readings, as for instance, the Septuagint, which reads, “thy discipline”—thy fatherly correction—”hath made me great;” while the Chaldee paraphrase reads, “thy word hath increased me.” Still the idea is the same. David ascribes all his own greatness to the condescending goodness of his Father in heaven. May this sentiment be echoed in our hearts this evening while we cast our crowns at Jesus’ feet, and cry, “thy gentleness hath made me great.” How marvelous has been our experience of God’s gentleness! How gentle have been his corrections! How gentle his forbearance! How gentle his teachings! How gentle his drawings! Meditate upon this theme, O believer. Let gratitude be awakened; let humility be deepened; let love be quickened ere thou fallest asleep to-night. [1]

Steven R. Cook, M. Div.

Related Article: Glory to God

[1] Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings, “April 9”, Complete and unabridged; New modern edition. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006).

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God’s Sovereignty – by Charles H. Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon

“We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.”

— Romans 8:28

Upon some points a believer is absolutely sure. He knows, for instance, that God sits in the stern-sheets of the vessel when it rocks most. He believes that an invisible hand is always on the world’s tiller, and that wherever providence may drift, Jehovah steers it. That re-assuring knowledge prepares him for everything. He looks over the raging waters and sees the spirit of Jesus treading the billows, and he hears a voice saying, “It is I, be not afraid.” He knows too that God is always wise, and, knowing this, he is confident that there can be no accidents, no mistakes; that nothing can occur which ought not to arise. He can say, “If I should lose all I have, it is better that I should lose than have, if God so wills: the worst calamity is the wisest and the kindest thing that could befall to me if God ordains it.” “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” The Christian does not merely hold this as a theory, but he knows it as a matter of fact. Everything has worked for good as yet; the poisonous drugs mixed in fit proportions have worked the cure; the sharp cuts of the lancet have cleansed out the proud flesh and facilitated the healing. Every event as yet has worked out the most divinely blessed results; and so, believing that God rules all, that he governs wisely, that he brings good out of evil, the believer’s heart is assured, and he is enabled calmly to meet each trial as it comes. The believer can in the spirit of true resignation pray, “Send me what thou wilt, my God, so long as it comes from thee; never came there an ill portion from thy table to any of thy children.”

“Say not my soul, ‘From whence can God relieve my care?’

Remember that Omnipotence has servants everywhere.

His method is sublime, his heart profoundly kind,

God never is before his time, and never is behind.”[1]

Posted by Steven R. Cook, M. Div.

Related Article: The Sovereignty of God

[1] Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings, Complete and unabridged; New modern edition. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006).

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