This is only going to be a quick note on the Providence of God. There have been volumes written on this topic and in no way am I going to attempt to comprehensively cover this topic here. I wont even give a theological definition to the word providence since there is large divide in that as well. The reason I am doing this, is that I am reading in Acts. When I read in Acts I see the providential hand of God everywhere. I see where God moves behind the scenes and how He effects change in the world, without others even knowing that it is happening.
Lets take a look at the apostle Paul. Starting with his standing over Stephen’s murder. Here he was standing over and approving of Stephens murder. Who knew that Stephen’s sacrifice would be the start of Paul’s conversion? Even though Paul did not know it, this is the point where Paul starts on his path to conversion. Stephen’s martyrdom and the imprisonment of christians gives Paul the credentials needed for him to get the letter from the Jewish High council to go to Damascus and arrest those who are part of the Way. It is along this road where God intervenes directly. While he intervened indirectly prior to this, now he directly confronts Paul.
I am not going to re-hash the story you can read it in Acts 9. Read it, it will be worth your time. What I am looking at today. God’s providential hand was directing events even though most people would not have understood that. It is rare that while we are in the midst of events someone understands that Gods providence is at play. Hindsight is 20/20. It is easy for us some 2000 years later to look back and see all the different things that were happening at the same time to see Gods providence taking place. Remember the folks at the time did not know everything that is taking place nor did they see the big picture they did not have the internet with instant information at their finger tips information could take days or even weeks to travel to someone depending on that persons connections. God created circumstances so that the big picture could take place. Those circumstances were hard, and even cost many their lives but, in the end Gods providence was fulfilled and Christianity spread all over the world.
Lets take a look at Paul and his going to Jerusalem for the second time since his conversion. On his way to Jerusalem he made many stops and at each stop he was told by prophetic message not to go bad things were going to happen. He heeded them but chose to go on anyways. Even with the warning he knew what the Spirit wanted; which was for him to go to Jerusalem. He did not know that he was going to be beaten almost to death by a mob. He did not know that he was going to be almost tortured by Romans, or have a plot to kill him thwarted by his nephew. He only knew he had to go and that bad things were going to happen. He had to be a witness for Christ and the consequences be damned.
From here he did not realize that all this would lead to him being a witness for Christ to Caesar then be freed and do yet another missionary journey possibly even into Spain.
All these circumstances were difficult and in many cases people paid the ultimate price but all were in the Providence of God. He wanted these things to happen so that the good news could spread and be most effective. The original persecutions that happened in Jerusalem was used to move the good news past just the Jewish homeland. This was the beginning of the spread. Remember Jesus stated that first to Jerusalem, then to Judea, and then to Samaria and finally then to the uttermost ends of the earth.
God set it out ahead of time but, the human understanding did not see this. They were stuck in Jerusalem and Judea. This forced them to move forward and God’s providence was being fulfilled.
How do we apply this to our lives? That is a great question. I am glad you asked. We often do not see God’s providential hand at the time we are a part of it. We often complain, get depressed, fight what we are going through and even blame God and say that it is unfair. When we do this we are forgetting that God’s providence has a purpose in all things. There are no accidents in the Christian life. All things have a purpose. A purpose to bring this world to Christ. What we go through even if at the time we can not see it God has a purpose in it. He has providence.
Remember when we came to Christ we gave him ourselves. We did not say to him here I will follow you when I want to but I will follow You. I will go where You lead. I will suffer as You have suffered. I will bless those whom You bless and curse those whom You curse. Remember birds of the air have nest, the fox has a hole in the ground but the Son of Man has no where to lay His head. That is us. Remember the Son of Man must suffer many things. It is through suffering that we are refined. The refining process stinks. It is not something we want to go through but as Christians we gave Him everything that means we no longer have providence over ourselves but Christ does. Christ has providence now we gave Him everything and He gives everything to the Father.
The ultimate providence is in the Father and if you really want to get philosophical the only true providence is in the Father and always has been. There is none other.
This short piece is something to chew on.