What does Providence Mean?
(Genesis 50:20; Job. 38:1-41:34; Psalm 103: 19; Daniel 4:34-35; Acts 2:22-24; 14:16; Romans 1:26-32; 11:33-36; James 1:13-17)
Providence is the doctrine that gives us the knowledge and comfort that God is sovereign, and thus, He is in control. We are not mere rats in a meaningless maze, where there is no divine plan or purpose.
God, indeed, is in control. He does, indeed, have a plan; there is no stray molecule in the universe that does not have His hand of control over it. Jesus tells us that God knows when even a sparrow falls to the ground. He knows the number of hairs on our head--or the number of hairs we do not have. Therefore there is no chance, no luck, no gambling, no fate, in the worldly sense, to what if or what may have been or what is, as all things happen according to His plan.
At the same time, we have free choice, and also determination. Somehow, beyond our capacity to reason, these two seemingly conflicting sets of reason come together as friends (St. Augustine and Spurgeon). In theological terms, this is called Concurrence. This is the coterminous relationship between God's decree and our free choice that somehow are shared in our journey through life, that our free will and choices work into His foreordained degrees without assault to our decisions.
Thus, if we do not receive His Grace and Salvation, even though His election exists, it is because we choose to not accept Him, which He sees by His foreknowledge, and applied to His purpose. To what extent this occurs is a matter of hot debate amongst theologians. But, is safe to say, He is ultimately in charge. (Yes, this will "blow out mind:" i.e. your thinking ability!) Even Calvin spent more time defending and explaining human responsibility and our duty to prayer more than any other subject in his writings. So, it is all in His hands, and it is up to us to get to work, trusting and obeying Him.
Providence refers to God's foreknowledge. That means that God sees beforehand, and provides. It is a word we do not see much of today, but it has a rich history amongst the Puritans and Reformers as the great comfort that God is God and LORD over all. God is no clockmaker who made the world, set it in motion, then left it, as the Deists proclaimed. God has ultimate authority and sovereignty over all the affairs of humanity. He is directing, involved, and working through it all, giving us mercy and guidance. He creates, He sustains. The universe is dependent upon His involvement, moment upon moment.
Providence gives us the comfort that He is in charge; there are no accidents or mistakes. If you feel you married the wrong person, well, you did not! Or, you may feel you have made a lot of bad decisions. Well, you have--we all have-but God is still working things out for good (Rom. 8). Therefore, we have no need to dwell upon the past, complain, or play the what if games.
Ultimately, we do not have control over life or death. We make decisions, and we are called to seek Him first (Matt. 6:33). He is our ultimate safety net and security, both in life and eternity. Worry should not even come to our minds, because He is in charge (Matt. 6:25-34). We are in God's provision, and nobody else has ultimate control. All power and authority is His by both direct and indirect means.
So, we need to see our life as being in His hands of love and comfort, that He does have a wonderful plan for our lives, and everything happens for a reason and a purpose. We need to look beyond logic, reason, and scientific explanations that change completely every few years. His truth remains the same. We have to see all that happens in our life--sufferings, tragedies, good times, and all--as opportunities to learn, grow, develop character, and mature. If not, we miss out on what is important in life, causing it to be meaningless!
© 2002 R. J. Krejcir, Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org/