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                        "THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD"


INTRODUCTION

1. In His sermon on the mount, Jesus talked of God's care...
   a. For the birds of the air and the lilies of the field - Mt 6:26-29
   b. For those who seek first the kingdom of God - Mt 6:30-33

2. Jesus was talking about the providential care of God...
   a. That demonstrates His love for His creatures
   b. In ways that are not necessarily miraculous or supernatural

[The providence of God and its working in our lives can be easily
misunderstood.  Perhaps these thoughts might help...]

I. THE DEFINITION OF PROVIDENCE

   A. THE WORD...
      1. The word "provide" (from Latin providere) means etymologically
         "to foresee" - ISBE
      2. The corresponding Greek word, pronoia, means "forethought"
         - ibid.
      3. The Greek word is actually found only twice in the Scriptures
         a. Translated "foresight" (providence, KJV), and applied to
            Felix - Ac 24:2
         b. Translated "provision" in Ro 13:14

   B. THE CONCEPT...
      1. Forethought and foresight imply a future end, a goal and a
         definite purpose and plan for attaining that end - ISBE
      2. The word "providence" has come to be used...to signify that
         preparation, care, and supervision which are necessary to
         secure a desired future result - ibid.
      3. Literally means foresight, but is generally used to denote
         God's preserving and governing all things by means of second
         causes - Easton
      4. While miraculous acts of God can be described as providential,
         the concept of providence is generally used to describe His
         care through natural means

[In describing the providence of God, it is common to speak of it in two
senses...]

II. THE DESCRIPTION OF PROVIDENCE

   A. GENERAL PROVIDENCE...
      1. The widespread care and supervision which God exercises over
         His created universe is commonly designated as His general
         providence which embraces alike the evil and the good - ISBE
      2. God's general providence extends to:
         a. The natural world - Ps 104:14; 135:5-7; Ac 14:17
         b. The animal world - Ps 104:21-29; Mt 6:26; 10:29
         c. The affairs of men in general - Job 12:23; Dan 2:21; Mt 5:45

   B. SPECIAL PROVIDENCE...
      1. There is a more special and particular providence which He
         exercises over and in behalf of the good, those whose wills are
         in harmony with the divine will - ISBE
         a. God's general providence is and must be special, in that it
            descends to particulars - to the minute details of
            creaturely existence - and is always and everywhere active
            - ibid.
         b. But the Scriptures teach that there is a more special care
            over and ordering of the lives of the spiritually good than
            pertains to the wicked, who have not the fear of God before
            their eyes - ibid.
         c. The following Scriptures set forth in unmistakable terms the
            doctrine of a special providence exercised by the heavenly
            Father over and in behalf of the righteous (Ps 37:23; Pro
            3:6; Mt 6:33; Ro 8:28) - ibid.
      2. There are some things to keep in mind in regards to the special
         providence of God
         a. The ultimate end sought is man's spiritual good, not
            material benefits
            1) Material blessings may come to one as a result of special
               providence - Mt 6:33
            2) Yet God may also allow financial hardship, illness, or
               other physical trials to occur if He deems them suitable
               for our spiritual benefit - cf. Ro 5:3-5; Jm 1:2-4
            3) Thus we conclude that His ultimate goal is our spiritual
               good
         b. We should not presume all things are the result of special
            providence
            1) Things may happen that are accidental or coincidental
               - Ec 9:11
            2) Too many credit God or give Him blame for every good or
               ill in life
            3) Some things may be the result of Satan's activity
               (remember Job?) - cf. 1Pe 5:8-9
            4) Other things may be the consequence of evil men's actions
               (e.g., drunken driver)
            5) Of course, God's special providence helps us overcome
               such evil - Ro 8:35-39
         c. Special providence and man's cooperation
            1) Promise of God's care does not mean that we need not take
               action
            2) We must both pray and work for our food - cf. Mt 6:11;
               2Th 3:10; 1Ti 5:8
            3) We must work out our salvation, while God helps us - Mt
               6:33; Php 2:12-13; 1Pe 3:10-12

[Thus God graciously provides for His creation in both general and
special ways, the latter being a particular blessing of walking with
God.  Even so, it is not easy to know when something is coincidental or
providential...]

III. THE DETERMINATION OF PROVIDENCE

   A. THE NEED FOR CAUTION...
      1. Many are quick to interpret what happens as indications of
         God's judgment
         a. If something bad happens, those who experience must be
            wicked
         b. If something good happens, those who experience must be
            righteous
      2. Yet the Bible reveals that there many exceptions
         a. Bad things often happen to the righteous (cf. Job, the early
            Christians)
         b. Good things often happen to the wicked - cf. Ps 73:3-12;
            Job 21:7-13
      3. Likewise, we cannot always be certain whether something is
         providential
         a. A series of events may be coincidental or happenstance
         b. We can easily misread what happens, come to the wrong
            conclusion
         c. The danger is even greater if we are ignorant of God's
            revealed will (the Scriptures)
         d. We might conclude something to be right (because it seems
            successful), when it may be contrary to what God has spoken
            on the subject

   B. THE BEST WE CAN DO...
      1. Possess the perspective of Mordecai - cf. Es 4:14
         a. He wondered whether Esther had been placed in her position
            by God
         b. Yet he did not presume such was actually the case
      2. Remain open to the possibility the Lord's will may be different
         - cf. Ro 1:10; Ac 18:21
         a. We can only be certain in things pertaining to God's
            revealed will (the Scriptures)
         b. There is an uncertainty pertaining to God's permissive will
            ("If...") - cf. Jm 4:15
      3. In everything give thanks - Php 4:6
         a. For the good things that come our way
         b. For the ill things too, as they can be used for our
            spiritual growth
      4. Leave the ultimate determination of providence to God
         a. We need not "whittle on His end of the stick"
         b. We can believe in God's providence without being able to
            interpret every circumstance

CONCLUSION

1. The providence of God is a wonderful blessing...
   a. We know that He is working toward our ultimate good, the salvation
      of our souls
   b. His care will provide what we need, and often far beyond that

2. To ensure God's providential working for our ultimate good...
   a. Seek first the kingdom of God
   b. Study and apply what is God's revealed will
   c. Make plans that are submissive to the Lord's permissive will ("If
      the Lord wills...")
   d. In everything give God thanks

   "For He who would love life And see good days, Let him refrain
   his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit. Let
   him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and
   pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And
   His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord
   is against those who do evil." - 1Pe 3:10-12
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