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Sunday, July 26, 2015 am                        Perfection 2015 Index

 

GOING ON TO PERFECTION 2015 (26)
Letting God Work in Our Lives (4)
The Providence of God

 In our study of going on to perfection, this month we have been addressing letting God work in our lives.  We have noted that God does NOT work miraculously or in some mystical way.  He works in our lives through His influence – understanding His grace, through His word, through men (brethren encouraging us), through our working, and through prayer.  We have also addressed what it means to trust God and the motives for our serving Him – loving God.   Today as we conclude this study about God working in our lives we want to address the subject of providence.

There are basically 4 views of how God works today –

God just wound up the world and let it go. Such believe He has never (or extremely rarely) interacted in this world. Theistic evolutionists could fit into this category.  This is sometimes referred to as deism.

God interacts today miraculously – we will briefly address this in a moment!

He does nothing in the physical realm today – Unlike the first option these believe the Bible accounts and even believe in the miracles of the Bible, and Jesus coming for the forgiveness of our sins.  However, since God has completed His work (including revelation), He is totally hands off with the progress of the world, except for spiritual matters such as forgiving your sins. To me there are some challenges with this view – chief of which includes that Satan has more power than God in the world today, it limits what we can pray for, and it limits the promises of many passages of scripture that give us hope and consolation in Him.

He works providentially even today – this is my understanding of scripture as we shall see in this lesson. 

 I.                    God does NOT work miraculously today

a.        A miracle is an event that is impossible through natural means – it might include the time involved in accomplishing something, or actions contrary to natural law.

b.       In the Bible miracles served as confirmation that the hand of God was involved in teaching – it verified the message of God.  Matthew 9:6 is an example of this where Jesus healed a paralytic, but in so doing He also declared it as validation that His words and divine attributes were true.
Hebrews 2:2-4 speaks of the word of God proving steadfast and that God confirmed it through “signs and wonders, with various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit.”

c.        That God does not work miraculously today is confirmed in 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 which indicates when “that which is perfect is come” (i.e. the Word – James 1:25) that miracles would cease.  Furthermore add to this their absence today (and the redefinition of what a miracle is).

d.       BUT, because miracles have ceased does not mean they have never existed NOR does it mean that God cannot work today.  Whatever work He does is accomplished WITHIN natural means.

 II.                  Providence

a.        What is providence?

                                                               i.      “The foreseeing care and guidance of God or nature over the creatures of the earth.” (Random House Dictionary, www.dictionary.com)

                                                              ii.      Providence too is abused as some attribute everything they do in this life as being the result of God’s intervention.  The problem with this view is that it affects our free-will – our ability to choose and determine our own destination. 

b.       Providence is best demonstrated with Biblical examples:

                                                               i.      God’s plan of redemption
The ability of God to work in this world is demonstrated in the unfolding of His plans for mankind.  This is perhaps the greatest example of God’s providence.  One of the benefits of studying the Old Testament is to see the unfolding of this plan. 
- After man sinned, God put this plan into motion (Gen. 3:15).  Through the “seed promise” the lineage was established.  Prophecies concerning Christ and His kingdom demonstrate that God planned these things all along.  NOTHING stopped God from accomplishing His purpose.  And it was accomplished providentially. 
- In Genesis 12:1-3, the LORD made a 3-fold promise to Abraham including making Him a great nation, giving him a land and the seed promise that would result in all men being blessed.     
- Galatians 4:4-5speaks of “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.  This was the hand of God – while rarely there was miraculous intervention, more often it was simply God working providentially.   - Consider Daniel 2:21-22, where speaking to king Nebuchadnezzar he said, “And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, And light dwells with Him.
- Ephesians 3:10-11 speaks of the church being according to His eternal purpose.
- Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

                                                              ii.      Joseph – was sold into slavery by his brothers which in time results in him being exalted so that his family would have a place to reside outside of Canaan which God desired and said would happen.   His mistreatment by his brethren, being put in prison and various other acts in time made this possible.  Joseph expressed it best in Genesis 50:20, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”

                                                            iii.      Esther – the book of Esther is about the deliverance of Israel from destruction at the hands of the Medo-Persian Empire. 
A remarkable fact about this book is that it never mentions God by name, yet you cannot read a page of the book without seeing His presence and work. 
The book describes a long and complex series of events that results in Israel’s deliverance. 
Consider Esther 4:14, where Mordecai is encouraging Esther to appear before the king on behalf of here people.  He says to her, “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

                                                            iv.      Philemon – this short book is about an escaped slave, Onesimus, who finds Paul in Rome and is converted to Christ.  Because he is a law breaker, Paul sent him back to his master, Philemon with a letter pleading on the slave’s behalf.  In the letter Paul presents a possibility as to why these things happened.  For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever. “no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. Philemon 15-16

                                                              v.      Let it be known that if God’s will is accomplished THROUGH natural means, it STILL demonstrates His power.  He is all powerful, all seeing and all knowing.

c.        Has providence ceased?

                                                               i.      It is my conviction that God still works providentially today.  I base this on the number of passages that speak of God working in our lives today. 

1.       1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. When we pray to God, can He give us the strength to resist temptation?

2.       James 1:5, “If anyone lacks wisdom let him ask of God who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

3.       Matthew 6:25-33, speaks of not worrying and how God will take care of His people, if we seek first the kingdom of God.

4.       2 Corinthians 9:8–11, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. As it is written: “He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.”   Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.”

5.       2 Peter 2:9, “ then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment

6.       Hebrews 12:5–8, And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.” If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Does God chasten us today?  If so how?  He certainly does not miraculously intervene, but does that mean He cannot work today?

7.       Furthermore, I am convinced that even today, if one is searching for truth he/she will be presented with opportunity to obey – someone will come along to give him opportunity.  2 Peter 3:9 tells us He does not want anyone to perish.   This fact is part of the justice and righteousness of God

8.       These are just a few of the many passages that provide promise for His people.  Exactly how He works in unknown, but I am not comfortable denying that He can and does work to accomplish His will – both personally in our lives and within His overall plans. 

                                                              ii.      A call to prayer – Philippians 4:6,7 – be anxious for nothing…

                                                            iii.      However, His work in our lives is not at the surrender of our free-will or our responsibility. 
God does not micromanage our lives (i.e. give or deny us our parking spot, manipulate events so that we get whatever we want, He doesn’t concern Himself with who wins the world series, or your little league team’s championship, etc.) but He CAN still answer our prayers.
We must realize that we are required to seek first His kingdom (Matt. 6:33), and work out our own salvation (Philippians 2:12-13)

                                                            iv.      Everything that happens is not the work of God.  Could something be mere coincidence or even the work of Satan?  For example: If you win the lottery, don’t attribute that to God! 

                                                              v.      Consider also the progression of events necessary for something to happen. Sometimes His providence might be the result of the design of the world and its progression – for example: lives are saved through advancements in medicine, etc.  But beyond this – when the right doctor is at the right place at the right time – is it possible that the hand of God was in this.

                                                            vi.      The nature of providence is such that we cannot definitively say that God did something. 

                                                           vii.      But give God the glory regardless.  1 Thess. 5:18, in everything give thanks. 

 

Conclusion: God CAN accomplish His will without miracles.  And if and as He does intervene providentially we can go to Him in prayer with our needs (James 5:13, 16; 1 Peter 1:12; etc.).