God's Providence

A. Introduction

1. The Potato Bug By William E. Barton (1919)


  • "A Great and Beautiful Tree grew for a Hundred Years beside a stream. Cattle rested in the shade thereof, and Birds of Heaven did build their Nests in the branches thereof. But there came a Potato Bug who desired to fill his Belly from the Potato Patch on the far side of that stream. And he rested by the stream and he prayed.
  • And, in the night, there arose a Great Wind, and it smote the tree so that it fell across the stream. And when morning was come, the Potato Bug climbed upon the Great & Beautiful Tree, crossed the water, and entered the Potato Patch.
  • The Cattle mourned for the Shade which had sheltered them, and the Birds were sorrowing over their Broken Eggs, over their little children crushed by the fall, and over their homes which were desolate. The People for miles around mourned the loss of a symbol of Strength and Beauty felled by the chance of Wind.
  • But the Potato Bug knew it not, but thanked his God for the answer of the Prayer of the Potato Bug."

2. Man praying on top of capsized boat that God would rescue him. Helicopter came by but he refused saying, "God will save me". After he died he asked God why he let him die. God replied, "I sent you the helicopter."

B. What providence is and what it is not:

1. Definition of providence:

a) "The doctrine of divine providence, therefore had reference to that preservation, care and government which God exercises over all things He has created, in order that they may accomplish the ends for which they were created." ISBE

b) "The foreseeing and guardianship of God over His creatures...a manifestation of His divine care or direction" American College Dictionary

c) Summarized providence is, "the divine intervention in the affairs of man within the confines of natural law to bring about God's objectives"

2. False views of Providence:

a) Faithless

(1) "I don't see how God could work today"

(2) All things are just random chance processes

b) Deism:

(1) God sits back, passively observing but, never intervening.

(2) Like a clock-maker to the clock, God winds it up and leaves it alone. The longer it runs, the greater God's wisdom.

c) Calvinistic:

(1) All predestined therefore every action is because God willed it. Everything is providence

(2) God contravenes, thwarts or overrides man's free-will moral agency: Mt 23:37

d) Pentecostal:

(1) Every good thing that happens is God's reward for the righteous

(2) Providence is always identifiable, "God opened that parking spot for me"

C. Miracles & providence:



Obvious while happening

Not obvious while happening

Cannot be explained

Usually can be explained

1. Miraculous

a) Homer Hailey said, "you cannot explain a miracle, and explained miracle is nonsense."

b) Miracles are always obvious: Acts 3 healing of lame man

2. Non-miraculous providence:

a) Providence is not difficult to explain, yet you do not know the forces that brought it about.

b) Providence is best seen in hindsight. We rarely see it while it is happening to us.

D. God, as our heavenly father, is by nature is a provider:

1. Ps 23:1 "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want"

2. Ps 37:25 "I have not seen the righteous forsaken"

3. Gen 22:8 "Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering"

4. Heb 13:5 "I will never desert or forsake you"

E. Things God promises to provide:

1. Answers to prayer requests: Mt 7;7-11

2. Hidden things we don't ask for or know we need, like a father giving to young child

3. Direction for our lives: Prov 3:5-6, "trust in the Lord...he will direct your paths"

4. Material blessings: Mt 6:25-34; Lk 12:22-31

a) Shouldn't be our goal: 1 Jn 2:15; Col 3:2; Mt 16:26

b) Material loss not compared to spiritual gain: Lk 18:28-30; Mk 10:28

c) Blessings & prosperity don't necessarily mean endorsement by God: Mt 5:45

5. Supply all needs: Phil 4:19

6. Love and care in hard times: 1 Pe 5:7 "cast anxiety on Him"

7. Chastening and discipline: Heb 12:6-11; Amos 4:6-12 "smote with hunger yet you returned not"

8. Always provide a way of escape: 1 Cor 10:12-13; Mt 6:13 "Deliver us from the evil one"

9. All things will work our for the best in the end: Rom 8:28

10. Do beyond all we ask or think: Eph 3:20

11. Give us all we need to do every good work. Rom 9:8

12. Direction of the decisions of political leaders and ultimately all the nations: 1 Ti 2:1-2

F. Examples of God's providence:

1. God bringing about his promises through Christ: 1 Pe 1:19-20; 2 Ti 1:9 "all eternity"

a) Every man and woman that carried the Christ seed was an example of providence

b) Crucifixion of Christ: Eph 1:10; Gal 4:4

c) Children of Israel in the wilderness

2. Joseph released from prison to become ruler: Acts 7:9-10

3. God intervened in destruction: Mt 24:22 (no life, Christians included, would have been saved)

4. Nations rising and falling: Dan 2; Habakkuk

5. Prayer

a) Hanna's prayer for son: 1 Sam 1:10-20

b) Servant of Abraham travels to get wife for Isaac: Gen 24

6. Hardening Pharaoh's heart: Ex 7:14,22; 8:15,19,32; 9:7,34

7. Jonah's running away actually helped Ninevah repent.

8. Haman & Mordecai in Esther

G. We can't know when God performs providence:

1. Patchwork from the back has little apparent pattern, just a series of random threads.

2. "the secret things belong to God" Deut 29:29

3. Eccl 8:19-9:1; Eccl 11:5

4. Habakkuk couldn't see God working and accused Him of not caring!

5. God works today, but how, we don't know but accept by faith: 2 Cor 5:7

Steve Rudd

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