It’s Providential – Genesis 30

Simply stated, providence is God’s intervention in His creation. The theological concept of providence incorporates the foreseeing care and guidance of God. In fact, the Latin root of the English word has the sense of  knowledge of the future.

So, because God knows the future, He controls the present.

Providence is probably the main point in which a biblical worldview comes into conflict with contemporary worldviews. Certainly, the Old Testament worldview was more respective of God’s providence than is the modern, scientific view that asks “Why” and “How” about every occurrence in life and nature.

The Old Testament writers seem to have a rich understanding of God’s providence. To the Old Testament writer, it’s all providential!

The two major events from the life of Jacob described in Genesis 30 illustrate the Old Testament perspective of providence.

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Living Providentially, Part 2: Failing Smart – Proverbs 20:24, Romans 8:28

failure“A person’s steps are from the Lord; how then can people understand their path?” (Proverbs 20:24,CEB).

“We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, CEB).

According to the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:28, our steps are indeed from the Lord and we can know and understand God’s will and where He is leading us. We can live providentially.

But, when things go bad, we act like it won’t work out. We don’t believe these bad things can be part of the “all” things that work together for good.

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Living Providentially, Part 1: Good Happens – Proverbs 20:24, Romans 8:28

failure“A person’s steps are from the Lord; how then can people understand their path?” (Proverbs 20:24,CEB).

“We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, CEB).

Does Solomon ask a rhetorical question in this proverb? How can we know what will happen to us in life since it is all determined by God?

Or, is he decrying the fact that it is impossible for human beings to know God’s will because we’re not spiritual enough to fully understand God?

Maybe he is simply issuing a challenge: God has a plan for your life, so discover what it is!

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Your Heavenly Assignment – 1 Corinthians 7:17

Divine_Providence“Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him” (1 Corinthians 7:17, ESV).

This admonition is given in the context of believer/unbeliever marriage. The Apostle Paul explains that if one marriage partner gets saved and the other doesn’t, the Christian should remain married to his or her unbelieving spouse because the marriage vow is a sacred one, even between unbelievers, and because the believing husband or wife can be a witness to the unbelieving one.

So, following Jesus isn’t an excuse to escape your marriage commitment, even if your spouse remains an unbeliever.

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Why Things Happen Like They Do – Job 37:13

crossroads-2“He makes these things happen either to punish people or to show his unfailing love.” (Job 37:13, NLT).

During Elihu’s discourse to Job, Elihu counseled Job to proclaim God’s majesty and the greatness of God’s providential action in His creation rather than questioning God’s judgment and justice by proclaiming his own righteousness.

God is sovereign and He wants His good plans and purposes to be accomplished. God is greater than evil and can even use the evil actions of Satan and human beings to accomplish His good purposes.

So the same act by God can serve multiple causes–judgment and love. God’s redemptive action in His creation and in our individual lives may provide for our correction; it may enable his plans and purposes; or maybe it’s just because God is good to us that He causes things to happen the way they do!

If you are a child of God, you can be assured that God is working His will for your good and your good for His will.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (Romans 8:28, NLT)

For Such a Time as This – Esther 4:14

world_in_hands“And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14, ESV).

The story of Esther is set in Susa, the Persian capital, during the reign of King Xerxes (486–464 BC) after Persia had replaced Babylon as the ruling power.

Some Jews had returned to Jerusalem where they enjoyed a reasonable amount of control over their own affairs as described in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Others, like those in the story of Esther, lived in various parts of the empire where they were often treated with suspicion and recriminations.

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Complete Confidence – Habakkuk 1-3

trust-father-son“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” (Habakkuk 3:17-18, NLT).

It seemed to Habakkuk that God was indifferent and unresponsive to the evil permeating society in ancient Judah.

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Just In Time – Isaiah 49:8

justintime“At just the right time, I will respond to you. On the day of salvation I will help you. I will protect you and give you to the people as my covenant with them.” (Isaiah 49:8, NLT).

In this chapter Isaiah continues his description of the suffering servant. This chapter has traditionally been regarded as the second of four suffering servant songs.

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God’s Plan: Your Success – Genesis 39:2, 21

“The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master…But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love” (Genesis 39:2, 21, NLT).

Joseph, the great-grandson of Abraham, often seemed to be a victim of his own success.

He was the favorite son of his father, Jacob, and so his brothers were jealous of him.

God chose him from among his eleven other brothers to be the salvation of Israel and gave him dreams and visions to confirm His promise.

But, when he told his brothers these dreams, they threw him in a dry well and then sold him into slavery.

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In Sync – Romans 8:28

“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, HCSB).

This familiar verse is probably one of the most often quoted, yet, often misunderstood verses in the Bible!

We generally quote the verse and its promise to someone who has suffered tragedy or misfortune or we claim its promise for ourselves when we personally encounter tragedy or misfortune.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is some very powerful theology embedded in this verse. It’s just that we sometimes misapply or misappropriate it to our lives!

On one hand, we interpret Romans 8:28 to mean that God does bad things to us (or allows bad things to happen to us) to drive us back into line with His will.

We were bad so God caused something bad to happen to us so we’ll start being good!

On the other hand, we interpret Romans 8:28 to mean that God will take the bad things that happen to us and turn them into good things.

The problem with these interpretations is that both views cause you to miss out on the powerful promise that’s contained in Romans 8:28.

The promise of restoration!

Both views impede what God actually wants to do in your life when you encounter adversity.

God doesn’t cause bad things to happen to us to make us obey Him nor does He change the bad things that happen to us into good things!

Bad things happen because we live in a fallen world.

When I have encountered tragedy in my life, I find that I wake up each day and the tragic event has still occurred and its residual grief, stress, frustration, or sadness is still felt deeply and the havoc that it has reaped in my life and others is still evident.

So am I being cynical and sterilizing this potent promise, this powerful theology, with cynicism?

Not at all. I’m not being cynical, I’m being a realist.

I want to show you how the wonderful promise contained in Romans 8:28 can have a transformative effect on your life when you understand God’s reality as it is explained in this verse.

After all, God really, really wants you to experience His reality. His reality, not our version of it.

The fundamental basis for forming a relationship with God is restoration. God created a perfect world. That perfect world has become imperfect; it has fallen from its original splendor because of rebellion, specifically, humanity’s rebellion against God’s plans.

God wants to restore this world and humanity from its fallen state to a perfect state. God wants to restore this world so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to live and die as a human being for it, for us.

So restoration is God’s purpose. And our redemption has always been God’s plan since before the creation of the world, and will always be His plan even to eternity.

And God not only wants to redeem and restore this world, He wants to redeem and restore you!

He redeemed you from your fallen state when you first believed in Jesus. Now, God wants to restore you everyday of your life as you struggle in this fallen world to live for Him. And He especially wants to restore you when you encounter hardship and suffering.

That’s how a relationship with God works–restoration!

But God does not restore you by removing the problem. If you think that, then you are missing the blessing of the Romans 8:28 promise.

God wants to apply the healing balm of restoration to your problems as you seek refuge from your difficulties under the protection of His love and grace.

He wants to draw you into His lovingkindness, His mercy, His redeeming love!

And He’s so mighty, so powerful, that evil and the consequences of evil are inconsequential to God.

Nothing, not even evil and the bad that it produces, can thwart God’s good purposes or prevent God’s love. So much so, that God even uses evil to accomplish His redemptive plans and purposes.

The bad of this world can never stand in the way of God’s good: “Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39, NLT).

Wow! God’s love is incredible, amazing, incredibly amazing!

God is almighty and, therefore, makes all things, even evil, even tragedy or misfortune, work together for His good purposes!

When bad things happen to you, God puts your life back in sync! He realigns your life for you. He restores you to His will!

So the marvelous promise of Romans 8:28 should not be stored away to be grabbed off the shelf when tragedy strikes. It’s a way of life. It’s the way we maintain a relationship with God!

God restores you. God continuously synchronizes your life with His plans and purposes when you love Him and seek His will as the way for your life.

“Whatever has been born of God conquers the world” (1 John 5:4, HCSB).