Thankful for Providence
November is upon us and in some sense this month brings our hearts and minds to a greater awareness of what we are thankful for. There is an endless list of things to be thankful for, to our Lord. In particular, this November I find myself pondering that God is a God of purpose. I am striving to believe and take hold of the truth that God is purposeful and to live out my faith and life in a way that reflects this truth.
Sovereignty and Purpose
God is sovereign. God has supreme power over all things (Psalm 135:6).
God is purposeful. God uses this power with purpose (Proverbs 16:33).
God is in control. Praise God! And, God is in control with purpose. Praise God! “Providence” is the theological term for God working with purpose. The Holman Bible Dictionary defines providence as “God’s benevolent and wise superintendence of His creation” (Holman Bible Dictionary, 1312). God is managing and arranging or “superintending” all of his creation. He works with meaning and intention to bring about His will, His glory, and His kingdom. God is purposeful. Without providence, God remains all powerful, but that power is exercised without any order, aim, or objective. Power without meaning. Powerful yet chaotic. God’s providence is, indeed, something to be thankful for.
Providence in the Bible
Joseph: Jealous brothers sold him into slavery and told their father he was dead (Genesis 37). Joseph ends up being falsely accused and thrown in prison. Through God’s providence, Joseph winds up in a prison cell with the cupbearer and the baker to the King of Egypt (Genesis 40:1-4). God gives Joseph the ability to interpret dreams and eventually this gifting from the Lord leads to his release from prison and he becomes Pharaoh’s right hand man. Because of this position, Joseph ends up saving his own brothers, who sold him into slavery, from certain starvation. Joseph sees the beauty of God’s providence in his life as he speaks to his brothers (Genesis 45:5, 7-8). His brothers meant this all for evil, and God, through it all, was working towards his ultimate purpose.
Moses: The baby boy who was supposed to drown in the Nile through Pharaoh’s own orders ends up being saved by Pharaoh’s daughter and brought up in Pharaoh’s household only later to lead the Hebrew people out of Pharaoh’s captivity. God’s providence. See Exodus 20:2.
Paul: The prison sentence that was meant to silence the gospel ends up spreading it inside the prison. Amazingly, it served to advance the gospel outside of the prison walls by emboldening other followers of Christ (Philippians 1:12-14). God’s purpose prevailed.
Jesus: The seemingly tragic death of the son of God, in God’s most magnificent act of providence, provided salvation for all who believe: a plan, or purpose, which God had before the foundations of the earth (Ephesians 3:11).
We walk by faith. We remain confident that God is working out his purposes (his will), especially when we can’t see it or fathom it. We befriend faithfulness, walking in the fear of God.
We remain hopeful. Knowing God is working with purpose helps us fight despair and hopelessness. How can we be hopeless when we serve a God whose will is never thwarted or overturned? Our hope doesn’t rely on our changing circumstances or the exact answer to prayer we want, but in an unchanging God who is working out his purposes through our lives.
We respond with trust. If God’s purpose “causes all things to work together for our good,” then God can be trusted as we walk through prosperity and hardship (Romans 8:28). We can rest, not fret, as we trust God. We actively trust instead of giving in to anger or bitterness.
We rejoice. We thank God that he is a God who works with purpose. We thank him for the ways he is working that we can’t yet see. We thank him by remembering all the places we see his providence played out in the Bible and in our lives. We are happy in God and who he is.
I am keenly aware that these responses aren’t easy for us. Most of the time our prayers sound something like this: God I am struggling to believe you are working with purpose. I can’t see it and I can’t feel it. I am on the verge of despair. But, I know your word is true and I can trust you. Please help me to believe that you are working out your will in my life. Help me to walk by faith and hope in you.
Those prayers I believe are honoring to God as we strive to allow God’s character to shape us for his glory. I pray that we remain thankful always, not just this November, that God is a God of purpose.