ACTS 17:22-31                                                                                FEBRUARY 1, 2015


Today I am going to speak on the providence of God. In order to develop a biblical world view one must understand how God, who created everything, upholds everything. According to the Bible everything is maintained under the supervision of God, the Creator. The scripture I read refers to the providence of God. Acts 17:24-26 (NIV) 24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”

In our culture we have lost this biblical understanding of how this world actually works. Last week I spoke of the view of the Deists. This religious movement looked upon “God as the great watchmaker, who built the watch, wound it up, and then left it alone to run by itself.” (R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess, page 80) Our educational system teaches that the world operates independently and from natural causes. We think things happen randomly. This is why most people wish someone luck! This is a statement that one believes in random, natural causes.

Let me give you an example of a biblical world view. Several years ago PBS broadcast a series on the Civil War. During the series they read many letters written by soldiers, on the eve of battle, to their wives, sweethearts, or parents on the uncertainties of what lay ahead. In their letters they often spoke of Providence. Providence was often used in the place of God’s name. One solder wrote: “My beloved wife, Providence has brought me to this point in my life, and I know not what Providence has in store for me tomorrow. And if it should be according to Providence that I not survive the morrow, I will entrust the care of you and the children to that same benevolent Providence.” (R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess, page 143) It is obvious that the soldier had a deep abiding faith and a good understanding of the nature of God.

In our world we have looked for the answers to life’s most troubling questions in all the wrong places. Our educational system teaches that God and the Bible are not to be a source for knowledge. It should not be a surprise then that we are ignorant of God’s design. Job had questions about the way things worked and especially why bad things had happened to him. He was given a lot of wrong ideas about God from his friends. Job wanted an answer from God. So God told Job what he needed to understand. Job 38:1-5 (NIV) 1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said: 2 “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? 3 Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. 4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. 5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?” God has provided us with the knowledge of how this world works if we will only pay attention to the scriptures.

The Westminster Confession of Faith defines the providence of God in the Larger Catechism. God’s providence is his completely holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing every creature and every action, ordering them all to his own glory.” Some of the scripture references that support this definition: from Psalm 3:5 (NIV) 5 I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.” Matthew 10:29-30 (NIV) 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Matthew 6:26 (NIV) 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”

In each of these verses God takes care of his creation. In Genesis the Hebrew word for creation is an action that is ongoing. God not only created the world but he ensures it works according to his will and plan. Psalm 33:10-11 (NIV) 10 The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. 11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.”

As I began to understand the providence of God I came across these verses. Proverbs 16:33 (NIV) 33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” Proverbs 18:18 (NIV) 18 Casting the lot settles disputes and keeps strong opponents apart.” Acts 1:23-26 (NIV) 23 So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.” The apostles cast dice to discern the will of God. The apostles understood that God is in control of all things, even dice.

Do you realize the significance of these verses along with the other scriptures on the providence of God? First, there is no such thing as luck. I hear Christians all the time wishing someone luck. But there is no luck. God determines every cast of the dice. Historically, this is why the church has been opposed to gambling. We are to work hard, to provide for ourselves and for our families. It’s a hard habit to break, and not wish someone luck. I try to say, “The Lord be with you!” or “May the Lord bless you!” Listen to the words of the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 32:17-19 (NIV) 17 “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. 18 You show love to thousands but bring the punishment for the fathers’ sins into the laps of their children after them. O great and powerful God, whose name is the LORD Almighty, 19 great are your purposes and mighty are your deeds. Your eyes are open to all the ways of men; you reward everyone according to his conduct and as his deeds deserve.”

As we begin to understand the providential care of our God we will begin to trust God even when we may not understand the reasons why. God can use everything in life to teach, chastise, correct, encourage, bless, or comfort. Romans 8:28 (NIV) 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” God does not cause bad things to happen to us. God allows them and will use them to bring about good. This is why we must trust God. He loves and cares for us and will take us home one day to be with Him forever. In the meantime may we be faithful servants of Christ.

Let us pray.

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