“Providence” is not a word you hear too much anymore, but it was a common word to our nations founding fathers. Just a cursory look at some of our historic documents will show this word popping up time and again. Of course the word (and the belief) was passed down to our founding fathers from the English Puritans who came to the “new world” on the Mayflower. In fact, a group of Baptists in Rhode Island decided to name a town, “Providence” which today serves as the state’s capital. So what exactly is “Providence?”
Providence refers to God’s sovereign control over the events of our life and world. Anytime you try to understand God’s Sovereignty you wind up falling far short of total comprehension. After all, how can you completely comprehend One as infinite as God? What about man’s “free will?” What about acts of evil? Why does God allow certain things….and prevent other things which would seem better? While these may be good (and tough) questions to wrestle with, at the end of the day we simply must bow the knee to an All-Powerful God and trust that HE knows best. Yet still DO the things he calls us to do in our daily lives. We can (and must) follow the Lord to the best of our ability in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in….while at the same time KNOWING that our God can CHANGE those circumstances in a millisecond….if HE so chooses. And essentially, there are TWO different ways in which God accomplishes His will. He either does it NATURALLY, or SUPERNATURALLY.
Supernatural acts of God are miracles. Natural acts of God are “Providence.” In our Bible study tonight….we will see the Apostle Paul trusting in God’s Providence, and acting in accordance with it.
In Acts 23:1-22.…we find Paul in a familiar place…jail. While praying in the Jerusalem Temple, Paul is beaten by the vicious Jews who want him destroyed. The Romans intervene and save Paul’s life….but hold him as a prisoner, seeking to find out the reason for the civil unrest. Paul, KNEW that bad things would happen when he got to Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit had testified to him of this frequently. But Paul didn’t know specifics. Would he be jailed? Would he be beaten? Would he be killed? As Paul sets in jail pondering these things, the Lord appears to him saying, “Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.” (Acts 23:11 NASB) Now, Paul has Divine confirmation that he will NOT be killed in Jerusalem….but will in fact make to Rome to preach the gospel (albeit as a prisoner).
But the Jews still want him dead. Over 40 of them took an oath saying they would not eat or drink anything until Paul was dead. When Paul’s nephew hears about the plan he comes and tells Paul. NOW---put yourself in Paul’s place. What do you do?
Paul knows they WON’T be able to kill him….at least not yet, because Jesus has just told him he’ll testify in Rome. Paul COULD have simply kicked back and trusted God to SUPERNATURALLY thwart the Jews plot. It happened to him before. Remember when Paul was in jail at Philippi? God sent an earthquake and threw the doors of the cell open. (see Acts 16) God certainly CAN work SUPERNATURALLY. But often times He doesn’t, choosing rather to work in a NATURAL way. No miracles…just Providence.
Ultimately this is what Paul does. He sends his nephew to the Roman commander to report of the plot. The Commander in turn immediately, dispatches a massive group of soldiers to carry Paul, under cover of darkness, to Caesarea. Paul is saved. His assassination thwarted. All because of God’s Providence.
Do you see the Providential hand of God at work in your life? Rest assured the One who knows the number of hairs on your head (see Matthew 10:30) is in COMPLETE CONTROL of the events surrounding your life….and HE can change them anytime He wants. But, frustration often comes when OUR plans are different than GOD’S. It’s a continual process to submit ourselves under the “Mighty Hand of God.” Yet, it is only there that we find true and lasting peace. Sometimes we want God to “miracle” us out of our circumstances. Sometimes, He does. Usually He does not. Rather, he Providentially works things out according to His Will, and our good (see Romans 8:28).
God is in complete control….but He does want you to do something. In fact He wants you to do a lot of things in life. Are you doing them? Are you being faithful in the world he has placed you in? His Providence has given you chances to serve Him. Are you willing to serve in the “little things?” Or are you expecting Him to miracle you into the “big things?” You may be disappointed. In the parable of the talents, Jesus taught that those faithful in the “little things” would be entrusted with more. (see Matthew 25:21) We want the supernatural miracles in our lives. They’re impressive and flashy. But what about the daily, detailed Providence of God? Are you willing to accept it…and live under it, with just as much faithfulness? Paul knew that the God who sent an earthquake to the Philippian jail, could also cause a pagan Roman Commander to save his life with a midnight prison transfer. Supernatural? No. Divine? Yes. Either way….God’s in control, and Paul would trust that. He saw God’s hand in miracles….and he saw God’s hand in Providence. Paul’s God is also YOUR GOD….if you’re a follower of Christ. He is in control today….just as He was then….and forever shall be. Will you trust Him with the details of your life? Are you willing to “grind it out” under Providence….or will you “insist” upon miracles? Paul said he was “content in whatever circumstances” he was in (Philippians 4:11). YOU WILL BE TOO. If, you will submit to the One, True, God. HE IS the God of miracles…..and HE IS the God of Providence.