Over the last several weeks I’ve been discussing God’s providence with several members at Oak Park, as well as reflecting on this truth in my own life. One tool that God has used to open my eyes is question 27 of the Heidelberg Catechism, which asks, “What do you understand by the providence of God?” The answer is most profound and quite challenging – “Providence is the almighty hand and ever-present power of God by which He upholds, as with His hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty – all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but from His fatherly hand.” DeYoung’s exposition of this question is extremely helpful and again, challenging. He says,
God’s provident is not an excuse to act foolishly or sinfully. Herod and Pontius Pilate, though they did what God had planned beforehand, were still wicked conspirators (Acts 4:25-28). The Bible affirms human responsibility. But the Bible also affirms, much more massively and frequently than some imagine, God’s power and authority over all things. The nations are under God’s control (Pss. 2:1-4; 33:10), as is nature (Mark 4:41; Pss. 135:7; 147:18; 148:8), and animals (2 Kings 17:25; Dan. 6:22; Matt. 10:29). God is sovereign over Satan and evil spirit (Matt. 4:10; 2 Cor. 12:7-8; Mark 1:27). God uses wicked people for His plans – not just in a “bringing good out of evil” sort of way but in an active, intentional, “this was God’s plan from the get-go” sort of way (Job 12:16; John 19:11; Gen. 45:8; Luke 22:22; Acts 4:27-28). God hardens hearts (Ex. 14:17; Josh. 11:20; Rom. 9:18). God sends trouble and calamity (Judg. 9:23; 1 Sam. 1:5; 16:14; 2 Sam. 24:1; 1 Kings 22:20-23; Isa. 45:6-7; 53:10; Amos 3:6; Ruth 1:20; Eccl. 7:14). God even puts to death (1 Sam. 2:6, 25; 2 Sam. 12:15; 2 Chron. 10:4, 14; Deut. 32:39). God does what He pleases and His purposes cannot be thwarted (Isa. 46:9-10; Dan. 4:34-35). In short, God guides all our steps and works all things after the counsel of His will (Prov. 16:33; 20:24; 21:2; Jer. 10:23; Pss. 139:16; Rom. 8:28; Eph. 1:11) (DeYoung, pp. 60).
Why does he go through the trouble to cite the litany of verses you just previously read? For one, his intention is to convey that the scope of the Bible teaches that God is unmistakably involved in all things; he’s not giving a “piece-meal” presentation of God’s providence. Secondly, he does so, so that you and I would not merely tolerate God’s sovereignty but joyously embrace it (DeYoung, pp. 60). This for me is the hard part. I agree “intellectually” with everything DeYoung writes in his book, but transferring a mental assent of God’s providence to my heart whereby I receive whatever comes into my mind with joy is something all-together difficult and seemingly impossible at times. And it is, I believe, only by God’s enabling grace in our minds and hearts that we can look at past experiences, as well as current ones with an attitude that says, “God this is your plan and despite the deception of my heart that wants to rail against you, your plan and my past or present circumstances, I know you’re good and utterly sovereign over every facet and detail of my life and I will trust you and your revealed plan.”
DeYoung ends with three truths that help us to see that providence is a reality that should bring us comfort. They are…
- We can be patient when things go against us. God knows what He’s doing (DeYoung, pp. 61)
- We can be thankful when things go well. “If we truly believe in providence, we will view success and prosperity not as products of good upbringing, good looks, or good intelligence but ultimately as the unmerited favor of a good God” (DeYoung, pp. 61).
- We can have confidence for the future. “The fact is all your worries may come true, by God will never be untrue to you. He will always lead you and listen to you. God moves in mysterious ways, so we may not always understand why life is what it is. But it helps us face the future unafraid to know that nothing moves, however mysterious, except by the hand of that great Unmoved Mover who is our Father in heaven” (DeYoung, pp. 61).
So, receive God’s providence with joy and be encouraged by His providential orchestration of your life; for He is good and His plan is best.