Precious Providence, Part 2

Editor's Note: Theology is for everyday life. That's why we've started a series by the same name. This is the second of a two-part series on the doctrine of Providence. To see the first post in our theology series, click here.

According to Dr. Grudem, providence—the reality that God is continually involved with all created things—can be defined with these three parts:

Let's continue to use my grandpa's story from last week as a case study. The very fact that my grandpa, his plane, and the world didn't implode while functioning normally is a mercy from God. Scripture tells us this point blank. God sustains us and all of creation every second of every day. (Col. 1:17; Job 34:14–15)

"[Christ] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power." (Heb. 1:3 emphasis added)

In other words, God is the One who causes the brain to work in such a way that nitrogen bubbles are not welcome and lead to bad results. He directed the water under my grandpa to do what it does when it gets cold so that no 98.6 degree body would survive in it. He gave Tom (the wingman) a mind that holds memory that would recall his superb flight training.

And He willed that all of this would work together to spare my grandpa's life for another fifty or so years. This doesn't mean that Grandpa and Tom could sit back, relax, and say, "Oh well. God's going to do what He's going to do." Instead, they acted on their understanding of how planes relate to natural law in order to get down safely.

Furthermore, our understanding of "natural" causes doesn't negate God's God-ness. God is the Cause of natural causes. And He's still God when we can figure out what happened through disciplines like science. Scripture attests to this without apology.

"For to the snow he says, ‘Fall on the earth,' likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour. . . . From its chamber comes the whirlwind, and cold from the scattering winds. By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast.

"He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning. They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world. Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen." (Job 37:6, 9–13 emphasis added)

So, does that mean God causes evil to happen?

Though it's impossible for our fallible minds to understand in full, Scripture does make clear that God causes all things to happen, but God does not directly do evil, nor is He blamed for it. Take a look at a few references. Rom. 9:18; Job 1:21–22; Acts 4:27–28

"This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5 emphasis added) 

"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." (Gen. 50:20 emphasis added)

"I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things." (Isa. 45:7 emphasis added)

I'm not sure why my grandpa lived that day in 1953 when so many others have lost their lives at an early age. My mom's dad also lived through being a POW in WWII, while his comrades died. This was before she was conceived, too. I know that part of His plan was to adopt me as His child—mind-blowing! And I also know from God's Word that there isn't a single thing that escapes God's direction and fails to carry out His plan. Nothing—absolutely nothing—throws a wrench into His plans. (Pro. 16:33; Dan. 4:34–35)

"In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will." (Eph. 1:11 emphasis added)

Although God is in control, He works through our human actions.

Although God is in control, He works through our human actions. We aren't just mannequins designed to sit in a store window. Most of the time we are the means through which He accomplishes His purposes—actors who get the privilege of being a part of the story He has written. We have to consciously reject the temptation to think that what we do and don't do doesn't matter. I constantly struggle with this, but the Bible is clear that we are morally responsible before God (2 Cor. 5:10).

God's providence is a lofty topic to being thinking about. It falls into the category of teachings in Scripture that are "too wonderful" (Ps. 139:6) for us. As hard as we try, we won't be able to figure it all out. In this—as in all things—we walk by faith. And when embraced, this precious doctrine can serve as an anchor to our soul and a catalyst to worship. What wondrous love is this that God Almighty would promise to work ALL things for our good and His matchless glory in Christ (Rom. 8:28)!

How does the doctrine of God's providence affect your everyday life? Does it make you think differently about the term "free will"? Does it give you joy in the midst of hardship and things you don't understand? Does it make you want to worship God?

  1. God keeps all created things existing and maintaining the properties with which He created them (that's called preservation).
  2. God cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do (that's called concurrence).
  3. God directs all created things to fulfill His purposes (that's called government).

Did you discover God’s Truth today?

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About the Author

Lindsay Swartz

Lindsay Swartz

Lindsay serves at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) as the managing editor of content. She completed her Master of Divinity at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. She's navigating single life in her thirties and loves movies, traveling, good food, coffee shops, girly things, and sports. She lives in Nashville, TN and is loving every minute of living in Music City.

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