I do not claim to have a full understanding of it. Sometimes it seems a bit baffling to me, but I do believe in God's providence. When we speak of providence, we must understand that there is an ordinary or natural providential care that God has for His creation. The Lord causes the seasons to continue upon the earth through His providential care. (Genesis 8:22). Through His natural providence, He blesses the dwellers of this planet with sunshine, rain, food, etc. (Acts 14:17). Yes, indeed, God providentially cares for His creation. (Cf. Matthew 6:26).
There is also something that we might call "special providence" involved in the lives of those who truly seek after the Lord and in the lives of those who are members of the church. In fact, this is what comes to mind when we contemplate the answering of our prayers by our heavenly Father. Christians are those who have the spiritual blessing of being able to pray to their Father in heaven. (Cf. Ephesians 1:3; Matthew 6:9-10). There is no miracle involved in God's answering our prayers today, because we know that the age of the miraculous has been fulfilled. Miracles have served their purposes, and we now have the confirmed, complete, full, or perfect Will of God. (Mark 16:15-20; Hebrews 2:1-4; 1 Corinthians 13:8-13; James 1:25). However, this is certainly not to say that our loving heavenly Father is not interested in us. We, surely, do not want to become "deists" and proclaim God created humankind but then just left us to fend for ourselves. He does care, and He does want us to pray to Him concerning our needs and desires. (1 Peter 5:6, 7). "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (James 5:16).
"Special providence" is certainly implied in passages like Matthew 7:7-11. Here the Lord says that those who ask, seek, and knock shall receive an answer from God. In fact, earlier in this same "Sermon On The Mount," the Lord said, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled." (Matthew 5:6). God knows all! He knows those who are truly searchers for the truth; those who really want to go to heaven. While Jehovah would never interfere with man's free moral agency, He is able to work providentially to assist these true searchers in their progression toward the truth. If a person is a seeker and continues diligently, he will find the truth.
Most are familiar with the record concerning how the slave, Onesimus, ran off from his master, Philemon. We know from the little book called Philemon that this unprofitable one obeyed the gospel through the influence of the prisoner of Jesus Christ, Paul the apostle. Paul wrote to his brother, Philemon, concerning Onesimus and said of him, "For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?" (Philemon 15, 16). Yes, perhaps Onesimus's escape from bondage served to lead him to God. This is providence.
Remember, too, how Paul had planned and even "assayed" (attempted or endeavored) to go into Bithynia, but the Lord would not allow him to do so. He ended up in Troas. Is it not extraordinarily interesting that this is how the gospel went into the European continent? Paul wanted to go to Bithynia, but he was led to Troas instead. God knew there were people in Europe who were hungering and thirsting after the truth. He knew better than Paul. Paul took this opportunity provided by God to accomplish great things for the Lord.
Many of us may have our own thoughts and plans, but God may provide for us "a Troas." We may not understand it fully at first, but we must, by faith and conviction, do the work of the Lord wherever we find ourselves. Oftentimes, "going to Troas" may tell the tale concerning how serious one is about his religion.
You can take a hard thing and make a wonderful triumph out of it. Paul wrote to the Roman church and said that he prayed that he would soon come to them. (Romans 1:9-12). Do you think he realized how God was going to answer this prayer? He was falsely accused, hustled out of Jerusalem under cover of darkness, and brought to Caesarea. He remained there as a prisoner for about two years, was taken to Rome as a prisoner, and was shipwrecked on the way.
Finally, he did, indeed, make it to Rome just as he had prayed. He wrote from there to the Philippian congregation and said, "... the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel." (Philippians 1:12). -P.O. Box 285, Crum, WV 25669. firstname.lastname@example.org
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