The Providence of God

God’s purpose for each of us and our church is to flourish. God intends for us to naturally grow in holiness and Christlikeness. Holiness is flourishing from God’s perspective, becoming more like God and Jesus. If we have any hope of flourishing as God intends for us, we must discipline our inner man to the powerful impact of the truth and reality of God’s providence.

We understand God’s sovereignty as His ruling over the affairs of humanity, while God’s providence rules in and through these events. Theologians equate general providence with natural law, such as gravity, the repeating seasons, and the gender of each human. These examples are all expressions of God’s general providence. His infinite sustaining power ensures these things to be true, yesterday, today, and tomorrow, allowing all of mankind the best possibility of enjoying some level of flourishing apart from Christ. People who reject, dismiss, or work against any of the constructs of God’s general providence will struggle instead of flourishing.

A special word to God’s people, those who love the Lord Jesus Christ, is found in Romans 8:28. Called according to His purpose, these people enjoy a level of God’s special providence, God’s special attention given to those who love Him. As defined by one theologian, special divine providence invites each believer into the reality of a biblical house of counterintuitive wonders. Requiring us to stop and to think, it is something no human can comprehend apart from the revelation of God, particularly in the person of Jesus Christ. If we have any hope of flourishing as God intends, we must discipline ourselves to this truth of providence.

God’s special providence is displayed in amazing ways in the life of Joseph, who is called by God to save the nation of Israel. Thrown down a well and sold into slavery by his brothers, falsely accused in Potiphar’s house, and cast into prison though innocent, Joseph is finally elevated to the second in command of the greatest nation during that time. In God’s great providence, Joseph is united with his brothers in Genesis 45. It would be understandable if Joseph struggled with bitterness and a desire for revenge. These are real emotions that must be rightly handled.

Joseph says in Genesis 45:7-8, "So God sent me ahead of you to ensure for you a remnant on the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God." Instead of viewing himself as the victim and his brothers as criminals, Joseph acknowledges God’s providence in his life. Understanding God’s providence should eliminate that human, vengeful way of thinking, since all things work together for our good and for God’s glory. God’s providence regulates the victories and defeats in the inner man, eliminating the victim mentality from our lives.

In Genesis 50:15, Joseph’s brothers are concerned that with their father gone, Joseph will bear a grudge against them, desiring to pay them back for all the wrong they had done against him. In Genesis 50:19-20, Joseph says, "Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to keep many people alive." When we acknowledge God’s amazing providence in our lives, we let go of being a victim and refuse to become a vigilante. Vengeance is God’s prerogative, not ours. His providence is the source of victory in our lives.

A core value of Joseph’s life was his belief that God rules not only over general events but rules in and through them, all circumstances, and even evil people. Joseph was not tempted to yield to the flesh by hanging onto a victim mentality or seeking revenge. The truth of God’s providence was more than a knowing in Joseph’s head, but a truth planted in his heart, evidenced in how he lived, which led to a flourishing in Joseph’s life. We must discipline our inner man like Joseph to embrace the truth and reality that God’s providence is in control of our lives.

Application Points

  • Is your life flourishing as God desires for you, growing in holiness and Christlikeness? Unless we discipline our inner man to the providence of God, we will never enjoy the flourishing God longs for us to enjoy.

  • How are you handling the day-to-day events, catastrophes, and abnormalities of your life? Do you recognize God’s amazing providence working in and through your life?

  • Are you struggling with being victimized and desiring revenge?

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore on Providence
  • 1 Sam. 16:1; Psalm 63:8; 75:6-7; 91:3; 139:16; 145:9; Prov. 16:9; Isaiah 45:5; Jer. 1:5; Matt. 6:25; Luke 1:52; Rom. 8:28; Gal. 1:15-16
A Hymn to Encourage: "What God Ordains Is Always Right"

What God ordains is always right;
His will is just and holy.
He holds us in His perfect might;
in Christ our lives are godly.
He is our God and all we need,
the Father who preserves us still;
to Him we bend each heart and will.

What God ordains is always right;
and He will not deceive us.
He leads us in the way of light
and will not ever leave us.
In Him we rest, who makes the best
of all the stumbling turns we take
and loves us for His mercy's sake.