Monday, May 15, 2006

Reveling in God's Providence

In response to a sermon (look for my part 1 of my sermon on Mark 4:35-41 at our church's audio page) a congregant asked me about whether a strong view of God's Providence leads to a que sera sera attitude in life. My response is below.

A que sera sera view of the world has no end or purpose in mind nor is it personal. The Christian view is that things are not just unfolding "okay" or "right" but rather are unfolding in such a way that God is glorified and individually (i.e. personally) His people are satisfied because they are being saved and sanctified.

It struck me yesterday that I neglected to share with you an important point that the Westminster Confession of Faith puts extraordinarily well. Let me quote it and explain why I think it's helpful.

WCF Chapter III
I. God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass:[1] yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin,[2] nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.[3]

1. Psa. 33:11: Eph. 1:11: Heb. 6:17
2. Psa. 5:4; James 1:13-14; I John 1:5; see Hab. 1:13
3. Acts 2:23; 4:27-28: Matt. 17:12; John 19:11; Prov. 16:33

It's particular the very last phrase I'm interested in. When most people hear what I propounded yesterday from the Scriptures they hear that what we do is of no effect or influence. But this is as far from the truth as one could be. God's effective working in the world establishes the effectiveness of 2nd causes (our acting).

God not only ordains the end but also the means. Thus to take what we looked at yesterday and think about it in this way would sound like this: God had the end of revealing more about Jesus and the disciple's hearts to the disciples. He led them into the storm that He was brewing so that they would come to the end of themselves and realize their utter dependence upon Him. This resulted in them relying upon Him and realizing better who He was. God had an end and the means both of which were ordained by God.

Let's take it into the realm of an individual sinner where this is more clear. God had the end of saving Matt Bohling. In order to achieve that end he puts Christians in my life who were obligated to pray and witness to me so that through the means of prayer and proclamation God would save me.

Thus far from removing our responsibility, God's effective working in the world assures us that our working has a real role in achieving God's purposes for us, for others, and for the world in general. Because God has ends that He's achieving through means, we are really useful.

Perhaps imagining the opposite (as we find in Desiderata) would be helpful. God has no genuine ends He's bringing about in the world, He sits in heaven hoping that some people will come to Christ but whether that happens really lies in their hands. As a witness and as a prayer I don't know whether my praying and witnessing will have any effect at all on anyone in my entire life. To me this is what would lead to apathy and a que sera sera approach to life which isn't Biblical. The wonderful truth is that God is sovereignly accomplishing His purposes THROUGH us taking our responsibilities seriously.

Hope that helps.