Providence In Our Lives

Providence in Our Lives, by Jerry Bridgesby Jerry Bridges /

Read all the posts published to date in this 9-part series on God’s Providence from Cruciform’s good friend, the late Jerry Bridges. This was a teaching Jerry was presenting in the months leading up to his fatal heart attack in March, 2016.  

GOD’S PROVIDENCE, PART EIGHT OF NINE

I grew up in poverty during the Great Depression years. No plans for college and no money. During the last semester of my senior year in high school I saw an article in the newspaper about a new officer-training program for the Navy. I applied, passed the exam, and received a four-year fully paid scholarship. I graduated and was assigned to the Pacific Fleet where I met Jim Wilson at a meeting. He told me about the Navigators and one thing led to another and I eventually ended up on staff.

Think what had to happen for all this to come to pass.

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God Works through Our Will to Do His Will

Providence and Free Will, by Jerry Bridges

God Works Through Our Will to Do His Will: God's Providence, Part 6 of 10by Jerry Bridges /

Read all the posts published to date in this 9-part series on God’s providence from Cruciform’s good friend, the late Jerry Bridges. This was a teaching Jerry was presenting in the months leading up to his fatal heart attack in March, 2016.

In the previous posts in this series, we addressed the miracle and mystery of God’s providence, His sovereignty, and the role of providence in our everyday lives. This time we’ll take a quick look at the question of God’s providence and man’s free will.  

GOD’S PROVIDENCE, PART SIX OF NINE

Providence and Free Will

God is sovereign even though he has allowed—to a limited extent—humans to also have their own will. In order to understand how this works we need to remember that God does what we cannot do. We can request, persuade, coerce, or manipulate people’s wills, but all of our efforts are external. God, on the other hand, works within our will so that we choose to do what He has determined we will do.

Here is a prime example of this from Scripture:

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Providence in the Everyday

Providence in the Everyday: God's Providence, Part 5 of 10, by Jerry Bridgesby Jerry Bridges /

Read all the posts published to date in this 9-part series on God’s Providence from Cruciform’s good friend, the late Jerry Bridges. This was a teaching Jerry was presenting in the months leading up to his fatal heart attack in March, 2016.  

GOD’S PROVIDENCE, PART FIVE OF NINE

In the previous post we saw that God in His sovereignty caused Genghis Kahn and the generation that followed him to conquer one fourth of the world’s population, forming the largest nation-state in human history…and then God destroyed it by using fleas. Today we’re looking briefly at ways God’s providence affects us directly in our personal lives.

1. Health and physical disabilities

Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? (Exodus 4:11)

Have you or your loved ones faced health or disability challenges? Clearly, God is in control of every part of our bodies and how they function.

2. Financial and social standing

The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. (1 Samuel 2:7)

Many people live to some degree in constant fear or worry over their material prosperity, their position in society, or both. But we see here that God alone ultimately determines our level of wealth or poverty.

3. Weather

For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:45)

I also withheld the rain from you when there was yet three months to the harvest; I would send rain on one city, and send no rain on another city; one field would have rain, and the field on which it did not rain would wither. (Amos 4:7)

The plain and most important meaning of these passages speaks specifically to weather conditions. That said, there is value and biblical legitimacy in understanding weather as a metaphor for other aspects of life that can seem random but are in fact subject to God’s will. That is, we all experience the blessings of good weather and the trials of bad weather, literal or otherwise. Yet our God is in sovereign control over all of it, in every place, all the time.

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The Sovereignty of God’s Providence

The Sovereignty of God's Providenceby Jerry Bridges /

Read all the posts published to date in this 9-part series on God’s Providence from Cruciform’s good friend, the late Jerry Bridges. This was a teaching Jerry was presenting in the months leading up to his fatal heart attack in March, 2016.  

GOD’S PROVIDENCE, PART FOUR OF NINE

So far in this series we have defined God’s providence, distinguished it from miracles, and offered reasons why it can seem so mysterious. Now we will take a look at sovereignty as it pertains to our personal and collective plans.

The sovereignty of God means that He is in absolute control of every event and circumstance in His creation. As the Psalmist put it, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3). Whether person, family, tribe, or nation, God alone ultimately determines whether we will accomplish what we have planned. For a brief but powerful description of this, see James 4:13-16.

Centuries ago, Augustine said, “Nothing, therefore, happens unless the Omnipotent wills it to happen; he either permits it to happen, or He brings it about himself.” This means that nothing in your life is so small or trivial as to escape the attention of His sovereign control; and nothing is so great as to be beyond His power to control it.

In Matthew 10:29-31, Jesus taught that there is no detail in His creation that is beyond God’s control. Even the little sparrow cannot fall to the ground apart from His will. Jesus spoke these words in the context of expecting persecution. Thus, even when a believer suffers the injustice of religious persecution, God is still in sovereign control of his or her life.

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4 Reasons God’s Providence is a Mystery

4 Reasons God's Providence is a Mystery, by Jerry Bridgesby Jerry Bridges /

Read all the posts published to date in this 9-part series on God’s Providence from Cruciform’s good friend, the late Jerry Bridges. This was a teaching Jerry was presenting in the months leading up to his fatal heart attack in March, 2016.  

GOD’S PROVIDENCE, PART THREE OF NINE

Whenever we encounter a difficult episode in our lives we are inclined to want to ask God the question, Why? And when we do this, we seldom get even an inkling of an answer. Here are four reasons God’s providence is a mystery so much of the time.

  1. God usually works through what we call secondary causes. For example, your flight was an hour late, causing you to miss your connection. Why was it an hour late? Turns out the scheduled pilot woke up sick and the airlines had to find another pilot. That is the secondary cause for your delay. But God was the primary cause, controlling everything as it were “behind the scenes.” We tend to attribute outcomes to surface, secondary causes. But ultimately we should recognize God is in control of everything. Exactly how he does it is a mystery.
  2. God works through the free choices that we make. God works through our wills, not upon our wills. Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (also see Ezra 1:1-2). Exactly how God puts thoughts and desires into the hearts of humans is mysterious. And yet the Bible offers many examples, such as when God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 10:20).
  3. God’s ways of working are beyond our understanding. In Isaiah 55:8-9 the LORD tells us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (also see Romans 11:33). There’s a sense in which trying to figure God out is futile.
  4. God never explains. For example, he did not give Job an explanation for the providential events that took place in his life. The same is true of Paul and his thorn in the flesh. We must beware of demanding that God give us an explanation. Even if he did, we probably wouldn’t understand it in a way that satisfies us.

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Providence and Miracles

Providence and Miracles, by Jerry Bridgesby Jerry Bridges /

Read all the posts published to date in this 9-part series on God’s Providence from Cruciform’s good friend, the late Jerry Bridges. This was a teaching Jerry was presenting in the months leading up to his fatal heart attack in March, 2016.  

GOD’S PROVIDENCE, PART TWO OF NINE

Before we get further into this subject, it’s important to know the difference between the providence of God and a miracle of God. A miracle is God’s working outside of His creation laws. Providence is God’s working through His creation laws.

Example: Wine is produced from grapes going through a natural process (fermentation) that was designed by God and is controlled by God. It is a part of God’s providence. By contrast, Jesus turning water into wine was outside of God’s ordinary process; it was supernatural. It was a miracle.

Sometimes we observe an unusual act of God’s providence and we mistakenly call it a miracle.

Example: The metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly is a fascinating process. But it is not a miracle. From the very beginning of creation, God designed the butterfly to morph from a caterpillar. That metamorphosis is an expression of God’s providence.

In Matthew 17:27, when Peter cast a hook into the sea and caught a fish with a shekel in its mouth to pay the tax, was it a miracle or an act of God’s providence? It could be either. If God materialized a shekel out of nothing and placed it in the fish’s mouth, then it was a miracle. But what if someone dropped a shekel into the water, and a fish grabs it thinking it is food, but it’s too large to swallow and gets stuck in its mouth? If it happened to be swimming right where Peter casts the hook, then God was guiding the entire process and we’d be correct in calling it an act of God’s providence.

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The God of Providence

The God of Providence, by Jerry Bridgesby Jerry Bridges /

Read all the posts published to date in this 9-part series on God’s Providence from Cruciform’s good friend, the late Jerry Bridges. This was a teaching Jerry was presenting in the months leading up to his fatal heart attack in March, 2016.  

GOD’S PROVIDENCE, PART ONE OF NINE

Human birth is usually accompanied by difficulty, pain, and suffering. The same is often true of the process of dying. And in-between, every life will have moments that are traumatic and heartbreaking. This is inevitable, even for those of us who have been adopted into the family of God through Christ.

This is precisely why every one of us needs to have a clear understanding of the scriptural resources that can be grouped together under the phrase, the providence of God.

A Definition

Like trinity, the word providence never appears in the Scripture, but again like trinity, the concept occurs throughout the Bible. So what do we mean by the providence of God?

The providence of God is his constant care for, and his absolute rule over,
all creation for his own glory and the good of his people.

In his providence, God rules over all things, directs all things, and orchestrates all things to accomplish his purposes. Nothing is left to chance. A sparrow cannot fall to the ground apart from his will. Even the hairs of your head are numbered.

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