A millennial, she introduced herself to me as my server at one of my favorite restaurants where I’m a regular. I asked her a few questions about her background to get acquainted, one of which was: “Where are you from?” She said she was from Upstate New York, an answer that prompted my follow-up question: “What precipitated your move to North Carolina?” She replied, “Well, you might find this hard to believe, but I was eager to move away and experience the world. So I closed my eyes, randomly pointed to a place on the map and it turned out to be Raleigh.” “Wow,” I replied, “That was a gutsy thing to do.” I then welcomed her to the Tar Heel state and said, “I’m glad providence led you here.”
“Providence?” she said, “What’s that?” As I was trying to explain the meaning of Providence, she interrupted me, saying, “Oh, now I know what you mean. You’re talking about fate.” I wanted to tell her that providence is more than just impersonal fate, something much more, but the conversation was cut short by her need to serve other customers.
“Providence? What’s that?” Her question was a disturbing reminder of the biblical illiteracy of our times. Providence is such an invaluable concept to know and understand. Merrill F. Unger wrote, “Belief in the providence of God, according to the whole purport of Scriptures, is of the highest importance, because of its connection with a life of trust and gratitude and patience and hope.”
The Thanksgiving holiday is upon us. How can anyone understand this celebratory time aside from gorging themselves on a traditional Turkey dinner, and gathering with friends and family, without apprehending the unceasing activity of a benevolent Creator God? It is from His bounty and goodwill towards us that he upholds and sustains us in an ordered existence, guiding all of life’s events, great and small, directing each to its appointed goal, for his own glory and the good of those who trust and believe in Him. This is providence.
Our lives are not simply the result of chance and unintentional forces. There is meaning behind it all. God categorically rules over everything natural and the human race does only that which He has ordained; yet we are truly free agents, in the sense that our decisions are our own, and we are morally responsible for them. Nevertheless, a good God in his sovereignty is never complicit with evil, but superintends over the whole lot and uses it to accomplish his own gracious and perfect ends.
This is the space we live in – a world of providence – something of which most are completely unaware. J. Wallace Hamilton has brilliantly described our unfortunate common condition, saying:
“Actually we are in the midst of a providential arrangement all the time; every moment is sustained by providence, whether we recognize it as such or not.
‘Oh, where is the sea?’ the fishes cried,
As they swam the Atlantic waters through;
‘We’ve heard of the sea and the ocean tide.
And we long to gaze on its waters blue.’
“All around us are little fishes looking for the sea; people living, moving, having their being in an ocean of God’s providence, but who can’t see the ocean for the water. Maybe it is because we call it by another name. The ancient Hebrews from whom the Bible came were a religious people. They thought in religious patterns, they spoke in religious phrases, they saw in every event the direct activity of God. If it rained, it was God who sent the rain. When crops were good, it was God who yielded the increase. But that is not our language, nor the pattern of our thought. We think in terms of law – chemical, natural law. When it rains, we know that it is the natural condensation of vapor. When the crops are good, we credit it to the fertilizer. An amazing thing has happened in our way of thinking. In a world that could not for one moment exist without the activity of God, we have conditioned our minds to a way of thinking that leaves no room for Him. So many of our wants are provided by what seems natural and impersonal forces that we have lost sight of the great Provider in the midst of providence…thus our sophistication steals away our sense.”
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Source: Christian Post