Providence

“And Abraham said, ‘My son, God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering.’ So the two of them went together” (Genesis 22:8).
Several years ago a Christian brother in Guyana told the story of how he acquired some large scars on his wrist and forearm. “I was fishing in a canal with some friends and we trapped a school of fish in the shallows. We waded in and started catching them with our hands, when a crocodile attacked me and bit me on the arm. I pulled my arm out of the water with the crocodile holding on and with my other hand I hit him in the throat, and the Lord opened his mouth. So I escaped without further injury.”
Some would say the man simply acted swiftly and with strength and rescued himself. He, however did not believe he was capable of overcoming the crocodile alone; only by God’s help could he have survived. Which opinion is correct? The fact is that faith is by definition improvable. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). This means that in the final analysis faith is a choice. We believe in God because we want to. Yes, there is evidence to support our faith (Romans 1:19-21) and faith can be plausibly defended. This is not the same as empirical proof “beyond any shadow of doubt,” however.
Nowhere is the choice of faith more in evidence than in the matter of God’s providential assistance in the everyday affairs of life. When do we succeed because of our own skills, wisdom, and physical gifts, and when is it because God helps us? Or is it only by coincidence and “luck” that we find success? If we fail, is it because we are lacking in ability and effort, or because God does not favor us in that particular case. Or, again, because we lack sufficient faith? When are we justified in seeing God’s hand in our lives? Always? Occasionally? Or Never?
Obviously these are difficult — perhaps impossible — questions to answer definitively. The Bible does not teach that God determines every outcome of every circumstance of our lives. It does teach, however, that God is involved in our lives and that the ultimate outcome of our circumstances is under his control (Romans 8:28; James 4:15).
Perhaps Abraham’s answer to Isaac is our best conclusion. When we live according to God’s will as best we can, God will provide that which he desires for us. He will help us to accomplish his will, if that is our true wish. When Paul requested that God remove his “thorn in the flesh,” God’s answer was “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9). God assured Paul of his help in overcoming whatever difficulty he was facing. He will provide. He cares for us. What more can we ask?

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Michael Brooks

Since 1988 Mike and his wife Brenda have been involved in foreign missions in South America, Africa, and South Asia. Beginning in 1999 they devoted full time to missions, primarily in Bangladesh and Nepal.

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2 thoughts on “Providence

  1. This is an EXCELLENT article, and provides much food for our thinnking. This is one of those subjects upon which we need to meditate a great deal! As the artle expresses in so many words, we will not know all the answers to the subject of the Providence of God on this side of eternity. Even the Apostle Paul used the words “prehaps” in respect to this subject (If translated corectly.) Thanks for the thhoughts!!

  2. You say in your article, “The fact is that faith is by definition improvable.” I have to disagree with this comment. Consider the following passages:
    John 5:36 “But the witness which I have is greater than that of John; for the works which the Father hath given me to accomplish, the very works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.”
    John 10:25 “Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believe not: the works that I do in my Father?s name, these bear witness of me.”
    John 14:11 “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works? sake.”
    The works that Jesus did were sufficient evidence to prove that He was the Son of God. Jesus didn’t expect anyone to believe Him without evidence that proved that He was who He claimed to be. Perhaps “faith” as defined in our modern day dictionary “is by definition improvable” but the faith to which Jesus called individuals to have in their lives was demonstrable. See also Mark 16:20, Hebrews 2:4, John 20:30-31.
    Faith is not by sight, granted, but that is not equivalent to saying that faith is “improveable.”

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