Sunday, June 27, 2010

Providence: God Controls

Part 3 of God Revealed


What is God’s providence?
  • God preserves His creation. "The Son is ... sustaining all things by his powerful word" (Hebrews 1:3).
  • God provides for His creation. "He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Matthew 5:45).
  • God governs His creation in order to fulfill His purposes. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).

God is both sovereign and good.

But if this world is under the control of a loving God, why is there so much evil and suffering?

Chaos from Igniter Media on Vimeo.

  • God fully controls both good and evil.
  • But God never commits evil, is never responsible for evil, and never enjoys evil. You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil (Psalm 5:4). Who is responsible for evil? (1) God allows. (2) Satan afflicts. (3) Humans accept. Consider the story of Job. “The Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger’” (Job 1:12). The Sabeans (v. 15) and the Chaldeans (v. 17) stole Job’s livestock and killed his servants. God permitted the evil, but Satan and the Sabeans and Chaldeans were responsible for the evil. Consider the book of Habakkuk. “How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong?” (Habakkuk 1:1-2). “I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people” (v. 6). God was going to use evil to punish evil, but He would not be responsible for the evil.
  • God is able to use man’s evil choices to bring about His good purposes. There is no love without choice. (When a man proposes to a woman, he wants her to choose to marry him. He doesn’t want her “programmed” to say “yes.” There is the possibility of rejection.)Two truths must be held in balance: (1) God is sovereign; (2) mankind has free choice. If you lean too far toward God’s sovereignty, you come down on the side of fatalism: it doesn’t matter what we do. If you learn too far toward man’s free will, you come down on the side of humanism: we are in control, not God. Sovereignty must not obliterate free will, and free will must not dilute sovereignty. This is an apparent contradiction, but not an ultimate contradiction. Consider the suffering of Joseph. "I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you" (Genesis 4:4-5). "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives" (Genesis 50:20). Consider the suffering of Jesus. "This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross" (Acts 2:23)."Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate me together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen" (Acts 4:27-28).We don’t have all the answers to God’s providence. But we do know that God hates evil and cares about those who suffer. To prove this, God became human and experienced for Himself the evil and suffering of this world. Jesus Christ, God the Son, was misunderstood, betrayed, abandoned, humiliated, beaten, tortured, and crucified. But through the cross, God fulfilled His plan of salvation.

How can our faith be strengthened by the doctrine of God’s providence?
  • We face the unknown with the God who both knows and controls the future.
  • We face suffering with the God who both knows and controls the future.
  • We pray to the God who both knows and controls the future.

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