Once again, I am delighted to introduce a guest blog post by James Mildred. I am happy to host any well written piece of work so if you would like to contribute please do get in touch!
The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith defines the providence of God in the following way: “God the good creator of all things, in his infinite power and wisdom doth uphold, direct, dispose and govern all creatures and all things from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, to the end for which they were created, according unto his infallible foreknowledge and free and immutable counsel of his own will; to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, infinite goodness and mercy.”
The Westminster Confession of Faith is marvellously abridged in the shorter catechism: “God’s works of providence are his most holy, wise and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures and their actions.”
In scripture we read: “Oh the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgements, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor? Who has ever given to God that God should repay them? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever! Amen.” [Romans 11: 33-36.]
Matthew Henry comments on the apostle’s heartfelt cry of adoration towards God: “Paul was as well acquainted with the mysterious of the kingdom of God as ever any mere man was; and yet he confesses himself at a loss in the contemplation, and, despairing to find the bottom, he humbly sits down at the brink and adores the depth.
In his treatise on providence, William Plummer writes: Meditation on God’s providence should prevent our taking offence, or being discontented at any events rising up before us; for to be displeased at that, which a superior wisdom, unsearchable to us, doth order, is to be displeased at we know not what, or why, which is childish weakness; to fret and wail at that which for all we can see, procedeth from good intention, and tendeth to good issue, is pitiful forwardness.”
I am touching upon a mighty subject. One of the first lessons we must learn together is that there is so much that we simply do not know. Our knowledge is but microscopic in comparison to the all knowing, all seeing wisdom and power of God. If we are to understand more of the way in which the Lord works in our lives we must begin by accepting from the outset, that there will always remain that which the Lord does not reveal to us.
Given that God knows far more than we do, as believers we have no right ever to be displeased at any situation or event we experience in our lives. Notice that I do not say that a believer has no right to be displeased. Rather I am pointing out that we should not be displeased, at any point, at the providence of God in our lives. Error and false teaching, sin and all its forms, our own weakness can legitimately cause us displeasure. But to look back upon our lives as God’s children and to feel annoyance or displeasure at incidents or experiences we have gone though is to think that we know more than God. Do we have more wisdom? Has it ever been said of us that our paths and ways are unsearchable? Are we, like God, answerable to no one? Of course the answer is: no! The study of providence should encourage all of us to rightly view and accept the goodness of God to us in our lives and should prevent us from questioning the paths he has led us in, no matter how strange they may seem to us.
Let us think more practically upon this subject. Think back over the last few months in your life and consider everything that has happened. Recall the situations you have been through, the people you have met, and the friendships that have developed. And think too of the trials and disappointments, the setbacks and the heartaches. In all our lives there is light and shade. And now pause and think on this truth: in all that you have experienced and gone through, has the Lord ever stopped doing good to you? Ask yourself what bitterness you harbour, what anger festers in your heart and soul? Challenge yourself with the realisation that you have no right to feel bitter, or angry, or upset with God. That very anger, confusion and hurt that you feel is symptomatic of thinking that you know more than God himself. Now, is that true? The answer to the question concerning the goodness of God to you over the last few months and weeks and days is this: in all that you have experienced the Lord has never stopped doing good to you. All the trials and setbacks, the difficulties, the moments of doubt and perplexity have all taken place out of the goodness of God!
And so we ask: why is this so? Often the agony of our experience gives us urge to think that God has somehow stopped in his gracious operations towards us. But this is precisely why we should have a care to study how the Lord has operated in our lives. God’s constant goodness to each of us is in spite of our weakness and in spite of our sin. Why is it that this goodness will involve trials and heartaches? It is because God loves us. He loves us enough to cause us hurt that we might be trained in holiness. He does so that we might know more of Him and worship him more fully. Oh the love of God that passes our understanding! Flee to this truth and wrap yourself in it, especially if you are feeling alone! God is so full of love, that his dealings with us are a constant and unending stream of mercy and grace. All the setbacks, broken hearts, shattered ambitions and failed job applications have been preordained by God because he has determined as our heavenly father constantly to do us good.
If you are a believer and you are reading this, then you are one of those upon whom the favour of God has been bestowed. It is a free gift of God’s grace towards you and he has chosen you for a purpose. The purpose of redemption in a general sense is to restore that which has been corrupted by the fall. In a particular sense in your own life, you have been justified that through all you do you might bring praise and glory to God. Remember the verse in Ephesians: For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do.”[Ephesians 2:10] So, having justified you, the Lord does not stop there. This verse reminds us that we are to do the good that God has ordained us to do, not the good we prefer doing, or desire to do ourselves. The purpose of God is that we might do his will here on earth. Therefore, he arranges all of your life to achieve this end and purpose. And such is his power and wisdom that it is specifically tailored to each one of us, because he knows us better than we know ourselves. God does not send problems, and difficulties or even blessings and good times randomly, or haphazardly. Rather he is working to his own ends and he does so in grace towards us.
I suppose that my ultimate purpose in this blog post has been to challenge myself to think more on the grace of God towards me. I look back over my final first semester of University and I have an abundance of things to be thankful for. I have gone through good times and tough times, happy days and days of sadness, days of perplexity and days of rejoicing in Christ. But through thick and thin, through joy and through despair, I look back and say: God has never stopped doing good to me. Do I understand every experience I have gone through? No! But I am resolved to trust Him who knows all. I want to surrender to God my perplexity and fear of the future and find my solace in the knowledge that those strong arms that held me close when first he broke my chains, will carry me but closer yet, until I pass from this life to the next.
Amidst stress, personal problems, or quiet moments of meditation, take time to think on God and his goodness to you. Think of your God who never stops doing you good, who works all things for your good and who has ordained all that has happened and will continue to govern every twist and turn so that more and more you might reflect Christ. And eventually the last steps of the race will be over and you will have no more need of your earthly tent, because you will have arrived into glory where perplexity, heartache, hurt, setbacks, pain and suffering find no home, and where peace, love and joy will be yours for all eternity.