Saturday, September 29, 2012
The Providence of God Romans 8:31
In the fall of 1621 the Pilgrims and the Indians held a feast together. What we celebrate as Thanks giving day, was founded after a year of great tribulation. Out of the 102 Mayflower passengers 50 died that first winter. By spring only 4 of the original 14 adult women remained alive. This celebration with the Indians was a thanks to God for the first harvest in Plymouth Colony. Less than one month after the 3 day long celebration of their harvest a ship arrived from England. The colony had not been notified of its voyage, and it took them by surprise. The name of the ship was "The Fortune". Merchants who sent this ship, with out provisions for the return trip, expected not only stock for the crew, but payment that had be agreed upon by the Pilgrims. They loaded down the ship with furs and pelts. I imagine that this was a sacrificial payment. Immediately the ship set sail to return to England. Their meager rations that had been stored for the coming winter now needed to be shared with the 37 new settlers. Was this just “luck” or providence?
Fortune is defined in English as;
A – Luck = a chance happening, or that which happens beyond a person's controls or
B – Wealth = an abundance of items of economic value
The Puritans along with many other groups of Christian faith would often view circumstances as 2 distinct things;
A -"general providence"which refers to God's continuous upholding the existence and natural order of the universe. B -"special providence" refers to God's extraordinary intervention in the life of people.
As I read this history I thought of how "God cannot stop loving us". He cannot lie. I believe in his his promise for his providential care for us: "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39 NKJV
Back in the 1900’s a teenage youth group was returning from a trip to Alaska. I heard that the group stopped to eat their lunch under a big spruce tree. Lightning struck the tree and just one young girl died. Why her? I have asked Jesus so many times about this and other things that bring about the death of children and youth that are so innocent. In a small town on the west coast a 19 yr old young lady, one who was a disciple of Jesus is murdered in broad daylight. Why God? Did you see what was going on and did not intervene? Where were you when this happened? His word says: "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." Hebrews 4:13 NIV
"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31 KJV My understanding of this truth has been that IF God was on my side I would be victorious in the circumstance or a relationship. Who could be against me and win? It was just a matter of knowing if I was on Gods’ side or not. Victory could come in some way, temporal or spiritual. Here on earth or in heaven. Recently I have seen Romans 8:31 in a different light. I am not always going to be the winner in a temporal way. There are individual people or a government as a whole that are obviously enemies of God. They are antichrist’s and persecutors. Leaders like Pharaoh or Herod could not be in the position over Jesus unless Our Father allowed them to be there. What about Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Tse-Tung, and even the succession of leaders in North Korea for 65 yrs. They have imprisoned and tortured over 200,000 political prisoners! "Jesus answered, "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin." - John 19:11a NKJV
Because God is for me, I can know that he is not going to allow something out of his permissive will to come to pass. My perspective is that Sovereignty allows "evil" people or other negative things to come to pass in our lives. Would he allow evil to be something that is for us? Is this “providence”? Would he allow evil to be something that is for us and not against us?
As missionaries in Mexico for 6 yrs we prayed for the teams or the young singles that wanted to come and serve with us for a week or two. Some committed for 3-6 months. We cried out for wisdom and love to come out of us to care for them. We prayed that if it was his will for them to be able come, then we would be able to lay down our lives for them, care for them if they got sick or injured. We had faith that they would able to see what they were to learn from Jesus. Often Marianne and I would be praying "Lord do not let them come unless it is your will. Slam the door shut if it is not”. We trusted for “ divine providence” to intervene in this circumstance.The reason why we often prayed this was not for our comfort or fear of sharing from our provisions. There is also Gods promise for "general providence" which refers to God's continuous upholding the existence and natural order of the universe. "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28 NLT
When Marianne and I met we were married in 1980. We became ”one flesh” and some would say it as just “luck” and some good fortune that we met. I believe we have been joined together by divine Providence, to be joint heirs in the gift of Life. Author Thomas Vaillancourt's writing on the subject has considered a wide scope of quotes on the subject.
In 1735 John Wesley crossed the Atlantic to the Georgia colony by ship. When a storm rose up he became quite frightened. He noticed the 25 Moravian Christians making the same journey. They were calm despite the rough seas. They spoke to him an explanation of the peace he could see them expressing. This caused him to think about his own inner peace. The storm was not bad luck. He made passage with others who had a spiritual faith that he had yet found. The Providence of God brought his peril and their peace together. It exposed his lack and also provided him with a paradigm shift in his faith.
Back in the 90's we were in fellowship with an elder and his wife that we really looked up to. Their son who was in a wheel chair all his life kept them home bound. They had great vision for missions and ministry. This child who had come into their life held them down in the same house and membership in the same little church for nearly 30 yrs. They were questioned, " is this illness because of some sin, or lack of faith of you parents?” The mother, who had become a grandma, thanked God for this "handicap" that she and her husband had. She knew that better things were given to them through their commitment to stay home and care for a special needs son. Their other sons went on to become missionaries and pastors. All the things that they were prevented from doing out there “somewhere” actually worked for their good. They had an incredible solid home life. They were examples of love and faith for other believers in their small community. This couple received a little one who grew up with great joy and love. He came to them by the providence of God.
On their way to their first mission to live in Africa a middle age couple were waiting quite a while at the airport. Close by there was a Menonite couple. As they took up conversation the younger couple shared that they had tried to live as missionaries in another country and had to return. They were now embarking to another location to live and try to serve again. They stated “God has a purpose in all this." Even though they had failed on previous attempts, they believed that God knew it and his provident hand was with them all the way.
In our mission work we held our meetings on Saturday nights. This freed up our Sundays. At first we visited churches in the area and also traveled often to the city an hour away to attend a Calvary Chapel. As time went on we grew accustomed to being home alone on Sundays. Our family really enjoyed a day without activities. Being home with together and not working or traveling was a good practice. But, we had become well in the region. Folks did not call ahead there in the villagers. It was like the USA culture and economy was like in the USA in the 40's or 50's So, they would just drop in on any day of the week, but a lot more on Sundays for they would not be working. Well, a visit in the villages was not just business for them and then, "we need to be on our way". They would sit and talk and the family would all be conversing. Then if there was something of business or an item to be borrowed it was mentioned last. We found out that the longer the visit the larger the a favor or and item with would be. So I prayed that no one could pass through our gates with out the hand of God allowing it. We needed rest and really needed quiet for the family to be together. So if some one came through our gate, we saw it as opportunity to share Gods love and the gospel. Like the good ship fortune, we were able to see the visits as what Divine Providence allowed.
May we see Gods hand and his sovereignty over our lives and what happens on the earth. May we not shrink back in our faith when things happen that we do not understand. May we trust that Jesus is with us always, even to the end of the world. G.W.