In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. Eph 1:11-13
“We receive comfort and joy and strength from the knowledge of God’s providence. God perfectly knows past, present, and future perfectly. He has wisdom that cannot be challenged or excelled; whose power cannot be thwarted; who governs all the affairs of creation; fulfilling all that he wills, which he alone knows best.” Bruce Ware
The night of January 7th 2008 will not be forgotten. From five in the evening until five the next morning, Barb and I hunkered down in the basement of our home while a series of super cells passed over our heads. What added to the excitement was the way we could look at the TV and see the storms lined up and headed our way. The meteorologists would show us in living color the rotating shape of the next storm and then give us a timetable as to when we should expect them to hit our area. All together, a total of seven tornadoes touched down in the Springfield area. It was one long night!
That morning I had been reading about the sovereignty of our God. It was awesome to read about our God who rules over all things that he made, exhaustively and meticulously. Nothing escapes his notice and no power can keep him from fulfilling his plan to glorify Himself in and through His creation. So, I felt safe, even though our world was rocking and rolling. As I looked out from our basement windows, I was treated to an awesome display of the power of God as he lit up the skies with bolts of brilliant shafts of lightning. I tried to get Barb to come to the windows and enjoy that unbelievable sight. She would have none of it and ordered me to get away from the windows. I explained, “Babe, God is sovereign. Nothing can happen to me that he does not allow by His divine will. He is in charge!”
Lest I leave the impression that I am the man of faith, I will add this footnote. We fell asleep around midnight in the basement. I woke up around 2 AM and it seemed that the wind and the thunder had died down, so I decided to go upstairs to my bed. I fell into a deep sleep. But, at three in the morning our house was hit by winds of 70-80 miles per hour. I jumped out of bed and sprinted to the basement. Not so bold anymore, I decided it was God’s will that I be in the basement!
How safe are we when the house is shaking and the winds are blowing and the sky is blue-green? Should we just kick back and let things happen knowing what will be will be? Or, should we take definite steps to protect us from the unforeseen? Here are some questions whose answers will help us prepare for the inevitable threatening weather we will face this year. Is God in control of everything that happens in his creation? Does he control storms like tornadoes? Is every shaft of lightning caused by a God who says, “Strike now! Strike there!”? Is God’s control something like fate? In other words, if he does what he is going to do, does it make any difference if I stay in bed or run to the basement? How about prayer? Why pray if God knows everything and will do what he chooses regardless of what I say? What about evil? If God is the ruler over all of creation, is he still in charge in the midst of tragedy? Finally, can we face 2008 with full confidence and expectation, knowing that all things that come into our lives are exhaustively and meticulously governed by our good and great God?
The answers to these questions are found within the doctrine of providence. Here is one definition of that doctrine. Divine providence affirms that “God continually oversees and directs all things pertaining to the created order in such a way that 1] he preserves in existence and provides for the creation he has brought into being, and 2] he governs and reigns supremely over the entirety of the whole of creation in order to fulfill all of his intended purposes in it and through it.”
When we begin a study of such profound implications, our thoughts, our experience and our desires are insufficient to ascertain answers to those questions. Only the Scriptures, God’s self-revelation to men, can give us the revealed truth that will enable us to gain understanding here. For the next several weeks, I invite you to join me in this important study. To be sure, this is a subject surrounded in mystery, so we will not be able to answer all of our questions fully. At the end, we may still be ignorant about many things, but by God’s grace we will be ignorant on a higher level.
So, let us begin our study by looking at Ephesians 1:11. “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.” Paul begins this awesome letter by praising God for two things: Election [1:4] and predestination [1:5]. Then, in verse 11, Paul makes an extraordinary statement: God is so exhaustive and meticulous in his rule that “he works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” If you have any doubts as to the extent of the meaning of “everything,” you will find the same word in Eph 1:10. There, Paul reveals that the mystery of God’s will was his intention “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” “All things” [vs. 11] and “all things” [vs. 10] are the same word. So, Paul, writing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says that in the same way that the Risen Lord rules over everything in creation, God rules over everything to bring them into conformity to the purpose of his will.
So, what does “all things” mean? It means that God’s personal and powerful rule is exhaustively and meticulously over: Large things: “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 2:22-24]; Small things: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” [Proverbs 16:33]; Good things: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” [James 1:17]; Evil things: “Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger, in whose hand is the club of my wrath! I send him against a godless nation; I dispatch him against a people who anger me.” [Isaiah 10:5-6]; Inward things: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.” [Prov. 21:1]; International things: “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” [Acts 17:26]; Painful things: “Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. [2 Cor. 1:9-10]; and, Eternal things: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” [Eph 1:3-4].
Yes, God’s providence extends to all things for his glory and our good. It is the clear testimony of Scripture that there is no detail in human or angelic life or any event in the history of man that is not included in the scope of his intentional, willful and purposeful plan for his creation. God has a personal plan for you and I and nothing can thwart it. “From the first verse of inspired scripture to the last chapter of Revelation, God makes clear in ten thousand ways that the greatest value in the universe, and the final end of all of life, is the uncontested supremacy and unrivaled glory of God alone. “ [Bruce Ware] By God’s grace and for his glory, he exhaustively and meticulously rules over all things in our lives for his glory and our good. May God grant us the faith to understand and apply this awesome truth in our lives so that we may live with peace and joy even in the midst of the storms he graciously and purposefully sends over our lives.
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