“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
“The prayer that is most likely to pierce heaven is that which first pierces our own hearts.”
We have been focusing on the providence of God, borrowing John Piper’s definition, “God’s providence is God’s powerful, purposeful, pervasive sovereignty.” It always has an ultimate end just like creation. What is the ultimate end of creation? It is to glorify God. The same can be said of God’s providence, it is for HIs glory. God goes on display. His sovereignty goes on display, His justice, His wisdom, His holiness. But another attribute that goes on display (and I think it is second most) when His providence is witnessed is His goodness. Next to the sovereignty of God, His goodness more than anything else goes on display when we think of His providence. Here in Matthew 5 Jesus talks about God’s providence in terms of the rising of the sun and the falling of the rain and He tells us that it puts God’s goodness on display. Notice that He says that this is for everybody; the good and the bad, the unjust and the just. The providence of God at times is universal in terms of its benefits. Everybody on earth benefits from divine providence. Every raindrop, every sunbeam says God is good. Every beautiful sunset, every Thanksgiving turkey you could say, every hug or kiss from your wife, laughter from a child, snow skiing, a soccer game, the canoe trip; all of those things are kind providences of God. We call it common grace, that is what the old theologians called it, the common grace of God towards all mankind.
But there is a peculiar or a special goodness, or special providential dealings. God is good to everybody, but He is especially good to the Christian. He shows His general care for all mankind, but a special care for His children. You find that on the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus goes on to say, “He loves to give good gifts to His children.” Not to everybody, but to His children.
We certainly see that in our Bible. When you do a study of the life of David or Abraham or Moses or Joseph, you can see God’s peculiar and special providence. As Christians we can say that about our lives in terms of everything that we experience, we come under the providential hand of God and the providential goodness of God. Even the trials of life come from God’s good providential hand. In the words of William Cowper, “Behind a frowning providence, is a smiling face.” One of the most important statements in the whole Word of God with regard to divine providence comes off the lips of Joseph in Genesis 50. Joseph’s eleven brothers are standing in front of him. His father Jacob has just died and they are scared because they think Joseph will take vengeance upon them because of their sins against him. But Joseph doesn’t seek revenge or any retribute of justice. Here’s why. Joseph believed in God’s powerful, purposeful providence. Here is what he says to his brothers, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”
If we would only look at all of life through the lens of providence. Not the newspaper, not the television, but through the lens of providence. Everything in this world happens for a purpose. Everything that happens to you and me happens for a purpose and it is for our good. Romans 8:28, “…all things work together for good...” and that is because God is good. So everything in our lives, every time you see the sun shining, God is good. Every time you receive any good gift from God, God is good. Every trial of life, God is good. We should think of our friends that way as well, whether it is a married friend or just a peer friend that you met at a high school, college or university, we should think of our friends in this way as well, a manifestation of God’s good, kind providence.