And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Perhaps there is no war that has shaped this country of America more than the Civil War. One hundred and fifty years ago, it was described as the bloodiest war in this country’s history. What is clear from any of the documentaries you have on that war, is that many of the young men (some 18 years old and some are even younger) believed in divine providence. On both sides, the Confederate and the Union. They often sent letters back to their parents or their uncle or aunts or wife, girlfriend, and they would often use the word providence to refer to the God of the Bible. They had no doubt who was in control. They believed that God was in control of those musket balls as well as those flying cannon balls. Here is a quote from one or two of these individuals, “Today, providence protected me,” “Tomorrow it may be that providence will take me home.”
You know, I am sure, that in this country that word providence used to be used quite frequently, even by the modern media. Spurgeon’s sermons were published in the New York newspaper every week and we all know that the Christian light and salt isn’t what it once was, but God is still in control, still running the show.
In the Westminster Confession of Faith you also have our Baptist Confession of Faith and it gives almost a word for word confessional statement on the subject of divine providence. It is a masterful confessional statement. They say the Westminster is the gold standard; every word is carefully crafted and they were master wordsmiths. They clearly recognize that God is the creator. Chapter 5 begins, “God, the creator of all things, doth uphold, direct and dispose.” It is clear if you read on in that confession that they believed in the universal and extensive providence of God. They go on to say, “All creatures, actions and things from the greatest even to the least.” They were obviously well anchored in their Bibles. Quoting from Psalm 103 they give that as one of their texts of supports, “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens and His kingdom rules over all.” All pervasive universal providence. Hebrews 1:3, “He is upholding all things by the word of His power.” Romans 8:28, “All things work together for our good.” When we talk about divine providence we make a distinction between what we believe by providence and what you often hear when people talk about fate. It’s not mechanical, it’s not impersonal. In the Confession of Faith, again, they put the statement here that underscores that when God acts by His providence He puts His glory on display. That’s what it is really all about, about God’s glory; His wisdom, power, justice, goodness and mercy. The big difference between divine providence and blind fate is fate makes things unpredictable, it promotes fear and anxiety. Divine providence means things are ordained, they are fixed by the God who made us and that brings comfort and peace to the heart of the child of God.
Let me remind you, brethren, that divine providence is pervasive, extensive, unlimited in its scope. Here is what that means practically: everything that happened to you today, everything that happened to you yesterday, everything that will happen to you tomorrow, comes under His purposeful sovereignty. Everything is governed by Him.
Spurgeon, in one of his sermons based upon Ezekiel 1 said, “I believe that every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less than what God wishes. Every particle of water spray that dashes against the steamboat as its orbit, as well as the sun in the heavens. The creeping of an aphid on the rosebud is as fixed as the march of a devastating pestilence. The fall of a leaf from a tree is as fully ordained as the tumbling of an avalanche.” Isn’t that wonderful? That’s the God we worship, the God of divine providence. Every time we are tempted to murmur and complain about life’s difficulties and sorrows and pains, we need to remember that it all works for our good. God has a purpose, it’s a divine, holy purpose. We need to pray to the God who is the king of kings, the heavenly Father who sits upon that throne with absolute sovereignty and exercising His wisdom, His power, His mercy, His grace and justice every day. We need to trust Him and believe He knows what He is doing.