Thanksgiving is a day that people give thanks for everything. One day that “I” can thank God for everything he has done for me and given me all year long. The best way to thank God for his bounty in your life is to study and meditate on the nature of the One who provides everything. God’s providence is a good place to start.
The word providence comes from two Latin words “pro” and “videre” which means, “to see before hand.” The word providence, like the word Trinity, is not a proper biblical term, but theologians use the term providence to describe an important biblical concept. The Bible teaches that God created the world and God preserves what he creates. God is not merely a spectator with a passive knowledge of future events. God knows in advance because God plans before hand. Providence is a theological concept that arouses the attention of all Christians. The providence of God has at least four different aspects.
The aseity of God is rarely mentioned these days. Aseity refers to God’s self existence. He does not need any outside source to maintain his being. Quite on the contrary with all created beings. Human beings need air, water, food, and other essentials to sustain them. We call this the doctrine of sustenance. The universe and everything within it is dependent on the being and power of God to sustain it. Only God has ultimate power because “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). The universe was not created and left like a clock ticking away to a point of expiration. God sustains not only human life; He sustains everything in the universe to perfection. Not one molecule, one atom, not even a sub-atomic particle is out of place. What God creates he sustains through the work of His sustenance. God’s people should not dismiss sustenance as one of those abstract doctrines that doesn’t touch their lives. Sustenance is directly related to Christians through God’s provision.
God not only creates and sustains, He provides for His creation. The doctrine of God’s provision is a dimension that is closely associated with sustenance. God foresees all things because God has foreordained all things and therefore God responds by providing for his creation. He prepares a future and then meets all the needs of His creation. The ultimate provision was the substitutionary atonement made by Christ to satisfy the wrath of God.
The government of God is another dimension of the doctrine of providence. The government of God reflects the authority and power of God. God is the supreme Governor who rules the world, because He has the absolute authority and power to govern. God’s absolute authority gives Him the right to govern all that he creates. God’s power gives Him the ability to govern all that he creates. His government is the directing and disposing of all things that come to pass. There is no sphere of the created world in which God is not involved. The Bible teaches that God’s rule is sovereign. “The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:19). The Bible also teaches that God rules righteously. “The God of Israel said. . .He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God” (2 Samuel 23:3). Justice and sovereignty are inalienable marks of God’s providence.
The doctrine of concurrence is most important to the doctrine of God’s providence. This doctrine teaches that God’s plan is brought to pass by His sovereign hand through human means. The Westminster Confession of Faith explains this concept. “Although, in relation to the foreknowledge the decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, He orders them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently” (WCF 5.2). This means that “it pleases God to use means outside Himself, second causes, to accomplish many things. All things are UNCHANGEABLY AND INFALLIBLY determined by God’s decree, but they ‘fall out’ according to their nature as second causes. Of these second causes some are ‘necessary’ – as an apple falls when dropped. Others are ‘free’ – as a man may choose to drop the apple – or contingent – as the apple’s falling depends on the choosing of the man holding it” (WCF Commentary, Summertown Co., 1992). The necessary, free, and contingent second causes concur with the eternal decrees of God in such a way that all things work out for the glory of God. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. They intended it for evil, but God intended it for good. The doctrine of God’s providence is in the proximate world with all its evil, yet the doctrine of concurrence assures Christians that God’s way has ultimate consequences.
Christians abuse God’s providential care several different ways. First, they ignore God’s character and expect an immediate communication or provision by the Holy Spirit. Christians also abuse God’s providential care by complaining, impatience, and despair. The blessing of God’s providence is sufficient to meet all your needs, so you can offer praises to Him.
Francis Turretin, a seventeenth century theologian, reminds Christians that “there ought to arise in the ears of believers an earnest desire: (a) of holiness, that we may be made more cautious in our daily life because we are everywhere acting under the eye of God. . . .[and] (b) Of gratitude, that we may in prosperity and favorable circumstance not sacrifice to our net, but tenderly kiss and reverence with a grateful mind the benevolent providence of God (Ps. 115:1), ascribing the glory not to ourselves, but to his name Christians must seek the revealed will of God and rejoice that His providential care works out necessarily, freely, and contingently according to his sustenance, provision, and government concurrently for our good and for His glory.