When I hear the word “providence” or “sovereignty”, I too often begin to preach why I believe Calvinism is right and biblical. I think it is something worthy of my passion. But too often I allow my theological views to simply sit in my head without them affecting my heart. What does it matter if I can argue for a doctrine if it doesn’t lead me to worship?
The doctrine of providence ought to cause my heart to rejoice in God. Let me explain:
John Flavel says that providence is “the execution of God’s decree and the fulfilling of His Word.” It is God’s work of fulfilling and accomplishing all that He has planned in eternity past. This ought to bring a Christian to deep joy knowing that God’s eternally good and perfect plans will not be thwarted. I do not desire to enter into the mystery of man’s freedom and God’s sovereignty here, but it is worth noting that even our own sin and disobedience cannot cancel God’s decrees.
Here are few objects of meditation in regards to providence that should cause us deep joy:
The Death of Christ
Prior to the foundation of the world, God’s sovereign plan was to send His own Son to live perfectly, to suffer a sacrificial death, and to resurrect victoriously. The sending of Jesus was not a solution that came to mind after the fall of Adam. It was the plan of God in eternity past to save His children. Look at Acts 2:23-24:
“23 This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised Him up, loosing the pains of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.”
God’s sovereignty and providence has brought you a savior. Rejoice in that!
Adoption and Salvation
Not only did God decree His Son to be the Savior of the World but He also decreed us to be His Children. Scripture makes it clear that God does not leave “accepting Jesus” up to us. God doesn’t just put the offer down on the table and walk away. God, before the foundation of the world was laid, chose us to be His children. With a full scope of our sin, rebellion, and weakness in His view, He chose us anyway. Ephesians 1:3-10 speaks boldly and joyfully:
“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
If God’s plans always are executed, then we should read this with joy! Not only has God saved and adopted us, but He will also give us EVERY spiritual blessing that Christ has. God’s providence brings us salvation and eternal joy.
Details of Life
But God’s sovereignty is not just over the “big” things in life such as salvation or creation. But this God is also executing His plan amidst the details of our lives. Too often we think of God as just the God of our salvation and spiritual life. But if God is over our salvation, shouldn’t He also be the sovereign God over our family and job and tasks? These things are not too small for God. Throughout all of Scripture we see God’s sovereign control over the details of lives (i.e. Joseph). Scripture speaks boldly of God’s ordering of our lives:
“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” Ephesians 1:11
“The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
“I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.” Isaiah 45:7
God is ordering all of creation and our steps. This is very difficult to grasp and understand, particularly Isaiah 45:7. But it can also bring us joy knowing that we are where we are because of God’s direct providence in our lives. God has given us our job, our family, and our experiences for a distinct purpose. We truly are not alone. And our struggles and tragedies are not a result of oversight by God but a part of His plan for His glory.
The Goal of God’s Providence
God’s goal in creating the world, calling us to become His children, and ordering creation is to bring us conformity to Jesus. The greatest good that we could ever attain to is to be like Jesus. This is exactly the result of God’s providential care of our lives and our world.
“28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30
God will, because He is always successful in His fulfillment, bring us conformity of Jesus. We will be glorified and like Him for all of eternity. God does not choose us just because. He chooses us so that we can enjoy Him with eternal joy.
Providence is a mystery. It is hard to grasp the relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s freedom. But it is more importantly a joyful doctrine that humbles us and causes our affections for God to be deepened.