Every week we recite the Apostle’s Creed. “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth” What do we mean when we describe God this way? Many things, but part of the answer is that we are highlighting that God has worked all things for his pleasure and my benefit according to his power and wisdom. This is in part, the fundamental doctrine of divine providence. Historically, this doctrine of God’s providence offered comfort when the church went through various trials.
27 Q. What do you understand by the providence of God?
A. Providence is the almighty and ever present power of God by which God upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty — all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.
28 Q. How does the knowledge of God’s creation and providence help us?
A. We can be patient in adversity, thankful in prosperity, and for the future we can have good confidence in our faithful God and Father that no creature will separate us from his love. For all creatures are so completely in his hand that without his will they can neither move nor be moved.
It was the Puritan William Ames who commented on Romans 11 and when he came to verse 36
Rom. 11:36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.
He mentioned that God directs all things for his own glory. There is no such thing as chance, it is God’s wisdom that moves everything according to his ordained plan. This means that God always achieves his goal. Thus God’s promises can be trusted because his power and wisdom guarantee they will come to pass. And since God is all powerful and all wise, his providence extends to all things. And we are part of the household of a tender Father. He does not force his creatures into action, but he rules them “sweetly according to their nature”.
God’s power is not limited, it is at work in all things. There is nothing that is independent of his sovereign tender touch. (Eph. 1:11 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)
The other important truth is that God works through means. He doesn’t need to, but he often does.
He made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting. You make darkness, and it is night, when all the beasts of the forest creep about. Ps 104:19-20
God’s providence guides, rules, governs, and preserves all he has decreed. So his providence is different from his decree, in that his providence is the execution of his decree. In this sense, we understand that God continued to work after he was done with creation. (John 5:17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”) God is still active in the world and not far away and removed. He has not left creation to fend for itself, rather he governs all things, and as difficult it is to hear at times, even our suffering and evil.
that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things. Is. 45:6-7
John Owen writing on providence said, “There is nothing which hath made, that with the good hand of providence he doth not govern and sustain.”
God’s providence is also preservative in creation so that every creature and piece of creation depends on God for its existence. As we depend on the sun for daylight, we depend on God. If God ceased preserving us, we would cease.
Acts 17:28 for “In him we live and move and have our being”
Our Lord Jesus said
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Mat 10:29-30
Consider that. The God’s attention and governing power ranges from the orbit of planets to the smallest hair on my head. Something that receives almost no thought in my day, has God’s attention. His providence tells us he guides even those uncooperative hairs.
God’s providence teaches us that God is at work in all the details of life. Sometimes in life we need to hear Jesus tell us the same thing he told Peter
John 13:7 What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.
We reflect on God’s providence when we are in the middle of life and it is a complicated truth that we can affirm. Yet, as John Owen said, understanding how it works “Is beyond the reach of mere mortals.” But one day in glory, we will look back at God’s work through history, then we will see his providence as one cohesive orchestrated effort that worked perfectly for God’s glory.
And yet God’s providence is also for our benefit. God’s intent is not that we could be immediately or instantly happy with all creaturely comforts, but that we would be eternally blessed in Him. God’s providence reminds us to always seek first his kingdom.
Matt. 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
When we realize this, we will be faced with the real blessing of being a child of God. And then we will view life in light of the reality of our adoption. Even the arrival of the Gospel to our ears is a display of God’s providence. Salvation by God’s free grace where he blesses us for his own good pleasure out of love for us and not for what we have done.
What does it mean when we say, “I believe in God the Father Almighty…”? Many things, but part of the answer is that he worked all thing out perfectly so that I would hear the Gospel of Christ and believe. Praise God.