While man may sin and commit evil acts, God ultimately remains in control.
Providence is not a word we use very often in our daily lives. In fact, the first thing that comes to my mind when I hear the word is Providence, Rhode Island. That city was founded by the religious dissenter Roger Williams. He left Massachusetts Bay Colony because he believed in the separation of church and state. He also believed that the Native Americans should be compensated for the land that the English were occupying. He chose the name Providence for the town because he believed God had directed him to that spot. Providence means “that activity of God whereby He uninterruptedly upholds, governs and directs the world.”
The topic of divine providence is an important one. Either one believes that God is in control of everything that happens, or one believes that it is fate, random chance, or luck that determines outcomes. If we cannot accept divine providence, can we be certain of our salvation? If God is not in control of all things, then God is not God.
Thankfully, Scripture provides us a myriad of passages that assure us of God’s providence. The universal nature of His providence is shown in Psalm 103:19—“The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.” “He does according to His will . . . no one can restrain His hand” (Daniel 4:35). Please read Psalm 37, also.
Not only does Scripture point to God’s ability and power to direct all, but it also emphasizes again and again how He directs human affairs for the benefit of His children. “The Lord is righteous in all His ways, gracious in all His works” (Psalm 145:17). “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
The Bible also teaches that humans have the power to reject God and to do things that are displeasing in His sight, resulting in evil. How can it be that God controls all things on the one hand, while on the other hand humans are free to commit sin? A similar question could be raised: If God already knows the outcome before it happens, why are we told that our prayers can make a difference? “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16).
God’s ways are higher than our ways. We cannot explain it, but the Scriptures clearly teach that, while man may sin and commit evil acts, God ultimately remains in control, and can even turn those evil acts to good. God’s Word provides us with many examples of how this works. Perhaps the clearest is the example of Joseph. His brothers sinned by selling him into slavery, but God used that sin to preserve His chosen people and the promise of the Savior (Genesis 45). Judas sinned by betraying Jesus, yet God used that betrayal to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies requiring the death of His Son by crucifixion (John 18). It was a sin for the Jews and Romans to persecute the early church, but God used that persecution to disperse His followers throughout the earth, fulfilling the Great Commission.
What a wonderful thing God’s providence is! As Christians we can be assured that everything that happens in life, whether seemingly good or bad, is governed and directed by God for the benefit of His children.
In Thee I place my trust,
On Thee I calmly rest;
I know Thee good, I know Thee just,
And count Thy choice the best.
What-e’er events betide,
Thy will they all perform;
Safe in Thy breast my head I hide,
Nor fear the coming storm.
Let good or ill befall,
It must be good for me;
Secure of having Thee in all,
Of having all in Thee.
(The Lutheran Hymnal, 435:2-4)
Joe Lau is a professor at Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.