Here he states two basic facts: God has a purpose for him and God will fulfill that purpose. Both these truths combine to become that deep and wondrous theological concept we call “providence.” The word was much more common centuries ago than it is today, though its relevancy has never waned. Its meaning captures God’s relationship to the created world, namely, that he both preserves the order of all things and guides them toward his intended end.
Providence is the sovereignty of God made palpable. It’s the outworking of his power and authority for his children in space and time, which means, in the things we schedule, the air we breathe, the moments we move. Providence is observed, experienced, tasted. We may even say it’s the distinctively Christian term for reality.
Since God is sovereign, and this world is his, then every moment, in a sense, is a moment of providence. Wherever you find yourself right now has come by the process of events he ordained. Every past moment of your life has led to your now. The same will be true tonight, and tomorrow, and ten years in the future. Our experience of providence is our experience of the present, which we know has been wondrously woven together by God.
And because God is behind it all, we, as those united to Christ by faith, are assured of this: God’s providence neither gets it wrong nor lets us go, ever.
His Decree and Promise
First, we should immediately stop every instinct in us that wants to pass this off as cobweb orthodoxy. It is orthodoxy, and it’s beautifully ancient, but it’s more current than we ever expected. Providence is actually so contemporary that it anticipates how vastly different things often seem from our perspective. Rarely does it feel like every event in our lives is for our good. But providence, in its mysterious movements, flanks the arguments about how we may feel and compels our faith in the God who is doing “ten thousand times more” than we realize. This doing, whether seen or unseen, whether painful or pleasant, is resolutely and effectively targeting our eternal joy. We will be like Christ . . . with him . . . forever (1 Corinthians 15:49; Psalm 16:10–11).
God’s intended aim for his people, after all, is that we are conformed to the image of Jesus. This is his decree and promise, having chosen us for this before the foundation of the world and having promised us unto this that all things will work together (Romans 8:28–30).
God’s providence is his execution of that decree and promise, as Puritan John Flavel explains. In fact, nothing ever happens in the universe that is outside of fulfilling that decree and promise. Nothing. There isn’t a single incident, or tragedy, that will result in something other than the “true interest and good of the saints” (Mystery of Providence, 19).
God never gets it wrong. He doesn’t swing and miss. Every detail of our days comes through the blueprints of his meticulous care for us. And even when all hope seems lost, remember he is the one who “gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Romans 4:17) — and he will do that for you.
His Resolute Focus
Not only is God flawlessly at work for our good, but he doesn’t let loose until he’s finished. God’s providence never dries up or fizzles out. It is always in action to accomplish his intended aim. Everything he does is right, and it is all right until it’s done. Flavel writes,
[Providence] goes through with its designs, and accomplishes what it begins. No difficulty so clogs it, no cross accident falls in its way, but it carries its design through it. Its motions are irresistible and uncontrollable. (19)
“He does all that he pleases,” “no purpose of [his] can be thwarted,” and “none can stay his hand” (Psalm 115:3; Job 42:2; Daniel 4:35) — these words about God are assurances that he will complete what he began in us (Philippians 1:6). Nothing can separate us from his love for us in Christ (Romans 8:39), and nothing can distract the simplest of circumstances from hitting the target of our transformation. There’s no stalling with God. He doesn’t procrastinate. Even if we are innocently obtuse to his designs right now, God’s providence is blaring full-throttle toward our Christlikeness, and his glory.
Be revived, encouraged, comforted, God is fulfilling his purpose for you.