Author: Ron Graham
—The usual way God blesses us
In an earlier lesson in this series, we touched on the manner in which God provides our needs. Now in this lesson we expand on those ideas.
1 At Times God’s Providence Is Miraculous
Some people don't believe in miracles at all. Others think every little blessing or coincidence is a miracle, and are not satisfied till they see a "miracle" every day. Some folk believe in miracles but would be surprised ever to see one themselves. Miracles are rare and special acts of providence, and we should respect them as such.
- God provided the widow of Zarephath with a bin of flour that was not used up, and a jar of oil which did not run dry (1Kings 17:8-16).
- God provided Paul with guidance about where to go and preach the gospel, by a vision in the night (Acts 16:6-10).
- God provided Peter with the power to completely and immediately heal a man who had never been able to walk (Acts 3), to heal the sick with his shadow and to kill people with his words (Acts 5). God enabled Peter even to raise the dead (Acts 9:36-43).
2 Sometimes God’s Providence Is Extraordinary
Occasionally amazing and unexpected things happen in answer to prayer. They are certainly not miracles, but nevertheless are most extraordinary events or strange coincidences. We cannot help but recognise supernatural intervention in the course of such events.
In the following stories, for example, there is no miracle. We have to acknowledge, however, that these events were quite extraordinary and that God was at work in them.
- Abraham found a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. Not extraordinary as an isolated event, but in this case an extraordinary coincidence, since Abraham had just said, "God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering" (Genesis 22:7-8,13-14).
- Haman prepared a gallows on which to hang Mordecai. By an extraordinary irony, Haman ended up being hung on the gallows himself instead (Esther 5:12-14, Ephesians 7:6-10).
- Onesimus had apparently stolen money from his slave master and fled to the city to hide. Somehow he met Paul, a close friend of Philemon the master. Paul converted Onesimus to Christ, and pled his case with Philemon (Philemon 1:8-22).
3 Mostly God’s Providence Seems Ordinary
If we were to recognise only the miraculous and extraordinary events as God's providence, we would seldom give God thanks for anything. We understand that even the good things that come to us daily, in the ordinary course of life, are the providence of God. For the most part this is the manner in which God blesses and cares for us.
- We pray, "Give us this day our daily bread", and give thanks for it. Yet most days it comes in the ordinary course of life (Matthew 6:11,26). We still recognise this as God's providence.
- Paul escaped arrest in Damascus when his friends lowered him in a basket out of a window down a wall. That must have been a hair-raising and memorable experience. However, as escapes go, it was rather ordinary (2Corinthians 11:32-33, Acts 9:23-25). Nevertheless, God was certainly looking after Paul.
- In a similar way, while going to Rome, Paul thanked God for a comforting contact with friends, yet there was nothing extraordinary about the way they came to him (Acts 28:15).
- Apollos the preacher was provided with a more perfect understanding of the gospel simply by coming into contact with two ordinary mortals who could instruct him (Acts 18:24-28).
Some people fail to recognise and appreciate God's providence in the ordinary course of life, and look for the extraordinary, or even miraculous. experiences, not being satisfied and grateful for the seemingly ordinary providence of God.
1. How would the widow of Zarepath have regarded God’s providence through Elijah? (A) Miraculous, (B) Extraordinary, (C) Normal.
2. What did God provide for Apollos’s need? (A) A miracle, (B) An extraordinary chain of events, (C) An ordinary event.
3. Where should we look mostly for the providence of God? (A) In the ordinary course of life, (B) In remarkable coincidences, (C) In amazing miracles.
4. Which is the best mode of providence? (A) Ordinary providence, (B) Extraordinary, (C) A miracle, (D) Whichever God wishes.