RECENTLY I attended a Bible week in sunny (and, yes, it was) Wales. The venue was a Pontin's holiday camp, which was decent enough – arguably somewhat down-market from rivals Butlin's but distinctly more up-market than a tent. Anyhoo, among the topics was that of God's providence – defined by Theopedia.com as God's “guardianship and care for His creatures and creation.” The same article goes on to say:
Providence means that God has not abandoned the world that he created, but rather works within that creation to manage all things according to the “immutable counsel of His own will” (Westminster Confession of Faith, V, i). By contrast, the world at large, even if it will on occasion acknowledge God to have been the world’s Creator, is at least certain that he does not now intervene in human affairs.
So here's a few points I picked up in those talks. They were given by Melvin Tinker, an Anglican vicar with a gift for explaining things clearly.
How do we distinguish between “ordinary” decisions and “important” ones? What if I miss God's will? We mustn't undermine the authority & sufficiency of scripture. Within God's sovereign and moral will, we have an area of freedom. Within that, we can't get it wrong! That's why we read phrases in the New Testament like: I think, we thought, it seems advisable, I planned, I hope…
Need to recognise different decision types:
- “Right / wrong”. There really is a godly choice to be made.
- “Wise / unwise.” Could be lesser of two evils / greater of two goods. We should make Christ-centred decisions, not self-centred. But even when we make a bad decision there's a way back if we repent. Ps. 25:3.
- “Who cares?” decisions. For those, there's no wrong answer. They don't warrant hours of prayer or seeking advice 🙂
- While God does have a will for us individually, we don't always need to know what it is! God gives “special” or supernatural guidance sometimes – but not normally. (Gideon & the fleece: He'd already had instruction from an angel and asked for more signs. It's not there to act as an example.)
- Our partnership with God through prayer and obedience is about accomplishing his purpose for my life, not me determining the course of my life. My task is to get on with being a Christian where God has put me. Nothing can mess up God's sovereign will!
Another talk focused on the thorny topic of God's providence and evil – possibly one of the hardest aspects of life for anyone to deal with. If God guides me to, I may post about that one later. (Did you see what I did there?)