Bob Myhan

Introduction: By “providence,” we mean “the foresight and forethought of the infinite God who planned the creation of man and a world in which to place him—a world in which He could control the destiny of the inanimate creation and direct man to the consummation of His purpose” (Hailey, page 123).  “General providence” concerns God’s support, care and supervision of His material creation from beginning to end.  “Special providence” concerns God’s support, care and supervision of His spiritual creation.  God is able to provide for both His material and spiritual creations, without violating either human will or what we sometimes refer to as “laws of nature.”  And, though many, perhaps even most, Christians do not realize it, there are some things that God does through the agency of His people.  While God may use us in ways that He has not revealed, so that we do not always see the providence of God beforehand (see Esther 4:12-14), there are ways in which He uses us that He has revealed.  In one respect, “Christ has no hands but our hands” (from “The World’s Bible,” by Annie J. Flint), in that He has given us certain responsibilities in order that He might, through us, accomplish certain things. 
A.      Nature began by the will of God (Gen. 1:1).
1.            “In the beginning” - Time
2.            “God” - Force
3.            “Created” - Motion
4.            “The heaven” - Space
5.            And the earth” - Matter
B.      Nature was ordered by the will of God.
1.            In its original condition the earth was formless, empty and dark  (Gen. 1:2).
2.            God gave it light (Gen. 1:3-5).
3.            God gave it form (Gen. 1:6-10).
4.            God filled the earth with plants, and He filled the earth, sea and sky with animals (Gen. 1:11-13,20-25).
5.            God placed the sun, moon and stars into outer space, and set them on their respective courses (Gen. 1:14-19).
C.     Nature is balanced by the will of God.
1.            The chronological order of the “kingdoms” of creation
a.            The mineral kingdom (consisting of all elements, whether solid, liquid or gas) was created first.
b.            The vegetable kingdom (plant life) was created second.
c.            The animal kingdom was created third.
2.            The process of nourishment
a.            When water enters soil, the minerals and nutrients in the soil are broken down into a soil solution.
b.            Plants absorb this solution of water, minerals and nutrients.
c.            Animals obtain the minerals and nutrients by eating the plants.
3.            God’s provision for animals (Gen. 1:30; Matt. 6:26; Psalm 104:21)
D.     Nature is controlled by the will of God.
1.            He controls the seasons (Gen. 1:14; 8:22; Acts 14:17).
2.            He controls the sun and the rain (Job 28:23-27; Zech. 10:1; Matt. 5:45).
3.            He arranged the stars into observable patterns (Job 38:31,32).
4.            Even the lowly sparrows do not go unnoticed by Him (Matt. 10:29; Luke 12:6).
E.      Miracles testify to God’s control of nature.
1.            If God were not in control of nature in the first place, He would not be able to perform miracles in the second place.
2.            He has performed miracles; therefore, He is in control of nature.
F.      Man’s ingenuity testifies to God’s control of nature.
1.            Even man is able to employ the “laws of nature.”
a.            The power of flight, for example, is not a violation of the law of gravity, but an application of principles of aerodynamics. 
b.            Man did not create these laws; he only discovered them. 
2.      If man can harness God’s laws, the Creator certainly can!
A.      God gave man the power of free choice.
1.      Adam was free to choose (with God’s approval) to eat from a variety of trees in the garden (Gen. 2:9,16).
2.      Adam was also free to choose (but without God’s approval) to eat from the forbidden tree (Gen. 2:17).
B.   God uses nature in providing for man’s material needs.
1.      God provided vegetation for man’s original diet (Gen. 1:29).
2.      He added animal flesh after the flood (Gen. 9:1-3).
3.      God permits man to use animal skins for clothes (Gen. 3:21).
4.      We should not worry about our material needs (Matt. 6:24-34).
C.  God uses men’s free choices to accomplish His will.
1.      Consider the case of Joseph:
a.      Jacob’s decision to make Joseph a coat of many colors
b.      Joseph’s decision to tell his dreams to his brothers
c.      His brothers’ decision to move their flock to Dothan
d.      Their decision to put him into a pit, rather than kill him
e.      Ishmaelites’ decision to pass by on their way to Egypt
f.         The brothers’ decision to sell Joseph into slavery
g.      Potiphar’s decision to purchase Joseph as a slave
h.      The decision of Potiphar’s wife to frame Joseph
i.         Potiphar’s decision to put Joseph into prison
j.         The jailer’s decision to make Joseph a trustee
k.      Pharaoh’s decision to put his butler and baker into prison
l.         The decision of the butler and baker to tell Joseph their dreams
m.    Joseph’s decision to interpret their dreams
n.      Pharaoh’s decision to mention his dreams to the butler
o.      The butler’s decision to mention Joseph to Pharaoh
p.      Pharaoh’s decision to release Joseph
q.      Joseph’s decision to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams
r.        Pharaoh’s decision to appoint Joseph as Secretary of Agriculture
s.      Jacob’s decision to send Joseph’s brothers to Egypt for food
t.         Joseph’s decision to keep things in their proper perspective
2.      Consider, also, the case of Esther:
a.      King Ahasuerus’ decision to show off his beautiful wife, Queen Vashti
b.      Queen Vashti’s refusal to be displayed
c.      Ahasuerus’ decision to give Vashti’s royal position to another
d.      Ahasuerus’ decision to gather many virgins, including Esther, to see whom he would make queen
e.      Ahasuerus’ decision to make Esther his queen, not knowing she was Jewish
f.         Mordicai’s decision to reveal to Esther his discovery of a plot to kill the king
g.      Esther’s decision to relate the plot to the king
h.      Mordecai’s decision not to bow down to Haman
i.         Haman’s decision to ask for permission to destroy all Jews
j.         Haman’s decision to build a gallows on which to hang Mordecai
k.      The king’s decision to ask Haman what honor should be paid to a great man (after discovering that Mordecai had not been rewarded for foiling the assassination plot)
l.         Haman’s suggestion that the great man (whom he thought must be himself) should be paraded in front of the people on the king’s horse, which resulted in Mordecai’s being so rewarded
m.    Esther’s decision to petition the king (at risk of death) that she and her people be given the right to defend themselves
n.      The king’s decision to pass a law guaranteeing them that right
o.      The king’s decision to hang Haman on the gallows that Haman had built for Mordecai
3.      These two historical accounts demonstrate God’s ability to use the free choices of men and women to accomplish what is best for His people (Gen. 45:5; 50:20; Rom. 8:28).
A.      God answers the prayers of His people (Matt. 6:25-33; 6:11).
1.            The degree to which we believe in the “special providence of God” will be reflected in our prayers. 
a.            If not for providence, our supplications and intercessions would fall upon deaf ears. 
b.            But when we make our requests known to God, we are inviting Him to act in our lives and/or in the lives of others. 
c.            And He has promised to so act, as we have already seen. 
d.            God does not have to work a miracle in order to answer prayer, for the very forces of nature are under His control (James 5:16-18).
e.            If we do not thank Him for what He has already done, we have no right to petition Him to do anything else.
2.            The consistency and persistency with which we pray will be reflected in the degree to which the providence of God can be seen in our lives.
a.            Is it the case that we do not have, simply because we do not ask? (James 4:2)
b.            Is it the case that we do ask but do not have, simply because we ask amiss? (James 4:3)
c.            Are we afraid to make “specific” requests, fearing that our lack of faith will be evident when those requests are not granted?
B.      God delivers His people when they pray (Matt. 6:13).
1.            The God of Israel has always been mindful of His people.
a.            Throughout the history of Israel God delivered them from the hands of opposing armies and from the rule of wicked kings (see 2 Kings 19:8-37, for example).
b.            They knew they could call upon Him for deliverance.
2.            Spiritual vs. physical deliverance.
a.            Because Israel was a physical nation, they were given physical, as well as spiritual deliverance.
b.            The church is a spiritual nation, so its faithful members will be given spiritual, though not necessarily physical deliverance.
A.      God ordained civil government.
1.            His statement to Noah after the flood (Gen. 9:1-7)
2.            Jesus’ statement to Pilate (John 19:10,11)
3.            Paul’s statement to the saints at Rome (Rom. 13:1-6)
4.            Peter’s statement to the dispersed saints (1 Peter 2:13-17)
B.      God is active in civil government.
1.            He removes kings and sets up kings (Dan. 2:21).
a.            Pharaoh (Rom. 9:17,18)
b.            Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:26-38)
2.            The nations accomplish God’s purposes (Acts 4:25-28).
a.            He does not force them to do good or evil (Jer. 18:7-10).
b.            A nation is exalted by its own righteousness, and condemned by its own sin (Prov. 14:34).
3.            He thus rules in the kingdom of men (Dan. 5:17-21).
C.     God uses civil government.
1.            God’s eternal purpose (Eph. 3:8-11)
a.            To bruise the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:14,15).
b.            To bless all nations in Abram (Gen. 12:1-3; Gal. 3:8).
2.            To fulfill these and other promises, God worked among the nations, ruling them indirectly through their various kings.
a.            He used Israel, both to disseminate the knowledge of God and to preserve the seed of Abram until “the fullness of the times.”
b.            He used other nations to punish Israel, though He never violated anyone’s free will.  Consider the king of Assyria (Isaiah 10:5-25).
3.            Thus, God uses the nations to accomplish His will, without direct intervention.
A.      Every Christian should evangelize.
1.            Chain reaction of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19,20)
2.            Paul's instructions to Timothy (2 Tim. 2:1,2)
3.            Responsibility is proportional (Matt. 25:14-30)
a.            Ability (I Peter 4:11)
b.            Opportunity (1 Cor. 16:8,9; 2 Cor. 2:12; John 9:1-4; Acts 13:14-16)
B.      Reasons personal evangelism is superior to pulpit preaching.
1.            The vast number of opportunities for personal evangelism
2.            The multiplicity of teachers (each one teach one)
3.            The power of personal contact
4.            A home Bible study can be fitted to the needs of the prospect more readily than a pulpit sermon.
C.     Why some Christians do not evangelize.
1.            Don’t have the word of God in the heart (Psalm 119:11; Jer. 20:8,9).
2.            Don’t have a deep love for souls (John 3:16; Rom. 10:1; 1 Cor. 9:19-22)
3.            Do not “know enough” to teach (Heb. 5:11-14).
4.            Are over-cautious (Eccl. 11:4).
5.            Do not believe strongly enough (2 Cor. 4:13).
D.     Bible examples of personal evangelism
1.      Jesus called enthusiastic workers into the apostleship.
a.      Peter and Andrew (Matt. 4:18-20)
b.      James and John (Matt. 4:21,22)
c.      Matthew (Matt. 9:9,10)
2.      Two of His most memorable lessons were one-on-one.
a.      The new birth (John 3:1-8)
b.      Living water (John 4:5-14)
3.            Andrew recruited his natural brother, Simon (John 1:40,41).
4.            Philip recruited Nathanael (John 1:45).
5.            Apostles taught daily in the temple and in every house (Acts 5:42).
6.            Other first century Christians "went everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8:1-4).
7.            Philip was called away from a multitude to preach to a lone eunuch (Acts 8:25-35).
8.            Paul taught publicly and from house to house (Acts 20:20).
E.      Methods and opportunities of personal evangelism
1.            Visit prospects where they are (Acts 9:10-19; 22:12-16).
2.            Invite prospects into your home (Rom. 16:3-5).
3.            Take them aside after the assembly (Acts 18:24-26).
4.            Talk to people at work during break or lunch period.
5.            Always be on the lookout for opportunities.
6.            Authority plus ability plus opportunity equals responsibility.
A.      This is the primary purpose of the local congregation.
1.            If Jesus had no specific purpose in mind when He instituted the local church, there would not be any direction for the church’s activities.  We would be "at sea without a compass."  But this would result in large-scale confusion, of which God is not the author (1 Cor. 14:33).  Besides this, to say that Jesus ever acted without purpose is to charge Him with folly, for there is no wisdom in purposelessness.  But what purpose did He have in mind when He instituted the local church?  He was providing for the mutual edification of saints.
2.            It is within the local church that the saints are equipped "for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:11,12).
3.            Immediately after the church was established, its members "continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine" (Acts 2:42).
4.            In the age of miraculous spiritual gifts, the gift of prophecy (rather than tongues) was to be used in the local church assemblies so that the members could be edified (1 Cor. 14:1-5,12,17,22-33).
B.      This is the primary responsibility of the evangelist.
1.            Barnabas was sent to Antioch to exhort, or edify, the saints at that place (Acts 11:19-24).
2.            He went to Tarsus to recruit Saul to help him (vv. 25,26).
3.            Timothy was told to "reprove, rebuke, exhort" (2 Tim. 4:1-5).
C.     Every member of the local church shares in the responsibility.
1.            The local church is self-edifying (Eph. 4:13-16).
2.            We are to be "teaching and admonishing one another" (Col. 3:16).
3.            We are to "consider one another to provoke unto love and good works" (Heb. 10:24,25).
4.            Each one of us must be aroused to his personal responsibility, and be praised for doing his part (1 Cor. 12:12-27).
5.            In time, all saints "ought to be teachers" (Heb. 5:11-14).
A.      Christians are to provide for the poor and needy.
1.            We are to do good to all men, as we have opportunity (Gal. 6:10).
2.            We are to work so as to "have to give to him that needeth" (Eph. 4:28).
3.            We are to visit fatherless and widows in their affliction (James 1:27).
4.            If we are unwilling to provide for needy brethren, the love of God does not dwell in us (1 John 3:17).
5.            We will be judged in part by whether we help others (Matt. 25:31-46).
B.      Local churches are to provide for their needy members.
1.            Jerusalem (Acts 2:41-45; Acts 4:32-35; Acts 6:1-4)
2.            Corinth (1 Cor. 16:1,2)
3.            Macedonia (2 Cor. 8:1-6; 9:6-12; Rom. 15:22-26)
C.     The Christian’s widows are not the church’s widows.
1.      Christians are to care for widowed relatives (1 Tim. 5:4,8,16).
2.      Church is to "honor…widows indeed" (1 Tim. 5:3,5,9-16).
a.      "Not only by respectful treatment but by financial support"--Vincent
b.      "The respect and material assistance to be given to widows 'that are widows indeed'"—Vine.
D.     Mistakes of some brethren
1.      They fail to appreciate the distinction between distributive action and collective action of the church (see 1 Tim. 5:16; James 1:27).
2.      Supposed scriptural authority rests on a word supplied by uninspired translators (2 Cor. 9:12,13).
Conclusion: In His foresight and forethought, God has provided for the needs of mankind. And He still cares about, and will provide for, His people under the New Covenant. This includes spiritual deliverance from our spiritual enemy, the devil. He knows our needs before and without our asking, but He wants us to ask and we need to ask.  He will not come into our lives as an uninvited guest. He does not go where He is not wanted, except to chastise and to punish. He uses natural laws, civil governments and the free will decisions of men to provide for mankind’s physical needs. But He provides for mankind’s spiritual needs through the actions of His special people, Christians. Are we allowing Him to use us?
God the Ruler, Jack Cottrell (College Press)
Praise, Prayer & Providence, (Florida College Bookstore)
Prayer & Providence, Homer Hailey (Religious Supply, Inc.)
What the Bible Says About Prayer, Mitch Simpson (College Press)