Providence Defined
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Providence Defined

From Series: Intended For Good

Proverbs 16:9  (ID: 3056)

Are our lives determined by fate or chance? Did God create the universe and then step aside to watch history unfold from a distance? Alistair Begg challenges us to consider that according to the Bible, the details of our lives actually unfold within the providence of God. He is working in every circumstance – good and bad – for His glory. The Christian can take comfort in the knowledge that all of our days unfold in the care of our loving Father.


Sermon Transcript: Print

We’re going to read together from Proverbs and chapter 16. And we’ll just read, I think, the first nine verses of Proverbs 16:

The plans of the heart belong to man,
 but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
 but the Lord weighs the spirit.
Commit your work to the Lord,
 and your plans will be established.
The Lord has made everything for its purpose,
 even the wicked for the day of trouble.
Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord;
 be assured, he will not go unpunished.
By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for,
 and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.
When a man’s ways please the Lord,
 he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
Better is a little with righteousness
 than great revenues with injustice.
The heart of man plans his way,
 but the Lord establishes his steps.

Amen.

Well, our text for this evening is Proverbs 16:9. And as you perhaps turn there and remind yourself of it, a brief prayer:

Father, as we often pray, what we do not know, teach us; what we do not have, please give us; what we are not, kindly make us. For your Son’s sake. Amen.

I have for some time toyed with the idea of working through, in the evenings, various essential Christian doctrines, and I’m not going to say that tonight is the start of that, but I am prepared to say that tonight may be the start of it. And we’re beginning, because of the providences in my own life in the past week or two weeks, with the doctrine of providence itself. And we can tackle this now, and perhaps on one other occasion, under the heading of providence, thinking largely tonight in terms of its definition.

And Proverbs 16:9—which reads in the ESV, as you will see if you have your Bible open, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps”—is a verse that many of us have known in the Authorized Version. And I think in the Authorized Version it has a sort of syntax to it that I find easier to remember and actually more definitive in its terminology. The Authorized Version reads: “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.” “A man’s heart,” a person’s heart, “devise[s] [their] way: but the Lord direct[s] [their] steps.” Now, that is, essentially, the doctrine of providence in a verse and in a nutshell.

In terms of defining it, Louis Berkhof has done as good a job as anybody, so let me remind you of Berkhof’s definition: “Providence,” he writes, is “that continued exercise of the divine energy whereby the Creator,” number one, “preserves all His creatures”; number two, “is operative in all that comes to pass in the world”; and number three, “directs all things to their appointed end.”[1] All right? So, the operation “of the divine energy whereby the Creator preserves all His creatures, is operative in all that comes to pass in the world, and directs all things to their appointed end.”

The Westminster Confession, in the Shorter Catechism, puts it as follows: “God’s works of providence are, his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions.”[2] And in the New City Catechism, which appears routinely in our bulletin and which we worked through for a year, some of us, together, we remind ourselves that the answer to the second question, “Who is God?” we learned as follows: “God is the creator and sustainer of everyone and everything. He is eternal, infinite, … unchangeable in his power and perfection, [in his] goodness and glory, [in his] wisdom, justice, and truth. Nothing happens except through him and by his will.”

The Creator drew out a picture of you before there was even a you.

Now, when you take just those three statements—and they are representative of a great mount of defining material in that regard—you realize that it would be impossible to say that there is anything vague or sketchy about it. It is very straightforward. Indeed, it is the very clarity of that kind of definition that causes some people to respond with resistance and with unbelief. And I don’t mean, now, just those who would not believe even in the fact that God is Creator but some who would say, “Yes, I do believe that; but, however, I do not believe that concerning his providential care.”

And so, at the risk of incurring your displeasure or testing your patience unduly, I want to rehearse for us the extent of God’s providential control—the extent of it. And I have ten points that I’m going to give to you. I’m not going to extrapolate from them, but I’m going to give you them, and hopefully there’ll be a Bible verse to go along with them so you can search the Scriptures to see if this is so.[3]

The Extent of God’s Providential Care

God’s providential care extends over the entire universe at large. Over the entire universe at large. When Nebuchadnezzar, remember, under the judgment of God, was out roaming around in his yard like a brute beast, and he finally came to his senses and he raised his eyes to heaven and he acknowledged that he was under the jurisdiction of Almighty God, this is what Nebuchadnezzar said of God:

[God] does according to his will among the host of heaven
 and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
 or say to him, “What have you done?”[4]

Secondly, over the entire physical world—over the entire physical world—that “whatever the Lord pleases,” Psalm 135, “he does,” both “in heaven and on earth,” and “in the seas and [in] all [the deep].[5]

His providence, thirdly, extends over the affairs of the nations. Again, the psalmist, Psalm 22: “Kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.”[6] When you read Paul, his encounter at the Areopagus—in Acts chapter 17, Luke records it for us—and you have the very same thing that Paul is saying there: God has established humanity; he has appointed the bounds and habitations of everyone in the entire world.[7] There’s nothing haphazard or chaotic about it from God’s perspective.

Fourthly, he is providentially overruling the time of our birth, the place of our birth, the nature of our birth, and our lot in life. That’s Psalm 139: “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me! You know everything about me, and you put me together in my mother’s womb. You have formed me, and you have fashioned me.”[8]

So, the doctrine of providence says that your very DNA is under his providential control. And my teaser this morning about what it would have been like if God had made us something other than human was not an original thought, but I was reading this past week in what is just an amazing book by John Flavel called The Mystery of Providence. If you’ve never read it, you should put it on your shelf. And he, in a quite purple passage, addresses the providence of God in our birth and in our upbringing, and he does so in some great detail. And it is in that context that he says, “It is because [God] wrote … all [of you] in His book, or painted your body according to [His] model which He drew of you in His own gracious purpose before you had a being.”[9]

So, the Creator drew out a picture of you before there was even a you. And, says Flavel, have you thought about what he might have done if he had used a different model? And have you thought about what he might have done if he had not painted you as he has done? Question:

Had an eye, [or] an ear, [or] a hand, [or] a foot been wanting in the plan, you [would] now [be] sadly aware of the defect. [And the] world had been but a dungeon to you without [the] windows [of your eyes] …. There is a world of cost bestowed upon your … body. You might have been cast into another mould, and created a worm or a toad.

“I [recall],” he says,

[Luther’s story] of two cardinals riding in great pomp to the Council of Constance, and by the way they heard a man in the fields bitterly weeping and wailing. [And] when they came to him they found him intently viewing an ugly toad; and asking him why he wept so bitterly, he told them his heart was melted with this consideration, that God had not made him such a loathsome and deformed creature.[10]

In the hymn which begins “When all thy mercies, O my God, my rising soul surveys,” it has my favorite verse:

Unnumbered comforts to my soul
Thy tender care bestowed,
Before my infant heart conceived
From whom those comforts flowed.[11]

God is providentially in control of our birth, and our lot in life, and the family into which we were born, and, yes, the day of our death.

And he goes on—and you won’t necessarily like this, but I find it quite funny, ’cause he’s writing, what, seventeenth century?—and he says, “You know, you should be thankful about the way in which things have fallen out for you.” He says, “Suppose your mothers had brought you forth in America, among the savage Indians, who herd together as brute beasts, [and] are scorched with heat, and starved with cold, being naked, destitute, and defenceless. How poor, [and] miserable, and unprovided with earthly comfort [would you have been?]”[12] I’m not sure that England was that great in comparison, to tell you the truth. It’s rather jingoistic on his part. But nevertheless, he’s making the point: it’s not haphazard. It’s not haphazard. You didn’t just show up and God looked down from heaven and said, “Oh, look where she is! Look where he was born!”

Fifthly—sorry, that was a diversion—fifthly, the providence of God extends over all of our outward successes and failures. Our outward successes and failures are under his providential care. Psalm 75: “Not from the east or from the west … it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.”[13] God is sovereign in that.

Sixthly, he is over, in his providential care, things that are seemingly accidental or insignificant. His providence extends to that which we would be tempted to see as inconsequential, beyond his ken and beyond his care. But not so! “The lot is cast into the lap,” Proverbs 16, “but … every decision is from the Lord.”[14]

Seventhly, his providence extends to the protection of the righteous. Psalm 121:

I lift … my eyes to the hills—
 where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
  [he made] heaven and earth.[15]

When Paul writes to the Philippians, he reminds them, “My God [will] supply all your need according to his riches in glory.”[16]

Eighthly, his providence covers the supply of all of the needs of God’s people: not simply their protection but their provision. And really, the doctrine of providence jumps immediately out of the Bible in Genesis 22, when Abram is confronted with a question he really didn’t want to have to tackle when his son says to him, “Well, we seem to have everything for the fire, but we’re just missing one essential ingredient; we don’t have a lamb.” And Abraham responds, introducing, essentially, the doctrine of providence: “Listen, son, God will provide a lamb. His providential care will take care of this”[17]—as, of course, it did. His providence extends to providing answers to our prayers, sometimes coming soon; sometimes never coming, apparently; sometimes coming after we’ve died. But that’s why we’re encouraged to ask and to seek and to knock.[18]

And, tenthly, his providence extends to the exposure and the punishment of the wicked. Raging coals, the psalmist says, will be brought down on the heads of the wicked.[19]

A Radical, Biblical, Profitable Affirmation

Now, when you allow those things just to settle in your mind, you realize that this is so far removed from deism as could ever possibly be—the idea that there is a God somewhere, somehow, who started everything off, wound everything up like an old grandfather clock, and rang the bell, and then went away. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jim Packer says that what we have here is a picture of “purposive personal management with [vital] ‘hands-on’ control: God is completely in charge of his world. His hand may be hidden, but his rule is absolute.”[20]

So, the providence of God extends to all people, the entire world, and that in a general sense, and in a particular and personal sense to his own people, to the church as with a big C, and therefore to those who are included in Christ and thereby in the church.

Now, when you say that, a number of things immediately strike one—at least, they strike me. First of all, that what I’ve just said to you—if you think about going back out into tomorrow amongst the routine of your life and amongst friends and family members, surely what I’m just affirming here is absolutely radical. I mean, this is a radical notion, isn’t it, in the environment, in the philosophical milieu in which we live our lives? To go out and to affirm that the providence of God extends to all places and to all occurrences—that notion alone flies in the face of the kind of worldview that is pervasive in our day.

I don’t need to spend time reinforcing just how different the perspective is in our world. If you listen just to the weather forecast, you get it there in a very small way: “Well, let’s see what Mother Nature has for us.” If you listen to the golf, you say, “Well, apparently the golf gods were not looking favorably on things.” If you just listen to people talk, they betray from their own lips their view of the world. They either believe themselves largely to be held in the grip of fate—a blind, impersonal force that controls them, over which they have no opportunity to respond—or that they regard themselves as just somehow or another being caught up like a cork on the ocean or a tumbleweed in the winds of Albuquerque.

Now, the deism that was prevalent the end of the nineteenth into the twentieth century has been replaced, at least in Western thought, by the pantheism of today—the pantheism of today that suggests that God does not stand out of time, that he is not beyond his creation, but somehow or another, he’s wrapped up in his creation; and since we are part of his creation, we are thereby ipso facto part of God, and if we’re looking for God, then maybe what we ought to do is just look inside of ourselves. If we don’t go there, then we might be tempted to take on the opportunities that Hinduism has provided for us, so that the discovery of life and the meaning of life is all wrapped up in an endless cycle of birth and rebirth. Marxism is not dead. Life has meaning for the Marxist in the endless class struggle for a classless society. And the nihilism that is represented in a lot of contemporary comedy is so vastly removed from what we’re affirming here.

You see, what the Bible tells us is this: that God—this is Ephesians 1—that God, who is the creator God and the sustainer of life, is operating according to his own purpose to work out everything according to the counsel of his will.[21] The Westminster Confession reminds us that the ultimate end of the providence of God is the manifestation of his own glory,[22] so that what God is actually doing is about himself; that what God is actually accomplishing is in relationship to himself; that God is interested in all whom he has made, but he doesn’t have the selfish fascination that many of us have in trying to explain our lives in a way that leaves out his eternal counsel.

So, it’s radical, but also this affirmation is thoroughly biblical. Now, you must read your Bibles and see whether you agree with me that the doctrine of providence is not a theological construct that some theological eggheads have chosen to press down on the pages of Scripture, but rather, when you read your Bible, you discover that it is, if you like, one of the melodic lines of Scripture. And once you hear this melody—once you get this melody in your mind—you’ll hear it again and again and again. You’ll find yourself saying, “Oh, you know what that is? That’s that same melody line. That’s God’s providential care. That is God’s providence in my life. That is why that has happened.” And so when you read these things, as Bridges says, the doctrine of providence is not, like the doctrine of the Trinity, to be received by faith, because, he says, “experience gives a demonstrable stamp of evidence even in all the minutiae of circumstances which form the parts and pieces of the Divine plan.”[23]

What does he mean by that? He means that we ought to expect that in everyday events—in the everyday events of our lives—we will find ourselves saying, with Proverbs 16:9, “A man’s heart devise[s] his way, but the Lord direct[s] his steps,” and does so—and this is vitally important—without infringing on our liberty and without relieving us of responsibility. Okay? This is not Islam. This is not fate. This is not some blind, remote monad who is operating from way out there and beyond. This is the personal creator God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And as he orders the events of life, he does not infringe upon our liberty, thereby we make decisions; nor does he relieve us of responsibility, so that we’re then able to say that our sin is God’s fault. No, it’s never God’s fault. It’s always our fault.

“Well,” you say, “then how is it that he ‘directs our steps’?” Well, you must read your Bible. He doesn’t operate in a mechanistic way. The grace of God does not… He’s not operating like some kind of lifeless machine. No, the providence of God is at work personally, thoughtfully, individually, directing the free acts of people in devising their way.

Now, let me just give you some illustrations from the Bible.

Consider all that unfolded from Jacob’s decision—his free decision—to prefer one of his sons over his other sons.[24] Why did he do that? I don’t know; that’s what he wanted to do. It was his free decision to give Joseph that particular coat. And as a result of his free decision, he could never have imagined what an amazing outcome there would be as a result of that.

Now, imagine the scene of pain and loss, for another one, when the young girl is carried away into captivity in the house of Naaman.[25] How did her parents feel? They had no control over that. The marauding hordes came in and took her away as they took Daniel and his friends away;[26] and there she was, captive in the house of Naaman, bold enough to say, “If my master Naaman would only go to the prophet of God, he would find that he had an answer there for him for his sickness.”[27]

And what about Ahasuerus when he couldn’t sleep at night, in Esther chapter 6? And he decided to read a book—not just any book, but a big, boring book, the chronicles? And that he not only read the book, but he read the part in the book that involved the situation that resulted in the whole resolution of the problem?[28] Was he preprogrammed to read the book? Was there a big sign up on his wall that said, “Read the book of the chronicles”?

Was there something done there for Joseph that says, “This is what you’re supposed to do, Joseph: when you come down for breakfast in the morning, tell all your brothers and tell your dad that you had this dream about them all bowing down to you,” and God preprogrammed him to do that? No, he just did it. He just did it.[29] Were the Ishmaelites preprogrammed to buy Joseph as a slave? No, they bought him as a slave ’cause he was a good business opportunity.[30] Was Potiphar preprogrammed to take him into his home? No, he took him into his home because he was good-looking and handsome and strong and everything else.[31] And as they all exercised the freedom of their will, as they devised their way, the Lord was directing their steps.

We could go on and on and on, couldn’t we? The amazing providence that’s involved in Acts chapter 8, when Philip is redirected from his usefulness in order that he might then be at the right place at the right time—presumably somewhat reluctant, I would think: “Why do I have to go to this road? What am I going to do up there? I’m a very effective evangelist over here. Well, I’m going to go ahead, guided and helped.” And then a man reading. Reading what? Reading Isaiah: “How do I know what it means? I don’t know what it means. I wish there were somebody to tell me what it means.” And there’s the person to tell him what it means.[32]

The dark providences of God—or the bright ones, for that matter—are seldom self-interpreting.

And what about the inconsequential beginning that led to such a transformation in the town of Samaria, when Jesus sat down at a well because he was tired while his friends and his followers decided to go and get food, and he just said to a lady, “Do you think I could have a drink of water, please?”[33] The providence of God was ordering the steps of the Son of God.

Radical, biblical, and finally, profitable. Profitable. It’s profitable because it allows us to ponder the dark side of things. Because in the back of our minds, there is the inevitable question, isn’t there?

Job’s wife gives occasion to this in Job, and Job says to his wife, he says, “[Listen,] shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”[34] In other words, he’s saying, “Does the providence of God only operate on the up side, and it doesn’t operate on the down side? Does the providence of God only cover that for which we have reason to immediately say, ‘Oh, I get this, and this is wonderful,’ or does the providence of God not cover it when we are, like Cowper, subjected to these deep darknesses?” Well, of course, the answer is the latter, not the former. And in that there’s scope for an entire study, but you’ll be glad to know we’re not going to do it.

But let me borrow just two phrases from the late John Murray, where he says, “The providence of God is often a dark and impenetrable abyss to us.”[35] “The providence of God is often a dark and impenetrable abyss to us.” Now, when you read the psalmist, you realize that it is full of lament: “O God, why do you cast us off forever? Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?”[36] The psalmist says, “I envied the wicked—these people that seem to do everything wrong, and I’m supposed to do everything right, and I can’t make sense of it. Your providence is a dark and an impenetrable abyss.”[37] And when that is the case, we have to be aware of the fact that God’s way and God’s will is best. So, better the sadness and the loss that humbles us than the success and the encouragement that makes us proud.[38]

You see, the dark providences of God—or the bright ones, for that matter—as we’ve said to one another, are seldom self-interpreting. They’re seldom self-interpreting. Something comes into our life, an event comes into our life, that just completely knocks us off our horse, and the temptation is for us immediately to say, “Well, I can figure this out; I know why this is.” The chances are we don’t have a clue why it is. And we may find out in a week, we may find out in a year, we may find out in twenty, and we may never find out until eternity—and even then, God may choose not to disclose it to us. And so we’re forced to say, “Here I am in the grip of the mystery of God’s providential dealing with me, but I need to recognize that while it may be an ‘impenetrable abyss’ to me, it is not an ‘impenetrable abyss’ to God.”

That’s why the Scriptures say, “He knows the way that I take,”[39] so that I have to learn to say, “I do not know, but I do know that God knows.” “I do not know, but I do know that God knows.” That was the way Jesus dealt with his disciples. He said to them, “Why do you worry about this, and why do you worry about that? Don’t you realize that your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things?”[40]

Do you remember Corrie ten Boom, when she asked her dad for the ticket for the train journey to Amsterdam or wherever it was, and it was, like, three weeks out? And he said, “That’s fine; I’ve got you covered.” And then she kept annoying him, day after day: “Do you have that ticket? Where’s the ticket? Do you have a ticket?” And eventually he said to her, he said, “Corrie, listen, I told you: I have the ticket. On the day you travel, the ticket will be there. Trust me, I’m your father.”[41] Do you worry about your death? On the day you travel, the ticket will be there. Do you worry about your retirement or the prospect of the onset of dementia? Do you worry about a loss of whatever it might be?

Providence is the only soft pillow—the awareness of the fact that I am prepared to say, “I do not know, but I do know that God knows.” And then, when that fastens into my heart, a number of things follow. We’ve noted them before; let me rehearse them for you as I close.

No Pride, No Panic, No Passivity

Number one: when we recognize this, prosperity, then, should never be the occasion of pride. You see, nobody who believes the doctrine of providence should walk around with a fat head. Nobody who believes the doctrine of providence should walk around and be singing, you know,

To think I did all that,
And may I say, not in a shy way;
Oh no, oh no, not me,
I did it my way.[42]

The person who says that, they don’t understand providence at all. They don’t realize that it is God’s providence that sets you up and it’s God’s providence that brings you down.

So, prosperity should not be the occasion of pride; uncertainty should not be the occasion of panic. Why? Because of the providence of God. Tonight, as last Sunday night and the Sunday night before that and every Sunday night to come until the Lord returns, God is enthroned—is enthroned—over all the political, military, social, economic forces of the entire world. Or he isn’t! So if he is in charge of all of that, why do you watch this amazing ebb and flow in conservative evangelicalism here in America? I guarantee that if the elections had gone a different way, there would be a whole nother bunch of nonsense spewing forth from everybody, just in the same way—as if, somehow or another, God in his providence had abandoned the process. And for those who were disappointed with the results of the election, God in his providence is in charge of all of these things.

Now, you see what a difference that makes and how it transforms people and what an encouragement it is for a pastor when you finally realize that people in the congregation get it.

Don’t fall foul of the idea that the doctrine of providence means that you just sit in a big couch now for the rest of your life and God’ll take care of everything.

And this, I think, is my favorite letter. I’ve kept this letter from the seventh of July 1995, and I always read it at this point, and I will stop, because we’ve gone on more than enough we need. And this was written by a young lady in our church. Remember her? Dear Diane Circelli who had systemic scleroderma, the skin condition that just eventually closed her down, just gradually took over her life. She wrote this on the Fourth of July, interestingly:

Dear Mom, Dad, Family, and Friends,

First and foremost, I want to tell you how much I love you and how grateful I am for the love and care you’ve given me. It isn’t easy to think about leaving you, but since we know the time is approaching, I would like to share some requests with you and trust that you will carry them out. My hope is that this will make a difficult time a little easier for everyone.

That’s amazing in itself, isn’t it? She’s concerned that her passing will not be so distressing, and she thinks she can help them with that.

I’d like my memorial service to be simple, at Parkside. If the church hall is available, I would like you to have a reception following the service. I would prefer not to have a wake at all. I know this may be important to you, as you’re from a Catholic background, and I respect that. However, I would like a closed casket, perhaps with some pictures.

It’s difficult expressing all that this life and my future eternal life mean to me. This verse expresses a little of my feelings and my gratitude to God for the life, the family, and the friends he has given me.

And what verse does she use? “You gave me life and showed … kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit.”[43] “In the providence of God,” she says, “I have devised my way. The Lord has directed my steps.” And she concludes:

It’s strange, yet appropriate, that I’m writing this to you on Independence Day, for I am anticipating the day when I will truly be free in the Lord.

The answer to this, loved ones, is not quietism. It’s not passivity. And don’t make that mistake. Don’t fall foul of the idea that the doctrine of providence means that you just sit in a big couch now for the rest of your life and he’ll take care of everything. No. Says Murray, “One of the grossest distortions of the sovereignty of God in his decree [of] providence is that of passive quiescence, fatalistic inactivity … stoical indifference. This attitude of mind is notorious for its frequency but it is disastrous in its results.”[44] So when I’m uncertain about the mystery of God’s work, then I want to hold most closely to his revealed will. In other words, I want to bring what I don’t know into the light of what I do know.

And a final word to Calvin. The Christian’s “solace” is in this: “to know that his Heavenly Father so holds all things in his power, so rules by his authority and will, so governs by his wisdom, that nothing can befall [unless] he determine[s] it.”[45] That involves the good, the bad, and the ugly.

“Tempted and tried we’re oft [led] to wonder why it should be thus all the day long”; when we see others living around us doing their best, they’re getting on fine, and yet they’re wrong. They defy God. And remember the refrain: “[Further] along we’ll know all about it,” and “[further] along we’ll understand why”; but “cheer up, my brother,” and “live in the sunshine,” ’cause “we’ll understand it all by and by.”[46] But probably not tonight. Most of our awareness of the providence of God we have learned by looking in the rearview mirror rather than looking through the windscreen.

Well, gracious God and Father, in a multitude of words we pray that you would help us to navigate our way to a secure confidence in you, the providential governor of our earthly pilgrimage and our eternal destiny. All of us have things in our lives—past, present, and they will be there in the future—that are inscrutable. And I’m personally so very thankful that it is not the job of the pastor to explain the unexplainable but for us in childlike trust and believing faith to acknowledge: when we do not know, we still know that you, God, know it all.

And so we bring the sad parts and the broken parts, the hard-to-understand bits and pieces of our lives, and we lay them down before you. And we pray for your help that we might rest, that our solace may be, just as has been stated, in your providential care.

Hear our prayers, O God, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.


[1] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1938), 166.

[2] The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. 11.

[3] See Acts 17:11.

[4] Daniel 4:35 (ESV).

[5] Psalm 135:6 (ESV).

[6] Psalm 22:28 (ESV).

[7] See Acts 17:26.

[8] Psalm 139:1–3, 13 (paraphrased).

[9] John Flavel, The Mystery of Providence (1963; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1998), 44.

[10] Flavel, 44.

[11] Joseph Addison, “When All Thy Mercies, O My God” (1712).

[12] Flavel, Mystery of Providence, 47.

[13] Psalm 75:6–7 (ESV).

[14] Proverbs 16:33 (ESV).

[15] Psalm 121:1–2 (NIV 1984).

[16] Philippians 4:19 (KJV).

[17] Genesis 22:7–8 (paraphrased).

[18] See Matthew 7:7–8; Luke 11:9–10.

[19] See Psalm 11:6.

[20] J. I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1993), 54.

[21] See Ephesians 1:11.

[22] The Westminster Confession of Faith 2.1.

[23] Attributed by Joseph S. Exell, The Biblical Illustrator: Proverbs (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1905), 420.

[24] See Genesis 37:3–4.

[25] See 2 Kings 5:2.

[26] See Daniel 1:1–7.

[27] 2 Kings 5:3 (paraphrased).

[28] See Esther 6:1‒3.

[29] See Genesis 37:5‒11.

[30] See Genesis 37:27–28.

[31] See Genesis 39:1–6.

[32] See Acts 8:26‒40.

[33] John 4:7 (paraphrased).

[34] Job 2:10 (ESV).

[35] “The Mystery of Providence,” in Collected Writings of John Murray, vol. 3, Life; Sermons; Reviews (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1982), 164.

[36] Psalm 74:1 (ESV).

[37] See Psalm 73:3‒17.

[38] See Proverbs 16:18‒19.

[39] Job 23:10 (ESV).

[40] See Matthew 6:25–34; Luke 12:22–34.

[41] Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place (1971), chap. 2. Paraphrased.

[42] Paul Anka, “My Way” (1969).

[43] Job 10:12 (NIV 1984).

[44] Murray, “The Mystery of Providence,” 166.

[45] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), 1.17.11.

[46] William B. Stevens, “Farther Along” (1911).

Copyright © 2022, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.