Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Not By Chance, Chapter 3: The Preserving Providence of God over Man

Once again, I was privileged to teach a Sunday School lesson this past week using the book Not By Chance, written by Layton Talbert. This chapter and the next teach about the "preserving providence" of God.

Talbert's definition of "preserving providence" is

God continuously preserves and maintains the existence of every part of His creation, from the smallest to the greatest, according to His sovereign pleasure.

The "Question of the hour" then becomes, To what extent does the biblical doctrine of God’s preserving providence actually govern our thinking, affect our behavior, and inform our decisions? Are we practical deists, thinking that God has simply set everything in motion and stepped back to let it run on its own? Are we practical atheists, attributing to nature or coincidence the actions of God in our lives? Do we attribute both the "bad" and the "good" things to God?

Every day we live and every breath we breathe is a direct result of the providence of God. Here are some Scriptures to support that view:

Acts 17:28: "For in Him we live, and move, and have our being." Paul here is speaking to pagan Greeks in Athens, teaching them some basic doctrines about the True God whom they know nothing about. He is letting them know that their very lives, the faculties of motion which they possess, and indeed their very being is a direct result of the actions of an all-powerful God. Significantly, the quotation is actually from an ancient Greek poet—but Paul refers to the God of Scripture, not to Zeus.

Luke 12:4-7: "Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings...?" The providence of God clearly extends to sparrows (more on this in next week's lesson), and truly every one of us, humans created in God's image, are worth more than "many" sparrows.

Several other verses speak to this same theme. Job 12:10, Job 33:4, Daniel 5:23, Acts 17:24-25, and 1 Timothy 6:13 all state, in one way or another, that our very lives and existence are due to God. Colossians 1:17, in the midst of a rich doctrinal passage about the deity, power, and greatness of Jesus Christ, points out that "He is before all things, and by him all things consist."

Poignant moment of the chapter: Talbert reminds us that even as Jesus Christ was being nailed to the cross, He was sustaining the lives of the soldiers committing the gruesome deed.

Here are four practical questions offered at the end of this chapter:

1. We live and die in the providence of God. Are you ready for either?

2. How do we view the moment of death for ourselves, for our loved ones, or for anyone?

3. How do you use the breath and life and body God has given to you and sustains for you each moment?

4. Jesus taught that we manifest our relationship to the Father by being as generous with our love, blessing, good deeds, and prayers toward our enemies as He is (Matthew 5:43-48). How do you measure up to that standard?

For Previous Chapters:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2

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