Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Not By Chance, Chapter 12: Providence and the Church

Again, I apologize for the delay in completing this series of posts. The book Not By Chance by Layton Talbert is an excellent study of the providence of God and I highly recommend it to you. Chapter 13, the last chapter, will be coming shortly.

Chapter 12 deals with Providence in the Church, and is a survey of how God’s providence was seen in the book of Acts, in the early church. Here are the main points:

· God may intervene directly in the affairs of His church and in the individual lives of His people (Acts 5:1-11). This passage also illustrates that He can do this in both “negative” and “positive” ways.
· God is free to alter circumstances in ways that are humanly impossible (Acts 5:17-24). He may not always let us out of prison—but He can!
· God may preserve or deliver His people through aid even from our enemies (Acts 5:33-40). The apostles were facing severe anger in vs. 33, and Gamaliel, if you notice carefully, isn’t actually looking after the apostles’ best interests. His pragmatism, however, is what God used to allow to go free that day.
· God may choose not to intervene even in behalf of His choicest servants (Acts 7:54-60). John the Baptist, James, and countless others were martyred throughout the history of the church. The five missionaries in Ecuador were cited among those who have given their lives (or otherwise suffered) for the cause of Christ. God’s will is always the best place to be—but it isn’t always the safest place.
· God is capable of working in people we would never expect, even through events that seem to us tragic, senseless, and counterproductive to the cause of Christ (Acts 7:58-8:3). If Saul had not been the persecutor that he was, would he have become the apostle he was?
· God uses persecution and affliction to accomplish His purposes for and through us (Acts 8:3-4). History and Scripture both teach that persecution often serves to spread the Gospel all the more!
· God may direct us to minister in unpromising places and unlikely situations, with apparently minimal potential, for His own purposes (Acts 8:26-40). How many missionaries and preachers do we know who serve in such places today? How clear is it, in retrospect, that God set everything in place for this encounter between Philip and the eunuch, including even the translation of the Scriptures he was using?
· God may intervene in the lives and affairs of people in spectacular, unexpected, extraordinary ways if He chooses (Acts 9:1-8). Most of us didn’t “meet God” like Saul did on the road to Damascus—but God can do that.
· God can intervene in humanly hopeless, dangerous, and even life-threatening situations (Acts 12:1-19). Peter had every reason to believe he would follow Stephen and James to martyrdom…but God delivered him. Interesting thought: What were the people at the house praying for that night: Deliverance, or boldness?
· God can use human disagreements as the catalyst for diversifying the ministry and more effectively accomplishing His purposes (Acts 15:36-41). The disagreement between Paul and Barnabas was significant; both were seeking to do God’s will. The Bible does not tell us who “was right.” Disagreements between believers do not mean they cannot be used by God in the future.
· God may close the door on seemingly logical or needful ministries, only to redirect later into the paths of His choosing (Acts 16:6-10). We may wonder why God allows ministries to close down when they are doing His work—but that is His decision. God may want His servants to minister in other places.
· God may allow us to suffer wrongfully in order to bring us into contact with certain sinners (Acts 16:16-34). Joseph provides a thorough O.T. example of this.
· God is in sovereign control of the elements; natural disasters are His tools to shape His purposes (Acts 27-28). Various O.T. passages (e.g., Job 38; Nah. 1:3) speak to the fact that God can and does use the “elements” to accomplish His will. History provides numerous other illustrations.
· God preserves the life of His servants until their work is done. All the things that happened to Paul…and yet, at the end of the book, he is still alive and serving God!
Lessons for life: We must humbly yet confidently put our faith in the power of the King of Kings. We must realize that it won’t all be a “bed of roses.” What God allows us to experience is for our good and for His glory!

For previous chapters:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11

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