Randall Caselman

Bella Vista Church of Christ

01/21/2018A.M.

 

Appreciating

God’s Grace & Providence

Genesis 25.19-34

 

Grace and Providence... Have you ever seen these two words together? Both are difficult to understand... Sometimes… Both are difficult to define...

Grace is God’s unmerited favor.

 

Grace is something that God did for us when we were totally undeserving... God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him... God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners,Christ died for us.

• Grace is God’s initiative on our behalf.

• Grace is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

 

God’s Divine Providence is also past our understanding... Beyond our comprehension.

 

This morning… I’m not so much interested in our understanding Grace and Providence as much as I am in our learning to... RECOGNIZE them… and appreciate them... As we see them at work in our lives.

 

The word Providence comes from the Latin… Meaning… To foresee the future.

 

But Biblical Providence is more than just foreseeing the future… It’s God affecting the future...God at work in our future.

 

Jesus affirms this in John 5.17 where He is found saying... My Father is always at His work to this very day… And I… Too… Am working.

 

Webster says…

• Providence is to foresee… and provide… for the future…

Providence is divine intervention... Provision… Protection… Guidance… and care.

 

Now the word providence is only found once in our NIV…. That’s in Job 10.12… Where Job says of God… You gave me life and showed me kindness… And in your providence watched over my spirit.

 

This well confirms our definition of providence… Doesn’t it?… God’s intervention on our behalf.  

 

Even though the word providence is found only once in our Bibles… Scripture is filled with the concept of Grace through providence…

 

Daniel 2.21 & 4.17… It is God who changes times and seasons… He sets up kings and kingdoms… And deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning…

 

The Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone He wishes.

 

Ephesians 1.11… In him we were also chosen… Having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.

 

Hebrews 1.3… He sustains… Holds up all things... By his powerful word.

 

Acts 17.28… We are His offspring… For in Him we live and move and have our being.

 

Matthew 5.45… He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good… And sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

 

And then the classic verse on providence… Romans 8.28… We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him… Who have been called according to his purpose.

 

So… This morning… I want us to understand that that Biblical providence ties God’s omniscience and omnipotence together along with his grace nature… His goodness and loving kindness toward us.

 

Examples of God’s Grace through providence are evident throughout Scripture.

 

As Abraham was about to offer Isaac on Mt. Moriah… Isaac asked… Where is the sacrifice? Abraham replied… The Lord will provide… And Abraham looked up and behold there was a ram caught in the thicket.

 

Where did thisram come from?... Was it there because of God’s grace… His providence?... Of course!

 

I suppose no better example exists than those incidents in the life of Joseph… You recall Jacob sending Joseph to check on the wellbeing of his brothers who were shepherding the family flocks near Shechem. When Joseph got there… His brothers were nowhere to be found. But a man found Joseph wandering around in a field…Searching… And he ask Joseph what he was doing… Looking for my brothers. The man said… I heard them say they were going on to Dothan…

 

Where did this man come from… And how come it was that he overheard them talking? Was it God’s Grace and providence?

Think about this… When his brothers throw Joseph into the pit…

• Did God guide them to Dothan where there was a pit?

• Was itjust an accident that the cistern was not filled with water?

• Was it happenstance…That it was near the route taken by an Ishmaelite trading caravan going to Egypt?

• Was it Providence that Joseph was sold to this group as a slave?

 

Well… Some uglythings… Hurtful things… Happened to Joseph in Potiphar’s house. It ended up that he was thrown in Jail. We can be sure that Joseph asked the question… Why me… Why now… Why this?

 

But… All this resulted in him being imprisoned with two men who had a relationship with Pharaoh… So that Joseph ended up interpreting Pharaoh’s dream… And as a result was elevated to second in command of all Egypt.

 

What a fantastic narrative… Almost too good to be true... But that’s the way grace and providence work... Amen?

 

At the end… We hear Joseph say that even though his brothers meant this to his harm… But God meant it for his good and for the saving of our family.

 

Amazing isn’t it that God can even take the bad things in our life and use them for our good…Indeed… Grace and Providence!!... Are Too good to be true!

 

Later… It's God’s providential grace that….

• Delivered….

• Guided…

• Provided…

• And Protected…

Israel through forty years of wilderness wanderings…

• Their clothes didn’t wear out…

• Their sandals didn’t rot…

• There was...Food… Water… Manna… and Quail.

 

Church… I want us to grasp The magnitude of God’s  providential Grace... The sun comes up... The rains fall... There’s air to breathe... Water to drink... Food to eat.

 

When it comes to providence… I like what the Westminster Confession of Faith says… God the great Creator of all things… Does uphold… Direct… Dispose… and Govern all creatures… Actions… And things from the greatest… To the least… By His most wise and holy providence… According to His infallible foreknowledge… And the free and immutable counsel of His own will… To the praise of the glory of His Wisdom… Power… Justice… Goodness… and Mercy.

 

Go with me now to that stormy sea… The date is March 21, 1748… John Newton was awakened by a violent storm. Like most sailors… He immediately runs from the hole of the ship to the deck… Where there is fresh air. When the Captain saw him… He yelled for him to come man the wheel. As Newton fought the storm… He found it impossible to hold the ship steady. The Captain instructed him to find a knife so they could cut a rope and secure the wheel of the ship to help keep it steady. Newton turned the wheel over to another sailor. While he was getting the knife… That sailor was washed overboard… Never to be seen again.

 

From three in the morning until noon the next day Newton manned the pumps in the belly of the ship… Getting only one hour of sleep… He was reassigned to the wheel. Steering the ship took concentration… But Newton kept going over his tempestuous angry life.

 

When all looked hopeless Newton’s thoughts turned to death… And he began to pray. Opening the Captain’s Bible… If fell open to this verse… If you then… Being evil… Know how to give good gifts to your children… How much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask.

 

If you then being evil…Newton thought… How much more evil could I have been. It was Newton himself who once said that… before he was twenty he had never spent an hour in anyone’s company without attempting to corrupt their character… Reminds us of when Paul described his life… Saying… He was the worst of sinners.

 

Newton began to pray that God the Father give him the help of the Spirit in this storm. As the night drew on… Newton was unaware of the ships movements as it completed its voyage. He was deep in thought… Lost in prayer… Buried in Scripture.

 

Three weeks later the ship anchored in Ireland… And the very next day another storm came destroying every ship that was not docked.

 

It was as if a heavenly hand had providentially restrained the wrath of nature just long enough for Newton and his fellow sailors to harbor safely.

 

In the coming days Newton began to contemplate the grace and Providence of God in his own life… He remembered occasions like…

 

• Once scrambling up a bank… He almost killed himself when his shotgun accidently went off… And the lead shot put holes in the bill of his cap.

 

• When he went overboard to retrieve a fallen hat… He was so intoxicated that he nearly drowned before they pulled him to safety.

 

• On another occasion his Captain had assigned him to a river trip in Africa… But pulled him from the assignment at the last moment. That boat sank… And the man who took Newton’s place drowned.

 

• He recalled the previous storm… And how the sailor who took his place at the wheel had been washed overboard.

 

Newton was asking why… Why in His grace had God providentially saved his life?  He would later write…

Though many dangers toils, and snares,

I have already come…

‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far…

And grace will lead me home.

 

Go with me now…Back sixteen centuries… A man is sitting in a dark… Damp… Cold… Prison cell… Pen in hand… Lost in his memories.

 

Perhaps… He too is contemplating God’s providential Grace as he writes Second Timothy 1.9… God… Who has saved us and called us to a holy life… Not because of anything we have done… But because of his own purpose and grace.

 

Paul’s life too… Was filled with providential... Rescues…Dangers… Toils… And snares. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes… Three times I was beaten with rods…Stoned three times. I was shipwrecked three times… I spent a night and a day in the open sea. I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers… In danger from bandits… In danger from my own countrymen… In danger from Gentiles. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep. I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food… I have been cold and naked… And been exposed to death again and again.

 

But Paul was aware of God’s providential mercy and grace as he wrote… The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly… I was shown mercy so that in me… The worst of sinners… Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.

 

Church… I want to challenge you at this moment in the lesson to access a Worship Bulletin and a pencil… And do what Newton and Paul did… Write down at least three occasions in your life in which God’s providential Grace was at work in your life... Times when God delivered you from... danger… Toil… or… Snare.  A time when God worked all things… Even bad things in your life… To your good.

 

Perhaps it would be better... If we took this Bulletin home and do this exercise later... Contemplating God’s divine grace and providence in our own life.

 

You see… We’ll never appreciate God’s grace & Providence until we see them at work in our life… Amen?

 

Perhaps the most important verse on Grace and providence is Romans 8.28...

We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…

Who have been called according to his purpose.

Let’s examine what Paul is saying here...

 

We know.

Do we?... Do we?...really?... This is the purpose of the lesson this morning…

• To help us know…

• To remind us…

That God is in control… That His grace and providence are at work in us. God is telling us that… all of history… All history… Including the portion concerning our life… Mine and yours today… Is completely under His control.

 

No matter how things may appear… We must trust Him… Knowing that He’ll work things out to… our good… Our benefit… Our betterment.

 

Isaiah heard God say… I am God… And there is no other…I am God… And there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning… From ancient times… What is still to come. I say… My purpose will stand… And I will do all that I please. What I have said… That will I bring about… What I have planned… That will I do.

 

We must know this morning that… we can trust His grace and providence.

 

Secondly…All things.

There are no limits on God’s offer… He works in all things.  What part of all things do we not understand?

 

God is not saying that all of life is good… He is saying that all things… Even the ugly… Hurtful… And evil…Things… Can and Will be used by Him to our benefit.

 

God is Lord… He is SOVEREIGN… Over all things…Both good and bad.  No… He is not promising skies always blue… But He is saying that he will see us through the storm… And use the storm to work for our betterment.

 

Trust Him…Trust Him… See God in the storm… As well as in the sunshine!!

 

Number three… Work together.

The Greek word used in this expression is the word from which we get our word synergism…The working together of various elements to produce an effect greater than… Better than… What each individual element can produce by itself.

 

Ordinary Table salt… is an example of SYNERGISM... Salt is composed of two poisons… Sodium and chlorine.  Synergistically speaking… The final product is much better that the individual parts.

 

In… Divine Synergism… PROVIDENTIAL Grace… God takes the… Bad… Evil… HURTFUL… Elements in our life and makes the final product better... It’s called Heaven... Amen?

 

For good.

God is good… He can be no other way… Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above… And come down from the father.

 

Can I show you an embarrassment?... When you rise tomorrow morning… Take a pen and paper and jot down every good thing in your life… Whether it is... Some thought… A person… An event… Or something you see.  I’ll predict this… If you do this faithfully… You’ll never shower… dress… And go to work!

 

You’ll be too busy writing!!.. WHY???... Because God has loaded our life… Yours and mine… With such grace goodness that we could never stop writing!

 

You see… Here’s the problem… God has so loaded us with good… That when anything at all comes our way that is the least bit unpleasant…

• Like the car doesn’t start…

• A slowdown in traffic…

• A trip to the dentist…

• The loss of a basketball game…

We throw up our hands and say… Why Me Lord?

 

Church… God allows no waste… He uses everything for good… Everything for our good!

 

It’s interesting to note that both John 3.16 and Romans 8.28 have qualifiers…

• We must believe Him…

• Trust Him…

• Receive Him…

• Accept Him…

• Work His calling.

 

God’s providential grace is at work this morning… Right here… Right now!!... Giving each of us an opportunity to… accept Him… Receive Him… Confess His name…Become His child by Faith… Repentance… and New Testament Baptism… Immersion in water for the forgiveness of sins.

 

As children of God…

• We must have a sense and an appreciation of His Providential Grace….

Understanding that God is still very much in control of our circumstances...And that He is working all things out to our benefit... our betterment.

 

At this very moment… God is at work in your heart... Don’t say no to Him… As we stand and sing this invitation song together.