"For we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans )
Do all things really work together for good?
Of all the questions that trouble the hearts of God’s people, none is the greater than the question Why? No matter how many sermons we hear or how many Bible verses we memorize, the question returns again and again.
Why did this happen? Lord, why didn’t you answer our prayers?
When we see the pain of a fallen world, we wonder, “Where is God?” Over the centuries the greatest minds have wrestled with the problem of pain and suffering and still the questions come:
The questions hang in the air. We wonder why things happen the way they do, why a teacher in Libya is shot and killed, why the bus didn’t make it to the church, why the baby was born with such disabilities.
Why do these things happen? Why do they happen to good, decent people? Why do they happen to people who love the Lord? Let’s drill down a bit into this subject.
The doctrine of
of God helps us understand. If it does
not answer every question, it surely provides the only possible basis for
understanding. Though the word itself
is not found in most modern translations of the Bible, the concept is certainly
biblical. Providence refers to “God’s gracious oversight of the
universe.” Every one of those words is important. God’s providence
is one aspect of his grace. Oversight means that
he directs the course of affairs. The
word universe tells us that God not only knows the big
picture, he also concerns himself with the tiniest details. Providence
Here are five statements that unfold the meaning of God’s providence in more detail:
He upholds all things.
He governs all events.
He directs everything to its appointed end.
He does this all the time and in every circumstance.
He does it always for His own glory.
The doctrine of God’s
teaches us several important truths: Providence
First, God cares about the tiniest details of life. Nothing escapes his notice for he is concerned about the small as well as the big. In fact, with God there is no big or small. He knows when a sparrow falls and attends every funeral, and he numbers the hairs on our head. With some folk God has to do a lot of subtracting. He keeps track of the stars in the skies and the rivers that flow to the oceans. He sets the day of our birth, the day of our death, and he ordains everything that comes to pass in between.
Second, he uses everything and wastes nothing. There are no accidents with God, only incidents. This includes events that seem to us to be senseless tragedies.
Third, God’s ultimate intention is to shape His children into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans ). He often uses difficult moments and human tragedies to accomplish that purpose.
Many verses in the Bible teach these truths, including Acts 17:28 (“in him we live and move and have our being”), Colossians 1:17 (“in him all things hold together”), Hebrews 1:3 (“He upholds the universe by the word of his power”), Proverbs 16:9 (“The heart of man plans his way but the Lord establishes his steps”), and especially Psalm 115:3, (“Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases”).
The doctrine of God’s providence is really a combination of four other attributes:
Sovereignty—He is in control
Predestination—He is in charge of how everything turns out
Wisdom—He makes no mistakes
Goodness—He has our best interests at heart
Someone has said, “God doesn’t roll dice.” Nothing happens by chance. Ever! Devine providence is the invisible hand of God moving through the circumstances of life.
Illustrated through Joseph Providence
In many ways Joseph’s whole life is the Old Testament illustration of a profound New Testament truth. Deep in our hearts we know that Romans is true.
Joseph’s story goes something like this. Because Joseph was the favored son of his father Jacob, he was the object of envy by his many brothers. The day came when his brothers conspired to sell him to the Midianites who happened to be passing by. They splashed his “coat of many colors” with the blood of a goat in order to make it appear that he had been killed by a wild animal. They showed the coat to Jacob, who believed their lie and sorrowfully concluded that Joseph was dead.
Meanwhile Joseph was taken to
by the Midianites. There he was sold again, this time
to Potiphar, who was head of Pharaoh’s security force. Genesis 39
tells us that Joseph gained favor with Potiphar because the Lord was with him
to bless him. Eventually Potiphar put Joseph in charge of his entire household.
This was a high honor for a Hebrew slave. Because he was competent, confident,
and good-looking, Potiphar’s wife approached him about having a sexual
affair. Joseph refused, pointing out that he could not betray Potiphar and
he would not sin against God .The
woman persisted, to the point that one day when everyone else was gone, she
attempted to pull him down on her bed. Joseph fled from the scene, leaving his
cloak behind. Joe had a difficult time keeping a coat didn’t he? Humiliated by
his refusal, she accused him of rape. It was a false charge, of course, but
Potiphar believed his wife and had Joseph thrown in prison. Egypt
In prison Joseph prospered once again and gained the respect of his fellow prisoners and of the guards. This happened because the Lord was with him to bless him. Eventually the cupbearer and the baker were thrown in the same prison and Joseph befriended them. One night they both had dreams they could not interpret. But Joseph was able to interpret them with the Lord’s help. The dreams came true exactly as Joseph had predicted—the baker was hung but the cupbearer was released. Joseph asked him to remember him after he was out, but he didn’t.
Two years passed and Pharaoh had a dream that he could not interpret. That’s when the cupbearer remembered Joseph’s amazing ability and mentioned it to Pharaoh who ordered Joseph brought before him. Joseph correctly interpreted his dream and was rewarded by Pharaoh, who made him the Prime Minister of Egypt. Not bad for a Hebrew slave who had been sold into slavery by his brothers!
Eventually a famine settled on the
. Jacob told his sons
to go to Near East and buy some grain. They go and in the process meet
Joseph—only they don’t know it’s Joseph. This happens twice. Then Joseph
reveals his true identity. They are shocked and then scared because they
betrayed him and now he’s in a position to get even. But Joseph doesn’t do
that. In fact, he stuns them with these words: Egypt
And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the
(Genesis 45:5-8). of land Egypt
But that’s not the end of the story. The brothers go back to
and tell their aged father that Joseph is still alive. He
can’t believe it, but eventually they convince him to come to Canaan with them. He makes the trip and is reunited with the son
he had given up for dead many years ago. Then he meets the Pharaoh who offers
to let Joseph’s family settle in Egypt for as long as they like. The family settles in Egypt and lives in peace there for many years. Finally Jacob
dies at the age of 147. Now it’s just Joseph and his brothers. They fear that
with Jacob’s death Joseph will be free to take revenge on them. So they tell
Joseph, “Oh, by the way, before Dad died he told us to tell you to treat us
kindly.” It sounds like just one more deception to cover their guilt. Egypt
JOSEPH SAW GOD EVERYWHERE
Listen to Joseph’s response. These are the words of a man who believes in the providence of God.
But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:19-20).
How could Joseph talk like that after all that happened to him? The answer is simple: He saw God everywhere!
Look how Joseph says it: “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”
Both sides of that statement are true. “You meant evil against me”—what the bothers had done was indeed evil and Joseph doesn’t sugarcoat the truth. They are 100% responsible for their sin. “God meant it for good”—this doesn’t mean that evil isn’t evil. It just means that God is able to take the evil actions of sinful men and use them to accomplish his plans. Joseph saw the “invisible hand” of God at work in his life. He understood that behind his conniving brothers stood the Lord God who had orchestrated the entire affair in order to get him to just the right place at just the right moment in order to save his whole family.
Joseph is saying, “Though your motives were bad, God’s motives were good.” Though it took years and years for God’s purposes to be clear, in the end Joseph saw the hand of God behind everything that had happened to him.
Think about the implications of that statement:
At just the right moment Joseph’s brothers threw him into the cistern.
At just the right moment the Midianites came along.
At just the right moment he was sold to Potiphar.
At just the right moment Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him.
At just the right moment he met the baker and the cupbearer.
At just the right moment the cupbearer remembered Joseph.
At just the right moment Pharaoh called for him.
At just the right moment he was promoted to Prime Minister.
At just the right moment Jacob sent his sons to
At just the right moment the brothers met Joseph.
At just the right moment Jacob’s family moved to
At just the right moment Pharaoh offered them the
. of land Goshen
At just the right moment they settled there and prospered.
All of this happened at “just the right moment” and in “just the right way” so that the right people would be in the right place so that in the end everything would come out the way God had ordained in the beginning. God never violated anyone’s free will, yet everything happened as he had planned. That’s the providence of God in action.
At just the right time Joseph was thrown into prison.
Think of the “minutiae of providence.” If we look with the eyes of faith, we can see God’s fingerprints everywhere.
Here’s a mighty question from Joseph’s life,
“Can you trust God with the details of your life?”
But that’s not quite the right question. We need to change one word.
Not “Can you?” but “Will you?”
“Will you trust God with the details of your life?”
There’s another way to say this. Either you run the universe or he does. A lot of people try to run the universe, but it never works out. Or you and I can bow before the Lord and say, “You are in charge… I’m not. I will trust you with every detail of my life.”
If you’ve been around for a while, you can look back and see how God has likewise lead you with his gracious beneficence. I know I can.
He Maketh No Mistake
In the 1920s a young man named A. M. Overton became the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Baldwyn, Mississippi. Baldwyn is a small community in north
on the road between Mississippi and Tupelo .. In 1932 Mrs.
Overton was pregnant with their fourth child, but when it came time for
delivery there were complications and both she and the baby died. During the
funeral, the preacher officiating at the service noticed Pastor Overton writing
something on a piece of paper. After the service the minister asked him about
it, and he handed him the paper with a poem he had just written. The poem was
unknown for many years until someone set it to music. It eventually went around
the world. Corinth
The poem is called “He Maketh No Mistake.”
My Father’s way may twist and turn
My heart may throb and ache,
But in my soul I’m glad to know,
He maketh no mistake.
My cherished plans may go astray,
My hopes may fade away,
But still I’ll trust my Lord to lead,
For He doth know the way.
Tho’ night be dark and it may seem
That day will never break,
I’ll pin my faith, my all, in Him,
He maketh no mistake.
There’s so much now I cannot see,
My eyesight’s far too dim,
But come what may,
I’ll simply trust and leave it all to Him.
For by and by the mist will lift,
And plain it all He’ll make,
Through all the way, tho’ dark to me,
He made not one mistake.
That will be the testimony of every child of God. When we finally get to heaven, we’ll look back over the pathway of life and see that through all the twists and turns and seeming detours that he was with us all the way.
Until that morning comes and the sunlight of God’s presence fills our faces, we move on through the twilight still believing that though life is often hard, God is good. In the end we will say with all the children of God as we look back on our earthly pilgrimage, “He made not one mistake.”
Fear not! We have a great God!
There is more to this intriguing story but we will have to wait until we get to heaven.
Joseph, the man who saw God everywhere will tell us the rest of the story in his own words.