How Providence Nurtures Faith
by James Harvey
God’s providence is a great comfort. The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines it this way: “God’s works of providence are, his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures and all their actions” (Q&A 11).
God’s providence includes His fatherly care for His children. Very few believers would say that their life has unfolded according to (their) plan. The hard relationships, bouts with illness, and periodic trials in the church are always unwelcome guests when they appear. But the doctrine of providence assures us that such difficulties don’t fall outside divine design. Providence doesn’t remove our pain, but it can nurture our hope and encourage us to walk in dependence upon Christ. We know that God is working all things for our good and His glory (Rom. 8:28). Specifically, trusting in God’s fatherly care nurtures faith to obey, forgive, and be generous in the midst of trials.
Obedience can be challenged in the best seasons of life, but in hardship the flesh can rise up with renewed vigor. Real choices challenge faith: “If I remain pure in this relationship, will I lose them and be lonely forever?” “If I am obedient in this matter, will I lose my job?” When we face questions like these, we can be sure that our Father in heaven is superintending all things for our good. Short-term hardship may come with our obedience to Christ, but long-term blessing will be sure to follow us into eternity.
Forgiveness is rarely easy. Wounds of the soul are hard to bear, and the Christian will incur many wounds over the course of his life. But forgiveness is the mark of the Christian. We forgive our debtors because God has forgiven us. And yet, at times we object: “They are getting off too easy!” “I can’t just let this go!” God’s providence reminds us that no matter how great the evil against us was, it is not able to undo the sovereign purposes that God has for us. God is in control, not the offender. Indeed, to fail to forgive is to bind oneself to an offender through the yoke of bitterness. Providence never justifies evil; it reminds us that evil will not preclude God’s purposes from being realized in our lives.
Generosity is the way of the Christian life. We know that what we have is not our own but belongs to God. He has given it that we might support ministry and bless others. But trials often have financial implications. We may wonder if we should seek to be generous toward God and others in lean seasons. The doctrine of providence reminds us that God our Father is sovereign over our future. He has appointed not only the works to be done, but the means by which to do them. We live by faith and not by sight. If we need to make financial adjustments, they should be made from a spirit of confidence, not fear. Such confidence will often lead us to give in faith and trust that God will provide in unseen ways.
Regardless of what you are facing today, remember that your holy, wise, and powerful Father in heaven cares for you. Let your faith be nurtured by the knowledge of His providence.