What comfort does the doctrine of providence bring to Christians during difficult times?
MACARTHUR: I like to compare the doctrine of providence to miracles. A miracle is when God suspends natural law to do something outside of natural law, without natural law, and against the grain of natural law. A miracle is walking on water or raising dead people—whatever our Lord did. It suspends natural law, supernaturally invades time and space, and acts in a divine way that has no human explanation.
Providence, in my mind, is a greater miracle than a miracle because it is God accomplishing His own ends and His own purposes, not by suspending natural law, but by taking all the elements of natural law and blending them together in a masterful way so that He achieves His purpose but never interrupts the natural course of things. This is providence. It is not God suspending circumstances and acting, but taking all the contingencies, all the actors, all their activities, all their thoughts and words, and somehow pulling all of that together to create exactly what He wills to do. That is a far more massive miracle than just suspending natural law and acting.
I look at my life and see providence every day. I know you do as well, Chris, and I know R.C. did too. Every day of my life is a day full of providence, and it’s a different providence every day. It’s something that makes me think: “Wow, how did that happen? Whatever made those circumstances come together to bring it to this point?”
I think the most thrilling thing about the Christian life is providence—seeing it unfold day in and day out. If you’re in tune with the Lord and in tune with His Word, you’re really seeing it unfold and seeing God at work in ways that have no human explanation.
LARSON: Do you have some sense that maybe now is one of the most exciting times to be alive as a Christian?
MACARTHUR: Yes, for a number of reasons. Particularly, this flu issue is a reminder to people that they’re not in control. They are not in control of their life and they are not in control of their death. There are forces outside of them and inside of them that have powers that they can’t touch or interrupt. This is a perfect opportunity to speak to them about eternity, about eternal life, about the forgiveness of sin, about heaven, about hell, and about eternal punishment.
Anytime the culture’s fear level is elevated, this is when Christians want to stand up and be joyful, full of peace, full of faith, happy, thankful, grateful, anticipating that it would be far better to depart and be with Christ, but He wants us to stay so we can declare His glory among the nations and His wonders among all people. So yes, I think this is the elevated time for Christians to show their trust in the Lord and to take advantage of the opportunity to declare the gospel of salvation.
This is a transcript of John MacArthur’s answer from The Gospel, the Church, and This Present Crisis from our Made in the Image of God event and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, just visit Ask.Ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.