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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Title:Christians are in good hands with God their Father
Text:LD 10 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Providence

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 100

Psalm 67

Hymn 55

Hymn 1

Psalm 34:1,7,8,9

Scripture readings:  Job 1, Romans 8:28-39

Catechism lesson:  Lord's Day 1

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of Christ Jesus,

The whole Bible is a feast for the soul.  So said Ambrose, a fourth-century church father.  And at this feast, we find all sorts of dishes, including the delicious dish presented to us in Lord’s Day 10.  The biblical teaching of God’s providence is comfort food for hungry pilgrims.  As we make our way through this broken world which is not our home, God provides spiritual food to strengthen us, encourage us and lead us onward.  This food is sweet and feasting on it makes us realize we’re not alone on our pilgrimage.  God is with us.  And in fact, not only are we not alone, we’re also upheld by our Father’s hand.  And so this afternoon, we’re considering the biblical doctrine of God’s providence.  We’ll see how Christian pilgrims are in good hands with God their Father

We’ll consider what this means for our:

  1. Past
  2. Present
  3. Future

It’s fair to say many of us are given to reminiscing about the past.  We often think about years gone by and things that happened, good and bad.  Perhaps you lie in bed at night and memories come rushing back at you.  Perhaps there are memories you cherish.  Perhaps there are memories you wish you could forget.  And maybe there are just some memories that are just there. 

In any case, what we do with those memories has a lot to do with what we confess in Lord’s Day 10.  This is especially the case with the memories we wish we could forget.  As we reflect on things we said and did, or things that others said and did, things that happened, we need to remember who our God is and what he was doing in the midst of all that.  We confess from the Scriptures that he was there and he was actively involved. 

In Answer 27, we say that when we speak about God’s providence, we understand that to mean “his almighty and ever present power.”  Note those words “ever present.”  Those words point us not only to the present, but also to the past.  God is God and his power does not change.  So when he upholds heaven and earth and all creatures today, we also know he did the same thing 20, 30, or 40 years ago.  He has always done so.  When we confess that he governs everything so that nothing comes by chance, we confess that for today, but also for the past.  God did not start being God yesterday.  Moreover, he did not start being your Father yesterday.  In other words, he has always been exercising his power in love for you.  His fatherly hand has always been at work in your life.     

We find that truth clearly taught in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose…” [Repeat].  When we think about the past, these words are extremely precious.  In everything that has happened in the past, God was working for your good.  Even the most terrible things you wish you could forget.  Even those things which you thought were the work of the devil.  God was working with those things to bring good to you some day.  Maybe the good hasn’t come yet.  Perhaps it will be some time before it does and when it does come maybe you won’t even realize it.  But God has given his promise.  He was not sleeping when those bad things happened in the past.  God doesn’t take coffee breaks.  He will take all things that happened in your past, good and bad, and make them good for you, somehow, someday.  He promises that behind every frowning providence he hides a smiling face.  Brothers and sisters, you must trust his promise and believe him.  Because of Christ and what he has done for you, God is your Father and he loves you.

So today when we reflect on the past, how do we do that?  We can take our cue from Answer 28, “We can be patient in adversity, thankful in prosperity.”  When we don’t understand why something happened, our tendency is to be impatient.  We’re impatient with God because he hasn’t told us why.  We want an answer and we want it now!  And this is especially true when it comes to the adversities we’ve faced in the past.  When this is us, we need to pay attention to those passages of Scripture which teach us to wait on God.  For instance, in Psalm 38, David is being chastised by God and he cries out to him, but God gives him no answer.  Then in verse 15 he says, “I wait for you, O LORD, you will answer, O LORD my God.”  He will wait on God.  That’s another way of saying that David will be patient until the answer comes.  The answer might be the full explanation we might want.  But the answer might also be our Father’s gentle admonition to one of his children, “You will have to just trust me.  If I loved you enough to send my Son to die for you, you can trust me on this.  Look at the cross and you know you can trust me.  Look at the cross of Christ and you see how I can bring the greatest good from the most horrific suffering.  I did that for you.  Trust with me this too.”    

And when there have been good times in our past, we can be thankful.  “Thankful in prosperity.”  In Deuteronomy 8:10, we hear Moses speaking to the people of God, “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD for the good land he has given you.”  Here the people look back at what God did for them in giving them the Promised Land and they praise him and thank him for that.  So it is to be with God’s people today as well.  When we look back over the years and we see clear evidences of the good that God has done for us, naturally we thank him.  Keeping that in mind, you can hardly imagine a Christian birthday, wedding or anniversary celebration that doesn’t explicitly thank and praise God for blessings received.  Thankfulness in prosperity is just part of what we’re all about as God’s people and that also refers to the prosperity we’ve been given in the past.

So as we look back over our pilgrimage in years gone by, we need to see we’ve been in good hands.  God the Father has been there sustaining us and carrying us along, even though sometimes the picture has not always been clear to us.  The picture may not be clear, but his promise certainly is.  You see the problem is not that God was not there, the problem is that we have a hard time believing the promise that he was.  So we pray, we pray for more grace and that God would help our unbelief so that we do believe and embrace the beautiful promise that he has been our help in ages past. 

A few moments ago, we read that well-known passage from Job 1.  You were reminded of how God allowed Satan to take everything away from Job.  We also saw that God had been at work in Job’s life.  Verse 1 tells us right away, “That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.”  Job was a believer who lived in God’s ways.  So God was not out to destroy Job for his sins.  God was not disciplining him for something he’d done wrong.  But nevertheless God allowed Satan to take everything away from Job.  God was in control of what happened there.  And he knew that all that happened to Job would ultimately be good for him.  It would help Job to see God’s power.  Job’s faith in God would become stronger through these trials.  So Job’s sons and daughters were taken away from him.  All his animals were taken away and nearly all his servants were killed.  Job was now a poor, lonely man.  All he had left was a foolish-talking wife and three so-called friends. 

Now if Job’s story had happened today, a lot of people would look at it, and say, “Poor guy, look at all his bad luck.  It was just one thing after another for poor Job.  Hopefully his luck will turn around soon.”  But is that what Job said?  No!  Instead, we hear him saying in verse 21, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked shall I return.  The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”  Job knew that God was in control.  In his present misery, Job could even praise God.  Job knew that there was no such thing as bad luck.  Instead, there is a sovereign God who actively upholds heaven and earth and all creatures and so governs that all things “come to us not by chance but by his Fatherly hand.”

Do you see where we’re going with this?  As we journey through this world, we recognize that this is our Father’s world.  He is the sovereign God and he will not tolerate any competition, even from things that don’t even really exist.  He doesn’t tolerate competition from idols – and we all know that idols are not real, at least not in their power to do anything good.  He also doesn’t tolerate competition from luck or chance – things that are also not real.  They’re only real in people’s minds.   

So as those who believe in “God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth,” we simply don’t talk about luck or chance.  God is sovereignly in control of everything, even the mundane like the roll of a dice in a game, or the shot that hit the cross bar.   He is sovereign.  Why do we sometimes talk as if he isn’t?  We do that when we use words like “luck.”  If we use that word, we may not mean to, but we’re giving credence to the existence of such a thing.  Then we’re saying, even if we don’t mean to, that God is not in control.  He is not sovereign.  I’m sure we don’t want to say that.  So rather than talking about luck and chance, as Christian confessors, we explicitly speak about God’s work in our lives, even with the mundane like the hairs on our head and those tiny birds flitting around outside.  And in doing this, we more and more bring glory to our sovereign Father in heaven.   We want to be a missional, outward looking people, don’t we?  Well then, in how we speak let’s always be clear that the Creator is in control.  As Proverbs says, “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”  By doing that we help people see that he is the great God of heaven and earth, who not only made everything in the past, but keeps it all going today as well.  Today, in the present, we need to believe that and then also talk and act as those who believe it.  And God will use that to bring more people to himself. 

The sovereignty and providence of God is a precious teaching of Scripture and we should guard it carefully.  Sadly, there are several popular Christian writers who would rob you of this doctrine.  Today there is a popular false teaching called open theism.  Open theism is acknowledged by those who hold it to be the logical and consistent conclusion to Arminianism.  Basically, open theism teaches that God is not sovereign, rather he makes room for man’s free will.  In his essential being, God reacts and changes according to what man does.  According to open theism, God does not know anything about the future and God does not ordain all that happens.  When we get surprised by something that happens in this coming week, God will be surprised too.  He won’t see it coming any more than we will.  Consequently, people who hold to this view often talk or write about God taking risks.  Anytime someone says that God is taking a risk, you know you’re dealing with someone who holds to this false teaching of open theism or has been influenced by it.  There is much more to this teaching, but those are the important points.  Open theism represents the rejection of what we confess in Lord’s Day 10. 

The doctrine we confess in Lord’s Day 10 is biblical and for that reason alone, we need to guard it and cherish it.  And not only is it biblical, it’s also given to us as good news.  After all, what comfort is there in believing that God is subject to luck, chance or so-called human freedom?  Where is the good news with a weak and emasculated God?   What’s so great about a God who loves you but has no power to help?  What comfort is there in believing that God depends on anyone or anything else?  Really, what comfort is there in believing what is not true?  But there is comfort, for yesterday and today, when we believe that the sovereign God is there, he does care and he is in control.  That’s comfort for yesterday and today, but also for the future…         

As believers, we don’t have a guarantee of life on easy street.  As those who believe in Christ, sometimes we will have hard times.  This is taught in numerous places in Scripture, but perhaps nowhere more clearly than in James 1.  In the second verse, James already speaks of this when he writes, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…”  Trials are by definition hard times.  James points out that believers will face these in the future and when we do, there’s a certain kind of attitude we need to adopt.  It’s the attitude of Christ himself as he journeyed through this vale of tears.  As Christ travelled through the valley of the shadow of death, as he suffered through his whole life, he counted it all joy.  Not only that, but he also was patient and endured what God brought his way, knowing it would be for good.

As believers, we’re called to bear our crosses as the Saviour did his.  Think of Romans 8:17 which tells us we are co-heirs with Christ, “if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”  As we face adversity in this life, Christ will dwell in us through his Spirit and conform us to his image.  That includes sufferings, learning patience through trials and tests.  James 1:3, says that “you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness [or patience].”  So, as we look to the future, we pray for God to develop in us steadfastness and patience for the trials we’ll face.  We pray that with the firm hope that going through these trials, one day we will share in the fulness of Christ’s glory.

We also pray for God to develop thankfulness in us when he brings prosperity across our path.  When we have prosperous times, we can’t begin to think we did it for ourselves, that we have a right to be proud of ourselves.  That would be a worldly approach.  As those in Christ, we’ll be wanting to focus all our attention on God and his glory, giving credit where credit is due.    As Paul says in 2 Cor. 10:17 and elsewhere, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”  In our future, there is no room for glorying in human achievement, only room for more praise to be given to the sovereign God of grace and power.  And that’s why Paul also tells the Thessalonians in 1 Thess. 5:18 to give thanks always.  Even in bad times, but especially in the good times, we should be praying to God and thanking him.  So, brothers and sisters, as you look ahead to the future and all it brings, remind yourself to always thank God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. 

Last of all, we can also know and believe for the future that because of Christ, God is our Father.  And because of Christ and what he did, God will not stop being our Father.  Again, savour those beautiful words of Romans 8:38-39, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Absolutely nothing can separate you from your sovereign loving Father!  Nothing!  That is God’s promise to you for the future.  You can take that promise to the bank.  You can know that God will never break it, he didn’t yesterday, he will not today, and certainly will not tomorrow!  AMEN.           


Yahweh, Sovereign Lord God,

We praise you as the God who upholds and governs all things by your providence.  We praise you for the fact that you have always been our faithful Father, you still are today, and always will be.  We thank you for the great love you have shown to us.  We praise you as the God who knows our days inside out and backwards.  We ask you to protect your people from those who would steal these truths from us.  Please give us more grace and help us to believe the promises of your Word for our past, present and future.  Help us with your Spirit to be assured that you work for good in all things for us.  Help us to believe the promise of your Word that nothing will ever separate us from your love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord.    

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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