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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
Preached At:Lynwood United Reformed Church
 Lynwood, IL
Title:In God's Hand
Text:LD 10 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Amazing Purpose

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Also read: Psalm 147
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, this morning we are faced with the question, what is providence? What do we understand by the providence of God? Over the years, I have asked that very question to any number of catechumens. I've asked that question to young people who come before the Council to be interviewed for profession of faith.

As a Pastor, I have had ample opportunity to see how the families of Christ's church understand and apply this doctrine in their day to day life, as we face hardships, sickness, temptation, death, and any other number of unexpected trials and tribulations. Whether we realize it or not, we define, we express what we understand about God's providence everyday.

Of course, the church's historic and time honored definition of providence is that it is the almighty and ever-present power of God by which He upholds and governs all things according to His wise and gracious plan. As pastors, elders and parents we are filled with joy when we hear our young people answer that question with this kind of exactness and precision.

But the greater question is this, can our children, can our young people, can we adults identify and embrace the comfort, the Gospel that is found within that answer? That's the real question, the real challenge, the greater issue that lies before us this day and every day.

The problem is, the real comfort, the real answer to the question of God's providence can get easily overlooked or lost in all the precision and exactness of our answer. What is God's Providence? Does our comfort lie in the fact that God upholds and governs? Is that it? Is our comfort derived from the fact that a supreme being exercises dominion over heaven and earth and all creatures therein? Is that the key to understanding God's Providence?

No. For that 'supreme being' could easily be a ruthless tyrant. That's not providence. What is God's Providence? Is it the belief that there's no such thing as luck or chance; that all things happen for a purpose? We're getting warmer, but that still falls short. Many unbelievers would agree that there is a rhyme and reason to everything in our universe (not chance or luck).

So, what really is providence? Beloved, providence is the belief that God upholds and rules all things so that nothing comes to us not by chance, but by His Fatherly Hand. Did you hear that? That's not a theological statement. Young people, that's not just an answer to memorize. That's mercy. That's grace. That's the Gospel! That's the cross and the grave and Easter morning.

Providence is rooted in the fact that for Christ, our dear Savior's sake, God is our faithful Father, and as our Father, He always thinks of us! This means that providence is completely and entirely personal. It's the belief that whatever God does in our world, whatever God does in our lives, He always does for us'for the sake of us, His children, whom He holds in His Hand.

That's the real meaning of God's Providence, and that's the heart of what we confess in Lord's Day 10. God the Father Almighty controls all things for the sake of His children.

1) (Q & A 27) The Father's Comprehensive Care;
2) (Q & A 28) The Children's Loving Response.

1) The Father's Comprehensive Care

People of God, the catechism's discussion of God's Providence actually began back in Lord's Day 9, in A. 26. Right there in the second phrase of that first paragraph it says that God still upholds and rules them (heaven and earth) by his eternal counsel and providence.

We have to understand, though, that God's eternal counsel and God's providence are not one and the same thing. God's eternal counsel refers to His intentions from eternity. It is God's divine design, His all-inclusive plan, His pre-determined purpose for all of creation.

While God's providence, on the other hand, actually refers to God's execution of His perfect plan. God's providence is the means and the method whereby He carries out His eternal plan and intentions.

Think for example, of the relationship that exists between an architect and an actual contractor who builds a home. Boys and girls, the architect is the one who makes up the design, the drawing of a house. The architect draws that house exactly how it's supposed to look. He measures, and calculates, and draws the exact height and the depth and length and width of the walls, ceilings, floors, roof, down to the smallest detail. Nothing is left to chance.

The contractor, on the other hand, is the one in charge of making sure that the design, the blueprint is closely followed. He is the one who executes the building plan, who brings to fruition all that the architect dew up.

Now, when we talk about God's eternal counsel and providence, we must remember that God is both architect and builder. As the Eternal Architect, we know that God has already drawn-up the history of the world from beginning to end. And as the Master Builder, we know that God, by His providence, will perfectly and meticulously carry out His plan step by step.

Let's look now at LD 10 q. and a. 27: What do you understand by the Providence of God? Let's just consider the first part of that answer a moment. Providence is the almighty and ever present power of God. Notice, our attention is drawn to the activity of our almighty God, specifically to His power. Providence is the power of God to execute His plan.

That power is further defined as an almighty power. It is an unstoppable and unchangeable power. We can be confident that God's plan is going to be carried out in the world and in our lives, whether we like it or not, whether we approve of it or not, whether we're willing to go along with His plan or not. God's power is irresistible.

Providence is also defined as an ever-present power of God. This means that God's providence is pervasive. It is evident in all creation and at all times in our lives. It is an ongoing activity. We don't speak of God's providence only when we have a close brush with disaster or death or when we or our children narrowly escape serious injury in an accident.

We don't speak of providence only when our life takes an unexpected turn. It's true, those events might make us all the more aware of God's providence, but we have to realize that God's providence is part of our everyday life. God controls every minute of every day.

Notice too, as we look at this answer, how comprehensive it is. This answer ranges from the very general providence of God. God's power by which He upholds, as with His hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and it extends to the very specific providence of God, to God's power to rule them so that leaf and blade--not just a tree, but each individual leaf, and not just a meadow of grass but each individual blade of grass is under his care and control!

Going on there, we read rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty, all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but from his Fatherly hand! We're reminded of the very first question and answer of the Heidelberg catechism, where we confess that because we belong to Jesus Christ in life and in death, in body and in soul, not a hair can fall from our head without the will of our Father in heaven.

Just think of that a moment. Boys and girls, when was the last time you counted the hairs on your head? When was the last time you remember a hair falling out of your head? We don't keep track of such things right? The hairs on our head are too many to count, and when we're combing our hair, we don't take notice of the ones that fall out (at least when we're young).

But God's Word assures us that our Father's care is so comprehensive, so intimate, so personal, that He knows even that! Matthew 10:29-31: Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; are you not worth more than many sparrows?

Another comforting aspect of God's providence is that it extends over the universe, over all things, over every force and power of nature; it extends to far reaching galaxies that we cannot even see. God's providence extends to the deepest and darkest corners and crevices of the earth, to the deepest depths of the oceans. There is no place and no thing that is free of God's control.

Every now and then I hear the predictions of scientists and astronomers who believe that some time within the next 100 years the earth is due for a direct hit from a giant meteor. Their findings are based on laws of probability and by the so called 'close calls' earth has had in recent decades.

Scientist love to speculate saying, 'Who Knows? Right now, lurking out there in space maybe a million miles away there is a giant meteor tumbling out of control, and that meteor is on a collision course with earth. When it comes, it's going to cause global destruction and maybe even wipe out human life as we know it today.'

Thankfully, our knowledge and faith in God's providence guards us and keeps us from such senseless and baseless fears and speculations. We know that our Father is in control of His universe because He made it; He rules and governs it and upholds it. He does so for our sake and for the sake of His Kingdom. Nothing is out of His control.

Our world, our universe, our lives are literally in His Hand. For this reason, many theologians have referred to the doctrine of God's providence as the doctrine of God's hand. It's no coincidence that three times in LD 10 we find a reference to God's hand. It's no coincidence that in our Psalms and Hymns, we sing about God's Hand: All I have needed thy Hand hath provided; By His own hand He leadeth me; I am weak but thou art mighty, hold me with thy powerful hand. And even when we die, we will say just as Jesus did, Father into thy hand do I commend my spirit.

The real question for us is Do we truly trust what we confess here? Do we truly believe that our Father has us and all things in the palm of His hand? Beloved, do we believe that when God brings economic downturn, when God brings hunger or famine or drought, when God throws nations into political crisis or civil war or world war, do we believe that God is ever and always acting in our own best interest as our Father?

Do we believe that when it rains it is for our sake, when a star burns out, when the wind blows, when the disease or plague strikes our world, that God still has in mind the interests of His covenant children? Do you believe that? Do you believe that the sun shines, the earth rotates, the planets follow their courses, and that every joy or sorrow in life is all an evidence and indication of our Father's loving hand?

2. The Children's Loving Response.

We should beloved, for that is what it means to confess that God the Father Almighty controls all things for the sake of His children. So far we've considered our Father's Comprehensive Care. Secondly, we will consider the children's loving response.

Answer 27 asks us a very pragmatic question, namely, How does the knowledge of God's creation and providence help us? If we truly believe what God's Word says (that our lives are in our Father's hand), then in what ways will that knowledge impact us? How will that knowledge change the way we live and walk before the Lord?

Answer 27 states: We can be patient when things go against us, thankful when things go well, and for the future we can have good confidence in our faithful God and Father that nothing will separate us from His love. All creatures are so completely in His hand that without His will they can neither move nor be moved.

This answer prevents us from being so myopic in life (so near sighted) that we focus only on ourselves and on our troubles of the moment. It calls us to see life from a much broader perspective, a much wider spectrum than a day to day, hour by hour basis. God's Word calls us to see all of our life unfolding in the context of God's perfect plan.

Because of this wider perspective, because of this understanding of God's providence, the catechism says, we can be patient in when things go against us. We can endure it. But we have to rest assured that God is at work even in our troubles.

Yesterday afternoon I was listening to Moody radio, and I heard a riveting testimony of a young wife and mother (minister's daughter) who was diagnosed with a medical condition which caused to her lose her sight. She soon found herself trying to adjust to life as a blind wife and mother.

It was not too long after that when her husband experienced some medical problems of his own. He needed to have surgery on his sinuses, but when the doctors did a CAT scan, they discovered that he had a rare form of cancer in his sinuses that spread to his brain, and his right eye. But her husband sustained the necessary surgery and returned to his normal activities. However, within 7 months this woman's husband died.

Now this wife and mother who was stricken with blindness had to adjust to life as a widow. She said that in her hours of grief and sorrow, she frequently called to mind the comfort of Heidelberg Catechism LD 1, specifically the answer we read earlier, that not a hair can fall from our head without our father's will, yea all things must work together for my salvation.

She said that much to the surprise of others, in all of her ordeals, she never got angry at God or stopped to asked Why me? because she realized that she was no better than anyone else. Instead she asked, Why not me?

And in the strength of faith which the Lord provided, she began to see what the Lord was doing, how the Lord could use her life as a testimony, as a witness to others. With the help of a talking computer, she began to write about her trials, and soon she had composed an entire book. She was also sought out to speak at seminars and conventions.

Then one day at a class reunion, she met an old friend from high school who had never married. They got reacquainted, and a year later they got married. To this day she delights in the providence of God, even though God brought her many sorrows.

Yet she knew that in the sorrows of life, her life was in his hand. Beloved, that is just one example of how, out of the fire of trials and tribulations of life, the Lord can perfect and strengthen our faith, and bring us even greater joy and happiness than we never thought possible.

Do we believe that the Lord can do that for us? Do we believe that in the mist of our current circumstances? Are we patient in adversity, or are we like so many others who demand an explanation from God? Let's respond to the trials God brings us with loving obedience and humble submission.

The catechism adds that we are to be thankful in prosperity, thankful when things go well. We cannot gloss over this, because the fact is, it's just as difficult (if not more so) to be thankful in prosperity as it is to be patient in adversity! Human nature is such that when things are going well, we never give second thought to what God is doing in our life.

Yet, it's true that Satan's most effective weapon against Christ's church is complacency. Just look at OT Israel as an example, when things go so well for the church, we forget our God. The catechism warns against that. That's why it calls us to action, to show thankfulness; thankfulness is a call to arms; thankfulness is a call to praise God (Psalm 147: 1, 7, 12-14!).

And when we consider that God has not only blessed us and prospered us in the earthly realm, but that in the heavenly realm He has blessed us with every blessing in Christ, then we have no other choice, beloved, but to praise and extol the God of our Creation and salvation.

On a daily basis we ought to be bringing our prayers of thanksgiving before Him; our hearts and lips and mouths out to be overflowing with His praise, speaking of the good things our God has done for us; and our very lives ought to show the evidence and fruit of our gratitude by the works of obedience.

Finally beloved, the last part of A. 27 reads, And we can look to the future with good confidence in our faithful God and Father. Why? Because we know that absolutely nothing in all the earth is out of his divine control. Yet, people of God, there are many among us who are anxious and upset and lie awake for hours each night because we are worried about the future.

We even suffocate and paralyze ourselves with fear as we ponder the great 'What ifs' of life. We lie awake wondering what we will do if this happens or that happens. Yet, we have no control over anything, and most of what we worry about never comes to fruition anyway. That's why worrying is a form of unbelief; it's a breach of trust in our God who does control the future!

The truth is, beloved, God's Word promises us that even if we face the very worst that this world has to offer, even if we die, that cannot alter or change or hinder our future with God.

We belong to Jesus Christ in life and in death in body and in soul. As the Apostle Paul says in Romans 8, there is no power or creatures nor angels nor demons that can separate us from the love of God our Father that is in Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom 8:37-39).

Once again, brothers and sisters, this is what we're looking for in this answer. This is the grace; this is the mercy; this is the good news of the Gospel that is preached to us when we consider God's providence. We confess that for Christ's sake, God is our faithful and loving Father, who watches over us, who holds us in His all powerful Hand.

Does this knowledge help you Beloved? Does this knowledge comfort you? It should. It must. This is the Gospel and it gives shape and design and purpose to our lives, no matter what our circumstances may be.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2005, Pastor Keith Davis

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