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Bible study: The comfort of God’s providence

God’s providence means that everything happens according to God’s design (even permitting evil to work for the good of his people). It also refers to what God actually does in time. Most often we think of this last item when considering God’s providence over creation. This is where some run into questions when it comes to the evil that exists in the world.

What two questions would you ask God about the presence of evil in the world?

Read Genesis 50:20; Exodus 14:19,20; Psalm 5:4-6; Matthew 10:29-31; Acts 17:28; and 2 Thessalonians 1:6.

How do these passages help answer the questions you developed above? In general, the Genesis passage tells us that God can work through even the evil intent of others to bring about good. Exodus reminds us that God provides protection for his people. That care is detailed and complete as the Matthew passage reminds us. Everything depends on God’s care. But while the Lord continues to preserve this world, the Psalm passage tells us he does not participate in the evil that humanity inflicts on others. In the midst of suffering the message of God’s love and forgiveness in Christ sometimes finds fertile ground and brings joy.

God’s preservation

There are three points of great comfort when considering God’s care for his creation: God’s preservation, God’s cooperation, and God’s governance.

God’s preservation is the fact that God daily cares for and sustains his creation.

One Lutheran church father prayed, “We live not, Lord, on bread alone; Without your blessing, bread is stone.” This is similar to the thought we express in the table prayer, “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed.” Nothing blesses us except what God provides.

At times God’s preservation is referred to as “continuous creation.” Psalm 104 depicts creation and God’s continual preservation.

Read Psalm 104:10-30.

Pick out three things that God continues to do in order to bless you today.

God’s cooperation

God also cooperates with his creation, that is, he enables creation to function. The apostle Paul says, “In [Jesus] all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). Without God’s cooperation everything would fall apart. Molecules wouldn’t form, cells wouldn’t bond, and life would cease to exist.

God cooperates with his creation according to the laws of nature he established. It is important to note that God cooperates with every action materially, that is, he does not generally suspend the laws of nature if a person is doing something evil. However, God does not cooperate with evil morally, that is, he is not responsible for someone’s evil intentions.

Considering the passages from the first section, what comforting truths can you share with the victim of an evil act?

God’s governance

Finally, God governs his creation. He directs the affairs of creation to carry out his will. God governs everything so that in the end, his people will be resurrected to live with him forever in a new heaven and a new earth. Since the fall into sin, our world is subject to corruption, but our world—and everything in it—still serves God’s purpose!

Read Genesis 1:26; Psalm 24:1; and Romans 8:18-21.

In a balanced way, answer someone who says, “Mankind is ruining the earth.” The Lord gave humanity a world in which to live and thrive. All that is under his control, but he asks us to be good stewards of our planet and all the blessings he gives us, including our health, family, friends, and all that he has allows us to manage. We manage it to the extent we can control things, but there are things we cannot control either individually or together. Sadly, the record of humanity’s care of earth, and even our own bodies and lives, is marred by greed, selfishness, and thoughtlessness.

Author: David Scharf
Volume 108, Number 12
Issue: December 2021

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This entry is part 21 of 63 in the series bible-study

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