I've been giving a lot of thought these days to the subject of God's will. While engaged in a study of that issue recently, I came across a term we rarely use or read these days: providence.
The root meaning of providence is "foresight...to see in advance" or "to provide for." But those definitions could leave us with too shallow an understanding. Providence contains far more than a passive reference to God's foreknowledge.
Back in the 17th century, the Westminster divines hammered out a much more thorough statement: "God, the great Creator of all things, doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things from the greatest event to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness and mercy."
Make no mistake about it, "He's got the whole world in His hands." From the greatest to the least, nothing is beyond the scope of His sovereign power and providential care. He makes the rain fall, the sun shine, the stars twinkle—in this and all other galaxies. He raises up people and kingdoms and He brings down both. He numbers the hairs on our heads and determines the days of our lives. In doing so, He weaves everything together into His design. Ultimately, the tapestry of His handiwork will be something to behold!
"But wait," I hear someone say, "don't you and I possess a will? We're not robots, are we?" R. C. Sproul addresses this well in Essential Truths of the Christian Faith: "We are creatures with a will of our own. We make things happen. Yet the casual power we exert is secondary. God's providence stands over and above our actions. He works out His will through the actions of human wills, without violating the freedom of those human wills."
God's redemptive providence is always at work, even through the most diabolical schemes and actions. Classic illustration? The betrayal of Jesus Christ by Judas. Strange as it may seem, Judas's worst act of wickedness helped to bring about the best thing that ever happened: the Atonement.
So, take heart, my friend. God is in full control. Nothing is happening on earth that brings a surprise to heaven. Nothing is outside the scope of His divine radar screen as He guides us safely home. Things that seem altogether confusing, without reason, unfair, even wrong, do indeed fit into the Father's providential plan.
Nothing touches us that has not first passed through His hands.
Excerpted from Day by Day with Charles Swindoll, Copyright © 2000 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. (Thomas Nelson Publishers). All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.