The providence of God

 

Occasionally, the unexpected happens. Recently, I decided to pick up some groceries at my neighborhood supermarket after work. I wondered,  “Would they have fresh avocados?” After my uneventful transaction with the cashier, I smiled and bid them goodnight, and headed for the store exit. But as I neared the door, I did a double take–walking into the store at that moment was the bass player from a world-famous rock band that I had followed as a teenager! The particular band he plays in, I happen to know, is still famous and tours the world regularly.

I walked up to him, shook his hand, and chatted with him for a couple of minutes before turning him loose to buy his groceries. Even rock stars need to eat, I thought. Wishing him a good evening, I couldn’t help but wonder why the Lord had arranged such an unexpected meeting. As I drove home, I found myself praying for him and his bandmates. Will I see him in heaven one day? I asked the Lord. I don’t know and the Lord didn’t say but I believe my meeting with him was no mere coincidence.

The Bible teaches that God often works unexpectedly in our lives and, while He occasionally does the truly miraculous, He also seems to work seamlessly in and through our circumstances to bring about His will. God often uses happenstances to build our faith in Him and accomplish His purposes in ways we never dreamed.

One way God develops our faith through the unexpected is by meeting a need we have at exactly the right time and in the right way. In 2 Kings 8:1-6, there is a rather interesting account of a Shunemite woman who was warned by the prophet Elisha to leave her home because of a coming famine that would last seven years.  At the end of the famine, the king of Israel was speaking with Gehazi, Elisha’s assistant, and enquiring into all the great things Elisha had done during his Life . As Gehazi was speaking, this particular woman just happened to come before the king in hopes of regaining the rights to her former property. Gehazi pointed her out to the king and informed him that Elisha had earlier prayed for the miraculous raising of her dead son back to life (see 2 Kings 4:8ff.). Hearing this, the king restored her fortune that very day! What this woman thought was an ordinary day was used by God to provide for her needs beyond what she had probably even hoped.

Another way God works through the unexpected is when He provides opportunities to share the gospel with others according to our gifts and talents. In Acts 3:1-10, Peter and John were making their way through a throng of people when they just happened to come upon a man who had been lame since birth, begging for alms. In their culture, the lame, blind, and deaf depended almost exclusively on the generosity of friends and family, if they had any, or on strangers who happened to take pity on them. Looking at Peter and John, this man reached out his hand, hoping to receive a little money. Looking back at him, Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have, I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (NIV, vs. 6). That very instant, his legs were restored to health and he walked away, praising God (vs. 7-8). The beggar’s life was forever changed by a seemingly random meeting on the street when he not only regained the use of his legs, but also met two of Jesus’ apostles who shared the truth of Christ with him.

Finally, God often works through the unexpected by turning what appears to be a desperate situation into one in which He is glorified. The apostle Paul was sailing across the sea on a missionary journey. His voyage, however, came to an abrupt halt when their ship ran aground near the island of Malta. The natives were surprisingly hospitable and built a fire for the stranded men. As Paul was gathering firewood, a poisonous snake just happened to come out of the kindling and bit him on the arm. Expecting Paul to die, the others waited for the inevitable, but God protected him and it is recorded that Paul simply shook the snake off into the fire and continued as if he had never been bitten. Just a few days later, Paul’s group just happened to meet the governor of Malta and receive a warm welcome from him. In what appeared to be desperate circumstances, God worked out every detail of Paul’s situation to allow the gospel message to be spread into this area of the world.

These are just a few of the many examples of God turning an unexpected situation into one in which He was glorified and the needs of His people were provided for. God is in the business of working faithfully through our circumstances to bring about His will and our good. We experience God’s faithfulness as we remain ever watchful in prayer and ever attentive and obedient to the principles taught in the Bible. In my own case, who knows, maybe I’ll even share the gospel with another rock star one day, or perhaps, just find some more fresh avocados!

Allen can be reached at [email protected]


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