“God's Providence; Man's Hope”
God’s Providence, Man’s Hope
by Jeff Curtis
It’s tragic to lost hope. We have been with people when they lost hope that their health would improve, that a loved one would recover, that a mate would return. We have seen their shoulders slump, their faces sag, their eyes glaze over. When hope is all that keeps us going, it is devastating to conclude “There is nothing to hope for” (Job 6:11).
At one time, Paul had hoped to go to Rome (Acts 19:21; Romans 15:22-29), but that hope had been crushed. A few days after his arrival in Jerusalem, he had been attacked and then arrested. Now he was imprisoned, and the Jews continued to plot his death. It looked like a hopeless situation: If he stayed in prison, he had no ministry; If he were released, he would certainly be killed. His hope of reaching Rome was all but dead.
In Acts 23, we find the rebirth of Paul’s hope. He received reassurance that the Lord was in control of his life and that he would bear witness to Christ in Rome (v.11). A consideration of God’s providence in our lives will without a doubt enhance our hope as well. G.C. Brewer, a well-known gospel preacher from the past, was once asked, “Do you believe in the special providence of God?” He answered, “What other kind is there?”
Providence is God working through natural law rather than through the suspension of natural law, that is, through miracles. Someone has called providence “God’s hand in the glove of history.” In the story of Paul’s last visit to Jerusalem, we see God’s providence at work again and again. Was it merely coincidence that a Roman commander was immediately at hand to when Paul was mobbed in the temple court? Was it “lucky” that Paul escaped the Roman scourging because he was a Roman citizen? Did it “just happen” that the commander was a conscientious official who respected Paul’s rights as a citizen? Was it by chance that Paul’s nephew overheard the plot on his uncle’s life? No, our God is in control.
When we teach today that God doesn’t work miraculously today, we are often limiting God. However, those who believe that God can’t work unless He works through a miracle are the ones who limit God. Acts 23:12-35 doesn’t mention God once, nor does any miracle occur. However, the hand of God is apparent in all that takes place.
The fact that God is in control helped Paul keep his hope alive. Augustine said, “Trust the past to the mercy of God, the present to His love, and future to His providence.” From day to day, we may not be able to tell that God is at work in our lives, but we can rest assured that He is. Ed Wharton noted, “God’s providence in our lives is a book which like some languages can only be read backwards, and then only by Bible believers.” No what happens, trust in Him. Learn to say with the Psalmist, “You are my hope; O Lord God, You are my confidence…” (Psalm 71:5).
When night is the darkest and hope has almost vanished, the Lord can rekindle our hope. No, the Lord will not come to us in a vision with a promise that every dream will be realized. However, He gives us a message of courage, commendation, and confidence: His message of courage is “Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage…” (Psalm 27:14). His message of commendation is “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21; KJV). His message of confidence is “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1John 5:14). Maybe not everything in our lives is right, but this is right: God loves us and cares for us and will cause all things in our lives “to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).