Posted on Jan 03, 2018 by Mike LeDuke
Have you ever asked someone how they were doing and received the response: “I’m blessed”?
Perhaps you’ve said something similar yourself.
Or, have you ever referred to something that you have––maybe your house, or your car, or your job––as a blessing?
In cultivating a spirit of gratefulness, we sometimes use this type of language. And gratefulness is crucial and laudable. But at the same time, have you ever stopped to think a bit deeper about the idea of being blessed and something being a blessing?
How do you know if some material good that you have is a blessing? What if that good job or that fancy car isn’t actually a blessing but a test from God––trying you to see if you’ll take the promotion that will take you further away from your family or your faith, or trying you to see if you’ll drive faster than you’ll ought to. In some circumstances, these things can be blessings. But in others, they could also be trials.
How is one to tell the difference?
Really, this is just a little aspect of a much larger topic––that of providence, or the way that God works in our lives. How is it that He provides for us and how is it that He works? Is He active in everything, or just the big things? And, how can we tell if something is a blessing or a trial?
As we start a new series of posts together, we will attempt to consider the topic of God’s providence––specifically in the lives of believers. In doing so, we’ll discuss the questions mentioned above, and also see how understanding God’s hand helps us to really follow the Lord Jesus in the way that we think and the way that we act.
To begin, perhaps one of the most foundational pieces of all of this is the way in which God describes Himself to us. Throughout Scripture, there are numerous titles for God. He is called a judge (Psalm 75:7), a king (Psalm 44:4), and a creator (Isaiah 40:28). He is the great ”I will be who I will be” (Exodus 3:14). But at the same time, when Christ’s disciples asked him to teach them how to pray, he focused their minds on one specific title:
“And he said to them, ‘When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name’” (Luke 11:2).
When the disciples were to approach God, it was indeed Biblical for them to approach Him as a judge, or a king, or a creator. But the example of the Lord Jesus was that they were first and foremost to approach Him as a Father.
Over and over the Lord sought to shape this paradigm within his followers. In the sermon on the mount alone, Christ referred to God as your Father fifteen times (Matthew 5:16, 45, 48, 6:1, 4, 6, 8, 14, 15, 18 2x, 26, 32, 7:11, 21)!
God works as a Father in the lives of those who follow Him. Therefore Scripture describes Him as a shield (Psalm 18:30), a refuge (Psalm 46:1), a hiding place (Psalm 32:7), a stronghold and a deliverer (Psalm 144:2), and a rock (Isaiah 26:4). Because that is a Father’s relationship with His children.
Perhaps it might not be readily apparent how this relates to God’s providence. However, it’s a crucial element as we begin this journey––because understanding how He relates to believers is key to understanding how we interpret the things that happen to us, and primarily how we understand when and how He is working.
Because if He is a Father to His followers, then how are we to understand when tragedy strikes? Was that a time when God’s hand was absent? Or perhaps it was a time in which God inflicted punishment?
Lord willing, we’ll consider God’s hand and tragedy in the lives of the believers in our next post.