How Knowing that God Manages All Things Enriches Our Lives

How Knowing that God Manages All Things Enriches Our Lives

Today, I plunged into one of the primary documents on the doctrine of providence, namely Calvin’s,  Institutes of the Christian Religion.  Calvin wrote and revised the Institutes throughout his adult life.  The Institutes might be called today a “systemic theology,” because the two volume work is an attempt to expound as a coherent whole all of Christian faith.  The final edition, the one which I consulted, was published in 1559.

Calvin’s High View of God’s Providence

Calvin tackles providence in his first book under the general topic of “Knowledge of God the Creator.”  Calvin holds a high view of Providence, seeing God  directing and sustaining everything that God has created.  God invested the world with the qualities of goodness and beauty.  Now as God oversees the events in his world, he constantly is enhancing what he has made with these same qualities.

Calvin leaves no room for chance or fate or coincidence, or even natural law.  God did not establish the created order and then sit back and let it work out for itself where it would go.  Calvin sees God’s hand directing all happenings.  As expressed in Proverbs 8.29, Calvin lifts up the idea of God holding back the firmament above the earth and the waters beneath the earth in order for life to flourish in the space between.   The God who numbers the hairs on peoples’ heads sends each drop of rain to water the green ground of creation.

People are the Center of Creation and God’s Attention

I, Luc Viatour [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0
God’s directing and sustaining is particularly focused on people and even more particularly applicable to the church.  Accordingly, all of creation is purpose-filled as we would say.   There is no sense that everything was perfect by the sixth day of creation and has been running down ever since.  Disappointments and inexplicable evil notwithstanding, all things are heading, however inscrutable the path, towards a glorious end of God’s appointing.

What Difference Providence Makes

Calvin’s text is fairly easy to read.   In the second of the three chapters on God’s providence, he lays out the benefits that come to the believer in providence.  These, I found to be thrilling and well-worth pondering in our own situation that is ever-changing.

Since the purpose of this blog is to take great spiritual or biblical principles and see how they make everyday life different, I’ll close with the following:

Seven Ways God's Providence Enriches Our Lives

1
We can be reassured that everything belongs. Everything is important. Someone wisely said: “Everything that is is something to be adored.” Our daily lives are re-enchanted when we see God at work in every thing that happens. Devotional writer, Merlin Carothers insists that we praise God for all things simply because God manages all things. No one is a loser when God is creating with all events. No place is God-forsaken. No situation is a total loss.
2We can relax. Says Calvin: “When dense clouds darken the sky, and a violent tempest arises, because a gloomy mist is cast over our eyes, thunder strikes our ears and a gloomy mist is cast over our eyes, thunder strikes our ears and all our senses are benumbed with fright, everything seems to us to be confused and mixed up; all the while a constant quiet and serenity ever remain in heaven. Disturbances in the world deprive us of judgment, God out of the pure light of his justice and wisdom tempers and directs these very movements in the best-conceived order to a right end.”
3We can always ask, even in life's worst situations: “Where are you, Lord, in this mess?” The Separatist Puritans who settled the Massachusetts Bay Colony built their lives around their confidence in God’s providence. Curiously, they wrote down more of their own history than any other group of people. They kept detailed diaries, records, ship’s logs, spiritual notebooks, and lists of all sorts. The Puritans felt that they were continually meeting God in details of their daily tasks. Monday was every bit as holy as Sunday in Puritan New England. The details of life were worth recording and remembering.
4In misfortune, we need not despair. Calvin makes this point clearly. God manages events around people's best interest. The natural world,, is wrapped around humanity, as we’re taught in Genesis. Creation serves people as the stage on which we are sanctified. If a hard rain washes away a farmer’s field, that event, is not God’s care of the earth overriding the farmer’s well-being. That misfortune is to enlighten, humble, and incite to repentance the people involved, whom God loves.
5We can understand God's providence as a form of personal equipping when we are enjoying good fortune. Prosperity allows the disciple of Christ to be more generous, more free of worry, and serene in dealings with others.
6God’s providence directs our hopes to the future rather than the past. Homeowners know this principle. Their house is never finished. Likewise with God's direction of Creation. It was perfect and good as God finished the creations of all things. And, paradoxically, Creation is always under construction. It’s always becoming more good, true, and beautiful. To lose the sense of providence is to see the house as falling down. Mindful of God's management we see losses and brokenness in life as the temporary mess we endure when we're under construction. When we forget where God is guiding Creation, we’re in a defensive stance, carrying Grandmother’s furniture away from the termite infestation, cursing the loss of value, and avoiding expenditures. Pagan religion is essentially conservative in trying to preserve the ancestral glory. Biblical religion is essentially hopeful in striving for a new heaven and a new earth.
7We can bypass petty power struggles when we're confident that life is held in God's hand. We don't need to "punch down," which is to entangle ourselves in conflict over small matters. The biblical patriarch, Joseph, is reunited, at the end of Genesis, with his brothers who had betrayed him in their youth.. Now Joseph is tempted to exact some kind of retribution. But he refrains with these words: "Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today." (Genesis 50.20). If God watches over, preserves, and equips us for a great destiny, it makes little sense to expend energy in petty feuds and trivial causes.
How our lives are enriched when we realize that God manages all thing
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