(May 30, 1990)
For a couple of weeks a friend of mind kept silent about some mistreatment she was receiving from another person whose name happened to be Ms. Fox. My friend told me how God encouraged her through a sermon about “little foxes spoiling the vine...”
Just as I sat down to write this article, I thought, “I should get her permission (to say what I just said) before I begin.” At just that moment, the telephone rang and it was the same friend, calling to chat.
A few months ago, my brother and his wife took a vacation to the U.S. They stopped for a coffee at a service station in the Arizona desert. As they sat down, my sister-in-law’s father (also from Alberta) happened to walk in. Neither of them even knew the other was on vacation, never mind where.
An older lady, whose farm yard had the usual icy build-up all winter, fell and broke her hip -- but on a well-waxed community hall floor where there were literally hundreds of people immediately available to help her. Her husband said if she had slipped in their own driveway, he’d never have been able to get her inside out of the freezing temperatures by himself .
What do you think: coincidence... or providence? People use the term “coincidence” for events that seem to have some connection but appear to happen at the same time without any preliminary planning. Sometimes people call it “luck.” Providence is quite another term. It is less the idea of an accident and more the idea of “someone being in control.” The dictionary says “divine guidance or care,” with “God being the power behind human destiny.”
The sovereign providence of God is not an easy concept. If He can provide a hall full of caring people for a lady who broke her hip, could not He have provided that the fall didn’t happen in the first place? However, if mere chance determines who shows up in a coffee shop, or what preachers say in their sermons, why bother asking God to do anything? Prayer (and life) is meaningless if chance rules the world.
My mind is too small to grasp God’s supreme control, however this illustration helps me: Imagine all people in one giant playground. There is a fence around it and while the fence doesn’t control each and every movement of the children inside, it does contain them within its boundaries.
God does the same. He holds us within His boundaries. Like the children at play, we are free to make choices but not go outside the fence. Yet God is not passive like a fence. He also can involve Himself with our choices. Imagine two children trying to ride the same swing at the same time. He can intervene if it suits His purposes, or leave them to work it out.
In other words, He didn’t toss us into a bingo number cage and start turning the crank to see what falls out. Nor are we like chess pieces that cannot move unless He moves us. He lovingly keeps His eyes on every event and, by faith, “we know He works all things work together for our good . . .” (Romans 8:28), yet we are free within His boundaries.
With that concept, we can enjoy providence -- the marvelous, watchful care and intervention of God in our the lives. Let’s face it, if Someone wasn’t intervening, we’d have blown ourselves off the planet before now.
But what about coincidence? Do we have to fear (or hope) that things just happen? Is luck part of life?
Well, if it is, the Lord God is not surprised by chance. We may not understand everything that happens, but HE does. Because of His providence, when people say, “things have a way of working out...” we can be certain that a loving God is the One doing the working!