Providence and the Counterintuitive Wonders of God

Sam Storms: It’s only one word, Providence, but it is indescribably rich and complex and challenging and comforting. It is also the title to John Piper’s most recent book (Crossway, 2020, 751pp.). Piper defines providence as God’s “purposeful sovereignty.” In other words, it is more than mere sovereignty. It is more than power or oversight. It is the way in which God directly and intentionally brings about his ultimate aim of glorifying himself. One of the things that you will read from John is his emphasis on what he calls “counterintuitive wonders” (14). These wonders of how God governs the world “are not illogical or contradictory, but they are different from our usual ways of seeing the world – so different that our first reaction is often to say, ‘That can’t be.’ But the ‘can’t’ is in our minds, not in reality” (14). Right from the start of this massive and important work, Piper encourages his readers to “let the word of

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Content in His Providence

RC Sproul: Blaise Pascal, the famous French philosopher and mathematician, noted that human beings are creatures of profound paradox. We’re capable of both deep misery and tremendous grandeur, often at the same time. All we have to do is scan the headlines to see that this is the case. How often do celebrities who have done great good through philanthropy get caught up in scandals? Human grandeur is found in part in our ability to contemplate ourselves, to reflect upon our origins, our destiny, and our place in the universe. Yet, such contemplation has a negative side, and that is its potential to bring us pain. We may find ourselves miserable when we think of a life that is better than that which we enjoy now and recognize that we are incapable of achieving it. Perhaps we think of a life free of illness and pain, yet we know that physical agony and death are certain. Rich and poor alike know

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God’s Will for Your Life Is More Obvious Than You Think

Courtney Doctor: Have you ever wondered what God’s will is for your life? I’d venture to guess we’ve all asked that question at some point. For most of us, the question rises to the surface at critical junctures: choosing a spouse or a job, choosing what school to attend or which house to buy. These are the times we tend to cry out, Lord, show me your will! As we seek to know God’s will, we often feel tension. In a sincere desire to please him, we can sometimes walk in fear that we will make the wrong choice about the details of our lives. We spin in circles, wondering where God wants us to get coffee, how much he wants us to spend on groceries, or whether he’d be happy if we went to Disney for vacation. Every choice becomes a paralyzing decision: either discover what God wants, or make a choice that could ruin everything. For some, obsessing over

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What Natural Disasters Preach

Jeff Robinson: My second Sunday as a full-time pastor came five days after the worst tornado outbreak in American history afflicted our city and its surrounding region. I preached from Job 1–2, and we put the sermon title on our marquee: “Where Was God?” Attendance that Sunday doubled and a couple of media members, intrigued by the existential question on our sign, interviewed me. Natural disasters and tragedies, particularly those that fall on us like a lightning bolt, provoke thoughts in all kinds of people—both the religious and the irreligious—of death, eternal realities, and deity. Many of us remember the aftermath of 9/11. There was a large ecumenical prayer service held at Yankee Stadium a few days in its wake as a shadow of fear blanketed our country. Similarly, the assassination of national leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy spawned myriad solemn gatherings for prayer and reflection on ultimate realities. In Luke 13:1–7, Jesus faced a crowd of people

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The Dangers of Reading Providence

Sam Storms: As I’ve been preaching through the book of Revelation it has become ever more evident to me that reading divine providence is a tricky and often dangerous business. By “reading providence” I mean the tendency that all of us have to interpret what God is doing in the world around us and even in our own lives. We typically try to read providence because we are uncomfortable with mystery. We don’t like being kept in the dark about why God does or doesn’t do certain things. We don’t like having to tell people that we can’t answer their questions about why, if God is good and powerful, he permits evil to flourish in the world. We would much rather create an answer, even when the Bible remains silent. I am regularly asked what natural disasters mean. Why do they occur? Is God trying to tell us something? Is it always punishment for sin, or could it be a

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Content in His Providence

R.C. Sproul: Blaise Pascal, the famous French philosopher and mathematician, noted that human beings are creatures of profound paradox. We’re capable of both deep misery and tremendous grandeur, often at the same time. All we have to do is scan the headlines to see that this is the case. How often do celebrities who have done great good through philanthropy get caught up in scandals? Human grandeur is found in part in our ability to contemplate ourselves, to reflect upon our origins, our destiny, and our place in the universe. Yet, such contemplation has a negative side, and that is its potential to bring us pain. We may find ourselves miserable when we think of a life that is better than that which we enjoy now and recognize that we are incapable of achieving it. Perhaps we think of a life free of illness and pain, yet we know that physical agony and death are certain. Rich and poor alike know

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Romans 8:28 – Life’s Deepest Pains for Your Greatest Pleasure

David Mathis: This is your verse. If you believe in the God of the Bible, and you love him, all the bounty of one of his greatest promises is yours. God’s staggering pledge of Romans 8:28 is that “all things” — not just the good, but even and especially the bad — work for your good. Life’s worst pains are for your eternal joy. All things is a massive phrase. It’s universal, all-inclusive, with no exceptions. It doesn’t take much to believe that life’s best things work for our good. But what makes Romans 8:28 such a life-transforming promise is that this “all things” includes all of life’s worst things. Every single one. Every stab of pain, every barb, every lingering scar. And if we want that with specificity, it’s here in this very context. Romans 8:35–36 lists life’s greatest pains — none of which can separate us from Jesus’s love: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, and even

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