How to Meditate on the Providence of God

November 13, 2009


John FlavelI was rearranging some computer files and I happened on this short statement.   I wrote it a year ago last February when we were in the midst of the Puritan Reading Challenge.  It has to do with John Flavel and his book “The Mystery of Providence.”  As I remember it, I had difficulty reading this book.  The older style of writing is tough for our modern minds to grasp, but the real problem was the content rich nature of the material.  Most of the Puritan books  require close attention and re-reading  just to get the understanding correct.  Flavel’s book was certainly no exception.  However, if you take the time to mine his work, gold nuggets of truth just fall off the pages.

February 2008:

From page 135:  “He would never give you so much of the world to lose your hearts in the love of it, or so little to distract you with the care of it.  If therefore we were more deeply sanctified, and the tendencies of our hearts heavenward more ardent and vigorous, if we were more mortified to earthly things and could but keep our due distance from them, our outward conditions would not at this rate draw forth and exercise our inward corruptions, nor would we hazard the loss of so sweet an enjoyment as our fellowship with God for the sake of any concern our bodies have on earth.  Under all providences maintain a contented heart with what the Lord allots you, be it more or less of the things of this world.  This grace must run parallel with all providences.  Learn how to be full, and how to suffer want, and in every state to be content (Phil.4.11, 12).”

And from page 134:  “Mortify your inordinate affections to earthly things.  This makes providences that deprive and cross us so heavy.  Mortify your opinion and affection, and you will lighten your affliction.  It is strong affection that makes strong affliction.  Dwell much upon the meditation of the Lord’s near approach; and then all these things will seem but trifles to you. ‘Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand’ (Phil.4.5).”

I settled on these two passages, more or less, because that’s were I recently let off in my reading.  Really I could have included many more such passages that struck me as comforting because this entire book has been a joy and a comfort to read.   Thematically, “delighting and contemplating in the providence of God” has brought a sense of great peace and contentment this past couple weeks. 

How can I possibly throw all my thought ingredients into a pot and boil them down to the point where they are fitting for explanation?  I can’t.  All I can say is that Jesus is the only man who can be all things to everyone and all I can be is what our magnificent God has intended me to be; and, most importantly, that is enough.  It is enough to be content with God’s intentions; it is enough to be content with what God provides; it is enough to be content with what God reveals, and so on with everything.  The only thing He can’t give us enough of is Himself.  We should never be content in that matter and should always seek for the ways He’ll comfort us in the knowledge of Himself. 

I’m surprised to find so much peace in providence; I am surprised that I can be less critical of myself and others; I am surprised that there is great comfort in not following the world in the capturing of stuff; and I am always surprised by how much God is willing to offer us.

The concept of Providence had a big impact on my thinking back then and still does to this day.  I think it’s worth noting the quote from page 134.  Mind you that we are to mortify inordinate affections.  I can’t imagine being a Christian and not having robust affections towards Christ.  Obviously, what he is talking about here is our earthly directed desires.  We aren’t to let our love of stuff or anything earthly interfere with our love of Christ.  We need to kill it; that’s what mortify means.

And just to continue on a little bit longer, I thought it might be beneficial for those new to the Reformed Tradition to see what the Westminster Confession of Faith has to say about the Providence of God:

I. God the great Creator of all things does uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.

II. Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, He orders them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.

III. God, in His ordinary providence, makes use of means, yet is free to work without, above, and against them, at His pleasure.

Hopefully this sparks your interest into the matter.  It is a huge area.  It is simple to state but hard to wrap the mind around all the nuances.  I’m not going any further, but if anyone wants to leave a comment we’ll walk down this path as far as you want to go.  We are in God’s hands and it’s all for his glory!

Photo courtesy of Reformation Art:


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