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The Mystery of Providence: Chapter 11 - Practical Implications for the Saints

By John Flavel


      If, as we have seen, God performs all things for you, God is to be owned by you in all that befalls you in this world, whether it is in a way of success and comfort, or of trouble and affliction. O it is your duty to observe His hand and disposal. When God gives you comforts, it is your great evil not to observe His hand in them. Hence was that charge against Israel: 'For she did not know that I gave her corn and wine and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold' (Hosea 2:8); that is, she did not actually and affectionately consider my care over her and goodness to her in these mercies. And so for afflictions, it is a great wickedness when God's hand is lifted up not to see it (Isaiah 26:11). 'The ox knows his owner, and the ass his master's crib' (Isaiah 1:3); the most dull and stupid creatures know their benefactors. O look to the hand of God in all; and know that neither your comforts nor afflictions do arise out of the dust, or spring up out of the ground.

      If God performs all things for you, how great is His condescension to and care over His people! 'What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him, and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him? And that thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment?' (Job 7:17, 18). Such is His tender care over you that He does not withdraw His eye from you (Job 36:7). Lest any hurt you, He Himself will guard and keep you day and night (Isaiah 27:3). Should He withdraw His eye or hand one moment from you, that moment would be your ruin. Ten thousand evils watch but for such an opportunity to rush in upon you and destroy you and all your comforts. You are too dear to Him to be trusted in any hand but His own. 'All his saints are in thy hand' (Deuteronomy 33:3).

      If God performs all things for you, see how obliged you are to perform all duties and services for God. It was the wish of a good man, 'O that I could be to God what my hand is to me' viz., a serviceable useful instrument. Shall God do all things for you, and will you do nothing for God? Is Providence every moment at work for you, and will you be idle? To what purpose then is all that God has done for you? Is it not the aim and design of all, to make you a fruitful people? If God plant and fence and water you by Providence, surely He expects you to bring forth fruit (Isaiah 5:1-4). O that in return for all the benefits of Providence, you would say to God, as grateful Elisha said to the Shunammite, 'Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care. What is to be done for thee?' (2 Kings 4:13), and with David, 'What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits towards me?' (Psalm 116:12). He is ever doing you good; be you always abounding in His work. His providence stands by you in your greatest distresses and dangers; do not then flinch from God when His service and your duty is compassed about with difficulties. O be active for that God who every moment is active for you.

      Does God perform all things for his people? Do not distrust Him then when new or great difficulties arise. Why should you think He that has done so many things for you will now do no more? Surely, 'the LORD's hand is not shortened that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy that it cannot hear' (Isaiah 59:1); if anything put a stop to His mercy, it is your iniquities, your distrust and infidelity. 'How long will it be ere you believe him?' If a thousand and ten thousand trials and experiences of His tender care, faithfulness and love will cure this unbelief in you, you have them at hand to do it. If the frequent confutations of this your distrust by the unexpected breakings-out of mercy for you under like discouragements will cure it, look back and you may see them. Certainly you have been often forced by Providence with shame and repentance to retract your rash censures of His care; and yet will you fall into the same unbelieving state again? O that you would once learn this great truth, that no man ever lacked that mercy which he did not lack a heart to trust and wait quietly upon God for. You never yet sought God in vain, except when you sought Him vainly.

      Does God perform all things for you? Then seek God for all by prayer, and never undertake any design without Him.

      Certainly, if He does not perform it for you, you can never have what you desire and labour for; and though He has designed to perform this or that mercy for you, yet for these things He will be enquired of, that He may do it for you (Ezekiel 36:37). I reckon that business as good as done, that mercy as good as if it were in hand, that trouble as good as over, for the doing, enjoying or removing of which we have engaged God by prayer. It is our folly to engage this instrument and that for us, to attempt this way and that to achieve our end, and all the while forget Him upon whose pleasure all instruments and means entirely depend. That which begins not with prayer seldom ends with comfort. 'The way of man is not in himself' (Jeremiah 10:23); if it were, prayer might then be reckoned lost labour. O let Him that performs all be owned and acknowledged in all.

      If God performs all things for us, then it is our great interest and concern in all things to study to please Him, upon whom we depend for all things.

      It is a grave and weighty observation of Chrysostom that nothing should be grievous and bitter to a Christian but to provoke the displeasure of God. Avoid that, and no affliction or trouble whatever can cast down such a prudent soul; but even as a spark is easily extinguished in the sea, so will the favour of God extinguish those troubles. It is with such a soul, says he, as it is with the heavens; we think the heavens suffer when they are overspread with clouds, and the sun suffers when it is eclipsed; but there is no such thing, they do not suffer when they seem to suffer. Everything is well and shall be well, when all is well between us and God. The great consolation of the saints lies in this, that all that concerns them is in the hands of their Father. Luther said, 'I had utterly despaired had not Christ been head of the Church.' When He that performs all things is our God, even our God that delights in our prosperity, that rejoices over us to do us good, what ample security is here in the greatest confusions and dangers! When one told Borromeus that there were some that laid wait for his life, his answer was: 'What! is God in the world for nothing?' And as notable was the reply of Silentiarius in a like case: 'If God takes no care of me, how do I live? how have I subsisted hitherto?' Though it seems a romance to many, yet we must either quit the Scripture or give credit to this, that the most infallible rules for one to raise his fortune and ensure a destiny that can control the stars are given forth there, viz., in the Scriptures, where one can see Sapiens dominabitur astris (that he who knows the truth will govern the stars) and quomodo unusquisque faber potest esse fortunae suae (the means by which every man can shape his own fortune). A good man may even be his own carver. O that we would but steer our course according to those rare politics of the Bible, those divine maxims of wisdom! Fear nothing but sin. Study nothing so much as how to please God. Do not turn from your integrity under any temptation. Trust God in the way of your duty. These are sure rules to secure yourselves and your interest in all the vicissitudes of this life.

Back to John Flavel index.

See Also:
   Author's Introduction
   Chapter 1 - The Work of Providence for the Saints
   Chapter 2 - Our Birth and Upbringing
   Chapter 3 - The Work of Conversion
   Chapter 4 - Our Employment
   Chapter 5 - Family Affairs
   Chapter 6 - Preservation of the Saints from Evil
   Chapter 7 - The Work of Sanctification
   Chapter 8 - The Duty of Meditation on Providence
   Chapter 9 - How to Meditate on the Providence of God
   Chapter 10 - The Advantages of Meditating on Providence
   Chapter 11 - Practical Implications for the Saints
   Chapter 12 - Practical Problems in Connection with Providence
   Chapter 13 - The Advantages of Recording our Experiences of Providence

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