Is God nearby or far away? Does God get involved in our daily lives?
These are important questions for theology. I’ve always found it interesting when Christians pray for God’s “intervention” in a situation. Or when we pray for revival, we will ask God to “break in upon us.” The comment could be interpreted that God is outside the system, keeping a safe distance from us, a divine aloofness. It’s like we are asking the Lord to exceptionally swoop down from some high perch and enter into our everyday lives.
The prophet Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal in their confrontation at Mt. Carmel. When Baal didn’t answer their feverish pleas to send fire, Elijah taunted:
“You’ll have to shout louder…for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming or is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!” (1 Kings 18:27, NLT).
In contrast to their view of Baal, Elijah trusted in a God who was not aloof but close by, and that close-by and engaged God answered with fire from heaven.
Like Elijah, Jesus believed that the Creator God is nearby and intensely interested in our welfare. In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord comforted his listeners, reminding them that God would clothe them, feed them, and generally care for their physical needs (Matt. 6:28-34). We are of more value to God than a “whole flock of sparrows,” yet God knows when one falls (Matt. 10:31, NLT). Even more impressive – especially for those who still have a full head of hair! – is that God has numbered the hairs on our head (Matt. 10:30).
John Wesley seems to have shared this view of God’s closeness and degree of interest in human affairs. At several key junctures in his ministry, he cast lots to know God’s direction. It is only in the context of the doctrine of divine Providence – God’s care over all creation – that this action makes sense. If God cares for me and all people, then God has a stake in the direction our lives take. If our purpose in life is to glorify God, then whether it’s the seemingly little things of life or the clearly life-altering decisions that face us, it’s always appropriate to seek God’s counsel.
The point is this: A close-by God who cares about us is one who impinges in a positive way upon how we live our lives on a daily basis.
Which brings us to the title of this blog: On good luck and the Providence of God
A loving Providence directs the path of the righteous (Psalm 37:23). God is not aloof, outside the system, so why do we wish others “Good luck” as if God doesn’t come into the equation? Do we really believe that blind “luck” is what determines our future? As Christians, isn’t it far more appropriate for us to wish everyone “God bless you” or – if they are traveling – Godspeed?
At this Advent time of the year, we celebrate Jesus Christ, Immanuel, “God with us.” God has promised: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5, KJV). For the believer, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, we are assured not only that God is with us. He is in us! (1 Corinthians 6:19). The God who is close-by is also working everything for the good of those who love God, who are “called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, NIV).
Good luck? No thanks, but feel free to wish God’s blessings upon me, or to tell me “Godspeed!” as I journey down life’s path. I’ll be happy to return the favor.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
3 thoughts on “On good luck and the Providence of God”
Thanks for taking on this issue Greg. I struggle with the issue of prayers of intervention. In Colleen’ most recent battle with Cancer, I asked people to pray, people prayed and we had a good outcome. I confess to questioning the nature of these type of prayers. Why, when we pray daily for strength, wisdom, courage and protection did Colleen develop Cancer in the first place? Was God not close by? Was God not capable of protection – did He allow this happen to teach us some kind of lesson. The randomness and “lottery” of life sometimes not correspond with my desire to believe that He is close. Random thoughts and as usualy – you make me think. Thanks.
If God had kept her from getting cancer, how would you have known God did? In the same way, knowing the frailty of life, I suspect there have already been several “saves” by God in our lives that could have turned out much differently. Of course, this is all unknown to us, so I resonate with you, Jim. By faith, we call the cup half full. In doubt, those without faith call it half empty, seeing only randomness.
Thanks for the post, Greg, and comment, Jim. This reminds me of discussions we have in the folk religions course. We pray for others, for ourselves, not as a mechanical or magic practice that must yield the exact request, but in response to God who is near. I don’t have it all worked out about prayer except that we are invited as well as instructed to pray in all things, including for any who are ill among us.