Providence in its classical sense is a long way from what Southern Baptists believe today. The concept of every motion of every electron, every flight path of every sparrow or even every step of man being mapped out by God from before the first “Let there be…” is practically incomprehensible. Recently I taught a class in a Southern Baptist Church on the topic. I spent longer leading up to providence than I did any other subject including predestination and election. But when we actually got around to covering providence we hit a brick wall head on a crunchy. Pow!
There were lots of questions and it was a good class but it all boiled down to this:
If this is true then what is the point? Why do we pray or do anything if God is in complete control of all things?
They couldn’t get a grip on it, which was on of the reasons the study fell apart. Why is that? Of all the people in the world Baptists ought to be the first to jump up and proclaim Christ as Lord. They ought to be eager to champion a position that elevates God and lowers man, “He must increase, I must decrease…” (John the Baptist at least got past the Baptistry in his faith…but I digress.)
A Southern Baptist will say “God provides” and he will point to the passage in Matthew about lilies and Solomon’s glory and the birds of the air with glee. God provides for ME! He will piously explain how this passage shows how our needs are met, not our wants. And refer you to the Lord’s prayer: Look, it says our daily bread not our yearly Mustang. And that’s the point. The focus is on the needs and wants and blessings. God becomes, then, a cash box—something most of us will say is not right. But we then still pray for a bigger, better whatever.
It’s just so much more than that and it ticks me off. Gods provision for His people becomes a function of the amount of faith they have, their attendance in Sunday School, their tithing—their personal purity. Their faithfulness becomes the issue not His. God is faithful to provide because of His goodness not ours. God is good and he blesses us because of that perfect goodness. Not because we deserved or earned it. Light a match to see and get a whiff of what we’ve earned: Judgement, damnation and hellfire.
But providence doesn’t operate that way. God causes it to rain on both the just and the unjust. All the world he has given to mankind for his enjoyment. Look around and see how he loves us–and what we have done with that love. Some He will quicken to life convicting of sin others He will not—any pastor will tell you that. There are some will not repent no matter how much exegesis, pleading or extra verses of Just As I Am we pour out onto them. His hand has set this world in motion—not our own. He is the focus, not man and there’s little or nothing we can do about most things. We don’t like to hear it but its true.