In between the bustle of Christmas and the expectation of January first, a lot of people start talking about their new word of the year. Sometimes called “One Word,” it’s a tradition that has the same flavor as making a new year’s resolution without the bitter aftertaste of failure for breaking one. You simply pick a word that will guide you in your everyday actions on your quest to make the new year better than the old one in some (or many) areas. It’s supposed to be a word that begs action. A way to form new habits such as being “grateful,” remembering “compassion,” practicing “humility,” or finding “joy.” This year again, I picked the same word I always pick. “Providence.” It’s the word I want to guide me every day of my life. It’s one that every Christian would do well to adopt.
What is the Providence of God?
From the Latin word “providere” meaning “to foresee, attend to” and the English word “provide,” Providence is the guardianship or protective care given by God.
It’s the idea that God sees us, knows us, and makes provision for us in our current circumstance. He is present and active in our lives, molding us and guiding us for His use in the future. It means that we matter to God, not just in where we will spend eternity but in how we will get from here to there. His hand is on us because we belong to Him.
This Blog Started with a Thought
This week after I had prayed for this blog for a few days, God woke me up with a question. “Can you earn your salvation?” Of course, that’s an obvious, “No.” But after I got my coffee and sat down at my Bible bookmark for that morning’s reading, I realized that I was in for an eye-full on the topic. I was in Romans 11. When I saw Romans 11:5, I tried to look it up in the commentaries. It says, “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” But for some strange reason, I typed in Romans 11:9 instead.
Right in the middle of that page, though, there was a quote about Romans 11:5 that I wouldn’t have found if I had looked it up directly. It’s from Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary. It says, “Salvation from the first to the last must be either of grace or of debt.” In other words, from the beginning to the end, God either gives it to us, or He owes it to us. There is no middle ground.
That Led to a Realization
If you’re like me, you cringed at the last part of that quote. God is a debtor to no man. Romans 11:35-36 says, “Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” The truth is that there was nothing we did to earn our salvation. Even our choice to believe in His name came only after the Holy Spirit chose us and called us. In John 15:16a Jesus says, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.”
1 Thessalonians 1:4 says, “Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.” (God has chosen you.) 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
Our salvation (and current relationship with God) wasn’t an accident. We didn’t deserve it, and we don’t keep it in our own power. Ephesians 3:16 says, “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.” There is but one hero in our story, and it isn’t us. God chose us, called us, and keeps us. He paid for us with His own blood for the purpose of His glory. 1 Corinthians 6:20 says, “For ye are bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” Now we are no longer our own – or ON our own.
We Must Understand
It’s one thing to understand intellectually that we belong to God. After all, His blood paid our sin debt and gave us Life. Ephesians 1:7 says, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” He is our God. He saved us, and by His grace our thoughts and actions now orient away from ourselves and the world and toward the things that are pleasing to Him. Most of us get that.
The problem is that, without meaning to, a lot of us stop there. We think that God has saved us, but now it’s up to us to hold on with bloody knuckles until the end. We do our best to be “striving” for the narrow gate instead of “sliding” back where we came from – and rightly so. But sometimes we might end up with the mindset that it’s up to us to figure things out along the way. Oh, we pray and ask for His help. We even believe. But at the back of our minds, so many of us have internalized the secular mindset that God is merely an observer – or at best a cheerleader. In fact, Google’s dictionary shows that mentions of the word “Providence” have decreased significantly over the last couple hundred years.
Providence Is Alive and Well
But the truth is that our lives are just tiny threads in the giant tapestry that God Himself is weaving. He has more than a passing interest in us. He has purpose for us. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” But how many of us were ready for work on the first day He saved us? Probably not many. No. His Spirit then began a process of maturing and sanctifying us to be used by Him. He also tests us and tries our faith (1 Peter 1:7). That requires active involvement by the Holy Spirit of God, teaching and correcting us as we go. Romans 8:14 says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” When we yield ourselves to Him, giving Him permission to change us and authority to rule us, we come off the shelf and into service. That’s where the word of the year comes in.
So How Do We Apply “Providence”?
It’s a simple idea but one that takes practice. We must assume that no matter what comes at us or against us, God has a plan for it. He has “forseen” it, will “attend to” it, and “provide” for it. Then we yield to whatever He tells us to do about it and give the thing to God. The end result is trust instead of worry, faith instead of fear.
It works with the big things.
Let’s face it. There are things in our lives that are too big for us to handle. There are people and situations that are beyond our control. We simply need miracles. Sometimes God will hear our prayers and deliver us right away. Sometimes, His answer is “wait,” and sometimes, He will have another idea entirely. In those times, the enemy will try to tell us that God doesn’t care about us or our problems, and He probably isn’t even listening to our prayers. But the enemy is a liar.
It’s then that we must remember that God is God, and we are not. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” In that very situation, Philippians 4:6-7 tells us just what to do. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” We pray, believe that God has us covered, listen for His instructions, and then let Him handle it from there.
It works with the little things.
The enemy will also try to tell you that God doesn’t care about the tiny details of your life. But, again, the enemy is a liar. After all, God goes so far as to tell us to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). A God who cares about every thought we think understands that it’s the tiny details that can really swing our worlds some days. In fact, focusing on God’s Providence is about looking at even the smallest elements of our lives as more than random or coincidental. It’s looking for the ways to serve God or learn lessons in whatever scenario we find ourselves. After all, God can use even the most mundane or annoying situation today to teach us what we need to know tomorrow to serve Him better. We just have to watch, listen, and pray.
The Word of the Year is “Providence”
In whatever happens to us, whether good, bad, or ugly, we must remember the ultimate verse about Providence, Romans 8:28. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” No matter how things look to us in the coming year and beyond, we can choose to focus on God’s Providence, His guardianship and protective care. After all, He chose us, called us, and has an active program of grace for us from the beginning to the end. When we fix our eyes on — and trust in — His plan, we can make the big things and the little things all about God this year.
Looking for other Points to Ponder? Try Don’t Limit the God of the Hills and Valleys. Or, try The Desires of the Heart: What’s Your One Thing? Please sign up to receive my blog in your email in-box. You can find that at the upper right of your screen (or at the bottom on a phone). Also, check out my YouTube Channel where I read the blogs out loud. I also have a playlist of hymns from my church.