God’s Providential Care

Matthew 7:7-11

7“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8“For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9“Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10“Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

 

 Our text is one of those rare jewels, reminding us that God cares He hears and we are not alone

The poet Keith Bennett has written:

 

Where his eye is on the sparrow and each budding leaf that grows;

When he sends the dew each morning, and the sunshine to the rose;

You may know beyond all doubting, In this trial you’re passing through,

God cares ... and every moment He is watching over you.

 

To know that God cares, that one is not alone  is  a vital Christians understanding . 1 Cor. 10:1-10   

 Paul reminded the Corinthian brethren that their fathers,  the Israelites had lost hope in God thus committed sin to the point of falling away..  They had crossed over the Red Sea saved from Pharaoh and the subjected slavery ...  Yet... when Moses left them without constant leadership, as he ascended Mt Sinai   they turned to idols. (1Cor. 10:7) They thought they were standing alone, and so.. fell...(1 Cor. 10:8)

 

When we think we are standing alone we are subject to the same tragic end as the Israelites.   Paul reminds us that no one has ever been tried beyond that  which is common to man, and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.  1 Cor 10:13

Our text reminds us  7Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened      Here Jesus has in mind the care that God provides so that the Christian need not be worried that he should lose his faith and fall.

 

Our thoughts determine what we are Pro 23:7 “7For as man  thinketh in his heart, so is he”.  How we think and what we think about things in life determine how we will react to situations.   It is so very important that we believe in our hearts that God cares and that he is a constant help in time of need...  I want to study with you about God’s Providential Care.

 

In Chapter 4 of Philippians emphasize is placed on that faithfulness to Christ  which is  basis of great Christian joy.... And the result of Christian joy is serenity, and that leads to standing fast in the Lord.    Christians can “stand.. fast because we have exceeding help   Phil 4;13  “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me”.  We can live steadfast Christian lives because we know who we are.....   that is we are children of God,  our “citizenship is in heaven Phil 3:20-21 . 

 

The term “stand.. fast is a military term denoting  a soldier who remains firm during the shock of battle.   Many times we are tempted to panic in the face of trials.. we lose heart, we lose the desire to pray.  It would be helpful to remember that Paul wrote this “joyful Philippian letter” while in prison.     (Phil 4:1 and 4-7)

 

1Therefore,  my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord.....  4Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! 5Let your moderation be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

 

The term “moderation” could be translated “gentleness” or “reasonableness  It is the attitude that meets a brother or sister in Christ,  or even a person in the world for that matter..... halfway.  This moderation causes one to temper justice with mercy....  The opposite of “moderation  is selfishness”.  Those of us who are unwilling to forgive another... will not receive forgiveness.     Matthew 6:14-15

 

     14For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

 

Notice our text Phil 4:6-7  again —

6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.        [NKJV]

 

 You’ve heard me say that Paul is making a play on the two words nothing and everything.  Listen to this translation; “Worry about nothing, pray about everything”. . Nothing is the most exclusive word in the   English language. You see,  it leaves out everything.  Worry about nothing   I have a hard time with this one....               

 

 Too often we become confused and doubtful about prayer.  We surmise that God must perform some great miracle in order to answer our  prayer.   Did God answer the prayers of the Patriarchs? Of course......Did such prayers require miracles? 

 

An Old Testament example of a praying man is Elijah.  James used that esteemed prophet to illustrate the effective prayer of the righteous (James 5:17-18).

 

17Elijah was .a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.—    Note that Elijah was “...a man subject to like passions as we are...” (James 5:17a). That is, Elijah was exactly as anyone who is God’s  faithful child.  No miraculous power can be equated with Elijah’s prayer for rain and that it be withheld.

 

Both prayers were answered. For God to withhold or provide rain is providential, not miraculous.  Matthew 5:48 declares:

 

your Father which is in heaven: maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.                  

 

The problem of thinking that God must perform a supernatural act to answer prayer lies in a misunderstanding of the providential works and miraculous works God performs.  God’s providence is, God working for man through His natural laws.  God worked miraculously while the gospel was being confirmed and written...  God works providentially,  for rain to fall, or not fall, when Elijah prayed is not supernatural but natural. God brings the rains “upon the just and the unjust  Not by a great miracle but by natural laws He set forth in the beginning.

 

How else will we describe Providence? Notice   Matthew 7:7

   7Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

 

Does God intervene in the life of His child who depends on Him? Yes.... He gives,” “opens,” and makes him to “find.”    God’s providence works in the area of pre-arranged laws. With this truth in mind the Psalmist wrote: “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth.  Psalm 145:18

 

Is not this the type of interference Paul had in mind when he said Phil 4:4-6?

 

4Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your forbearance be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. 6In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

 

We should not forget, that as in the case of Matt 7:7-11, and many others passages,  the Providence of God is intimately connected with personal prayer. Along that line James says, “Ye have not, because he ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may spend it in your pleasures” (James 4:2-3).

 

Providence is God working for His Children through His natural laws.  James  expressed it thusly James 5:16

 

16Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer  of a righteous man availeth much.                                                        

 

In one of my favorite passages Hebrews 13:5-6 the Hebrew writers states: “5Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6So we may boldly say:  “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”  

 

The Bible teaches  in James 5:16 that every prayer that goes out of a good man’s heart,  goes somewhere and does some good.  When God said that prayer is effectual, should not His children believe it?   Ezra knew that God could provide even for a penniless people.  And so this great restorer prayed that God would providentially use a Persian King’s treasury for the things needful to restore the house of God.....

 

Read the letter of Artaxerxes, in Ezra chapter 7,  allowing Ezra all he needed for the work of building the house of God. It wasn’t a miracle, God simply allowed Ezra favor in the eyes of this Persian king.  That is the way God answered Ezra’s prayer.

 

Samuel called on a providential God to protect Israel against the Philistines. I Sam 7:8-10,  In the midst of the prayer, a storm so frightened the Philistines that they fled!  Samuel raised a memorial to God’s help – an Ebenezer.

 

 Our text admonishes us Phil 4:6-7

6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.        [NKJV]

 

Many today receive help from God in a number of ways,  but too often have failed to give thanks.  I remember a story I heard a number of years ago.... The story is told of a man who was stranded upon a roof top during an enormous storm...  The waters rising up fast....  He prays to God for help....  Someone comes in a boat... He turns the boat away stating “I am waiting on help from God   Soon after a helicopter comes by offering help...  again he refuses sending the helicopter away  stating the same.. “I am waiting on help from God   The flood continues to rise... and the man drowns.... When he appears before God , he  asks “why would you  not help me” ....  God answers “I sent you a boat and a helicopter,  what else did you want

 

 The point is, much help comes to us.... God can use whatever means necessary to render aid.  There are natural laws pertaining to hygiene, medicine, physicians and surgeons.  God uses all these to answer prayer on behalf of our health. -  Paul admonished Timothy to use medicine to help his stomach (1 Tim. 5:23) Did  Paul  not believe in prayer?  This same apostle left his traveling companion Trophimus at Miletum sick... (2 Tim. 4:20)  Where was the prayer? Where was the miraculous? They were to seek help through   doctors and medicine,  just where we are to seek help. We should pray for the doctors and medicine.  God gives aid in this means today 

 

Nehemiah prayed and confessed the sins of himself and his people.             & Neh. 1:4-11

Nehemiah  wanted to go home after a long 70 years of captivity in Babylon. God’s means of answering that prayer involved Nehemiah’s job as cup bearer to Artaxerxes and his sad countenance...  read Nehemiah chapter 2.

 

Many abandon prayer today because of a multitude of problems in their lives.   Our problems can overwhelm us and cause us to lose heart.  Many say to me, “You know God could help me, but He won’t because He would have to work a miracle to help me.” To you I say “take heart from Ezra, or Nehemiah  or from Elijah the prophet,  men of like passions as we.

 

Many of their problems seemed insurmountable, involving countries, kings and maneuvering  political stronghold....  God solved every problem they had, with a miracle.. God and His  providential care, solved every problem.   Remember the words of the Psalmist: — “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth”.  Psalm 145:18

 

When we turn our eyes heavenward toward the Great Eternal God, we know that God has the answers to our prayers. Paul wrote our text while chained to a Roman soldier.  Philippians 4:6

6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

 

contact:

Ron Cope Minister churches of Christ

email:  RonCope@chestnutmtchurchofchrist.com

phone:  (678)617-9658