We forget. Often we forget because we fail to deliberately remember—to remember and recount the goodness and mercy of God. In his work The Mystery of Providence, John Flavel gives a series of cautions to Christians who may be prone to this temptation to forget.
Do not forget God’s care and kindness. All throughout your life you have been the beneficiary of God’s kind providence. Yet is it possible that God could charge you in the same way he charged Israel: “But they soon forgot his works” (Psalm 106:13)? The human memory tends to be both faulty and slippery when it comes to remembering God’s mercy. But there is a high cost: Forgetting God’s past faithfulness deprives you of the comfort you want and God of the glory he deserves.
Do not distrust God in future times of need. God has been faithful in the past, so why doubt his provision in the future? Yet this was exactly the temptation that Israel faced: “He struck the rock so that water gushed out and streams overflowed. Can he also give bread or provide meat for his people” (Psalm 78:20)? It is both unreasonable and absurd to distrust God for the future when his care has been so clear throughout your life.
Do not grumble when your circumstances change. We are all tempted to grumble when our circumstances change from favorable to unfavorable. But grumbling is not made any less sinful simply because it is so common. If we acknowledge the sheer evil of the sin of grumbling we will be quick to identify and admire God’s bounty in every circumstance. We will be equally slow to complain when we perceive that they have become unfavorable.
Do not show any discontentment. Do not show even slightest discontentment with the situation in which God places you. Instead, choose to be pleased and satisfied with all that God gives you. Choose to say, with David, “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance” (Psalm 16:6). You can have confidence that the circumstance you experience now is the one God has determined is best for you, and equal confidence that some day you will judge it so.
Do not neglect God in your times of desperation. If you truly believe that it is God’s providence that dispenses all circumstances, then it is your responsibility to continue to pursue and worship God in every one of them. Remember God’s command: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). Remember God and he will not forget you.
Do not distract yourself with sinful worries. Jesus told us that when we are concerned about provision we simply need to look at the birds. Yet he did not tell us to look at the pet birds that are fed by hand every day, but to the wild birds who do not know where their next meal will come from. After all, God provides even for these. Won’t he then also provide for you? Do not allow sinful worries to distract you from living and rejoicing.
Through it all, remember who you are in Christ, remember his promises, and work those promises into your heart until you are satisfied and content with all that God’s providence has given you.
We will continue our reading next week with chapter 6: “God’s Providence in Our Preservation.” Read it by next Thursday and check in to see what I (and others) have to say about it.
The purpose of this project is to read classics together. So do feel free to leave a comment if you have something you would like to say. Alternatively, you may leave a link to your blog or Facebook or anywhere else you have reflected on what you have read.
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