God’s providence is the single greatest hindrance to the floods of sin that would otherwise gush out of our sinful hearts. If it were not for God’s care and preservation, even we Christians would be far more sinful than we dare imagine. If it were not for God’s gracious interference, our best efforts in holiness would not be enough to keep us from drowning in sin and heaping contempt on the name of Christ. God takes far better care of us than we do of ourselves. For this reason, every Christian owes unending thanks to God for preserving us from what we would otherwise do and who we would otherwise become. This is roughly what John Flavel teaches in chapter 6 of his work The Mystery of Providence. Here are a few of the ways in which God interferes with our desire and attempts to sin against him.
God stirs up other people, and especially other Christians, to keep us from fulfilling the evil we had planned to do. I heard some time ago from a young man who had his heart set on viewing pornography for the very first time. But just as he sat down in front of his computer his phone buzzed, and he found that his friend was calling simply to ask how he was doing in his battle for sexual purity. Just like that his intention to sin was thwarted for another day. God had intervened through the hand of another person.
God sometimes interferes with the very means or tools we had intended to use for evil purposes. The Spanish intended to invade England to overthrow the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I, but God used a mighty storm to break apart the Spanish fleet and end the threat. Perhaps that power outage or that computer crash you experienced, though an inconvenience, was actually a great mercy. God uses means both known and unknown to us to hinder us in our pursuit of sin.
God sometimes brings pain or sickness to our bodies in order to prevent us from sin. He uses these little evils to prevent the carrying out of much greater evil. Eternity may reveal that the headache that drove you to bed yesterday was actually a gift of God to prevent you from committing some great sin.
God sometimes uses his well-timed Word or even human wisdom to prevent his people from committing acts of sin. When David’s mind became filled with thoughts of the prosperity of the wicked, God dissolved his ingratitude through worship (see Psalm 73). How often have you considered sin, but been drawn aside by wisdom that has suddenly flooded your mind, or wisdom someone has quietly spoken to you?
God sometimes prevents his people from falling into sin by taking their very lives. Who knows what sin God has prevented, and what shame he has stopped, by graciously taking the lives of one of his saints before that person was able to commit so grave a sin. What seems like the ultimate evil may well have been the ultimate gift.
God’s kind providence keeps us from being as sinful as we would otherwise be. So, Christian, thank God for his providence, and prepare to be amazed when, in eternity, God gives you the gift of seeing how often and to what extent he has kept you from sin.
We will continue our reading next week with chapter 7: “God’s Providence in Our Sanctification.” 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.
If you would like to read along with us, we have only just begun, so there is lots of time to get caught up. Simply get a copy of the book and start reading…
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