Although we would love to have a clear cut path and unwavering confidence when we pull the trigger on a decision, there is often uncertainty—and a great deal of mystery when it comes to making especially big choices that not only impact our own life, but the lives of those we care about.
I’ve observed a paradox over the course of my life: men and women who have made wise decisions that have yielded great results and folks who have make wise decisions that have not turned out well—at least from a human perspective. Proverbs 16 is full of contrasts between the wicked and the upright along with this summary of the balance between human responsibility and God’s providence: “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs each step.” (16:9)
God has given us minds with the capacity to observe, learn, reason, judge and plan. He has wired our wills with the ability to desire, anticipate, choose and strive. As we have already shared, He has also given His children many spiritual graces to make the most of as we’re making decisions: Scripture, wisdom, experience, counsel—and most graciously, His Holy Spirit to guide and teach us. “The mind of man plans his way.”
The Bible also clearly states that God is Sovereign [matchless, supreme, free]. Three New Testament passages use this word to explain that God is the “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them” (Acts 4:24); He is “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15); He is the “Sovereign Lord, holy and true [the judge and avenger of those who dwell on the earth].” (Revelation 6:10)
Though “providence” is only used in the Bible in reference to a Roman governor (Acts 24:2), in theology, Divine Providence equals God’s intervention in the world. Its origin is the Latin word providentia, which means “ahead + to see” foresight or omniscience, understood as an attribute of God. Augustine, then Thomas Aquinas taught this doctrine in Catholic theology, as did John Calvin, Martin Luther and other early Protestants. The concept of providence is opposed to deism, which asserts God’s non-interest in the world. It is also the opposite of fate or chance, which sees world events as uncontrollable without any element of purpose.
God never operates in any way that is in conflict with His nature or revealed will. Divine Providence does not negate a human’s freedom of will. God’s providence is the means in which He directs all things toward His worthy purposes. On the surface, it might feel like human responsibility and God’s providence directly contradict each other; on the contrary, we see both taught side by side in Romans 9 and 10. Rather than pitting one against the other, try holding them together as Proverbs 16:9 does. Embrace both your sacred responsibility for making wise choices after drawing on all of God’s resources . . . as well as God’s trustworthy promises of His all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving purposes that are beyond our scope of comprehension and control.
God’s providence and our obligation can be witnessed throughout the Bible as well as in our contemporary marketplace. I imagine Abraham making the gigantic decision to leave everything and everyone familiar to follow God’s direction to an unknown land, then having to wait over thirty years for God’s promise that Sarah would have a child. I picture Peter and his friends making the radical choice to trade in their fishing nets to follow Jesus. I doubt they knew how difficult that making the “right decision” can be. In each case God’s people stepped out—some gingerly, some boldly–with faith in God’s ability and commitment to weave all of our decisions into His redemptive purposes.
As your next decision approaches, pray, exercise wisdom and humbly choose . . . then as you move forward, pause to marvel at how God merges everything into His master plan for your life.
Serving Him with you in the marketplace,
Lord, grant me the faith to accept the responsibility You have given me to grow in wise decision making. At the same time, please show me that I can never make all the right calls—and must relinquish the final purposes for me and those I’m trying to lead or care for to Your special providence. Thank You, Lord, thank You, for making me part of Your Kingdom, which is already with us and will be made visible to all someday.
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”
Paul, the Apostle in his letter to the Christians in Rome