Together we have been reading through The Mystery of Providence written by Puritan John Flavel. You can read more about the project here.
In this next to the last chapter in the profound writing, Mystery of Providence by John Flavel, two of the most difficult circumstances of the Christian life are confronted here. While Flavel notes five practical cases when one is considering the work of God, there is a recurring theme here, and it is one that Christians throughout the generations have confronted:
- How do I know and desire the will of God? Specifically, how do I do this during difficult circumstances?
As Christians, we are constantly told that we should replace our will with God’s will; that we should seek Him first and do the things that please Him. However, in giving that much needed exhortation, people fail to give practical insights into and with passion. It is one thing to say we need to desire God’s will, and quite another to actually desire it. Too often, desiring God’s will becomes a burden of duty rather than a passion of joy, and there is a great distinction between both. The former will bring us along begrudgingly heeding God’s will only because we are brought to a point in which we are forced to (for some this will be the time of judgment when every knee shall bow). The latter though has to hold us back out of the excitement that inflames us to run forward with all exuberance. So how do we find ourselves typified with the latter group of people instead of the former?
It’s simple. Know God. Of course, it’s never just that simple, because so many of us are unsure how to ‘know God.’ There are three practical ways that come out of our reading here:
- Through Prayer: Spend time in prayer with God. Talking to someone is part of the relationship. Without this vital aspect, a relationship doesn’t exist at all.
- Through the Word: God continually reveals Himself to us through His Word. We not only understand God’s character through Scripture, but we understand His past work, present work, and future work.
- Through Experience: As always, we must be careful to never define God or His Word by our experiences, but rather allow our experiences to be defined by them. It is through our personal experience that we see God at work though. We learn to trust God by seeing Him at work.
Ultimately, there will be times of great joy and of great sorrow. Times of great enjoyment and great displeasure. However, throughout it all, God never changes. If our faith is in a God who does not change, then our faith should not change. Furthermore, I would tell you that are contentment should never change. How can this be? Because our contentment is not in the world around us, in the circumstances we are faced with, or anything else. Our contentment is also in Him.
Through His providence, we are kept in steady times and unsteady times. As such, when the difficult times pervade us, we are still compelled to be His faithful servants, obedient to His will alone. Providence has already shown that if the difficult circumstances are seen through to the end, they ultimately work to our benefit by building up Godly character (James 1:2-11).
May our comfort today come in Him. May our joy come in Him. And may we never waver as a result of who is the object of our faith.