Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 10:31a “Fear ye not therefore,. . .”
When you see a “therefore” in Scripture, see what it’s there for. Here it refers to the Father falling with sparrows and numbering our hairs. Since God is with the sparrow as it dies, He is surely with us as we live. “Therefore” fear not.
None of us takes time to number our own hairs. Not even the most loving mother numbers the hairs on her dearest baby, but the Father does it all the time.
Vitally involved in our lives, He takes time to know us better than we know ourselves. “Therefore” fear not. Live bravely. There is no need to be anxious.
The whole purpose for God’s involvement and interest in our lives is that we His children might live with confidence, not worry. God is watching, blessing, and guiding our lives. Providence, the Father’s interest and involvement in the details of our lives, is Jesus’ basic argument to convince us to live free from fear.
To be mature Christ followers, we must understand God’s dominion in creation, salvation, and providence. Of the three, providence is hardest to master.
To see God in creation is to see the obvious. As we observe the created order, atheism requires a bigger leap of faith than belief does. It must be difficult to watch a sunset explode with color and recognize no Artist to thank, or to see the Grand Canyon and acknowledge no Architect to praise. Spurgeon often strolled in a grove of trees by his house. He said he found it hard to walk there without falling to the ground to worship Jesus, whose handiwork was obvious everywhere.
To see God in salvation is also a given for believers. Surveying the cross makes it easier to know Jesus is the only means of salvation. If anyone ever goes to Heaven in any way other than the cross, our Savior’s excruciating death was superfluous. For saints, His blood is precious, obviously the only way to Heaven.
To believers, seeing God in creation and salvation is easy, cut and dried, but providence, uh oh, is iffy. We’re often clueless as to what His hand is doing in our lives. In difficult, painful times we have to turn our attention away from His hand to focus on His heart. Even if we don’t understand His ways, we know He is wise.
Without hesitation we boldly acknowledge God in creation and salvation. In our text, Jesus is helping us do the same with providence. I voice two cautions.
First, respond to providence with faith, not presumption; humility, not pride. Stonewall Jackson would sit calmly on his horse while bullets and cannonballs whizzed by. When spoken to about this strange behavior, he replied his life was in God’s protective hand on the battlefield as much as at home in bed. Personally, in battle I would prefer to trust God’s hand behind a tree or in a foxhole.
“When it’s my time to go, I’ll go” can be words of presumption or faith. Their demerit or merit depends on whether the speaker’s heart is proud or humble.
It is accurate to say God will keep us here on earth till our every kingdom-word is spoken and our every kingdom-work is done. It is also accurate to say believers should seek neither to hasten death with glee nor to postpone it in terror.
Through the valley of the shadow of death we do not run, flee, or collapse, we walk, moving in the ordinary courses of life. Our role is to stay steady in life, being ready for death, whenever the final moment comes. We are to rest in providence, not presume upon it. May God make us wise to know the difference.
A second caution, we believe in providence, not fate. Other world religions accept the latter. Christ followers embrace provide-ence. Fate is blind, hard, and cruel, an arrow shot in the air at random with no target. Providence sees, is wise and kind. Our Father uses loving foresight to make provision for His children.
Fate rejects rhyme and reason. Providence designs. Events happen for a reason, not because they have to, but because they ought to. Our Father, always purposeful, is ever working things together for good, to make us more like Jesus.
Providence yes, fate no. Job knew the difference. Unaware of God’s talk with Satan, Job was caught completely off guard when life caved in around him.
Sabeans attacked. They stole his 1,000 oxen and 500 donkeys, and killed his servants. Fire from heaven fell, killing his 7,000 sheep and their shepherds.
Chaldeans attacked. They took his 3,000 camels and slew their keepers. A wind of tornado proportions caused a house to collapse and killed his ten children.
Sabeans, fire, Chaldeans, wind–Job looked past them to see the First Cause. Expressing grief and respect for the dead, he tore his robe and shaved his head, customary rites of mourning in his day. He then fell to the ground and worshiped. God, not fate, is worshiped. “YHWH gave (Job called God by name, fate has no name) and YHWH has taken away (no grave is filled by accident; loved ones gone are taken). Blessed be the name of YHWH (no one blesses fate)” (Job 1:21b).
It would be difficult to overstate the importance of worship being our proper response to God’s provide-ence. We have no problem worshiping the Father in creation and salvation. He deserves from us the same response to His providence.
Spurgeon, generally regarded the best preacher since the New Testament, and the number one selling author in the history of the English language, once preached to 6,000 in a snowstorm at Halifax. Throughout the meeting, thawing snow kept leaking through the roof, making the crowd miserable. Three hours after the meeting, the building collapsed under the weight of the snow. Spurgeon, who had almost complained to God about the leaking roof, was convinced a frozen snow would have collapsed the roof during the meeting. The event impressed him deeply, and for the rest of his life helped crystallize his thoughts on providence.
“If there were nobody else in the world except you, and God had nothing else to do but to think of you, and there were no objects of his attention beyond yourself, and his eternal mind had no object of consideration but you only, the Lord would not then know more about you than he does now. The omniscience of God is concentrated upon every single being, and yet it is not divided by the multiplicity of its objects; it is not the less upon any single one because there are so many” (Spurgeon). I am dumbfounded by such awesome truth. When my faith is strong enough to accept it, I stand before it in speechless awe. I worship Him.
God is worthy of our worship. Neither arbitrary nor capricious, our Father cares and is careful. In our lives He is the Architect of beauty and perfection, knowing about our small troubles, tending to our trite trials. Jesus knew which fish had tax money in its mouth. Never hesitate to pray about the little things.
The Father knows about the huge vexations in our life, and tackles them for us. He heard the cries of His people in Egypt. Pray about big things. God will help, His intervention limited solely by the moral attributes of His own nature.
From our perspective, God’s dealings with us can be unpredictable and their meanings imperceptible. Often the most difficult question faced by a believer is, what is God up to in my life today. Much we’ll never understand in this lifetime.
Knowing this would be difficult for us, the Lord Jesus repeatedly spoke to us words of comfort. In fact, His words of consolation are so easy to understand, so straightforward, and so often spoken, that if we are not comforted by them, the blame rests squarely on our own shoulders. Unbelief, worry, and anxiety are always our own fault. Accepting this painful fact is the first step we have to take to win the victory, to gain confidence in life, to live bravely. Once we begin to deal forthrightly with faithlessness in our own selves, and accept responsibility for our own failures, we can begin leaning on the Lord Jesus and thus make progress.