prov·i·dence prä-v&-d&n(t)s, -"den(t)s
Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin providentia, from provident-, providens (14th century)
1 divine guidance or care: God conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny (WWWebster)
“Skip, this is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Hilton Head Island. Our church is seeking a minister of youth and education, and your name has been given to us. I’m going to be in Louisville next week and would like to talk to you.”
“Hilton Head? I’ve heard of it. Isn’t it a golf and tennis resort?” I replied.
“It is indeed. It’s a wonderful place,” he said.
“Well, with all due respect, I really love my work here and I’m not anxious to leave. You might be wasting your time with me.”
I meant what I said. I was in my last semester of seminary and serving as student pastor in one of the most wonderful churches in the city of Louisville. I was part of a tremendous staff. And, with a daughter approaching 9th grade, another in elementary school, plus a 3-year-old and a newborn, I wasn’t anxious to relocate to some remote island three states away.
At the time I was engrossed not only in finishing my final semester, I was also serving as interim minister of music in addition to my youth ministry. So, in the midst of preparing for our Easter drama, I put the phone conversation about Hilton Head on the back burner. That is, until I attended my next Christian education class with Dr. Findley Edge.
After class Dr. Edge asked me if I had heard from the Hilton Head church.
I nodded. I then proceeded to tell Dr. Edge that I had indicated to the pastor that I was not really interested.
Dr. Edge looked at me with his keen eyes and said, “Please do me the courtesy of at least talking to him. I’m the one who submitted your name.”
So it was that I showed up the next afternoon for my interview. I was on my way after class to work on a set for our Easter drama, so I was wearing holey jeans (appropriate for a seminary student, don’t you think?) and sporting a week-old stubble I was growing for my part in the production. Quite a contrast from the other interviewees in their Sunday best.
I didn’t expect much to come from the interview, but was I wrong! Let me just say that when I got home I said to Mary Beth, “Don’t be surprised if the Lord calls us to Hilton Head.” And, as I left the interview, the pastor turned the chairman of deacons, and said, “I think that’s our man.” The rest, as they say, is history. Four months later we became “islanders.”
Was it difficult leaving family, friends, and a wonderful ministry? You betcha! But God provided for us in every way. And let me stress this point also - he provided, in His time, for someone to fill the vacancy my departure created.
God always provides for His people. This is a truth that Abraham learned as he trusted God explicitly. When he obediently took Isaac up to the altar and raised the blade over his beloved son he was trusting God to provide. He believed that God knew best and that God would do what was best.
John Calvin, in his seminal work of theology stated, “When Abraham said to his son, God will provide, (Gen. 22: 8,) he meant not merely to assert that the future event was foreknown to God but to resign the management of an unknown business to the will of Him whose province it is to bring perplexed and dubious matters to a happy result.” (John Calvin, Institutes)
What I hear Calvin saying is this: When things look uncertain or difficult, understand that God is at work for our good in the midst of the circumstances. Our best course is to take hands off and let God work to provide for our needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Will you trust Him to do that?
A tragedy in our community reminds us of our need to trust that God knows what He's doing. Even though God is in control, He doesn't always intervene in our lives in ways that we would expect. Hence, we struggle with questions such as "Why would such a lovely person as Vanessa Mintz be senselessly murdered?" As our pastor, Ryan, said this morning, we don't understand, but God does, and He can be trusted to work for good in the midst of tragic circumstances.
We must trust God all the more when we can't make sense of circumstances. He has always been, and will always be, faithful, loving, and true. And in His way, and in His time, He will provide for His children.