• Jeff Crotts
Hand throwing water

“Well…God is sovereign” …an expression someone might toss around to a Christian friend as a throw-away comment as if to say, “Well I guess God was totally disengaged with that hard life event.” Usually, when people quip with a phrase like that, they are emotionally working through something that has happened to them that they really do not like. The night before last, I found three-quarters of an inch of standing water on the concrete floor of my boiler room. Using sub pumps to save my basement, I found myself feeling like I had a hole in my boat, and it was going down. This was my second septic tank episode in the last two weeks and with three separate septic companies weighing on my situation, I became very convinced I was in for a complete septic overhaul. Depressing right?


The thought of sub-pumping wastewater out of my basement until Spring when our leech field might thaw, not to mention conserving water with four teenagers taking showers for the next several months, felt like an insurmountable option. Thankfully it turns out, the breaker to the septic lift station (equipment I knew nothing about) had inadvertently been switched off during a different and unrelated repair, whereas, switching it back miraculously flushed the entire tank, so that within seconds everything went back to normal. Nightmare over.  


This kind of trying situation, though it would have cost a lot of effort and money to fix was still on the scale of life events less than tragic. Still, I want to use this comedic circumstance to point toward a very important doctrine from the Bible called, God’s providence. God not only sovereignly allowed this septic tank “shut down” trial to take place, but God also used this unforeseeable problem to stretch and grow me to become more like Jesus. How? I had to trust God with my house. I had to trust God to provide good friends and the right professional to help me figure out what was going wrong and how to fix it. I had to receive news that there was a real possibility I would need to replace my entire system and have a new leech field dug. All this, so I could grow and trust God a little more.      


Understanding God’s sovereignty is essential for finding comfort within the very unpredictable lives we live. However, when someone passively tosses the doctrine of sovereignty around as a way to release life pressure, then he may quickly find himself denying the blessing of God’s providence within his life. A missed opportunity to see God’s personal involvement through what, by design, God arranged to get your attention. I personally believe it is easier to talk about God’s sovereignty when life treats you harshly rather than when life is going well. I say this to say, it is important to tie together God’s sovereign rule with God’s providential hand, so you begin seeing God’s hand from heaven, reaching into your daily life. We need to see life as a series of fore-ordered physical expressions of providence as what God is using to take you right where you to where he wants you to be. It can sound like I am talking like the old Puritan, seeing life in this way, but isn’t this exactly how the Lord tells us to think?


Living under God’s sovereign care and providence is not passive. Somehow believing life is about being trapped on a factory conveyer belt, traveling down an assembly line as if a piece of machinery, controlled by an overseeing plant owner. Living by providence sees the Lord as the one who knows and loves you most because he made you and saved you. When God’s love for you is baseline, then you have a foundation to trust his hand in your life whether you are experiencing good or bad circumstances. Maintaining this perspective is not easy. Remember Paul wrote of this mindset to the Philippians while in prison in Rome.


 Philippians 4:11-17 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.b]”>[b]


Here Paul is talking about being provided for by the Philippian church, while in jail for being a Christian, but do not miss that Paul is quick to say that provision was not the point (see Phil. 1:17). His point is that whether he had a lot or a little, whether he was being humbled or exalted, or having plenty or being hungry, Paul knew how to be content. He knew God’s providence was enough and that Christ was all he would ever need no matter what life dialed up (see Phil. 4:11-13).  


Let me meddle for a moment with a clear example of what living like Paul and Philippians might look like for you? Lately, I have been talking from the pulpit about the discipline of giving. Allow me to say that when you truly understand God’s providence, you will begin to understand the joy of giving. Trust me when I say that your financial circumstances (good or bad) are in direct correlation to how Jesus is at work in your life. I am not saying that the more you have the more spiritual you, and vise-versa. Paul’s point is to learn contentment in any circumstance you find yourself to be in. In fact, your renewed understanding of God’s providence could be the very key for you to become a regular giver at church if this is not the case already.