Provision or providence

C&S media publications | 972-442-5515 OPINION & COMMENTARY September 14-15, 2016 7A

article-pic Provision or providence

Just about everyone knows or is vaguely familiar with the story of Jonah in the Bible. It’s always been a popular story with children as they learn that Jonah was swallowed by a huge fish and remained in the belly of that fish for three days. Jonah is known as the ‘fearful’ or ‘disobedient’ prophet because of his response to God’s call. But Jonah’s response is really not much different than the way we respond today.

You know the story…God called Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach against the wickedness of the city. But Jonah, like many of us, decided not to heed God’s command and ran in the opposite direction towards Tarshish. The scriptures tell us in verse 3 of Jonah chapter 1, “But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.” It’s interesting to note that Jonah was so determined to run away from God, that he actually paid his own fare to Tarshish. As small of an incident that it may seem, I think it has some relevant application to our lives today.

You may have heard the phrase, “Where God guides, He provides.” In other words, if God is guiding you to do something, he will also provide the means for you to do it. And I think there’s much truth found in that statement. But the challenge comes when we mistake provision for providence. We automatically assume that because the provision is available that it is confirmation that God is guiding us in that direction. Can you think back through your life and remember the numerous times that you’ve made decisions based on the fact that provision was available? How many times have we’ve purchased a home or car because it was a good deal and we had the money? The purchase of the new home or car is not a bad thing, but in many cases we may have felt that God was approving our step or guiding us to make the purchase because the funds were available.

A closer look at Jonah’s life reveals something different. Jonah had the money to pay his own fare to Tarshish, but it was obvious that God was not guiding him there. I could imagine Jonah reaching into his pocket to get his money and thinking, “Thank you God for providing this money for me…this must be your confirmation that you want me to go to Tarshish.” When we’re running from God, we’ll often find any excuse available, twist it and put God’s name on it, and then call it confirmation from Him. Or, when something bad happens, we automatically use it as a ‘sign’ that God is against whatever we’re doing. I remember when our family was leaving Hawaii to relocate to Texas. And the very last night, just hours before we were to get on the plane, our church was giving us a going-away party. It was getting late and one of the couples was leaving to go home, and I insisted on driving them there. Well, leaving the driveway we were in a minor car accident and I tore up my knee pretty bad. It was so funny as the church members were jokingly saying ‘See Pastor, that means you’re not supposed to be moving to Texas!’

As Christ-followers, we must ensure that we do not allow the false signs of events or provision to be the sole basis for our decisions. Remember that we follow Christ, not provision. Provision may be one of the factors, along with others, that help us to make wise decisions, but it is not the sole factor for us to rely on. As Christians we have the privilege and obligation to seek God for His care and guidance over each and every area of our lives. Be encouraged to know that God desires an intimate relationship with you so that you can communicate with Him and not have to guess your next step!