Purposeful SovereigntyMarch 26, 2021 4 Comments
I’ve just begun reading a terrific new book by John Piper - Providence. I’ve only read the intro and the first chapter so far, but I’m already sensing this book might become a very important book for me. It’s not that the concept of divine providence is new to me. Not at all. I’ve heard of it all my life. I’ve read good books on it (Trusting God by Jerry Bridges) and preached sermons on it. But I have to confess that while the concept is clear to me, the reality is not always so.
In other words, while I firmly believe all that our confessional standards (and the Heidelberg Catechism) so succinctly state about providence, the way I experience this world is not sufficiently informed by what I profess. When I hear of tragedies (like the shootings in Colorado and Atlanta) or of concerning political agendas (like the Equality Act) or of threatening foreign powers, my emotional response is likely to be discouragement and fear. And discouragement and fear do not come from a functioning theology of divine, Fatherly providence.
So Piper’s explanation of his goal in writing this book resonates with me.
“My aim in this book is not to develop a new meaning of providence that the church has not embraced in its historic statements of faith. Instead, I aim to gather from the Scriptures some very old kindling of truth, pile it up in plain view, and put a match to it. This is not because I want to consume it, but because I want to release its incendiary properties for the intensifying of true worship, the solidifying of wavering conviction, the strengthening of embattled faith, the toughening of joyful courage, and the advance of God’s mission in this world.” (32-33)
Sign me up!
Piper defines providence as God’s “purposeful sovereignty”, with the emphasis on “purposeful”. Every single thing God does He does “according to the purpose of His will” (Eph 1:5). This purposeful sovereignty is absolute. Listen to this amazing quote by Charles Spurgeon and then Piper’s summary.
Spurgeon: “I believe that every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less than God wishes—that every particle of spray that dashes against the steamboat has its orbit, as well as the sun in the heavens—that the chaff from the hand of the winnower is steered as the stars in their courses. The creeping of an aphid over the rosebud is as much fixed as the march of the devastating pestilence—the fall of . . . leaves from a poplar is as fully ordained as the tumbling of an avalanche.” 
Piper: “That’s astonishing. Every tiny, popping bubble in the foam at the top of a newly poured can of Coke. Every floating dust mote which you can see only in the early-morning bedroom beam of light. Every tip of every stalk of grain stretching across the endless Nebraska plains. All of them, with all their slightest movements, specifically governed by God.” 2
Wow. That inspires worship - and some trembling and awe. That means that the world we inhabit is dripping with divine, sovereign purpose. Oh Lord, give us eyes to see!
My prayer is that the doctrine of providence will become the reality by which I see and feel and think day by day. I want my outlook to be rooted in Biblical reality! Our world not only belongs to God – it is thoroughly ordered and upheld by His sovereign, good, and perfect purpose. I believe there are depths of joy and peace freely available to me in Christ as the reality of providence becomes my functioning reality in this world.
In His Service,
P.S. Care to join me?? Desiring God is making this book available for FREE as a pdf that you can download on their site.
 Charles Spurgeon, “God’s Providence,” sermon on Ezek. 1:15–19, Bible Bulletin Board, accessed April 9, 2020, http://www.biblebb.com/files/spurgeon/3114.htm.
2 Providence, 36