God's Providential Hand
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Most of those who read this know that All Nations will soon be dispersed [read: dissolved or closed] as a congregation. It’s been quite the time. Over the weekend, we were with a bunch of pastors and their wives. It was a nice time. One of those just happened to have been one of my youth pastors who also in previous years had planted and subsequently closed a church. And he said something off the cuff that was a good reminder. It was something like this, ‘It was hardest until we decided to close and knew that it was God’s doing.’ I know some of our congregation have said, ‘I don’t know why God is doing this, but we trust in his hand.’ Which brings me to my point: I think it is helpful to say that it is the Lord who has brought us to this place and still we are in his providential hands.
Just think of the whole world around us and how our God provides in difficulty. So many birds have run into our windows this week. I’m not sure why, but they find our windows attractive things to get a headache from (or die). Yet, our heavenly father feeds them. In his gracious, all-giving providence, he gives a bounty to all creation we can’t fathom. Have you seen herds of bison, elk, or reindeer in the wild? Have you considered the anthills teeming with tiny creatures of God’s design? It is God’s goodness displayed and his providence declared. What about the ferocious beauty of the mountain peaks? Or the deep sea? Or a raging storm? Or the gentle beauty of a butterfly or iris? I’m not sure anyone else can defend beauty so well as a Christian who affirms God’s providence. Beauty declares God cares for his creation especially those he made in his image.
So , he will clothe you and he will feed you. But he is also working in our midst for the good of those who love him. I every once and a while wonder, ‘is it a mistake to have gone this way?’, and I regularly return to the answer, ‘No.’ The Lord can provide and guide in many ways, yet still one of these ways is to close. And through our imperfect prayers and considerations, we’ve stepped out in faith trusting in Yahweh of hosts in our decision to close. But this is not the end. Of course, it is the end of an institution (which I am very much in favor of building up over the long-term), but in almost every other way it is just one step for individuals called by God to continue to grow in patient Christian labor wherever he plants us.
And I think that in all the excitement of evangelical/pragmatic revivalism and all the divisions produced by this internet age, we all need to be reminded, whether a member of ANBC or not, that God is providentially at work in all things. And this applies both to beauty and to the provision of food. And what is the aim of all this work? As we trust in the Lord’s providence, we are freed to pursue things of ultimate meaning: the kingdom of God and his righteousness. May we be faithful wherever God will place us.