Pastoral Providence

Challenge Central: a CBC devotional

By: Pastor Lars Janssen

I sometimes wonder why life is such a struggle. The responsibilities, pressures, headlines, and deadlines crowd in, so I can often think of nothing beyond the noise of my cluttered mind. I ask my crowded thoughts, “How long will all of you attack a man to batter him, like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?” (Ps. 62:3)

On Sunday, by God’s grace, I was reminded of His providence, that He “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11). Providence may be thought of as God’s provision through events (i.e., providence = provision-events). It is God’s powerful ability to accomplish His will through every circumstance in our lives.

But what is God’s will? To what end does He work all these things? God’s Word does not leave us to wonder: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:3). God’s will is that we would become more like Jesus (Eph. 4:13). So I have begun to take comfort that God is making me more like Jesus among the grim headlines and looming deadlines. But how does He do this in any specific situation?

This is not always easy to see. Sometimes difficult circumstances teach us to trust God more (Prov. 3:5), to lean into His power when ours is insufficient (Eph. 6:12-13), or to adjust our course back toward the “good way” (Jer. 6:16). Often we can’t see what God is doing on our own and we need help. Most of all, we need Jesus, the Good Shepherd, to help us see that His providence will undoubtedly result in glory for Him and good for us (Rom. 8:18, 28). But we also need other Christians. Ephesians 4:11-16 shows us that God provides His people with “shepherds” and other gifted believers so that we all become more able to assist in each others’ growth. So we can see that the Good Shepherd uses providential circumstances and His people to shepherd us toward becoming more like himself.

The word “shepherd” in Ephesians 4:11 is often translated as “pastor” in English Bibles. In fact, it’s the only place in the New Testament that this Greek word (poimēn [ποιμὴν]) is used about a specific position in the church. Usually, this term refers to actual shepherds (Luke 2) or, more commonly, to Jesus himself as the “Good Shepherd” of John 10:1-18, the “Great Shepherd” of Hebrews 13:20, or the “Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” in 1 Peter 2:25. The idea of pastoring is therefore firmly bound up in Jesus. We sheep can’t find our way without help. We need Jesus and each other. We need guidance, conversation, and correction. Even Jesus’ ability to lead us in “the good way” (Jer. 6:16) through life’s circumstances—His pastoral providence—should encourage us to seek the help of our fellow Christians.

That’s why my conscience leads me to talk to my godly friends at Central about God’s pastoral providence in my life. He is always teaching us. Perhaps God is saying to me as He did to Pharaoh in Exodus 10:3, “How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me?” Or maybe He’s saying, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exod. 14:14). Please pray for me and my cluttered mind. Life can be a struggle, and often I need help understanding the Good Shepherd’s pastoral providence in the middle of all the headlines and deadlines. Perhaps you do too.

Who will help you discern God’s pastoral providence in your life?


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