Why should we read John Flavel's The Mystery of Providence in February 2008?
Simple answer? Because we have a NEED to read this book and make a serious study of its subject matter.
More complex answer? We can do no better than to read the following from the Publisher's Introduction to this work:
Our modern piety, when it deals with spiritual problems, tends to be self-centred and subjective; 'How can I find peace? How can I be victorious and effective? How can I be guided?' If we know the answers to these questions, it is often felt, nothing more can be asked of us. Within the terms of such an outlook, little time and attention can be spared for the consideration of such an apparently theoretical subject as the Providence of God. it may even provoke some impatience. In view of the demands of modern life, is it really necessary for us to spend time reading a lengthly treatment of what is not priority?
Flavel's approach to the subject of Providence cuts clean across our modern criticisms. he insists from the outset that it is the duty of believers to observe all the performances of God's providence for them, especially when they are in difficulties. Clearly this conviction is not shared by the majority of evangelical Christians in the present day. it is not our custom nor is it regarded as a mark of spiritual keenness to seek to discover and meditate upon the work of Providence in all that happens to us. Two reasons for this may be suggested. First and foremost, the Puritans had a lively sense of the sovereignty of God and it is just this that, speaking generally, we lack today. Many Christians reject it intellectually as repugnant to free will and their understanding of the love of God. When they suffer a setback in their personal affairs or in the work of the gospel, it is ascribed wholly to the Devil or to failure in themselves to 'fulfill the conditions'. They feel a sense of personal frustration and may even believe that God Himself has been frustrated. their only hope of success is to intensify their spiritual exercises. Prayer on this basis is not so much a plea to Omnipotence as the throwing of one's weight into the scale on the side of God. Even those who profess to accept without question the truth of divine sovereignty are not infrequently guilty of practical unbelief. Glibly to assert that 'all things work together for good to them that love God' is relatively easy but to believe this when our circumstances are distasteful and appear likely to deteriorate is evidence of a spiritual apprehension of the sovereignty of God. Yet we cannot truly recognize and improve the workings of Providence until we learn from the Scriptures that God performs all things for us. (pg. 12-13)
The previous words were penned in 1963. As we sit here 45 years later, little has changed. If anything, the "evangelical church" of 2008 is more driven by pragmatism, programs, and personalities (a sad alliteration but true) than it was in the mid-60's . We need to reject this unholy triumvirate and trust completely in God's Providence. In so doing it is my prayer that we will abandon our "self-centred" focus and set our eyes on the One who does all things well.
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