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Sovereign Providence

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I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
(Philippians 4:10-13 ESV)

In yesterday’s study Paul asked the Philippians to follow his example by living as he lived. He knew that he was a good, albeit imperfect, spiritual role-model. This is interesting because Paul had gone through great difficulty while in Philippi [Acts 16] as well after he left there.

Yet despite his circumstances he didn’t behave in a way that would set a bad example. He didn’t worry or whine. One reason why this was so is because Paul knew that God was in control.

It had apparently been some time (“at length”) since the Philippians had sent Paul a gift. But Paul did not conclude this was because the Philippians did not care about him. He knew they “were indeed concerned” but simply “had no opportunity”. We don’t know exactly what prevented the Philippians from supporting Paul to this point. Perhaps it was lack of funds or lack of a messenger.

But whatever the reason, it had now been removed and the Philippians generosity was “revived”. The Greek word translated “revived” is ανατηαλλο (pronounced: an-ath-al’-lo). It is a horticultural term which means “to sprout again”. The Philippians ability to provide for Paul had been dormant for some time but now was again alive.

During the time Paul did not hear from the Philippians he did not assume the worst. He did not assume they had forgotten him or did not care about him. He believed in God’s sovereign providence. He knew that God could, and would, meet his needs.

No doubt Paul took comfort in this by reading the Scriptures he had available – what we call the Old Testament. Throughout the stories of ancient Israel we see God taking care of His people even when they are in the most dire of circumstances. King David faced much persecution from his predecessor, King Saul, who tried numerous times to kill him. Yet, like Paul, David knew that God would take care of him and he expressed this confidence in many of the Psalms he wrote [Psalm 9:9; Psalm 23:3-4; Psalm 34:17-20 et. al].

This is a great lesson for God’s children. Sometimes we may go through a difficult period where help just doesn’t arrive. But we can know for certain that God is sovereign. And He will take care of His children [John 1:12]. We just need to be patient and wait on His timing without worrying or taking matters into our own hands [Philippians 4:6-7].

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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