From time to time I like listening to the bible narrated, but on a particular day I elected to tune in to a few gospel artists on iHeart Radio. Usually, I don’t get into discussions about what is considered legitimate gospel songs because musical taste is just as selective as one’s favorite dish. Not to mention that it fuels a fiery debate right along the lines of church and politics. However, in this case, I will tip toe on the border of being antagonistic and say most of what is passed off as praise and worship is perfectly and lyrically adorned as materialism using scriptures to justify some form of kingdom entitlement.
Believers in Christ Jesus are privileged because of what Jesus did and with that comes great responsibility, like living before the Lord in a manner that pleases him. Cars, homes, book deals and such the like have nothing to do with the kingdom of God. Those are earthly pleasures to facilitate life. For the record, if we are aiming for lyrical and scriptural accuracy in worshiping God, the Book of Psalms is where it is at.
While tapping to the beat of the music on iHeart Radio, I had to pause a few times because some of the lyrics were not scripturally accurate. Furthermore, all I kept hearing was how God was going to bless, I got a miracle, speak over yourself, go and get your blessings, chase your dreams, your miracle is on its way and in summary, all this was miraculous. This led me to ask the question. What is the difference between providence and the miraculous? It was time to search the scriptures.
In most cases when Christians talk about God doing a miracle, it is usually one and the same with receiving some sort of benefit. Although used synonymously, providence and miracles are distinctly different in purpose and in function.
Providence (Gk pronia, Latin providentia) is the sovereign divine superintendence of all things, guiding [people] toward their divinely predetermined end in a way that is consistent with their created nature, all to the glory and praise of God. (Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology) Note: providence is a pervasive idea in the scriptures and not a biblical term.
A miracle (Gk dunamis) is an ability or capability that is supernatural in nature. It is God’s power given to his representatives to show forth his authority, influence and supremacy over sin, sickness, and disease. The miraculous wonder should always point to God and not the individual whom God uses.
Below are a few examples of providence and miracles:
God told Elijah to go to the brook at Cherith. (I Kings 17:3-4)
This shows God’s care in meeting the prophet’s basic needs in a drought.
Naomi returned back to Bethlehem because she heard God visited his people with bread. (Ruth 1:6)
God not only cared for Naomi, but also provided for Ruth, the Moabitess who chose to serve God. Returning back to Bethlehem placed both in a position to be financially cared for through kinsmen redemption. In the grand scheme of things, Ruth was engrafted into the Jewish lineage and therefore became one of the four women identified in the genealogy of Jesus Christ.
Paul’s handkerchiefs were used to heal the sick and cast out devils. (Acts 19:11-12)
It wasn’t the handkerchiefs or Paul that performed the miracles but God’s power. The item used or the person in and of itself does not have the ability to work the supernatural. It is God’s spirit that does the work. The confidence should be placed in God, not the person or thing used.
Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. (St. John 11:1-44)
Although Jesus could have prevented Lazarus’ death, the point of this miracle was not prevention but resurrection. God has power over life and death.
Providence and Miracles
Sometimes providence and the miraculous intersect. We read about Jesus providing for 5,000 men, not including women and children, with two fish and five loaves of bread. The provision was the bread and fish. How the Lord was able to feed the multitude is supernatural. (St Matthew 14:13-21)
Another example where providence and miracles intertwine is the widow and the oil. The prophet directed the widow to borrow vessels and use the oil she had but how she was able to sustain is unknown and a wonder. (II King 4:1-7)
In conclusion, providence is God meeting our basic needs so we can sustain. Since all of the world’s resources are at God’s beck and call, he distributes as he sees fit. When we accept and thank him for the provision, he is honored. Miracles are independent of medical assistance and human intervention. They are supernatural in nature and are solely dependent upon God’s ability.