The Providence and Sovereignty of God

  We visited at Three Lakes Bible Church yesterday. We miss seeing the folks where we pastored for 37 years so try to drop in occasionally to touch base with them and to worship together. The interim pastor, Dave Simmons,  is part of a group of pastors that provides pulpit supply while churches look for a new pastor. He receives newsletters from the organization with prayer requests and praises from the other interim pastors. He shared an amazing story of a couple who was moving from an apartment into a house. They were quite a bit annoyed when, just as they were moving their belongings out of the high-rise apartment, the elevator quit working. They had to use the stairs which comes out in an alley. As they were carrying a mattress down the alley, they noticed some toys on the ground and looked up to see a child dangling from a cord hung outside a window high above them. They rushed over with their mattress just as the child fell and caught him on their mattress!  Now that was a “wow moment,” revealing to them why their elevator didn’t work, and why they chose that time to move their things.  The sovereignty of God is so amazing. We don’t always recognize His hand at work, but He is always there, carrying out His sovereign purposes, and nothing can thwart Him. God, in speaking to and through Isaiah the prophet, said: “…for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning…saying, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish My good pleasure…Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it'” (Isa. 46:9-11).

     Even though our circumstances aren’t always ones we would choose, God is always there, using everything to conform us to the image of Christ and to manifest His glory. He doesn’t waste anything!  The  Psalmist wrote: “Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Psa. 135:6). Our Sovereign God knows about every detail of our lives and is orchestrating them to accomplish His purpose in and through us. In His “Sermon on the Mount” He told His followers, “Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’ …for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you” (Mt. 7: 31-33).
     As I heard Pastor Simmons share of the providence of God in sparing the life of the child, I was reminded of the testimony I saw on YouTube by American Airlines’ pilot, Peter Sheibner. Peter flew P-3’s in the Navy and then joined American Airlines in 1991. He flew Boeing 757’s and 767’s.  On Sept. 10, 2011, his wife dropped him off at the Georgetown, Maine library to check the computer to see if there were any open flights for the next day. He noticed that Flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles was available. He signed up for the flight and went home to pack his bag in preparation for the flight the next morning. His wife ironed his shirt and he waited for the phone to ring confirming his assignment. If no one with seniority bumped him within half an hour after he signed up for the flight, the flight was his.
     Well, Tom McGuinness, who did have seniority, had logged in just after Peter, saw his name and decided to bump him. So, American Airlines erased Peter’s name and put Tom’s in, but failed to notify Peter. Since he didn’t get a call, he assumed he had been bumped and made other plans to do some work for the Navy the next day, Sept. 11, 2011.  He was there when the story broke on television that the World Trade center had been attacked and he watched the horrific scene as the second airplane crashed into one of the twin towers. He even heard that it was American Airlines Flight 11, but it didn’t click with him right away that it was the very plane he had signed up to pilot that day. His phone started ringing and it finally sunk in what had transpired.  God, in His sovereign providence had chosen to spare his life at that time. Peter struggled some with guilt, knowing that someone else had literally “died in his place.”  But he also realized that God had left him here for a reason. Twenty years before, Peter, who had come to know Christ as his Savior, wrote out his life objective which was “…to seek and glorify and trust God… and to walk humbly as His servant…” that one day he might hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  Peter realized the privilege he had been given. Someone died in his place, not once, but twice. Tom McGuinness sat in the seat he should have been in, but some 2,000 years earlier, Jesus Christ took his place on the Cross, paying the price for his sins, shedding His blood and giving His life so that Peter could have eternal life.
     Tom McGuinness was qualified to take Peter’s seat to pilot the fateful Flight 11 on Sept. 11, 2011 because he had a little seniority over Peter. Jesus was qualified to take Peter’s place (and yours and mine) on the cross because He was the “spotless Lamb of God” who came to “take away the sins of the world” (Jn. 1:29). Jesus, being eternal God, and living a sinless life here on earth, was qualified to take our place and to die for the sins of the world.  “He (God the Father) made Him (Jesus, God the Son) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21).  Both Tom McGuinness and Jesus died in Peter Sheibner’s place, but only Jesus could die for his (and our) sins. 
     The amazing providence of God that spared Peter’s life on Sept. 11, 2011 caused him to live his life with a sense of urgency, realizing how each day could be his last here on earth. He renewed the goal he had made twenty years earlier to walk worthy of His calling as a child of God. The same is true for each of us. None of us knows how many years or months or days we have left on this earth, so should live our lives with a sense of urgency, “seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.”
                                                                                            Forever His,
                                                                                                    Pastor Dave
P.S.  Check out Peter Sheibner’s story, “In My Seat” on YouTube or get a copy of his book by that title.

About Pastor Dave

Until my retirement 2 years ago, I pastored an independent Bible church in Northwest Montana for nearly 38 years. During that time I also helped establish a Christian school, and a Bible Camp. I am married and have children and grandchildren. The Wisdom of the Week devotional is an outgrowth of my desire to share what God is doing in my life and in our world, and to challenge you to be a part.
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