What is Providence?

Posted under The Rectory Bulletin | Providence

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17)

Providence is not a word much used in Christian speech. Whilst a very common concept in the writings of previous ages, for whatever reason it has faded from much of the modern church. So much so, that I suspect some of you might not have heard it used before and a short definition is in order.

The word is liked to provide. Providence is God providing for his people. There is another, closely related meaning to the word. If you were to look at its Latin roots, you would find two parts: “pro”, meaning “before” or “in front of”; and “videre” which means “to see”. Providence is more than mere foreknowledge, though. In Christian terms it is the understanding that God continues to care for his creation and his people. And he cares through providing for it and for us.

I suspect that the reason this understanding has faded somewhat is that we assume that we live in a mechanistic universe, which is somehow closed off from God. The known world exists independently of God, someone might suggest, and is simply the product of the laws of nature. This has not always been the view of the way things are. The great economist Adam Smith, for example, understood the universe to be a machine operated by the hand of God. Isaac Newton simply sought to discern the hand of God within nature.

One of the names given to God was “The LORD will provide” (Genesis 22:14), and over the course of the coming days we will consider together quite how God does that very thing. How does God work within his creation? How does he use people or events to do just that? To this we will return.


It is only when we realise that we, like all others, are flawed individuals that we can gain a true perspective on ourselves. It is as we acknowledge we get things wrong, we are ready to learn and to seek forgiveness. Gentleness is not weakness. It is simply being realistic.

The Great Upholder

“He [Jesus] upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). - Life not only came from God, but continues to come from God. This is the way in which Christ “upholds” the universe, and This act of upholding serves to underline our entire dependence upon God. We not only owe him our existence, but also our continuing existence. As life flows back into the countryside in Spring, it flows from God. As life ebbs from the body at death, it continues in eternity before God.

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