Looking Beyond the Frowning Providence in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Looking Beyond the Frowning Providence in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Few things make me more nervous and angered simultaneously than hearing evangelical speakers talk about how God told them something in a secret non-canonical manner that’s outside of the realm of holy Scripture. During this global COVID-19 pandemic such talk has arisen once again and it’s primarily centered upon the idea that God is judging his Church and calling us to repentance.

Could God be using this pandemic as a form of judgment? Sure. However, if we explore the secret providence of God and how our God governs all things at all times for his glory—we will find that he’s doing many millions of things at the same time in order to bring both judgment and joy in ways that we can’t hardly fathom.

According to chapter 5 and paragraph 1 of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, we find the following explanation of God’s providence:

God the good Creator of all things, in his infinite power and wisdom, upholds, directs, arranges, and governs all creatures and things, from the greatest to the least, by his perfectly wise and holy providence, to the purpose for which they were created. He governs according to his infallible foreknowledge and the free and unchangeable counsel of his own will. His providence leads to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, infinite goodness, and mercy.

The power and wisdom of our God is infinite. Such limitlessness is beyond our brain capacity to comprehend. He orders and rules over all things at all times. Our God is not only the divine creator, he’s likewise the divine ruler over his creation. He orders and controls everything from earthly monarchs to wild beasts. He raises up and controls marching armies and God is not absent from dark dungeons and prisons. Our God is sovereign over natural disasters and by his providence orders and controls every disease on planet earth—including the COVID-19 virus.

Through this pandemic God can call be calling one person to repentance while infusing great joy in the heart of another person at the very same time. He can be humbling materialistic self-focused rebels while bringing an overly busy Christian home together for fellowship and family devotion in ways that have not been possible in recent years.

What can God’s Church learn through this pandemic? One proper lesson would be that we must not underestimate or overly summarize God’s providence in the midst of such a pandemic. Why was Joseph thrown into a pit? Was it to bring Joseph to judgment or his brothers? Was it merely judgment that God was working out for the jealous sinful brothers of Joseph or was God raising up a faithful man in Egypt who would remember God’s people during the midst of a great famine? Often times in the midst of hard seasons such as our current season of a global pandemic we look to the negative rather than the positive and seek to pigeonhole God’s providence.

Look to the bright side of this pandemic and see what good God is doing in the midst of this strange season in church history. How many people have heard the good news of Jesus through online preaching during this time? How many people have been confronted with the frailty of life and the need for the gospel during this season of history? Perhaps we will never know the full scope of God’s story during this pandemic, but whatever we do we must remember that when Joseph was dropped into that small pit he was in the presence of a big God. No matter how dark the days become or how insurmountable the challenges appear—we can rest in the shelter of our God who is our rock and refuge and very present help in times of trouble. As the psalmist writes, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2).

The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith goes on to describe God’s providence in chapter 5 and paragraph 7 by stating, “The providence of God in a general way includes all creatures, but in a special way it takes care of his church and arranges all things to its good.” William Cowper [1731-1800] was one of the great English poets and a prolific author of hymns. Although he struggled with anxiety and dark depression, God used him in a wonderful way. With the help and aid of John Newton, he produced the Olney Hymns in 1779. In 1774, Cowper wrote “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” which contains a great reminder of hope in the midst of darkness. In the fourth stanza, in describing the providence of God, Cowper penned these words, “Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.” Never underestimate or overly summarize the providence of God.

“God Moves in a Mysterious Way” — By: William Cowper (1774)

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform:
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill,
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour:
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own Interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

The Meticulous Providence of God

The Meticulous Providence of God

In recent days, I’ve thought much about the providence of God. Why did God allow a doctor to be on the street at the specific intersection in Edinburgh, Scotland at the precise moment of my daughter’s diabetic seizure? That moment has promoted my examination of a thousand other daily occurrences that have caused me to explore the deep wells of God’s divine providence. Thomas Watson writes, in his A Body of Divinity, “There is no such thing as blind fate, but there is a providence that guides and governs the world. “The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is if the Lord” (Prov. 16:33).” [1]

Did God arrange your steps to cross paths with your spouse so that you would meet, fall in love, and eventually marry? Why did you grow up in the neighborhood where you were raised as a child, was that chance or was that ordered by God’s providence? What about the traffic problem you had on your way home from work that caused you to be late for supper last week, why did that happen?

Such questions are good questions to work through, but then we eventually come to much deeper questions such as why God allows pain in this world and why God caused you and I to be born into specific places where we would have such great access to the gospel while millions around the world have very little gospel light.

When working through such questions, there are both theological and ethical answers that people desire answers for, but none are beyond the realm of theological. For instance, who becomes president of the United States in 2020 falls into the realm of political, ethical, and theological—and at the end of the day—we trust that God is not watching CNN at midnight ringing his hands as he drinks his Double Shot Espresso from Starbucks to stay awake.

God is sovereign and as a result of his sovereign rule—he governs all things according to his providence. Notice how Paul explains this in Romans 11:36:

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

God is at work in all things and will bring about his glory. We can’t possibly evaluate the meticulous providence of God in his work of ordering all things, directing all things, and working all things for his eternal glory. Charles Spurgeon, tells a story of God’s providence where he was scheduled to preach to some 8,000 people, but a massive snow storm came and he thought that there would be nobody present in the building where he was the guest preacher for the day. Instead, when he arrived, there were some 5,000 to 6,000 people in attendance. That evening, a smaller crowd was gathered together, and that was when Spurgeon witnessed the providence of God. He explains the story as follows:

But mark the provident hand of God: in the evening, when the people were about to retire, and when there was scarcely more than a hundred persons there, a huge beam gave way, and down came a portion of the flooring of the gallery with a fearful crash. Several persons were precipitated with the planks, but still the good hand of God watched over us, and only two persons were severely injured with broken legs, which it is trusted will be re-set without the necessity of amputation. Now, had this happened any earlier, not only must many more have been injured, but there are a thousand chances to one, as we say, that a panic must necessarily have ensued similar to that which we still remember, and deplore as having occurred in this place. Had such a thing occurred, and had I been the unhappy preacher on the occasion, I feel certain that I should never have been able to occupy the pulpit again. Such was the effect of the first calamity, that I marvel that I ever survived. No human tongue can possibly tell what I experienced. The Lord, however, graciously preserved us; the fewness of the people in the gallery prevented any such catastrophe, and thus a most fearful accident was averted. But we have a more marvellous providence still to record. Overloaded by the immense weight of snow which fell upon it, and beaten by a heavy wind, the entire building fell with an enormous crash three hours after we had left it, splitting the huge timbers into shivers, and rendering very much of the material utterly useless for any future building. Now mark this—had the snow begun three hours earlier, the building must have fallen upon us, and how few of us would have escaped we cannot guess. [2]

The tragedy that occurred at Surrey Gardens still haunted Spurgeon in his memory when some 12,000 people were gathered for worship and a few people, prearranged and calculated, cried out “Fire! The galleries are giving way! The place is falling!” The result was a trampling rush to escape the building and such a rush claimed the lives of several people.

As Spurgeon tells the story of the beam falling and the eventual collapse of the building in the heavy snow pack, he can see how God was in complete control of the snow storm, the snow fall, when the snow fell, and the end result was that God saved thousands!

Have you considered the meticulous providence of God? It was R.C. Sproul who once stated, “There is no maverick molecule if God is sovereign.” Why did you hear the gospel preached the day that you were saved? Why did God arrange the salvation of your parents so that you would be discipled under their care in their home? God did this and it was for your good and for his glory.

You may say, as we often see in the psalms, why did God allow such pain in my life? Why have the enemies of God seemed to prevail over me? We must trust that God is wise and good. Even in the pain, we must trust God. Never doubt the fact that God is working out all things in both pleasure and pain according to his sovereign will. His providence guides and governs all things for his glory. As we pray, we must pray with confidence that God is able to turn our sorrow into a song—much like we see throughout the psalms (see Psalm 13 as an example).


  1. Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, (Edinburgh, Scotland: Banner of Truth Publishing, 1692; reprinted 2015), 119.
  2. Charles Spurgeon, Sermon titled, “Providence” delivered from New Park Street Pulpit. Text of Scripture: Matthew 10:30, April 11, 1858.
The Kind Providence of God—Yes God Still Works Miracles for His Glory

The Kind Providence of God—Yes God Still Works Miracles for His Glory

This past week, my family and I witnessed the kind and meticulous providence of God at work in a terrible situation. While I typically don’t spend much time writing about personal matters on this blog, today I felt that I should tell the story of God’s providence and miracle working power and hopefully it will encourage you in the faith. 

We arrived in Edinburgh Scotland early on Sunday morning to begin a Reformation church history tour that would last an entire week as we would travel with a group from Scotland to England—covering people such as Patrick Hamilton, George Wishart, John Knox, William Tyndale, John Bunyan, John Rogers, John Owen, Thomas Goodwin, Isaac Watts, and more. 

Since we couldn’t checkin at the hotel until after 3pm, we decided to have breakfast in the hotel restaurant and then my family along with one of our elders and his wife from our church would go up onto the Royal Mile and take a quick walk down past some church history spots including Parking Place 23 at St. Giles’ Cathedral and then tour the Knox House. After we finished, we grabbed coffee at Starbucks and then took a quick picture of the statue of John Knox at Edinburgh Theological Seminary before heading back to the hotel. 

As we started down the hill, I noticed that my daughter’s blood sugar was low. She is a Type-1 diabetic and wears a sensor on her body that sends a signal to my iPhone to inform me if it’s too low. When I told her, she replied, “I know, I’ve already eaten a little fig bar.” So, off we go back to the hotel and what happened next is still a blur to me.

I heard my wife yelling my name as we are walking down the busy sidewalk. I turned and saw my daughter sitting on the sidewalk. As I ran to her she was saying, “Help me, I can’t see, I can’t see.” I recognized that this to be the result of the low blood sugar and I knew we had to get sugar into her. Before I could do anything, she fell over into my arms, her eyes rolled back into her head, and she began having a seizure. At this point, a million things are running through my mind. One thing hit me suddenly. It was the fact that her emergency glucagon shot is in the holding room at the hotel which is .5 miles away. Time would not permit me to run to retrieve it. 

At that moment, I’m screaming for people to give me some sugar and I’m calling out to see if anyone is a diabetic who might have an emergency shot. Everyone was throwing me the wrong things – hard candy and stuff that would never work. At this moment, I’m on the ground caring for my daughter and immediately took some Skittles candy and chewed it up frantically while prying open her clinched jaw in order to get the sugar juice under her tongue into the capillary bed which is a fast track into the blood stream. My wife and our son along with an elder from our church ran to get sugar from a restaurant while others are circled up on the sidewalk calling for an ambulance. It was utter chaos. My heart was beating out of my chest. Would I watch my daughter die on the sidewalk in Scotland? That was my fear. We were all calling out to God. 

While I was working on my daughter, a woman tried to jump in to perform CPR and I had to push her away as she was insisting that we do CPR. I knew she was breathing and that she had a pulse. I had walked this road before almost exactly four years ago. I knew what to do, but I didn’t have her shot with me this time. I felt helpless and desperate. I have never felt so desperate in my entire life. At that very moment, a man at the red light jumped out of his car and introduced himself as an ER doctor who specializes in pediatric care. He immediately helped me. 

Within a couple of minutes, my daughter was starting to come back out of her unconscious state and could follow enough directions to sip some coke mixed with loads of added sugar. Her paleness was fading away as color began to fill her face again. 

We experienced the kindness of complete strangers on the sidewalk. One man provided his coat as a pillow for her head as we worked on her. Another stranger was consoling my son who was broken as he thought he was watching his sister die. Most assuredly, we experienced the kind providence of God. In a million little ways that I can’t even begin to fathom—God was there and he was at work to arrange every single detail in order to care for my daughter and to bring glory to himself. 

By evening, I was able to preach in our first session of the church history tour. My daughter was released from the hospital and spent the night in our hotel room with us and never missed a beat on the tour through Scotland, Cambridge, Oxford, and London. J.C. Ryle said the following:

Nothing whatever, whether great or small, can happen to a believer, without God’s ordering and permission. There is no such thing as “chance,” “luck” or “accident” in the Christian’s journey through this world. All is arranged and appointed by God. And all things are “working together” for the believer’s good.

If my daughter had died that day, God would still be worthy of praise and he would still be good. However, he chose to spare her life and I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. If you haven’t paused to consider how God, in his providence, controls all things so as to take care of you and bring him glory in a million little details each day—you should do so without delay. After my daughter had gained strength and was able to get up and sit in his car on the side of the street to get warm, I looked at the doctor and said, “Sir, I don’t know where you stand with the Lord Jesus Christ, but we are Christians, and I have no doubt that our God has placed you at this intersection at this very moment for a purpose.”

Let us remember these words by William Plumer from his work titled A Treatise on Providence as he writes, “Providences are long chains with many links in them.  If one link were missing, the event would fail.  But it is God’s chain and God’s plan. The thing is fixed.  The outcome is not doubtful.” 


The Providence of God Over Restroom Visits

The Providence of God Over Restroom Visits

This week has been a very long and exhausting week.  I typically update this blog everyday through the week with main articles appearing on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday while DBG Spotlight appears on Wednesday and Friday.  However, due to some complications yesterday with my oldest daughter’s health, I was forced to postpone until today.

Last Sunday while I was preparing to preach the evening sermon, my wife called to inform me that our youngest child was being taken to the hospital due to breathing issues from Croupe and undiagnosed asthma issues.  After spending the night in the hospital, our son was released the following day.  I returned to the office on Tuesday and had a fairly normal week – until yesterday.  I woke up at about 5:45am and went downstairs to have coffee and read.  This is a typical pattern for me in the morning hours before the house turns into a mini ant colony crawling about with little mouths begging for breakfast at around 7:30am.

At about 6:40am, I heard a loud noise from upstairs that included an initial loud thud followed by some additional banging.  I immediately got up and went upstairs to find Karis, my oldest daughter who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes last year, on the floor in the midst of a seizure.  What happened next was a full scale operation of my wife and I working to save our daughter’s life.  My oldest son helped corral our other children into a bedroom while we worked on her in the hallway of our home.  After we gave her an emergency shot in her thigh and had her transported to the hospital by ambulance, she started to bounce back in route to the hospital.  It was a terrifying scene to find your little girl in a life threatening state, and one I hope to never see again.  Although the day started out with a terrifying scene, we spent the remainder of the day praising our sovereign God for her recovery.  We couldn’t escape the obvious providence of God in the entire ordeal.

According to the doctor, if her seizure had lasted for longer than ten minutes, it could have had devastating effects upon her body – perhaps death.  As we surveyed the scene and the way it unfolded, it was nothing less than God’s meticulous providence at work.  Karis never gets up through the night to visit the restroom.  However, yesterday, in the early hours of the morning she was in the restroom when her seizure happened.  If she had gone into a seizure in the early hours of the morning in her bed while remaining undetected until breakfast time at around 8:00am, she could have died.  It was nothing less than the providence of God that placed her in that restroom (Prov. 16:9).

As I embrace a robust view of God and the meticulous providence of God, it become even more apparent after the dust started to settle on this heart wrenching emergency.  As R.C. Sproul has said, “There is no maverick molecule if God is sovereign.” [1]  We know and believe that our God governs the universe (Heb. 1:3).  He has the moon, stars, the sun, and the earth all under His divine providential control (Jer. 31:35; Ps. 24:1).  We read about how God controls the hearts of kings (Prov. 21:1).  We know that God knows how many hairs are upon our head and cares for His children more than the birds that He feeds every morning (Matt. 10:30; 6:25-34).  We know that God upholds the world and controls the laws of nature (Heb. 1:3; Ps. 107:25; 78:26).  The wind and the waves obey Him (Mark 4:41).  Once again, the truth of God’s providence became crystal clear.  I was reminded that He is also providentially controlling the restroom visits of my daughter.  If she had not been in the restroom, it’s highly probable that we wouldn’t have found her in time.

Abraham Kuyper once remarked, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!” [2]  That includes presidential elections and restroom visits.  That includes wars, rumors of wars, and restroom visits.  God rules over all things at all times.  According to Article 5.2 on Divine Providence, the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith states, “nothing happens to anyone by chance, or outside His providence, yet by His providence He orders events to occur according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.”  Nothing that happens in any of the multifaceted spheres of life is beyond the direct and divine providential ruling power of God.  For that, we sleep peacefully and go about life in confidence that God is in charge of everything.

This has been a long and stressful week for our family, but one packed with lessons.  At every turn, I see the providence of God.  The next time you hear a sermon or read an article about the meticulous providence of God, remember that He controls everything – even restroom visits in the early hours of the morning.  He is wise and good, and we can trust Him.  His mercies are new everyday.  Psalm 115:3 says, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” Yesterday, He was pleased to preserve the life of my daughter, and I praise Him.

  1. God’s Sovereignty – Ligonier Ministries
  2. Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader, ed. James D. Bratt (Eerdmans, 1998), 488.
The Providence of God and the Cross of Christ

The Providence of God and the Cross of Christ

The providence of God is a beautiful doctrine.  It can be overwhelming to study and at the same time a comfort to your soul in the midst of difficult circumstances.  Have you paused to consider the way God interacts with creation?  God is not the “clock maker” who creates and then stands back to gaze upon His work from afar.  Instead, God is interested and involved with every minuscule aspect of His creation.  What this means is that God is in the details of life and eternity.

On this day, April 3rd, in AD 33, Jesus of Nazareth was brutally murdered on a Roman cross under false charges.  To be more specific, 1,982 years ago today, the Son of God was slain on a hill called Calvary.  The charge was blasphemy, but His miracles proved otherwise.  What greater miracle than the resurrection could prove the deity of Jesus?  The virgin birth, the calming of the raging sea, and raising Lazarus from the dead were all mind blowing miracles, but the resurrection was the clincher.  When the religious establishment wanted to silence Jesus, they killed Him.  However, by killing Jesus, they became part of the validation process of Jesus’ deity because on Sunday morning Jesus rose from the dead.

The gloomy account of the crucifixion is an ignominious picture of human depravity.  It hardly seems right to call this day, “Good Friday” seeing the darkness and depth of wickedness surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion.  The Roman crucifixion was a horrible and painful way to die.  The Romans had perfected the art of execution, and from the nails to the eventual suffocation under the bright sunlight, it was an utterly painful way to die.  The religious establishment of Jesus’ day was angered with His preaching and their anger eventually culminated with Jesus’ death upon the cross.  Although the movies often make it appear that Jesus’ death an unplanned and unfortunate set of circumstances, the Bible reveals quite the opposite.  While wicked men crucified Jesus on the cross, it was the providence of God that directed human affairs to fulfill the will of God.

Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology book explains the doctrine of providence in the following way:

God is continually involved with all created things in such a way that he (1) keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them; (2) cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do; and (3) directs them to fulfill his purposes.

Behind the dark veil of the murder of Jesus of Nazareth, there was a divine purpose at work.  This divine purpose was orchestrated by the providence of God as He directs the affairs of human history.  In one sense, as these men were nailing Jesus to the cross, God the Father was nailing Jesus to the cross. That may seem like a strange thing to say, but consider the words of the prophecy of Isaiah in Isaiah 53:10 – “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief.”  The act of Jesus’ crucifixion was simultaneously an act of lawless murder and divine salvation.  Through the providence of God, which is at times mysterious to us, God was working out the evil intentions of the Jews through His own intent of the cross to save sinners through His Son – the lamb of God (John 1:29).

In a similar way we see this take place in the book of Genesis when the brothers of Joseph sold him off into slavery.  Their actions were evil.  However, we have two specific verses that point to God’s providence that was at work in the entire story of Joseph’s slavery.  In Genesis 45:5, Joseph said, “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.”  Joseph places the focus upon God’s will as opposed to the evil sin of his brothers.  Once again, in Genesis 50:20, Joseph said, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”  In a way that cannot be overlooked, Joseph confirmed that his brothers had an evil intention, but God had an intention as well.  While God’s intent was good, it was nevertheless an intent.

As we examine the first sermon of the Christian church, we see Peter saying the exact same thing about the crucifixion of Jesus.  In Acts 2:22-23, we read:

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—[23] this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

We must note the powerful words of Peter.  He called the death of Jesus the “definite plan and foreknowledge of God.”  He went on to say that Jesus was crucified and killed by lawless men.  At the exact same time that lawless men were killing Jesus, it was God’s decree and definite plan.  God didn’t merely look through time to discover it.  God planned the bloody cross in order to accomplish His saving mission for guilty sinners.

As we ponder the darkness of this day in human history, let us see the light of God’s divine providence shining to us from the cross.  God had a plan!  As the hymn writer William Cowper reminds us, God plants His footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm. He is in complete control, and behind that frowning providence He often hides a smiling face.  Let us see the light of God’s providence and remember that Sunday is coming!  Only in the resurrection could this dark day be referred to as “Good Friday.”

William Cowper – God Moves in a Mysterious Way

  1. God moves in a mysterious way
    His wonders to perform;
    He plants His footsteps in the sea
    And rides upon the storm.
  2. Deep in unfathomable mines
    Of never failing skill
    He treasures up His bright designs
    And works His sov’reign will.
  3. Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
    The clouds ye so much dread
    Are big with mercy and shall break
    In blessings on your head.
  4. Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
    But trust Him for His grace;
    Behind a frowning providence
    He hides a smiling face.
  5. His purposes will ripen fast,
    Unfolding every hour;
    The bud may have a bitter taste,
    But sweet will be the flow’r.
  6. Blind unbelief is sure to err
    And scan His work in vain;
    God is His own interpreter,
    And He will make it plain.

God’s Will = Prison

With the advancement of the health, wealth, and prosperity messages on T.B.N. and similar networks, it seems foolish for Christians to go to jail for the cause of Christ!  After all, if we follow the theology of the Word Faith movement today, we will hear a clear message of healthy living and prosperity being taught as God’s will.  If we experience anything less than that – we must be living in some form of sin that has brought upon judgment from God.

The problem with that type of theology is that it doesn’t square with the teachings of Scripture.  The Word of God reveals the true Christian life as a life of surrender, sacrifice, danger, self denial, and even death.  Jesus said:

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross ​daily and follow me. 24 For​whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. – Luke 9:23-24 (ESV)

Therefore, true Christianity is foreign to the world, T.B.N., and sadly, to many churches today.  The type of message we are often hearing is about a grandfather type of God who would never demand anything more than we can handle.  He wants the absolute best for us and desires for us to possess everything our hearts desire in this life in order to please ourselves!  Is that the God of Scripture?

George Offor on John Bunyan’s arrest, November 12, 1660:

“[T]he constable and his attendants came in, and exhibiting a warrant, ordered him to leave the pulpit and come down; but he [Bunyan] told him that he was about his Master’s business, and must rather obey his Lord’s voice than that of man.  Then a constable was ordered to fetch him down, who, coming up and taking hold of his coat, was about to remove him, when Mr. Bunyan fixed his eyes steadfastly upon him; having his Bible open in his hand, the man let go, looked pale and retired; upon which he [Bunyan] said to the congregation, ‘See how this man trembles at the Word of God.’ . . . But being commanded in the king’s name, he went with the officers, accompanied by some friends, to the magistrate’s residence.”

Bunyan spent the next 12 years in prison, leaving behind a wife and 4 young children, the oldest of which was blind.  While in prison, he didn’t spend his time complaining about how he had been wronged.  Instead, he wrote the most printed book in the history of the world (excluding the Bible), The Pilgrim’s Progress.  Those who read this blog often know that I have a great deal of respect for Bunyan’s life, dedication, doctrine, and writings.  However, as I look at history, I see men like Bunyan who spent time in prison, but not for crimes of sin, but rather – crimes of preaching!  Is that the judgment of God or is that the strange providence of God?

The Apostle Paul said the following:

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really ​served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard​ and to all the rest that ​my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold ​to speak the word​ without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, ​knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. – Philippians 1:12-16 (ESV)

Paul spent much of his ministry in prison.  He was placed in jail for preaching the gospel on several different occasions.  Was Paul under the judgment of God?  Was Paul suffering as a result of hidden sin in his life?  Was Paul the victim of free-will bad luck?  Was this the sovereign will of God?  It seems clear from Scripture that Paul spent time in prison because of the sovereign will of God in order to advance the gospel.

Can God use the bad choices of people to accomplish His divine will?  Yes!  That has been God’s pattern throughout history.  It was the case with Joseph in the Old Testament, Paul in the New Testament, and eventually Bunyan in church history.  The health, wealth, and prosperity message is nothing more than a denial of God’s Word and a perversion of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We must deny the Word Faith movement that has become so prevalent in our modern day.  It has overtaken the television programs, radio, internet, and is invading the pulpits of many churches.  God’s will is not always prosperity and health – in fact – He may choose a different path for our lives in order to accomplish His divine will for His eternal glory!