THE LOVE OF JESUS: HIS PROVIDENTIAL CARE AND PROMISES
Text: Matthew 6.25-34; Luke 6.38
The love of Christ for Christians as it relates to His providential care and benevolent act was the divine motivation in providing salvation for man. Christ loves us because of who He is. It is because of this love that He made a lot of promises to us in the pages of the Scripture that manifest in our lives daily. It is human to love those who love us, but it is divine to love those who do not love us, and who may even despise us. Love is not only one of God's attributes; it is also an essential part of His nature. "God is love," the Bible declares in 1 John 4.8, 16.God is the personification of perfect love. Such love surpasses our powers of understanding according to Paul (Eph 3.19). Love like this is everlasting (Jer 31.3); free (Hos 14.4); sacrificial (John 3.16); and enduring to the end (John 13:1). It is an unconditional love which is an agape type of love. Christ’s love for us is best revealed, not by definition, but by action.
THE LOVE OF JESUS DEMONSTRATED IN HIS PROVIDENTIAL CARE FOR ALL
I want to discuss this aspect on the premise that Christ our Savior, who has been so loving, so merciful, and so kind to people from generation to generation is still loving, merciful, and kind to us even today. The divine love of Christ for His children has been manifested throughout ages. His love for us pushes Him every day to extend His mercy on us and providentially cater for our needs. In Matthew 6.25-26 we read:
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
The above passage confirms the fact that our God providentially cares for us. Christ is warning us not to worry unnecessarily over the cares of this world, because He is always providing for us. We are not to harbor worrisome thoughts which steal away our joy in God, break our hope and hinder our ability to depend on Him wholeheartedly. He has promised to provide for His children all things needful for life, and His acts of providence in our lives are eminent due to the fact that He is so benevolent. But it is very important to note here that Christ is not saying we should not plan for the future. All He is saying is that we should trust Him and depend on Him even as we plan for the future. He has given us life, which is an act of favour and it was done without our care, so what can He not do for us? His act of benevolence towards us as Christians today is unquestionable. It is because of this act that we enjoy His providence. Providence is defined as God’s working through His creation laws or natural laws for our benefit.
God is active in our world today through providence. Christ Jesus, in His benevolent character, is providentially caring for us today. His benevolent act towards us entails both physical and spiritual blessings. Paul affirms this in Ephesians 1.3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” This He does in demonstration of His love for us. All what we have as we are seated here this morning is given to us by Christ through His providential character. Paul additionally asks in 1 Corinthians 4.7 that, “… And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”
He provides food, clothing, shelter, health and comfort for us as His children. He has been sustaining us from birth till now. Luke states in Acts 17.25, “And He(God) is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.”In Matthew 5:45, we are told that, “He (God) causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”This is the providential care of God that is stimulated by His divine love for us. God’s generosity in taking care of His children is explicit in our lives. The Psalmist declared in Psalms 145.9, 15, 16 that:
“The Lord is good to all: and His tender mercies are over all His works…. The eyes of all look expectantly to You, and You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.”
The Psalmist’s point is that, since God controls all that happens in His world, every meal, every possession, every pleasure, every bit of sun, every night’s sleep, every moment of health and safety, everything else that sustains and enriches our lives as His Children, is a divine gift and benevolent act of God which is in demonstration of His endless love for us.
And brethren just imagine how abundant these gifts are in our lives! “Count your blessings, name them one by one” says one of our hymns, and anyone who seriously begins to list his/her natural blessings alone will soon feel the force of the next line- “and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”
Jesus Christ, out of His love for us has been providentially caring for us in all ramifications of life. The life we have alone belongs to Him and He has given us freely; nobody paid for it. It is because of His providence and benevolence that, even in the midst of hardship as the Nigerian economy moves to the “Next Level”, we still have food to eat. When we write exams, we come out successfully, some with “A’s”, “B’s”, others with “C’s” and “D’s.” In our businesses, we are successful. Some of us gain promotion in our offices. Even when we are sick, and take medication, it is because of His providential care that we are healed. He extends His mercy upon us, and grants us healing.
Sometimes a Christian gets involved in a horrific automobile accident and will amazingly, walk away from the accident with barely a scratch, which is as a result of God’s providence. We know God is active and intervenes even when the world does not or will not agree. Let us be appreciative and always give God the glory for every good thing he does.
The need to properly emulate Christ in caring for the needy among us
By the way of application, I will like to encourage that since God provides whatever we have today (1Co 4.7), may we also extend the hand of fellowship to the less privileged among us. There is a great need for Christians to properly embrace generosity. The act of benevolence is expected from every one of us that is seated here this morning. Not only is it expected, but the scriptures command it. It is a demonstration of good works. Paul says in Ephesians 2.10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should work in them.”
We must strive to be ready for every good work. We need to sacrifice in order to do a good deed for someone else. Sharon Bryan once said:
There are two kinds of people in this world…the Givers and the Takers. The Givers put other people first. They are unselfish in their love and service to the world. Even if it demands sacrifice, they want what is best for the other person. The Takers put themselves first. They seek to satisfy their own needs and want others to serve them. For greatness is not found in possession, power, position or prestige. It is discovered in goodness, humility, service and character (1).
Which choice will we make in our lives? Will we be Takers, or Givers like our Lord, who came to the earth to serve others, and not to be served? He gave the ultimate sacrifice of His life for us. We ought to do our best to be more of givers, especially as God prospers us. When we are generous, it makes us to be God-like. It enlarges our vision; it makes us invest in heaven’s bank, where the interest rate is eternity. We have to put our religion first on the radar, like the Macedonians, who gave themselves first (2Co 8.5). We must reject the attempt of the heathen philosophy that taught that, “Give what you can get back.”
Sometimes we are not benevolent, because we are not compassionate. Sometimes when we want to help the needy, the first question that comes to mind is, “Is he worth it?” or “Is she worth it.” But the compassionate heart reaches out to unfortunate people. Like Jesus, we have to be moved with compassion, because, compassion produces action; it leads to forgiveness.
The story of the Good Samaritan is one of the world’s most favorite and famous Bible stories. To us Christians, this is more than just a story. It is a narrative that contains eternal truth from the Son of God. Winkler asserts that:
In the story, we find a tender heart, helping hand, pitiful eye, willing feet, open purse and an assuring voice. The Good Samaritan’s philosophy was, “What is mine is yours and I will share it.” This man successfully translated religion into life”(1Joh 3.11-18) (18).
James mentions that pure religion before God is to visit the fatherless and widows in affliction (1.27). All this helps us to see need to be generous, because our Savior is generous and is providentially caring for us today, so let us reciprocate the same to our fellow men.
AN EXAMINATION OF JESUS’ PROMISES TO ALL CHRISTIANS
In human terms, promises are easily broken, but in God’s terms, they are not. Knowing what God has promised us and how He keeps His promises gives us assurance, hope, and peace. The beauty and the reality of the Christian life is that our Saviour whom we are following has convincingly revealed to us through His sacred Scripture the essence of our followership. And that essence is, He promises to take care of us regarding everything we need in this life, and He promises us our home beyond this earth. The New Testament is filled with promises which affirm that God will answer the prayers of His people and work in their lives. No matter how many promises God has made, they are YES in Christ. Not maybe, but in Christ, YES! In 2 Corinthians 1.19-20, Paul spoke about God’s promises:
“For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not “Yes” and “No,” but in Him it has always been “Yes.” For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.”
Christ’s promises to all Christians are true and are manifesting every day in our lives. It is because of the love He has for us that He made promises and keeps them. This is because I know that Christ does not lie. His emphatic promise of Matthew 6.33 is worth noting, “But seeks first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” The promise of Christ of “All these things shall be added to you” is indisputably true. The only condition attached to these promise is to be faithful and pursue righteousness. God will certainly handle all our needs.
But if we expect this to mean a large bank account, huge retirement plan, we are probably going to be disappointed. Those are our desires when we pursue the values of the world. But if we pursue what God delights in and seek things of eternal value, our heart’s desires will be significantly different. We may not be materially rich as others are, but the fact is that Christ is fulfilling His promise in meeting our needs every day. In Matthew11:28-29 He says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
God has good plans for us and these plans He carries out day-by-day in our lives. He makes His promises and plans to work out in our favour according to His own purpose. He declared in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Christ’s promises to Christians
Christ’s promises are so numerous and accurate. He equips us with all we need to live on earth as His beloved creatures. He promises to provide power for living (Eph 3:20) and strength to do His will (Php 4:13). He will not only provide for our physical needs, He will give us mercy and grace in times of need (Heb 4:16) and all we need to live for him (2Pe 1:3–4). He promises to give us wisdom when we are tested (Jam 1:5), as well as a way to defeat temptation (1Co 10:13). He will free us from sin’s grip (Rom 6:22) and provides us with the ability to make Satan flee (Jam 4:7).
He will also forgive our sins (1Jo 1:9) and give us peace of mind (Php 4:7). He assures us that we have access to Him through prayer (Eph 3:12), that He will provide help in our praying (Rom 8:26), and that He will answer our prayers (Mat 7:7–11; 1Jo 5:14–15).
When our lives come to a close, we are assured of salvation (Joh 10:29); eternal life (Joh 3:16; 5:24) with a home in heaven (Joh 14:1–4); rewards for service (2Co 5:10); and when the time comes, God promises us resurrection to glory (1Th 4:16–17).
The nature of God’s promises
We may have a problem keeping our promises. But God is different. The nature of His promises is that when He makes a promise, it’s backed with more than just good intentions and wishful thinking. He is giving us His absolutely trustworthy word. He will never have to make an excuse for failing to fulfill what He has promised, and we have no excuse for not believing him. Hudson Taylor, a renowned 19th Century writer once wrote:
I am led to believe that the promises of God are very real, and that prayer is a sober matter of fact transacting business with God. Yet this “business” does not mean we can manipulate or demand of God. He never advertises more than He can deliver. He’s not out to deceive us. He offers what He wants us to have, and He wants us to have the best He has to offer—the joy of a close relationship with Him now, and eternity with Him and those who love Him.(10)
The Creator continues to be the Lord over all of life. By His nature God is good, merciful, and true to His word. The Bible tells us how God’s promises reflect those qualities. Because He is all of those things, we do not have to fear when we hear that God keeps His promises on His terms.
AN EVALUATION OF THE EXPERIENTIAL CONFLICT OF THE FULFILLMENT OF CHRIST’S PROMISES IN THE LIVES OF MANY CHRISTIANS
Many Christians today are beginning to lose hope or have lost hope due to the experiential conflict that arises between the time of Christ’s promise and the manifestation in their lives. Many have been led to conclude that God has forgotten them in their situations. They are tempted to think that He has refused to fulfill His promises in their lives. So this final section will focus on some of the factors that make one to wrongly conclude that the fulfillment of Christ’s promises is not being felt. It shall also look at some of the elements involved in Christian’s enjoyment of Christ’s promises. Finally it shall look at the expectations and emotions of Christians regarding God’s promises.
Some factors that make one to wrongly conclude that the fulfillment of Christ’s promises is not being felt
(1). Unbelief/Lack of faith
The sin of unbelief is very grievous before the sight of God. Unbelief and lack of faith have made many to doubt God’s ability to fulfill His promises in their lives. These make one to think that there is no point in trusting in God. Some doubt God’s ability to answer their prayers even when they pray to Him. In James 1.6-8 we are told that:
“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
Some lack true patience. Some cannot wait. They expect results today or tomorrow, and when they don’t see the result, they lose patience. But what they sometimes fail to realize is that God works with time. As time-bound human beings, we can’t grasp God’s timing. The perpetual changes of life are part of God’s pattern and plan for all the ages, but from our perspective it looks like a tangle of threads. When we don’t see His promises becoming reality right now, we become impatient and are tempted to ask hard questions of God. But His timing is best. Moses asked God to heal Miriam immediately but God said, “seven days” (Num 12:13-15)
(3). Worry and Anxiety
Despite the fact that Christ warns us to do away with unnecessary worry and anxiety (Mat 6.25-26), some of us worry over things we cannot change. Worry steals away one’s happiness and leaves one in despair.
A. Worrying will not feed anyone (6:25)
B. Worrying will not make anyone grow (6:27)
C. Worrying will not clothe you (6:28)
D. Worrying will not even change the future (6:34)
E. Worry is like a rocking chair: It will give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.
Because of unnecessary worry and anxiety, some Christians have failed to even realize the fulfillment of God’s promises in their lives.
Some elements needed in Christian’s enjoyment of Christ’s promises
Faith as the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen, it is very essential in realizing God’s promises in our lives. Hebrews 11 lists some Old Testament characters who realized that God fulfills His promises according to His time table.These people lived by faith, believing that God would eventually do all He promised, even if they did not understand why the Lord delayed action for years or even beyond their lifetime.
Abraham is the preeminent example. When God told him to pack his bags and travel to the land of promise, Abraham went, though he didn’t know where he was going. The Lord told him that he and Sarah would have a child, yet He waited until their old age to fulfill His word.
Moses knew that the Lord would rescue His people, but he had to wait until he was 80 years old before God used him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. He even chose mistreatment in the short run so that God would reward him later (Heb 11:24–26). All of the promises of God are fulfilled in His perfect timing, according to His wisdom; it only requires faith for us to take Him by His word.
Jesus says we need to seek after righteousness and faithfulness (Mat 6.33), hunger and thirst for it (Mat 5.6) and strive towards it. God is always near to His children who fear and reverence Him and keep His statutes; He will fulfill His promises in their lives. Faithfulness is very paramount if a Christian is to continue to enjoy God’s promises in his/her life.
(3). Perseverance- Perseverance in prayers, in trusting Him, in His ability, and His infallibility.
THE EXPECTATIONS AND EMOTIONS OF CHRISTIANS REGARDING GOD’S PROMISES
At times we may fall into the trap of thinking that God will keep His promises in the way we expect. We might assume that He will do something in an obvious or immediate manner rather than in a method that becomes apparent over time. God is into long-range planning. We see only the surface, here-and-now events, and we do not know how He is working behind the scenes to fit the pieces together to form an overall pattern. The ways God has acted in the past, though, show that He fulfills many promises in stages or in an unexpected ways.
Our emotions have a way of taking over our lives. Wrong emotions can overrule right thinking. If we have been hurt, we may blame God for not doing what we believe He promised. The death of a loved one can cause us to lose perspective if we allow our feelings to override the truth about God. A failed marriage can trigger doubts in the parties involved. Personal rejection, failure, loss of a job, physical pain, or injustice can stir up feelings against God that become stronger than any force of reason to conclude that He is not keeping to His promises.
We may forget the evidence of God’s faithfulness in our lives. We may fail to recall how He has fulfilled His promises to us in the past. As a result, we can lose confidence in His ability to be faithful in the future. But we have a God who never fails. He is faithful and He keeps to His promises. Jesus gave this assurance to those who trust him:
“My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (Joh10:27–30).
Nothing can separate us from the love of God. As He said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you”(Heb 13:5). That is a promise we can always count on.
The love of Christ for us cannot be quantified. His promises and their fulfillment in our lives are explicit and experiential; we could experience His love for us so overtly. Let us thus rejoice, and live each day with calm confidence, knowing that the Lord is near and that Heaven’s operations through providence are an abiding presence in our daily existence. God would eventually answer those prayers but in His own providential way.