Introduction to the United Search for Divine Providence
The Big Sell
If I were trying to sell you a face cream, I would have no hesitation in promising you new, supple and radiant complexion which would make you look 20 years younger, or even 30 if you were approaching 60. How many of you would believe me?
Such claims would be mainly a pack of lies, but I want to be ‘absolutely clear’ (as our politicians say) that I am promising you: eternal youth, vigour as well as beauty and happiness. If you don’t believe me, I am not the loser, since I am not selling anything. Only you would be!
I am referring to God’s intentions for your life - your eternal life. He is constantly touching your life, yet without forcing you to do as He tells you.
If you were to win a new superior car, low in fuel consumption and with nil emissions, I am sure you would not mind taking a few lessons and study the Manual so as to know how to use it properly. This superior vehicle is actually your body, your mind, spirit and soul. The Manual I have in mind is called Divine Providence - and you probably already have it on your bookshelf. But have you read it?
This Manual assures you that the divine is constantly interacting with every part of you. In this process many things are happening without interruption: Poisonous substances created by activity are filtered out, as constant heartbeat pumps the blood through various filtering and purifying stations such as the kidneys and lungs.
Of course, you know all that, this is simple human biology. But what about the real you? The loves, the fears, the doubts you experience. Your lack of knowledge can lead to deep frustrations. And furthermore, what about your eternal and spiritual Self? How is that getting on? Who or what is maintaining that in working order? Certainly not you, since you are not consciously maintaining these myriads of functions in your physical body.
Divine Providence is a most astonishing book which shows how the Divine is constantly interacting with your whole self, on every level. It also answers the questions which often worry us when we look at the world around us. As I was working on this speech, I saw that the very successful ALPHA COURSE is preparing a big campaign for the coming September, and this is their poster:
If God did exist, what would you ask Him?
(And here are the UK’s favourite questions for God):
It is expected that 1,500,000 people will be taking the Alpha Course. It would be nice to think that all these would be studying the book Divine Providence - since it answers all those questions. But I doubt it, nor do I believe that everyone will get a satisfying answer in the Alpha Course. The good news is, that you will be able to get them!
In fact, the book Divine Providence answers many more questions, such as, “Why is there a hell?” The answer to that one is so unexpected, that at first you will wonder if the answer given can be correct, but after a little consideration, you will say, “Well, of course, why didn’t I think of that myself? It’s so obvious!”
Start with God
All these difficult questions about God’s interaction with the human race, seem to start at the wrong end: With us, with our problems and fears. And as long as we put ourselves at the centre of the enquiry, we are not likely to get true answers. We need to start with God, because He is the Centre, the Beginning, the source of Life, of Love and Wisdom. Unless we understand something of His nature, we shall never understand just what is going on, and why human life can be so confusing. We may be tempted to agree with the atheist who says, “If ever there was a God, He has certainly forgotten all about us. Just look at the state of the world!”
The truth is that were we to step outside the Divine in creation, we would immediately cease to be. The fact that you are alive, conscious, thinking and capable of loving, is evidence of divine presence in you and in everything round you. The fullness of God is a fact of our being. We cannot step outside it.
The divine provision for your existence, for your life and personality is simply called: Divine Providence. You are - because God is. He provides everything for you to be fully yourself. That is Divine Providence. So first we have to know something about why He created us and what was the reason behind it. And perhaps the word ‘reason’ is not the right word either. We should ask, “What was the love behind it?” It is surely much easier to accept love as the purpose of creation, since everything we do and choose is for love’s sake.
“I would love to be a parent!” a childless person might say. “I would love to be an architect and build wonderful houses, bridges and colleges. I would love to be a real gardener, a doctor, a teacher.” In a sense, you do not need any other explanation. When a mother says about her son, “He’s always been interested in engines, since he was a little boy he’s loved everything mechanical. When he was only six he took the grandfather’s clock to pieces and put it together and made it work again.”
What more need to be said? Divine Love is manifested in everything that happens and in everything we do. It is a sufficient explanation for everything in the world, even if that love has become perverted in human beings and turned to greed, cruelty, self-love and even murder.
Does God really care for us?
Too much has been said about the wisdom of God, how great, how infinite, how mysterious it is. We can get a much better understanding of God if we watch a hen looking after it’s young chicks. And this is Biblical teaching:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Matthew 23.37 and Luke 13.34
And the Lord could not have put it more clearly in expressing His overwhelming desire to gather us under the wings of his Providence. So perhaps watching a hen with her chicks for half an hour may be a better lesson in theology (the knowledge of God) than reading some very learned books, which have no difficulty in convincing you in 300-400 pages that God is a mystery, He is unknowable. The Lord Jesus, put it differently in speaking to us, “You do not even allow me the pleasure and delight that a mother hen has when she gathers her brood under her wings.” Now that is sad, but quite clear and very easy to understand. The Lord says, “I care for you, I love you!”
Perhaps it is a gentle way of saying to us, “You really don’t have as much sense as the little chick!” But the point I am making is that we need to approach the whole question of Providence from an emotional, rather than purely intellectual angle. Then, many things which are puzzling and mysterious will be far more easily understood. That is not to say, that there will not be some surprises, because many of our preconceptions will be seen to be quite wrong and we shall have to reject them as wide of the mark.
In whose image?
It is a well know fact that we were created in God’s image and likeness. It ought to be quite easy then to understand the nature of God, but alas, since the earliest of times, we have gradually changed our nature and character so much, that there is little in us now that reflects that divine perfection.
We somehow persist in seeing God as ‘one of us’. In other words, when we try to understand God we begin to see Him in our image, and thrust on Him our nature. Even the best Christian theologians have seen God as angry and punishing any offender who has broken some of His commandments.
It somehow wasn’t possible to think of God in any other way. This corruption of God into a bigger, more powerful version of our human character has resulted in creating a monstrous figure to be feared and propitiated with prayers, music and sacrifices. Although we might be exalted and feel holy as we partake of these rituals, the fact is that these human efforts do not make the slightest differences to the Lord’s attitude towards us. His supreme love cannot be improved, because it is already infinitely perfect. Our task is that we should try and reform ourselves so that we may again become a true image and likeness of God - in our hearts and in our every day dealing with each other.
Some shocks and surprises
Indeed, because we have so many mistaken views of God, we might be quite surprised to read that God, the Almighty, acts according to strict, nay, unchangeable rules and laws!
I can imagine cries of protest from many traditional thinkers who will strongly object to the idea that God, the Almighty, might be limited by some laws! That is human thinking par excellence, because we assume that if we were given ‘all power’ then we would not want to be restricted by anything, least of all by some laws. We would want to do whatever we wanted and when. But let us not forget that the Divine laws are just that: divine and perfect and above all they are always the laws of love. Never are they changed or twisted by some anger, desire for revenge, or the need to show ‘who is boss around here’. All that would be very human and normal to us.
More surprising still, is to learn that there are 5 major laws of Providence in its relationship with human beings. And all the operations of the divine with us are firmly based on these 5 unchangeable principles from which the Lord never deviates.
First Law: Each person should act from freedom and reason.
Have you noticed how many religious movements impose strict uniformity on its followers in dress, hairstyles, worship, eating and drinking, various rituals, but above all in thinking. Submission in these things ‘proves’ the people’s faithfulness. With it also comes the power to control the believers. Need I remind you - this is human thinking, and has nothing to do with God’s desires
On the contrary, for a very good reason, our Creator made us all different and that means that each one of us has a unique relationship with Him. In that sense, we can quite rightly feel that He really is my Father as He is no one else’s. It is as if each one of us had our own secret with Him. We surely know all this from our relationship with our children. Each one is quite different and unique.
Yet the Lord does not force any one of us to be part of a regiment of uniform toy soldiers all marching in step. His relationship with us ought to be more intimate than that. Because He truly respects our uniqueness into which He created us. He desires that each one of us should “act from freedom and according to reason”. What a liberating thought that is!
Second Law: Each person should remove evils from his outer actions because they are sins.
The old idea, that if we put out faith in the Lord as our Saviour, He will remove all sins and evils from our life. We shall be ‘saved’. This is strictly not true at all. To do so, would be like removing part of our memory (or brain) and then we would not be who we are. The Lord has absolute respect for our unique personality, which is endowed with varied talents. We might even say, that our Creator has respect not only for each one of us individually, but also for that unique potential in each one of us which distinguishes us from everyone else – even if we never develop all our talents. He will never desire for us to be zombies, but always free spirits who respond to Him and become active in the use for which His love created us. As He has respect for us, so should we have respect for our own personality and its extraordinary potential. No, there will be no brain surgery or any controls implanted into our brain. We shall never become Daleks! We shall be free in mind and body to be truly ‘ourselves’, and so feel responsible for our actions.
But we need to show that we wish to cooperate with the Lord and continue to remove evil, sinful thoughts and actions from our life.
Third Law: A person should not be compelled by external means to believe the things of religion, but should persuade and compel himself.
In all these laws, our freedom is always preserved and protected. There ought to be no indoctrination, or any forced repetitions of endless creeds. We are creatures of inner freedom and reason. And we cannot be converted by threads or punishments. Once the pressure is removed, we emerge into the light of freedom and reason. We are human beings created in the image and likeness of God, never His mindless puppets.
Fourth Law: A person should be taught and led by the Lord alone from heaven by means of the Word, doctrine and preaching, but to all appearances as by himself.
In all our dealings with us, the Lord allows us to think for ourselves, although He inspires truths and ideas, but we have to do respond to them and accept them into our heart, mind and life. This respect for our freedom and rationality shown towards each one of us by our heavenly Father is truly astounding and wonderful. It should give us self-respect and confidence and increase our desire to grow and more into His image and likeness.
Fifth Law: A person should not perceive and feel anything of the operation of the Divine Providence, but still should know and acknowledge it.
There is that wonderful incident in the Gospel of John, first chapter, when the Lord was forming the group of His first disciples, and Philip brought Nathanael and when Jesus saw him, He said, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathaniel was surprised and said to Him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael was astonished and realised that he was looking at the Son of God.
A strange little incident, and a very moving one. The Lord knows all about each one of us, yet allows us to be free, without any sense of being under continuous scrutiny. But if we are wise, we shall acknowledge in our heart that the Lord knows everything about us. That watchful presence is for our eternal protection and ought to be a source of comfort and inner peace. Made all the more wonderful by the fact that Jesus tells Nathanael:
“Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under a fig tree’, do you believe? You will see greater things than these. Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1.50
Heaven opened and angels of God ascending and descending.
We are quite a modest Church. Not given to demonstrations and ecstasy. In that we are true to our teachings, which suggest that when we are caught up in great movements and perhaps fall under the spell of some eloquent speaker, we could easily lose our freedom of thought and even reason. Our freedom and reason are the Lord’s greatest gift which makes us truly human. That does not mean that we are left on our own. We have intimations of truth, which may be manifested as doubts, to help us to change our mind, though it feels we are doing it ‘as of ourselves’ – meaning, “I want to do this!” But always there is that underlying respect for every individual’s inner freedom of thought and feelings which are necessary to the independent mind.
The Lord has appeared to me from far, saying: “I have loved you with everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness I have drawn you.” Jeremiah 31.3
It is how the Lord treats every one of us. With true love which would never destroy our humanity which resides in our inner freedom to think and to love as we wish. It is how the angels relate to us, always with respect and in deep love.
As far as the world is concerned, we are enslaved on every side: economically, politically, morally, and above all spiritually. Atheistic doctrine is a form of rape and we need to recognise how all these pressures are taking our inner freedom of thought away. We must resist it, and turn towards the one book which can restore our courage, freedom and individuality. In Divine Providence the Lord lays all His cards on the table and says, “This is how I deal with you; how I have always dealt with you and all my children.”
United Study of Divine Providence
Is being prepared and you are warmly invited to join it individually or in groups. Lessons each month will be available through Lifeline and also via the internet - as this is more and more widely available. If you haven’t access, there will surely be someone in your Society and study Circle. If all that fails, turn to your grandchildren! The young generation is skilled in these matters!
But always bear in mind, this is how the Lord reveals Himself to us, so that we may understand both Him and ourselves, and our own place, nay importance, in creation. Let us come close to Him in this revealed knowledge, which is one of the great treasures for all the children of our heavenly Father.
Rev Christopher Hasler