Thursday, February 13, 2020

Coincidence vs. Providence

By Adam Faughn

    There are some stories in history that just make you shake your head at the amazing level of coincidence that happens. For example, Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert Lincoln, was present, as you might expect, when his father died from the wounds he sustained by an assassin's bullet. However, it is merely coincidence that Robert Lincoln was also in the larger crowd when President James Garfield was shot several years later. Garfield would die from the wounds about two months later.
    Even more amazing is that Robert Lincoln was also on his way to meet President William McKinley when he was assassinated in 1901. Lincoln was actually in the same town and on his way to meet the president when the assassination occurred.
    We are often amazed at these times of coincidence, and they are amazing. We must ask, though, is everything that happens in our life merely coincidence? Are we just living and having events happen in our lives solely by mere chance?
    For the Christian, we understand that some things in life “just happen.” On the other hand, we also know that God is still working in this world through providence. Providence is the manner in which God works through the natural forces of this world in order to bring about His will. It is often silent in the moment, but, when we look back on something, we often see God’s providential hand all over certain events that “just happened” to work out.
    Paul, when he wrote to Philemon, tried to explain why the slave Onesimus ran away and ended up where Paul was in Rome. In Philemon 15, the apostle wrote, “For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever” (emphasis added). Whether God worked this out through providence or whether it was mere coincidence was not specifically revealed to Paul, even by inspiration, but Paul seemed to indicate that he believed it was more than happenstance.
    When we realize that “for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28), and that God does not work via miracles any longer (see 1 Corinthians 12-14), do we take the time to thank and praise Him for those “perhaps” moments in our lives? They will be times of good and comfort, of joy and healing, of amazement and peace, though we may not realize His hand at work in those things until after the fact. Still, for each of them, may we give Him the glory.

- Adam Faughn preaches for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

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