Deism is the view that God created the world in the beginning but, like a clockmaker, set it to the correct time and left it running without any further attention or intervention. Some Christians, who fail to recognize the difference between the signs and wonders God used to confirm the validity of His human messengers in Bible times and how God works today, deny any divine activity taking place in today’s world, equating any intervention by God with miraculous activity.
Yet the concept of providence presumes that God is still at work in the world He created. “Provide” is at the root of the word “providence.” God does provide good things for His people, and His loving care is always behind His every action on our behalf. We are to cast all our anxieties on God because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).
Scripture makes several promises to God’s faithful that, if true, require that God is still at work on behalf of His children today. They include the following:
While a concern for effectiveness is often preoccupied with a person’s role in an organization, the Bible presents effectiveness in terms of the effect we have in the lives of others. We see this approach in Jesus investing Himself in the lives of the chosen disciples, through whom He expanded His influence in the building of His church.
Tolbert Fanning was a towering influence building the church in the South. While well-known as a preacher and a writer, Fanning’s greatest legacy was the investment he made of himself in the lives of the young men under his influence. Fanning’s work blessed generations of Christians through the ministry of the young men he equipped for service at Franklin College.
Fanning’s protégé, David Lipscomb, studied at Franklin College and served with Fanning as co-editor of the Gospel Advocate. When Lipscomb became sole editor, he used his role as editor to develop a circle of younger men who would serve the church far beyond his own life and work.
Biblical Guidance From Godly Leaders
An essential element of relational leadership is providing appropriate guidance. God’s leadership in our lives is often described by Scripture in terms of guidance. As Isaiah 42:16 tells us: “And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them” (ESV).
What are other people really like in the privacy of their own homes – or on a deserted island – or in a restaurant wooing their potential mate? Someone must have set out to answer those questions when they created reality TV. Coined “fly-on-the-wall TV,” reality TV supposedly delivers the best and worst of real people to viewers as if they were flies on the wall. They see ordinary people do wacky, embarrassing, cruel or even dangerous things we would not usually see or hear.
However, it’s ironic that in reality TV producers often manipulate scripts, fabricate environments and alter the sequence of events to fit their filming schedule and production standards. As Ray Richmond, former TV critic for the Hollywood Reporter, says: “What they are doing on these shows is taking a kernel of fact and using it to construct a multi-pronged piece of fiction in the guise of truth and actuality. This makes for a product that’s not only mislabeled but disingenuous and deceptive.” 1
Do millions of viewers of reality TV know that things are not exactly as they seem? Do they care? What really seems to matter is that they are being entertained. The producers are doing whatever it takes to put on a show. To them, putting on a show is what it’s all about.
The Greeks Started It
About 2,000 years ago, the ancient Greeks knew how to put on a show too. Although their productions were different from ours today, they were no less entertaining to the crowds that flooded into the tiers of seats on the hillside theaters to watch the stage below.
An actor would wear a mask made of linen or wood that he could slip on and off easily. The mask’s features were exaggerated so the emotions portrayed could be seen to the far seats up in the theater. The actor would come out wearing a smiling mask to say a funny monologue. The audience might roar with laughter as they watched him rushing off to don a frowning mask. He would “answer back” with his solemn lines in the next tragic scene.
This actor was called hupokrites, the Greek word meaning “one who answers.” Look slightly familiar? It is the word from which we derive our word “hypocrite.” This did not start out as a derogatory term, but it evolved from meaning an “actor” to a “pretender” or “one who acts a part, one who wears a mask to cover his true feelings, one who puts on an external show while inwardly his thoughts and feelings are very different.” 2
Understanding the original definition of “hypocrite” makes it easy to see how Jesus in Matthew 23 used that term over and over to describe some of the Pharisees who acted “holier than thou” rather than holy. The term perfectly described these spiritual charlatans who acted out their religious parts in front of the crowds.
“What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” (Psalm 8:4 NKJV). When those words were written, the psalmist was pondering the vastness of the universe. As he considered the complexities of creation, he wrestled with the idea that man, in comparison with all of God’s magnificent works, seems small and unimportant. Despite this seeming insignificance, however, he recognized that God showed interest in the well-being of humanity.
The question of man’s position is one that has been considered throughout the ages of time. Is man a creature who owes his existence to chance? Is he perched precariously atop the evolutionary chain? Or does man exist intentionally? And if man exists intentionally, what role was he created to fill? Along with these questions, any thorough discussion of man’s nature must also address his composition. Is man an animal? Or is he more than a highly developed physical specimen?
A study of the nature of man will lead the honest student into a variety of fields. To answer questions about man’s physical nature, he must look closely at the origin of our universe; to answer questions about man’s spiritual nature, he must delve deeply into what it means to be created in God’s own image (Genesis 1:27). A study of man’s nature will address social issues such as the importance of fellowship. It will address ethical issues. And ultimately, it will focus upon the question raised in Job 14:14: “If a man dies, shall he live again?”
Not surprisingly, mankind has long been concerned with man’s nature. This fascination can be traced in secular history at least as far back as the Greek philosopher Protagoras (c. 490–420 B.C.). Protagoras is best known for this statement: “Man is the measure of all things: of things which are, that they are, and of things which are not, that they are not.” 1 And while the exact meaning of this statement is debated, the assessment of William F. Lawhead seems reasonable:“Two interpretations have been given of this slogan: (1) each individual person provides his or her own standard for implementing things, or (2) society as a whole is the measure of all things. Under either interpretation, he expresses a radical humanism and relativism that says there is no standard other than those that individuals or societies invent. Actually, Protagoras seems to have embraced both alternatives … he affirmed an individualistic subjectivism with respect to perception and a social subjectivism with respect to ethics.” 2
Christ called this lifelong growth process “abundant life.” Simply put, it is life as God intended, full and overflowing with spiritual blessings. Making this quality of life accessible to you was Jesus’ reason for coming to earth. In John 10:10, He declared, “I have come that [you] may have life, and that [you] may have it more abundantly” (nkjv). The key to enjoying an abundant life is following Jesus’ teaching and example. By becoming a better person, you experience a more rewarding life. But never forget that the joy is in the journey.
God’s Game Plan for Abundant Living
Spiritual growth is the secret to abundant life. It begins with salvation from your past sins and continues with sanctification or growth in Christlikeness (Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 4:13). The key to forgiveness and spiritual growth is to follow God’s game plan in the Bible. The New Testament reveals 10 growth strategies to help you move forward in life. They are hash marks for a holy life.
In football, yard markers help players measure their progress. The first-down marker shows a ball carrier exactly where he needs to be. As a result, he stretches to reach beyond it. Without field markings, it would be hard for a player to gauge his progress or enjoy the thrill of success.
For the Christian, Satan is your opponent; he hopes to stop your progress in the faith. Life is the field of play, and continual growth (abundant life) is the goal. God is your coach; He challenges you to be your best. The church is your team to support you in reaching your spiritual potential. The Bible is God’s game plan for life, and your daily choices make up the series of downs.