This is a lesson I presented a few weeks ago at a youth rally.
Text: Philemon 14-16
Onesimus was a run away slave from Philemon. During his time of fleeing he came across Paul and was converted. Now Paul is sending him back to his master. In the verses in question it appears that Paul alludes to the fact that Onesimus was allowed to escape so that a much better event might occur. This is referred to as God’s providence. Defined as the foreseeing care and guidance of God or nature over the creatures of the earth, or God, esp. when conceived as omnisciently directing the universe and the affairs of humankind with wise benevolence, or a manifestation of divine care or direction.
Paul said he was separated for a season or time for this reason. This was a slave that had run away, but Paul says he was separated. This leads to the idea or thought that this was perhaps not the reason he had left. The length of the separation is noted also. Literally “for an hour” or limited, short time, when compared to the result of gaining him for eternity as a brother. From the aspect of the returning Philemon would be able to receive him for a better way. It was not a forced return. There seems to be a mutual decision of this return, in order to show the new life of Onesimus. He has to correct the problem of still being a servant who is in subjection to his master.
What about for us today. What is God’s Providence? Is it still working? Even today God’s providence still is working. Without it there is no reason for prayer. If God doesn’t act in our lives then prayers do nothing. Rom 8:28. There are some examples of providence in the Scriptures.
1. Gen 45:5 – Joseph says that it was for God’s purpose that they selling him occurred.
2. Esther 4:14 – Mordecai says she came at such a time as for this.
3. Acts 8:1-4 – Persecution of Jerusalem of Church causes it to spread and grow.
But how can we see or know God’s Providence? The answer we don’t. We are never told it is one of God’s mysteries in the world. We sometimes sing a song 'I know the Lord will find a way for me", but the other day I saw an older version of that song that had one word different but it makes a world of difference. The older version says "I know the Lord will MAKE a way for me." This song shows the idea that God will take care of us and lead us where we need to go. However it is one of those ideas and thoughts that show that we cannot really know what God's plan or purpose is but we can take this idea and use it in our own lives.
The easiest way to apply this teaching of providence is to recognize that Providence does exist and is happening and the best way for us to handle it is to look at the good side of things. For example on a farm if a vulture is flying near by it is looking for something dead and rotting, the bad. But a hummingbird on the same farm is looking for flower or vines, the good. Its the same farm and same area but they have different perspectives. By nature we are sometimes negative and looking down. We know or are the person that can go in and suck the joy from a whole room. When we get out of touch with God we buy into the world’s view that all around is negative and all news is bad news. There could be a paper published that would be double the size of the typical papers put out in telling about all the good things that have happened to God’s people.
When we are faced with troubles we have one of two attitudes that occur. One reaction that can occur is that we become synical and bitter. Another reaction we can have is that we become better people. It is after our trials and troubles that we come out the other side as people who have compassion and forgiveness.
Why do we have mountains in our paths? They are there to help us mature and realize the choices we need to make. 1 Cor 10:13 They are also there to humble us. Jer 10:23
In closing how’s your outlook. Are you looking for God’s blessing or do you look at the negative side?