Which is better? To pray or to act? If you fell terribly ill, should you pray or go to the doctor? If you were unemployed, should you pray or work hard on your resume? If you’re a parent having difficulties with your son or daughter, do you pray or start making changes in your household? For most of us, it doesn’t take much pondering to realize that we should do both. If we move to action without prayer, we essentially take matters into our hands. But just because we’ve prayed, does that mean we should be sitting on our hands waiting for a miracle to happen?
The story of Nehemiah, like so many great stories of the Bible, introduces us to the doctrine of divine providence. The providence of God tells us that God is always at work. Whether we see it or not, God is directing all things in the universe. He is in complete control of all things. He governs the world with wisdom and love. And nothing happens by chance or fate.
Listen to how Tony Evans describes this attribute of God:
“Providence is the hand of God in the glove of history. It is the work of God whereby He integrates and blends events in the universe in order to fulfill His original design for which it was created. It is God sitting behind the steering wheel of time. Providence refers to God’s governance of all events so as to direct them toward an end. It is God taking what you and I would call luck, chance, mistakes, happenstance and stitching them into achieving His program.”
So what does it look like to live in light of God’s providence? As we move along in our series Nehemiah shows us what it means to pray and act, all the while having a keen awareness that God is always at work. Last week when we left him, he was broken man. Weeping and praying over the ruined state of Jerusalem. We listen to him plead with God to lead in an effort to see the Holy City of God rebuilt. And in a very real sense, this story illustrates how the damaged and ruined areas of our lives need to be rebuilt.