(Note: I wrote this article and posted it on my blog before my book, Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession was published by WestBow Press in February 2018. This critical topic was later included in the book. I invite you to check it out.)
I just learned that no less than eight states have cities by the name of “Providence”: Rhode Island, Utah, Maryland, Florida, Indiana, Illinois, Alabama, and Missouri. I was born in one of them. It is a very important word to me personally.
This word was the focus of chapter nine of R. Paul Stevens’ book, Work Matters: Lessons from Scripture that I have been reading during my lunch hour at work. What I read today really struck me. I’d like to share a bit of it now.
Stevens declares confidently:
At some time or other every one of us feels that we are in the wrong place, at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing. . . We’re tempted to think that if we were only somewhere else or doing something else, we could be useful and deeply satisfied. But the reality is that God has a providential purpose for our lives right where we are. And the Creator has been involved behind the scenes, as it were, in all the details of our everyday experiences as well as in our life-long work trajectory.
The Old Testament saint that best illustrates “providential work”, as Stevens titles his chapter, is Esther. As he begins to unpack the narrative, he asks several relevant questions, the first one being: “Can God work through a pagan empire?” The answer is, of course, a resounding yes.
When Esther is informed about a plot to eliminate the Jewish people in the land, her uncle Mordecai tries to persuade her to intervene on their behalf. He knows that God will inevitably deliver His people once again, with or without her. But because she was chosen by the king to be his queen, Mordecai makes this bold statement that is the central point of the story: “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Wow! Those words give me chills.
Stevens poses that for us, just like it was for Esther, our jobs can be seen as providential. He has two main points to discuss about God’s providence.
He states, “First, providence means that God is involved in our work and workplace for his own good purpose. We can see divine providence in apparently haphazard events and choices made by human beings. . . Divine providence asserts the directional and purposeful character of human history and personal destiny. It means that God is even more interested in our life-purpose that we are. . . Such an understanding of God providential ordering of our lives should stimulate our confidence, gratitude, and faith.”
Stevens continued: “Second, providence means that where we are is not accidental. Providence means that our birthplace, family background, educational opportunities, the talents and abilities we bring to the workplace, even our physical or emotional disabilities, are not accidental but part of God’s good and gracious purpose for us. Esther was strategically placed to be an influence.”
I was floored when I read the words in the second sentence, regarding providence and one’s birthplace. As I mentioned earlier, I was born in the city of Providence. Not only that, but I was the result of a problem pregnancy, conceived by two young college students who thankfully did the right thing. By the grace of God, I was allowed to be born. When I look back on my life, on the things God has enabled me to do and the family I have raised with my bride of 36 years, I know without a doubt that God had a purpose for my life. I was not an accident.
David in Ps. 139:13-14 exclaims, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Now you understand why this topic is so important to me. Let me try to make it personal for my readers also.
I have a song to share. It was performed by Wayne Watson nearly 20 years ago, but this powerful song still carries a punch and brings tears to my eyes. The title is “For Such a Time as This”.
You can watch a performance from about five years ago on YouTube here. Here are the lyrics to the chorus:
For such a time as this
I was placed upon the earth
To hear the voice of God
And do His will
Whatever it is
For such a time as this
For now and all the days He gives
I am here, I am here
And I am His
For such a time as this
I hope that everyone reading this knows that God has a plan and a purpose for you. You are not where you are by accident. He wants to use you, in big and small ways, to bring glory to Him. Rest in that fact, and look for daily opportunities at work to speak up and be heard, with your actions as well as words.
Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015. He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor. Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.