I was an extension student during my seminary days which meant it took me around nine years to earn my Master of Divinity degree with juggling classes, serving in the local church, getting married, and beginning a family. Managing my schedule was challenging, but so was managing my finances. My wife and I started out like most couples—with pretty much nothing and making just slightly more than that. And seminary wasn’t exactly cheap.
About midway through my degree, we had recently moved to central Florida and I remember stressing about a tuition bill I had just received. I can’t remember the exact amount, but it was an odd amount like $420. Paying that bill was going to be hard for us and honestly I was weary of paying tuition bill after tuition bill without being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I was pouting and worrying as my wife and I got into our vehicle to go somewhere. I pulled out of our driveway and stopped at the street to check the mail. I sorted through the items and one envelope caught my attention—it looked like an official document of some sort and I dreaded that it would be a bill of some kind.
But when I opened the enveloped I was stunned. Inside was a check made out for almost the exact amount of my tuition bill. So if the bill was $420, the check was for $421.34. I held in my hands a reimbursement from something related to the house we had sold a few months before to move to Florida. But it was so much more than a reimbursement to me.
It was a divine 2×4.
God wanted to tell me something, and I heard Him loud and clear.
There I was fretting about a bill and failing to trust in God’s provision. God used that check to bop me alongside the head and remind me that He is faithful. He will provide. Always.
Now, the world would hear that story and tell me that I experienced an amazing coincidence that day. How lucky I was that the check was almost the exact amount of my tuition bill!
But as followers of a completely sovereign God, there is no place for coincidence and luck in our thinking; we celebrate God’s providence instead. When we think of God’s sovereignty, we think of God’s authority to do as He wills. When we think of His providence, we think of what God does to bring about His will. The check I opened that day was an expression of God providentially working in my life—He brought that to pass to teach me a lesson and provide for me and my wife.
Now when most of us think about God working providentially in our lives, we tend to focus on the positive times—like receiving a check to cover a bill. However, we also have to be careful to recognize that sometimes God’s providence doesn’t feel so good. There are times when God providentially brings hardship and even suffering into our lives for His glory and our good.
Take Joseph for example. When we look at Joseph’s life, we see that God was at work providentially each step of the way. Into slavery. Into Potiphar’s house. Into prison. And finally into the king’s court. But God’s providence was not pleasant for Joseph—it was hard. He suffered. But God used it for His glory and Joseph’s good.
And that brings us to this week’s Bible story, Esther Became Queen. (Unit 18, Session 1) We see God’s providence all throughout this story—from Esther being chosen queen to Mordecai overhearing a plot to assassinate the king, God was working providentially to bring about His purposes. But we also cannot miss how God’s providence was not easy for Esther and Mordecai. Their very lives were in danger. The people were in fear and on the brink of extinction. God’s providence was certainly not pleasant for His people in that moment.
But we know that God’s plan was good and perfect, even if it was difficult. As we read in our Christ connection this week:
God’s plan all along was to send the Messiah through Abraham’s family. Haman’s evil plan might have stopped God’s plan, but God was in control. He was working out a plan to use Esther to rescue His people and make the way for His Son, Jesus, to come into the world.
God’s plan was not only for the good of the people of Israel in that day, it was also good for us today. Think about what we learn from the story of Esther. Think of how we see images of Jesus and the gospel in this Book?
Help your kids see how God was providentially at work in the Book of Esther and how He is at work providentially in their lives too—when it feels good and when it feels far from good. Help your kids to see that they can trust in God at all times and how God works all things together for His glory and our good.
How have you seen God work providentially in your life? Leave a comment below.
Here is more help for leaders preparing for the January 22, 2017 session (Unit 18, Session 1) of The Gospel Project for Kids.
Brian Dembowczyk is the team leader for The Gospel Project for Kids. He served in local church ministry for over 16 years before coming to LifeWay. Brian earned an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Brian, his wife, Tara, and their three children—Joshua, Hannah, and Caleb—live in Murfreesboro, TN, where Brian enjoys drinking coffee and teaching 4-5 graders at City Church.