“Where God guides God provides” is a statement I believe most of us Southern California Christians have heard. Like most people I embraced this statement as Gospel truth and didn’t think twice about it because it seemed so self-evident and obvious, but is it really, now that I think about it more?
As I think about it now, it seems to me more of clever statement about God’s sovereignty than what I think the author and the rest of the people has historically meant it to mean. Surely Scripture teaches us that God is the great guider of history and all things, like Dr. Sproul said, “there are no maverick molecules in the universe.” Scripture also teaches us that God provides every provision for everyone, there is not a provision that anyone has that hasn’t come from the hand of God “For he (God) makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Mat 5:45b and Acts 17:24-27:
“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.”
Although I now think that this popular statement might actually lean towards God’s sovereignty in actuality, it isn’t how it is normally used. Rather what the statement means is that when God guides you He will provide for you what you need, to accomplish what He is guiding you towards. Therefore you do not need to worry about planning for the provision, God will just grant it miraculously, so just step out in faith and go where He is guiding. Often, it seems, the vision of Israel in the Wilderness is what our brains conjure up as support for this statement.
Clearly God guided Israel out of Egypt and to the promise land. All the way He provided what they needed. Needless to say there are also countless personal examples of Christians today that seem to attest to the validity of this statement. Not to mention that many people have found great comfort and hope in this statement. Many Christians have felt led by God to do something and were able to do it trusting that God would provide for them, and He did! While other Christians use this statement as a test to see if God is really leading a ministry. When they see a ministry floundering and failing, they logically conclude that God must not be guiding that ministry because He isn’t providing for it.
Done deal, why even discuss the matter any further? Clearly this statement is Biblical truth and I only risk the wrath of God by questioning it, don’t I? Certainly not and now let me explain.
Hidden beneath what seems to be a solidly Biblical statement is a lurking danger. The first danger I see is that many Christians use it to judge the validity of a ministry, by looking solely at its fruit and comparing it to some subjective non-biblical standard like: “your church has 20 people mine has 20,000, therefore God must be guiding me and not you”, or “my ministry has an excess of money while yours is in the hole, God must be guiding me and not you”.
Yet, when we consider this treatment further we come to some problems. Let us note that many non-Christian religions have attendance higher than 20 and more towards 20,000, is God guiding and providing for them too? If God is also guiding and providing for the non-Christian religions, then what comfort do you take in Him providing for yours also, since there is nothing unique about it? Furthermore let us consider Paul the Apostle and the Jerusalem church. At times both of them were broke, in need of money and resources, would you tell me then that God must not have been guiding them because it seemed they weren’t being provided for? What about Jesus, did God not guide Him? Yes, God guided Jesus and guided Him to torture and a horrific death!
Ah, I hear your response, oh wise reader; you protest saying that God did provide for Paul and Jerusalem because they were eventually funded and that God did provide for Jesus with Resurrection. Well said, oh reader, but I counter then with this thought: so then we shouldn’t be quick to judge the ministry who is underfunded or with 20 people because, given time, God might actually provide and if you judge them too quickly then you might be cutting off a healthy bud from the vine! While Jesus did receive resurrection so will we as His children, so what comfort is this statement really giving us that we will ultimately die and be resurrected? If that is true, couldn’t this troublesome phrase be more clearly worded?
Lastly you say to me, my dear reader, “why make all this fuss then”? Now we have come to that point, my friend. This is my fuss: this statement is ultimately non helpful to the Christian because it doesn’t rightly defined what it means for God to guide or what it means for God to provide, and nor can we get a correct understanding from this short passage. Thus, I contend, that the statement only causes confusion and potential damage, because it is so easily misunderstood.
How many budding ministries have been cut down because of this statement being misused? Or how many Christians have had false hope that God was guiding them somewhere just because they were being provided for not realizing that God also provides for the wicked? Therefore, when we look at just provision alone, we cannot determine whether he who is being provided for is of the camp of the wicked or the righteous.
Thusly I argue that since this statement tends give people a false hope or a false criteria by which to judge whether God is guiding them or not, it ultimately fails at providing that which it was intended to provide: hope in the ministry and life.
Discerning reader, I will leave you with this final thought. If all we intend to do with this statement is encourage the Christian to trust God for His needs, then are we not better off using a more clear and accurate statement that actually can be found directly in Scripture? Hence, I will leave you with it: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” – Rom 8:28