Divine providence is one of those doctrines that usually flips people out. Simply put, providence means that God works things out for the good. So, despite the bad situations that we may find ourselves in, the doctrine of providence helps us think that God’s goodness will help us out. Theologians usually start splitting hairs between “general” and “special” providence; for instance, did God really help me find that parking space at the entrance to HEB?
Putting that aside, the passage from Acts scheduled for today is a prime example of God’s providence. Stephen, traditionally known as the first Christian martyr, is stoned to death in Jerusalem because of his witness to the risen Jesus. The other followers of Christ, because of their fear, leave Jerusalem and disperse all over the Mediterranean world.
It would be easy to think of these followers as no followers at all. When the going gets tough, how is it that they left? But God used their fear and their departure for the good: As the followers of Jesus spread out over the ancient Mediterranean basin, they took with them their faith and their conviction of the good news. That is, God made some great lemonade out of some pretty sour lemons. God took the fear and anxiety of the disciples in Jerusalem, added a little bit of the Holy Spirit, and managed to make evangelists that spread faith in Jesus to the ends of the earth. In some sense, it was because of that fear that you and I are Christians today.
That’s some pretty good lemonade.