The Duty Ours, The Power is God’s (Flavel)


When it comes to the mysterious providence of God and trials that come our way in his providence, we need to submit to his will (even when it’s hard to do!). We need the faith to say, “Lord, you know best; thy will be done.” How can we do that? It’s easier said than done for sure! John Flavel (d. 1691) gave a good answer to the hard question: How can we submit to God’s will when his providence includes our suffering and pain?

It must be premised that the question does not suppose the heart or will of a Christian to be at his own command and disposal in this matter. We cannot resign it, and subject it to the will of God whenever we desire so to do. The duty indeed is ours, but the power by which alone we perform it is God’s; we act as we are acted upon by the Spirit.

…We can do this and all things else, however difficult, through Christ that strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). But without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). He does not say, Without me ye can do but little, or without me ye can do nothing but with great difficulty, or without me ye can do nothing perfectly, but ‘without me ye can do nothing’ at all.

And every Christian has a witness in his own breast to attest this truth. For there are cases frequently occurring in the methods of Providence in which, notwithstanding all their prayers and desires, all their reasonings and strivings, they cannot quieten their hearts fully in the disposal and will of God; but on the contrary they find all their endeavours in this matter to be but as the rolling of a returning stone against the hill. Till God say to the heart, Be still, and to the will, Give up, nothing can be done.

Flavel, “The Mystery of Providence”, p. 211-212.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015