“Brother Norm, I would like to discuss if providentially hindered to miss services is biblical.”
I’m understanding this question to be referring to the common statement we use referring to someone missing services due to an unavoidable circumstance. Or, at least, that is the way I have always understood that statement.
To say that someone is “providentially hindered” means that God put the hindrance in front of them. I’m quite certain that the general idea of providential hindrance does take place. We know and are assured of God’s providential activity in our lives (cf. 1 Peter 5:6-7; James 4:13-16; et al). The story of Joseph is a prime example (Genesis 37-50). We know that the reason Joseph ended up as second in command in Egypt was so that he could save Israel and provide a place for them to grow into a great nation (cf. Genesis 50:20). We could certainly say that Joseph was “providentially hindered” from returning home.
Paul said that he was “hindered” from visiting the Romans previously but he did plan to visit them eventually (Romans 1:13). In Romans 15:22, he indicates that this “hindrance” was due to the demands of his work to preach the gospel where it had not already been preached (Romans 15:20, 21). Though, in 1 Thessalonians 2:18, Paul says he had been hindered in visiting Thessalonica because of Satan’s interference with his work. In Acts 16:7, the Holy Spirit did not permit Paul to go into Bithynia because he was to go to Macedonia and preach there (Acts 16:9, 10). So, “providentially hindered” is a biblical concept. We just need to be very careful with it because we could be blaming God for something the devil did.
However, to say that someone is “providentially hindered” to miss services would mean that God would have some reason to put hindrances in front of someone to prevent them from attending services. I realize that we don’t know the mind of God (cf. Isa. 55:8). But I have a problem thinking that it would be God’s will for us to miss services and that He would “providentially hinder” us from doing so.
There is a big difference in saying that we were “unavoidably hindered” from being at services. It may be that we’re in the hospital, or we’re a first responder responsible for getting people to the hospital. I understand that there are unavoidable hindrances and that we are not forsaking the assembly (Hebrews 10:25) in such events.
If through circumstances beyond my control, I am not capable of being at services then it is not a matter of me choosing not to be there. I don’t have a choice in such cases. And, therefore, it would not be a willful act on my part. However, that is not the same thing as saying that God put those unavoidable hindrances before me. So, I think the term “unavoidably hindered” would be much better than “providentially hindered.” Either way, what’s significant is that we are not choosing to miss services and then claiming that we were not able to be at services. God certainly knows the difference.
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