Most of the times God has gotten “personal” with me – or at least where it has felt like He has done so – it has involved providences regarding His Word, the Scriptures.

I have been teaching and preaching publicly for almost 40 years now and have spoken well over 2,000 times.  I have not kept track of the times where, while preaching, an illustration or a particular passage popped into my head uninvited and diverted the sermon.  Some in the congregation well remember me stopping after such a rabbit trail and saying “Now how did I get all the way out here?” -- because I lost my train of thought.  But often after I have wandered down a rabbit trail, a person will contact me and say “That particular verse hit me” or “That illustration was exactly what I needed” or “Were you a fly on the wall in my home this week?”.  That experience is not unique to me.  All Christian speakers experience it.  I take it as a confirmation that the Spirit of God is at work through me in others.  It is a reminder that God is involved with me personally and I find such providences wonderfully encouraging.

Though usually I’m giving the message, on some occasions God works providentially through other speakers so that I receive a message.  A few of those situations have punched so pointedly into my exact circumstances that I can’t help but feel God’s personal touch in them.

I never attended seminary chapel service during my seminary career.  Chapel attendance was not required, and I was too busy to attend.  But one day, I decided to attend instead of studying in the library.  A local pastor was addressing the topic of adultery from the story of Potiphar’s wife attempting to seduce Joseph and was pointing out that adultery is usually driven far more by emotional deficits than by sexual desire.  I thought it was an odd message to preach in a seminary chapel service.

At the end of that same week my wife and I were cleaning the church with another man from the church (In the old church we didn’t have a janitor; people signed up in teams to clean the building!).  As we worked, the man confessed to me that he was cheating on his wife.  That was the first case of adultery I ever had to deal with as a young pastor.  Suddenly the sermon from seminary chapel wasn’t odd; it was completely relevant!  My conversation with him became the first step in the eventual restoration of his marriage.

A second situation where God got providentially up close and personal took place when some folks in the church that I thought were friends had listened to some false gossip about me, and instead of coming to me with what they had heard, they spread it and started a brushfire that led to split in the church, resulting in even more friends turning on me.  I tried to resolve the issues, but people had already made their minds up based on the gossip. 

I felt terribly betrayed and downright angry that “friends” turned so easily and so quickly on me, that they were willing to believe horrific lies about me and didn’t even bother to ask for my side.  I was judged and condemned without a hearing.

Amidst the conflict my wife and I decided to get away to recompose ourselves.  We attended the annual Bible conference of our college alma mater.  We walked into the first session of the conference and the speaker (whom I did not know) announced his subject:  betrayal in ministry. He laid out how Jesus knew Judas would betray him but still served his betrayer by washing Judas’ feet.

That was not a message I wanted to hear.  But the unplanned convergence of my life situation and that message was too coincidental to be mere coincidence.  It was a hard pill to swallow, but the amazing providence of the situation let me know that I was being attended to very personally.

There were no heavenly voices or visions in the situations I’ve related, but in these occasional providences I have felt God’s personal touch and I know that I am loved and cared for.  Such providences become benchmarks that I use to remind myself of God's love for me when He seems to be engaged elsewhere, ignorant of my own plight-of-the-moment.