Providence or Karma?

The Rev Tim Smith, pastor at Hele Road Baptist Church in Torquay. Photo: Contributed

The Rev Tim Smith, pastor at Hele Road Baptist Church in Torquay. Photo: Contributed - Credit: Archant

I wonder whether you play, or have played golf, (the “full size”, rather than the “crazy” variety)? It’s not everyone’s favourite past-time.  
The 19th century American novelist Mark Twain reckoned that playing golf was, “how to ruin a good walk”! I remember me and my brother Mark, when we were teenagers, had beginners’ lessons from the professional at the Worcestershire Golf Club in Malvern, and we then played quite a bit of golf together for two or three years. 
I recall being impressed the day that my brother hit his tee shot on to the green of the 18th hole, which was a par 4.  The trouble was, Mark wasn’t on the 18th tee at the time; instead he was on the “raised” tee of the 3rd hole, and viciously hooked his tee shot left.   
His wayward ball bounced across the tarmac car park, miraculously missing every flash car parked there, and came to rest at the heart of the 18th green!   
The 26 year-old Spanish professional golfer John Rahm has hit the sporting headlines in these past few weeks. Early in June, whilst leading by six shots after three rounds of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Ohio, Rahm tested positive for Covid-19, and although, with only one round to be played, he was “odds-on” to win the event, Rahm was forced to withdraw and self-isolate.  However, just a couple of weeks later, at the US Open Championship in California (one of the four biggest events in a professional golfer’s year), Rahm had a memorable week for all the right reasons, when he birdied the final two holes of his last round, to win by one shot, his first “major” title.   
When interviewed immediately after his maiden major victory, Rahm said, “I'm a big believer in karma and after what happened a couple of weeks ago, I stayed really positive knowing that big things were coming.  I got out of Covid protocol early; I just felt like the stars were aligning."  Karma is a word that refers to the result or consequence of a person's actions, as well as the actions themselves. It is a term that describes the cycle of cause and effect. According to the theory of karma, what happens to a person, happens because they caused it with their actions.   
A definition of karma I came across last week describe it as “the destiny that you earn through your actions and behaviour. When you behave kindly, this is an example of a situation where you earn good karma that will result in good things happening to you in the future.”   
So karma is very me-centred. And that seems to me to be quite a contrast to the God-centred ideas of the Christian faith. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul reminds believers that they have put there trust in a God of “Providence”, when in Romans 8:28 he says, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.”   
That word providence is made up of the two Latin words, “pro” (ahead), and “videre” (to see).  Perhaps the best Biblical example of divine providence is found in the life of Joseph, whose story is well worth you taking the time to read in the final fourteen chapters of the book of Genesis.   
The jealousy and hatred that Joseph’s older brothers have for their sibling cause them to sell him to foreign slave-traders. The twenty years of Joseph’s life that follow, spent in Egypt, are a rollercoaster ride.   
During his time in slavery, he’s falsely accused of raping his master’s wife, and is thrown into prison. Years later, following a miraculous turn of events, Joseph goes from the depths to the heights, becoming prime minister in Egypt, second in command to Pharaoh.  
About Joseph’s life, pastor and author Ron Dunn writes, “God saw ahead and made plans so that when Joseph’s brothers cast him into the pit, it would fit into His purpose. Every step of the way God went before Joseph, anticipating each problem and making it serve His divine will.”   
As I reflect on how the providence of God impacts my own life of faith, I find this simple night-time prayer helpful; “Father, help me rest my head on the soft pillow of your providence, Amen.”