Summary: God works for our good from beginning to end. Evangelistic and encouraging message including foreknowledge, predestination and calling.
ALL FOR THE GOOD—Romans 8:28-30
***(Alternate opening: Ask the congregation for favorite Bible verses…)**
Every year, BibleGateway.com releases a list of the most-searched Bible verses on their website. Romans 8:28 is always in the top 5. In the NIV, the verse is, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
This favorite verse is sometimes misinterpreted. The King James Version translates it, “…all things work together for good to them that love God…” Not a bad translation—but often only the first six words are quoted: “All things work together for good.” That sounds nice, sort of like, “Every cloud has a silver lining,” or “It will all work out for the best.” It sounds nice, but is it true?
***If you pick up a nail on your way home today and get a flat tire, how could that be a good thing? A good Samaritan might stop and help, which might be good, but it is more likely that your flat will simply cost you time and money.**
There is a condition, of course: “All things work together for good TO THEM THAT LOVE GOD.” If we love God, can we assume that all things will work out for good—the good that WE think is best? If we love God, can we I expect God to always heal cancer, take care of our family, or make us successful? If things don’t work out so well for us, is it because we don’t love God enough, or God doesn’t keep his promises?
But maybe the verse is about how the things we think are bad are actually part of God’s good design. A popular analogy is a beautiful tapestry: On the back side, the threads and knots are a colorful, ugly mess, but when the tapestry is viewed from the front, the pattern is stunningly beautiful. It is a good analogy, but does God cause bad things to happen as part of his plan?
***The story is told of an old woman, who came out of church one day and fell down the steps. Unfortunately, she hit her head on the concrete, and died. As people gathered at the funeral home to view the body, the pastor heard some trying to make sense of the calamity, saying things like: “This must be in God’s plan.” “It was God’s will and we must accept it.” “She was up in years, and God wanted her in heaven.” “God planned this to test our faith.” At the funeral, the pastor began his sermon with, “My God does not push old ladies down the church steps.”**
The NIV translation avoids some of the misconceptions, by saying, “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Things happen—good and bad things—and God makes them work to fulfill HIS PURPOSE.
However, God’s purpose for us might not be a nice life, free from pain or distress.
***Jerry Sittser was a young chaplain at Northwestern College in Iowa, when tragedy struck. He was driving his family in a van on an isolated road in Idaho, when another vehicle crossed the center line going 85 mph, hitting the van head-on. His mother, wife, and daughter were all killed, and 3 children survived. Dr. Sittser said he would go to his grave not knowing why God allowed such a tragedy to happen. He even said, “It’s so awful. It’s never quite settled.” Yet he also said the grace of God and people transformed him.**
God’s ultimate purpose is not a total mystery. It is found in the following verse, Romans 8:29, which says that God’s purpose is for us “…to be conformed to the image of God’s Son, that the Son might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” God wants us to be like Jesus, so that many people will become God’s children, brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ!
God takes everything that happens to us—good and bad—and uses it to transform us into the image of Christ.
We have skipped ahead, however, and we need to read all of Romans 8:29-30, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”
This raises a lot of questions, about “foreknew…predestined…called…”—questions about election, free will, and human responsibility. We will touch on some of those questions next week, when we look at Romans 9. Here, however, Paul is addressing a different question: