Summary: Not even the worst afflictions you might face can cancel out God¡¦s purpose or God¡¦s favor in your life.
You might have heard that, on the next to last day of our vacation, Nancy and I were rear-ended as we were pulling off the freeway in San Jose, California. Thankfully we weren¡¦t hurt, but the car was undriveable, and we were 850 miles from home without transportation. For a while we felt not only shook up, but pretty powerless as well, as the security that vehicle represented was taken away from us. I¡¦m still a pretty sore, and the best car we have ever owned is gone forever. But that¡¦s a pretty small affliction compared to what some of you are going through or have faced recently. After all, its only a car. But in a recent twelve-month period, we¡¦ve had two people from Wasatch die of cancer and two others diagnosed with it. We¡¦ve had two of our members face surgery for brain tumors. At least two people suffer from MS. A couple of people have lost jobs. Some have lost a spouse through divorce. Others have faced significant depression. We have several from the church who face danger daily in a war zone thousands of miles away.
I¡¦ve done a lot of thinking and biblical study over the years on the subject of suffering. Americans, by and large, have a very poor understanding of the biblical perspective on suffering. My thinking on this subject was tested and ripened last year when our family went through some deep waters ourselves. I thought the time has come to share with you some of the key passages in the Bible about hardships and trials.
I know that some people, when tough times hit, feel abandoned by God. They wonder if God is real, or if he cares. But others, when facing the very same kind of trial, grow closer to God and find him to be a source of great strength and comfort. What makes the difference? How have you responded to suffering in your life? How might you respond when next it comes? I want to encourage you today. Trials do not need to rob you of your hope. You do not need to give up on God. Because not even the worst afflictions you might face can cancel out God¡¦s purpose or God¡¦s favor in your life.
I. GOD¡¦S PURPOSE FOR YOU IS ALWAYS PERFECT (28-30)
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
A. GOD IS WORKING TOWARD A PURPOSE IN YOUR LIFE
Any trials or suffering you go through must be understood in light of that fact¡K
1. affliction is part of life in this world
a. Christians should not be surprised when trials happen
b. you can see this earlier in chapter 8
- (17): children of God will share in the sufferings of Christ
= just as we share in his glory
- (18): acknowledges ¡§our present sufferings¡¨
= in light of the eternal glory that will one day be revealed
- (19-21) describe the reason for afflictions
= we live in a world that by nature is subject to futility and decay
= that¡¦s why earthquakes happen, why cars break down, why the human body wears out and gets sick, and so forth
= it¡¦s the nature of the fallen world we live in
With that background, our passage today begins (28) with a basic, foundational truth. This is a truth we need to understand and believe, especially in the face of hardships¡K
2. God uses everything that happens in your life for your good
a. (28): ¡§and we know¡¨
- its not just a hope or a wish, but confident knowledge
b. assurance that God is at work
- even in the toughest times
= even when he feels absent more than present
= even in things that hurt
- it says: ¡§in all things God works for the good¡¨
= in all trials and hardships
= in all afflictions / calamities / persecutions / sickness
- God is not standing by as a spectator merely watching your life
= wishing he could do something about it
- God is at work
c. he is working ¡§for the good¡¨
- that means: for our true welfare and best interests
- doesn¡¦t necessarily mean: what we want most
= or even what we think is best
- just like a parent with a young child¡K
= God knows our true welfare better than we do
= everything he does / everything he allows in our lives¡K