Summary: Paul, Pt. 2
FOR THE GOOD OF THOSE WHO LOVE HIM (ROMANS 8:28-39)
Fred is 32 years old and he is still single. One day a friend asked, “Why aren’t you married? Can’t you find a woman who will be a good wife?” Fred replied, “Actually, I’ve found many women I wanted to marry, but when I bring them home to meet my parents, my mother doesn’t like them.”
His friend thinks for a moment and says, “I’ve got the perfect solution, just find a girl who’s just like your mother.” A few months later they meet again and his friend says, “Did you find the perfect girl? Did your mother like her?”
With a frown on his face, Fred answers, “Yes, I found the perfect girl. She was just like my mother. You were right, my mother liked her very much.” The friend said, “Then what’s the problem?” Fred replied, “My father doesn’t like her.”
There is a lot we do not know or like about suffering, especially why people suffer and why disasters happen, especially to us. One unsurprising thing for sure is that everyone has his or her fair share of it. People mistakenly believe that the Christian life a bed of roses with a happily ever after ending. Overzealous witnesses promises that much. The opposite is a more accurate portrayal of the Christianity Paul has in mind, where Christians in the first century invite enemies, hatred, persecution, discrimination and even martyrdom on themselves simply for wearing the name of Christ on their sleeves. This is the second most popular Pauline passage for many Christians.
What did Christ promise us when we undergo suffering? What is the proof of His promise? Why does suffering often cause us to draw closer to Him and not drift away from Him?
Nothing is More Purposeful Than the Love of God
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. (Rom 8:28-29)
An elderly lady was well-known for her faith and for her boldness in talking about it. She would stand on her front porch and shout “PRAISE THE LORD!” Next door to her lived an atheist who would get so angry at her proclamations he would shout, “There ain’t no Lord!!”
Hard times set in on the elderly lady, and she prayed for GOD to send her some assistance. She stood on her porch and shouted “PRAISE THE LORD. GOD I NEED FOOD!! I AM HAVING A HARD TIME. PLEASE LORD, SEND ME SOME GROCERIES!!” The next morning the lady went out on her porch and noted a large bag of groceries and shouted, “PRAISE THE LORD.”
The neighbor jumped from behind a bush and said, “Aha! I told you there was no Lord. I bought those groceries, God didn’t.” The lady started jumping up and down and clapping her hands and said, “PRAISE THE LORD. He not only sent me groceries, but He made the devil pay for them. Praise the Lord!”
The truth about Christianity is that God comes through when hardship breaks out. Yes, there is a purpose behind everything that happens, though we are less sure about its reason, solution or its explanation. I differentiate between looking back to its reason and looking forward to the purpose.
In Christianity we are not haunted or hogtied by Islam’s fatalism or Europe’s existentialism. The former says everything good and bad is from God and the latter says good and bad has no meaning. Christians believe God permits even the bad to happen, but He did not present, provide or perform them, or even prohibit them from happening. James 1:13 records, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.”
By faith, we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him (v 28). What does that mean? Does it mean a free ride, a soft landing or a smooth passage is awaiting believers? Let us begin with the single Greek word “work.” Do not be misled by NIV’s translation. One of the misinterpretations and misunderstandings in Christianity is that God does everything for the believers. The believer can just sit back and watch the show, so to speak. That is hardly the case from this passage. The Greek for the verb “works” is “works together” as translated by KJV and NASB, or “sun-ergeo,” the precursor for the English word synergy – “syn” (sync) means “together,” and “ergeo” means “work,” as in “ergonomics.” It does not mean all things do not trouble, test and try you, that you are a puppet, a robot or a pawn, but that God will work in you and through you and with you to make things work for you. All things will join forces and act together to turn out for your good and that all things will work out fine, will fall into place and will serve its purpose. It doesn’t say God will “work for you,” but that He will “work for the good.” God, however, will work with you and even on you, but not for you during those times. It doesn’t even say for Tom, Dick sand Harry, but for “those who love Him.”