Summary: #8 in Romans 8 - What a Way to Live! series. God works all things together for good for Christians. Useful opening illustration. Also describes this truth in Jesus’ death too.
Romans 8:28-30 – Polluted Streams Still Turn Turbines
Once there was a river. It was a wide river with many docks and wharves along its shores. It provided income for many with its sport fishing and recreational opportunities. It provided leisure for many with its beautiful sunrises and pristine waters. It was a beautiful river.
But it was not perfect. At times sewage from the many homes and cottages along the shore would cause an unpleasant odor to rise from the beaches. Unregulated industrial waste, from companies and businesses that should have known better, flowed unchecked into the river. Years of dumping garbage by people who never thought that their actions would ever hurt anything or anyone had created a murky brown color into places along the river as well.
And this river felt it. It would groan, yearning for the better days when all was carefree, when its beauty and innocence were all it reflected. It sometimes wished it didn’t know what it hadn’t known when it was young either.
And it cried out to its creator, “Why have I become like this? Why has pollution from many streams flowed into my waters? Why has the thoughtlessness of others caused such a pain within me? Why have you allowed so much waste into me? I didn’t ask for it, nor did I do anything to earn it. Yet I am polluted. Why, Creator, have you allowed all this into my life?”
But there was no answer. Day after day, the streams of pollution flowed into the river, and though they failed to corrupt the river completely, they were at times unbearable. And yet the Creator did not answer the river’s questions.
But what the river did not know was that down stream several miles, a plan was being formulated. Some engineers were looking at the river, so beautiful and yet so imperfect, and were considering a new power source. If they placed turbines in a large dam that regulated the amount of flow, they could supply the area with electricity. The river could provide many people with much-needed power.
And when the dam was built and put into action, it wouldn’t matter so much that the river had pollution. It wouldn’t matter how many polluted streams flowed down from the hills. In the end, the entire course of the river would be usable for greater purposes. It would all be worked together for good.
I think that in a sense, this is what God has planned for us. Today’s Bible passage is a commonly quoted one. It’s a truth people cling to. It’s an anchor for the soul in the storms of our lives. People need to know that trials and troubles will not be useless, but have some purpose in our lives. People can suffer any kind of “how” as long as they know there is a “why” to it all. Let’s look at the passage to get this idea grounded a little better.
V28 can be worded in several different ways. The NIV chooses this: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” Now, one thing I like about the NIV is that at the bottom of the page, it sometimes offers different ways that the passage could be worded. For example, the text note for this verse says it could also be worded like this: “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God.” That’s the way most other translations word it, and that’s the way I’m most familiar with too. And the passage could also be worded this way: “We know that in all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good.” That’s a great thought too, and not untruthful either. God uses His people to bring about His will on earth.
But I think the essence of this verse is better described this way: We can be confident that no matter what happens in life, good or bad, God brings it all together to achieve His purposes. God can take pain, suffering and hard times to make them useful to us, for His plans for our lives and the lives of those around us. This section follows last week’s thoughts that we don’t know how to pray, and we don’t know what to pray for. So, even though there are things we don’t know, still, there are things we can know, things we can be sure of, that no matter how much pollution we get inflicted with, God can make use of it anyway. That’s a serious encouragement.
Well, what are His plans? What is it that He’s trying to accomplish? What is He trying to bring about? If we, as v28 says, have been called according to His purpose, what is that purpose?