Summary: Like it or not, God uses trials and suffering to remold and reshape us into Jesus’ image as part of His long term plan.
When Being A Conformist is Good!
1. It is great to see our trials resolved and our prayers answered.
A woman at work received a phone call that her daughter was sick with a fever. She left work and stopped by the pharmacy to get some medication for her daughter.
She returned to her car to find that she had locked the keys inside the car.
She started to panic, so she called home and told the babysitter what had happened. The babysitter told her to find a coat hanger and see if that would open the door.
The woman looked around and found an old rusty coat hanger that had been thrown down on the ground, possibly by someone else who also had locked their keys in their car. Then she looked at the hanger and said, "I don’t know how to use this." She bowed her head and prayed for help.
Within five minutes a motorcycle roared up and pulled into the parking space next to her car. A rough, dirty-looking biker got off and saw her situation. He asked if he could help her. The woman thought, "This is what you sent to help me, God?"
She finally told him yes, as she needed to hurry and get home to her sick daughter. He walked over to the car, and in less than one minute the car was opened. She hugged the man and through her tears she said, "Thank you so much! You are such a nice man."
The man replied; "No, I’m not, Lady. I just got out of prison for car theft." The woman hugged the man again and with sobbing tears cried out to God, "You even sent me a professional." [Bruce Ball, Sermoncentral]
2. Many other times, however, bad things happen with no apparent reason and nor apparent solution. We may comfort ourselves with the thought that others have it worse, but the truth is that we cannot understand how God can have all power, be loving, and yet let horrid things occur.
3. The answer, from a philosophical angle, is that God allows evil to produce a greater good, a good that could not have been without the evil. E.g., the Fall, the cross.
4. But this does not mean we can understand how a particular calamity factors into this equation. How did the Tsunami or COVID, for example, work for good? We can rack our brains, trying to figure it out to no avail, or we can hang on to the promise of Romans 8:28, though perplexed at the particulars. But one thing we can see is that God uses our heartaches to make us more Christlike.
Main Idea: Like it or not, God uses trials and suffering to remold and reshape us into Jesus’ image as part of His long term plan.
I. All things work together for GOOD (28).
I Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
A. To those who LOVE God
B. To those who have been CALLED
My wife makes an amazing pot roast dinner. She takes raw meat, along with raw sliced white and sweet potatoes, celery, mushrooms, carrots, and onions and throws them into the slow cooker. Six or seven hours later the aroma fills the house, and the first taste is a delight. It is always to my advantage to wait until the ingredients in the slow cooker work together to achieve something they could not achieve individually.
When Paul used the phrase “work together” in the context of suffering, he used the word from which we get our word synergy. He wrote, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). He wanted the Romans to know that God, who didn’t cause their suffering, would cause all their circumstances to cooperate with His divine plan—for their ultimate good. The good to which Paul referred was not the temporal blessings of health, wealth, admiration, or success, but being “conformed to the image of [God’s] Son” (v. 29). [Marvin Williams, odb.org]
• Joseph, Jacob’s son, is a case in point. Sold as a slave to a caravan heading for Egypt…
• Jesus’ death seemed nothing less than a tragic miscarriage of justice, but God used it…
C. What about for those who DO NOT love God and aren’t called?
II. God brings us through these things to make us more like JESUS (29a).
A. In what sense will we NEVER be like Jesus?
B. In what sense will we be LIKE Jesus?
This is about character, submissiveness to the Father, and holiness.