Text: Romans 8:28 | Listen to Message
One of the most common questions in pastoral counseling (a.k.a. friendship) goes something like this: If God is so good, then why did he allow this bad thing in my life?
As soon as the question is asked, many Christians act as if they’ve said something wrong – almost blasphemous – and they try to backtrack. I mean, I know this is actually good but I just don’t understand how. It sure seems bad. And it hurts.
Let be clear: bad is bad, and good is good, and we don’t have to pretend like bad things are actually good. They’re not. You’ve been sinned against, and you have sinned. We live in a broken, decaying world – with its mix of good, bad, ugly, and beautiful – where things are falling apart. Relationships disintegrate. Health disintegrates. Vocations disintegrate. Finances disintegrate. Our hearts, minds, and emotions can disintegrate. We don’t have to put on a happy face and pretend like pain is pleasant, or like we’re okay with moral evil.
But what about that verse that says God works everything for good?
Yes, what about that verse? Let’s examine it.
1. The Promise.
Listen closely to Romans 8:28 and note the two-fold promise: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Do you hear the promise? Everything in your life will ultimately work together to accomplish God’s plan for you. And that plan is good.
God doesn’t say everything is good. He doesn’t say bad people get bad circumstances and good people get good circumstances. In fact, if you read the whole chapter (Romans 8), you’ll see that believers experience the same kinds of trials, tragedies, and pains, as nonbelievers. We both get cancer. We both lose our jobs. We both lose spouses to divorce and children to miscarriages. We both experience chronic pain, depression, and boredom. We both eventually die.
But here’s the great hope of this text: God says, “I’m working all of that together for good!”
Focus on the underlined words in that last sentence. “Work together” is the word sunergeo, from which we get our word “synergy.” A synergy is the creation of a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts. Consider a simple illustration of synergy from the world of chemistry:
H2 (hydrogen, a highly flammable gas)
O (oxygen, a highly reactive nonmetal)
If God can do that with atoms, molecules, and compounds, just imagine what he can do in the life of someone who loves him!
See, God is always creating synergies in your life. He’s always taking the good, the bad, and the mundane, and pulling them together to make things that are morally excellent, beautiful, and intrinsically valuable.
2. The Purpose.
Why does God work this way? What is he ultimately up to?
God explains the “purpose” of verse 28 in verses 29-30: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
Note two things about God’s purpose:
First, God’s good purpose encompasses your past, present, and future. And your future glory is so certain, in Christ, he can speak of it in the past tense, as if it’s already accomplished.
Second, God’s good purpose is to use everything in your life to make you more like Jesus.
Re-read that last sentence and realize it’s one of the most important truths to guide and guard your life!
We want happy, pleasant, prosperous, pain-free lives. We want the American Dream. But God’s doing something way better than that – he’s conforming us to the image of Christ. He’s progressively transforming our character and nature so that we learn to think, love, and act like Jesus.
See, God doesn’t promise us better life circumstances; he promises us a better life. We want the instant gratification of Happy Meal toys and God is crushing us under tremendous pressure and heat because he’s fashioning a diamond, instead.
3. The Practice.
Do you want to learn to think this way? Do you want to gain real-time insights into what God is doing that is good? Then use this simple diagnostic question:
What might God be doing with ____________ in my life, to help me look more like Jesus?
Take actual circumstances in your life, plug them into this question, and start journaling! Recognize that whether something is good, bad, or neutral, it’s not an end in itself; it’s a means to an end. See that the resistance in your life is like “time under tension” that’s meant to strengthen your patience and faith. Trust that all these threads are being woven together into a tapestry that looks like Jesus!