God works both good things and bad things for the good of His people.
Let us look at Romans 8.
“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Romans 8:27–29
“I find crosses Christ’s carved work that he marketh out for us, and that with crosses he figureth and portrayeth us to his own image, cutting away pieces of our ill and corruption. Lord cut, Lord carve, Lord wound, Lord do anything that may perfect thy Father’s image in us, and make us meet for glory.”Samuel Rutherford
Let’s start with the character of God, in particular God’s attributes.
God’s power works for good. We know for God to be God He must be all powerful. God doesn’t use His power in an arbitrary way. Col 1:11 tells us that God uses His might to strengthen us (His people) to endure. He supports us and supplies our needs. The Bible gives us examples of God’s power interceding and uplifting His people. 2 Tim 4 has Paul claiming that though everyone abandoned him left him to face trial by himself, God stood with him. Who brought the Israelites out of Egypt and through the Red Sea? How did the early Christians endure affliction, yet rejoice in it? They were strengthened by weakness (2 Cor 12:9).
A favorite passage of mine is Elijah being sustained by God. 1 Kings. Elijah has a great victory yet goes into the wilderness depressed and God provides food and water for him while he rests and gets restored. When we are weakest God often brings revival. When our comforts are declining and the sun is setting God often restores and rejuvenates us, showing God’s great strength.
God’s Wisdom works for good. Because God is the source of all wisdom, we can rest assured and be comforted by the fact that His is the Wonderful Counselor (Isa 9:6). In matters of confusion and complexity God’s Word, the Bible, is the only fully reliable source of knowledge. In a world of fake news and constant political and social machinations we need a sure foundation of hope.
God’s goodness works for good. God’s goodness is to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4). It can be an instrument in helping us turn away from lesser goods to the one who is truly good! While both those who belong to God and those who don’t experience God’s goodness, the rain falls on both the righteous and the wicked, we can enjoy them even more without guilt. We recognize it is fully a gift, no strings attached.
God who doesn’t lie also promises that our afflictions will work for good. 2 Peter 1:4: “By these he has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.”
A Great Comfort
They are a great comfort to us when we suffer. If we are full of guilt for sin God promises that is we confess it He will forgive completely but also cleanses us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9). What great comfort that we can be forgiven anything! When we feel the heavy weight of sin, Christ takes it on Himself. The mercy of God is not exhausted. God gives us mercy but also grace.
What about when we are overwhelmed? God promises to be with us (Psalm 91:15). He does not lead us into trouble to leave us there, but to strengthen us in Him! This is such a joy inducing reality, we can turn to the one who delights to give us good things! (Psalm 34:10) God’s promises are certified checks, is it too much to go to the source and deposit it?
God’s good character and promises work for our good, for those who love God. Think about Romans 8 with me. Paul says, “We know that all things work together for good.” “We know” says Paul. Paul has experienced this first hand, it is not just a man writing a letter about some future hope, but real, personal boots on the ground experience. Paul is like a beggar who found the one restaurant in town that gives away free food. He is trying to tell everyone where to get fed! God’s promises are food, food that strengthens our faith. We need to go to them for the milk of faith. We can be strengthened by going to the Word. They are springs of living water for thirsty men in the hot desert.
Paul goes on and says, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Notice that they work together, they are not made good things, God isn’t taking evil and making it less evil, He is using it. It is an instrument in His hands to cut the cancer from our hearts. Think of it, in a serial killer a scalpel can be a dangerous weapon, but in the hands of a surgeon it is a tool to remove deadly growths. God as the Great Physician can use all things for our good. Martin Luther said that the Devil is God’s devil. If you read the first few chapters of Job the Devil has to ask God for permission. God is not powerless but all powerful and He has a purpose for our trauma, affliction, and suffering.
But we need to not miss this, the good worked is for, “those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”
We must be counted as those who love God. The second post covered this, but let’s expand on this thought. When I was deployed and it was time for leave or a return to home, I was willing to endure any discomfort to get home to my loved ones, to my wife! A long flight, no problem. Sleeping on the floor at some midpoint airbase, I’ll joyfully lay here until they call me. Cargo nets for seats, 10-14 hours? No problem I am going home!
So if we love God no discomfort is too great for us. God has a purpose in all this. We are called for this. He has a purpose. If we believe that, then we can trust God even when the bad things work for our good.
We will see next time how God works bad things for our good.
How does this perspective help you deal with the struggles in your life?