The counter-argument: Sickness is not good. Murder is not good. Divorce is not good. The death of a child is not good. A soft pillow for a tired heart???? How dare you!! My life is being ripped apart and you tell me it’s all good????
Your problems may seem overwhelming, but be assured God is at work. I like the words from the song that began the service, Count Your Blessings: “So Amid the Conflict whether great or small, do not be discouraged God is over all, Count your many blessings angels will attend, help and comfort give you to your journey’s end…” You are on this earth for the long trip, the journey…
Romans 8:28 is worth a closer look (outline: Vernon Grounds):
1. God is at work…God is at work in our world. /your life. God is up to something…. You life is not about luck... Where is God when it hurts? He’s in the middle of the difficulties, he is at work bringing good out of the mess.
What the Bible does NOT say is that everything is good, as if to say, “No matter what happens, God will turn a tragedy into a blessing.” That’s fine for fairy tales, but not for real life. What do you say when a little child dies? Or when a man dies on the mission field? Or when a woman is cheated out of her inheritance? It’s hard to see how that is good. Sometimes tragedies happen and well-meaning people say, “That’s not a tragedy. It only looks that way. Just have faith.” That’s not what the Bible says. The Bible says God is knitting everything together so that good can emerge. Jon-John’s death a few months ago was a tragedy, it is not good, it will never be good, yet I heard Andy and April say of their nephew, “My prayer is that somehow this will help even one person change.” Andy and April, you understand Romans 8:28, you are free to leave…
Tragedy is real, it is not a disguised blessing. Suppose I have a car accident. I take it into the repair shop and I’m told, “You didn’t have had an accident. Your car has just been rearranged.” And I turn and look at the cracked grille, the crumpled fender, the twisted bumper, and the shattered windshield. Then I say, “Buddy, you’re crazy. This car isn’t rearranged. It’s wrecked.”
The Bible never asks us to pretend that tragedy isn’t tragedy. Or to pretend our pain isn’t real. The pain is real, the point is that God is actively at work in your life!!! That is all this verse is saying. Don’t make it say more than it says. Tragedy hurts! I saw one guy hit another guy in the nose yesterday – the blood was real. This verse simply says God is at work in the middle of the pain, and good will emerge. A woman lost her husband to death, which paved the way for the woman to become a support missionary in her retirement years… The pain is real, but when you allow God to be active, when you recognize God’s role in your life, good will emerge.
2. We Need A Long-Term Perspective
Many things in life seem unexplainable when they happen today. Did you watch any of the news in the mid-west yesterday? Why does a tornado destroy one house and leave another untouched? I have no answer. Why does one brother excel while another struggles all his life? I sat down with a friend this week a few years younger than me that has a brain tumor. Why her? Why now? The list of such questions is endless. Seen in isolation, they make so sense whatsoever. If there is a purpose behind such tragedy, we cannot see it.
I like the way one person explains it: “Our danger is that we will judge the end by the beginning. Or…that we will judge what we cannot see by what we can see. That is, when tragedy strikes, if we can’t see a purpose, we assume there isn’t one.” Keep reading the next few verses after Romans 8:28, and it is like a drumbeat that God has a high purpose, God is bringing us to a place of glory… READ Romans 8:29-30. If our confidence depends on us understanding everything -- good luck! A few months ago I flew in a small airplane around Whatcom County. Secretly, I am a bit nervous flying, but the payoff is so worth it to me. Mike Archambault was the pilot, flying his 1960 (?) airplane. As we are flying around, I am amazed by the machine, I don’t get it at all, the air keeping up several tons of metal –I simply have to trust that Mike knows what he is doing. How much more God. I so often don’t get this old life of mine, I don’t understand what God is up to, where he is taking me, but I have to trust he knows the end of the story.
Just as we ought not judge the end by the beginning, the opposite is also true: We should judge the beginning by the end of the story. Paul says, “For we know that all things work together for good.” This is a key to victorious living: we may not be able to see the end, but faith assures us that everything will be good. Now you know the end of the story. If I watch a Disney movie, I know good always triumphs over evil, that is the basic plot of the every Disney Cartoon. I know the end, so no matter what happens as the story unfolds, I might not know the path the story will take, but I am assured that everything will be well in the end. You know the end of the story of your life: it is good because God is working everything out. You may not understand the twists and turns and how everything fits together, but you know the end. Even when life is difficult, judge the present by the end of the story.
3. What is meant by the word “Good”
Paul says “All things work together for good.” But what is the “good” he is talking about? I found this point to be the most helpful for me personally to understand what life is about, and how God defines good. God’s definition of good is quite a bit different than how many of us, even Christians, define good. For most of us, “good” equals things like health, happiness, solid relationships, long life, money, food on the table, meaningful work and a nice place to live. In general, we think the “good” life means a better set of circumstances.
Where’d we ever get that idea? Paul defines the word “good” in, Rom. 8:29 READ. God has determined ahead of time we will be conformed to the likeness of Christ. quite a bit different from becoming more and more like Christ, don’t you think.
I.e. God is at work in your life making you like Jesus Christ. I don’t recall Jesus having a home. A pillow. When Paul says that all things work together for good, he is not saying that the tragedies and heartaches of life will always produce a better set of circumstances. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Sorry, but God is not committed to making you healthy, wealthy and wise. He is committed to making you like his Son. And whatever it takes to make you more like Jesus is good.
You know what I learned a few months ago, I’ve told this to many people. It took me 51 years of living to figure this out. I have learned that when people become Christians on this earth, it does not mean that the earthly life will suddenly become controlled, that their life will become the middle class dream with all the comforts and advantages. Some folks may never completely get over the difficulties they are called to bear on this earth. But the good goal of God is NOT health and wealth, it’s becoming like Christ.
God’s way is that we learn more in the darkness than we do in the light. We gain more from sickness than we do from health. We pray more when we are scared than when we are confident. It’s the transformation of your heart that is most important, becoming more like Christ. I heard one person this week excitedly say that she was going to the doctor for a problem, and while she wants to live, she was not afraid of dying because she is alive in her spirit, she knows Christ, and so she is excited. She has health issues, but she is like Christ in so many incredible ways and her life is GOOD.
God is always at work, we know the end of the story is good, good means to become more like Christ, finally, in order to understand Rom. 8:28,
4. we must see that this verse does have a limit:
Notice the last phrase of Romans 8:28. It is a promise “to those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” This verse is true only for Christians. Have you ever said yes to Jesus Christ, inviting him to be the Lord of your life? Until you answer “Yes", this verse does not apply to you. Why? Because God’s purpose is to make his children like his Son. If you reject Christ, your life is not focused on becoming like Christ.
I totally believe Romans 8:28, but I still don’t even try to explain why bad things happen to good people. I sat with Christi Muzuco this week, as many of you have heard and she freely shares she was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, bone cancer, and an unknown spot on her back, and we didn’t even go to the why question? I can’t answer it. Romans 8:28 is not teaching us to call evil good or simply to smile through the tears and pretend everything is okay. But it is teaching us that no matter what happens to us—no matter how terrible—no matter how unfair—our God is there. He has not left us. His purposes are being worked out as much in the darkness as they are in the light.
One more insight to facing the difficulties of life #5 a reason for confidence:
The story is told of a father whose son was killed in a terrible accident. He came to his pastor and in great anger said, “Where was God when my son died?” The pastor thought for a moment and said, “The same place he was when his Son died.”
That’s the final piece of the puzzle. He knows what we are going through for he, too, has been there. He watched his own Son die. Therefore we can say with the Apostle Paul … “We know.” Did you notice how Romans 8:28 starts? “We Know….” We don’t’ always know why tragedy visits our lives, but “we know” because we know him … and God knows what it is like to lose a Son. He knows and we know him!
Can we still believe in Romans 8:28? What is your alternative? If you don’t believe in Romans 8:28, what do you believe in? Luck? Romans 8:28 is teaching us one great truth—All things ultimately contribute to the ultimate good of those who love God.
Does God know what he is doing? Yes he does . . when our lives are in turmoil, when we feel rejected, when we don’t get what is going on… Does God know what he is doing? YES. God is at work, the end of the story is good, good means God is creating us to be more and more like his son Jesus Christ. This promise is for those who know and love God – and that is enough. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” “A soft pillow for a tired heart.” Amen.