40Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"
41So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."43When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
In Part I, we looked at who God's promise of all things working out for good in Romans 8:28. The next four posts will look at four promises for those Christians who have a purpose from the Lord. Those four parts are:
1. God's Plan is Beneficial.
2. God's Plan is Active.
3. God's Plan is Inclusive.
4. God's Plan is Harmonious.
**Please note that these four points are from the book Spiritual Maturity by J. Oswald Sanders - you can find it here.
Now that we know the "who" of Romans 8:28, let’s look at the "what" – what does God promise in the beginning of this verse – I am amazed at how much richness is in just six words – “All things work together for good.”
All things work together for good.
All things work together for good.
Let’s first focus on “for good” right now. J. Oswald Sanders spends much time in this chapter about what “good” means. What do you think of when you think of a “good” day? I think of my kids behaving well – being loving to each other. I think of my house being clean (and staying clean) all day. I think of lovely weather – of doing something fun with my kids during the day with no conflict involved. I think of lovely family time after my husband arrives and a well cooked meal that was planned weeks ahead of time on my menu plan. I think of no money problems - no recession. No work stress in my husband's life. I think of no stress in family relationships. I think of serving God and all around me working harmoniously. Most of my “good” (if I were in charge of the universe, which thankfully I am not) surrounds lack of conflict, no work, ease, comfort, and pleasure.
I have heard it said that Christians from lower economic parts of our world who visit the US claim that US Christians are so impoverished in their spirituality due to the comforts we enjoy in our culture –comforts we grow to expect and subtly accept as being the norm for those who love and follow the Lord. This way of thinking is not how God views the concept of "good" in the lives of His children. We live in a culture that wants it and wants it now (which has led to the recession, but that's a topic for another posting another day).
Websters defines "good" in the following ways (I am not listing them all due to how many definitions there are for "good") - "possessing desirable qualities; adapted to answer the end designed; promoting success, welfare, or happiness; serviceable; useful; fit; excellent; admirable; commendable; not bad, corrupt, evil, noxious, offensive, or troublesome, etc."
In researching Romans 8:28, I have found two different Greek words for "good." One word is "kalos" - this is a good which is appearance related - "what is beautiful, or what looks good, outward goodness, outward beauty, surface good;" however, the Greek word used for "good" which Paul uses in Romans 8:28 is "agathon" - which means "good in the purest and truest sense." God is concerned with the inside - not the outside. He is creating an internal beauty that no easy life can create. God is working out His agathon - His good.
Paul, the writer of Romans suffered greatly. He spent much time in jail. He did not receive creature comforts while in jail. He had people who were seeking his end everywhere he went. 2 Timothy 2:10 says "Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory." He suffered and continued on so that more could know the plan of salvation - so more could know the Lord Jesus Christ as savior.
Paul also says in Phlippians 3:7-9 "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith."
Paul knew full well what suffering meant. Yet, his seeing the Lord working out good in Paul's life - the fruit of Paul's ministry to others - he saw the Lord working out Paul's sufferings for good. I am sure that it took time. How do you think he felt the first time he went to jail? How do you think he felt the first time he heard someone was out to kill him due to his spreading the gospel? Yet, God equipped Paul through Paul's sufferings for the work God had for Paul to do. God had work in Paul's time (evangelizing then) and beyond Paul's time (the scriptures God wrote through Paul) which God prepared Paul to do.
God is preparing you for work He has for you to do. Now, each person's work is different. And God can grow you for multiple works during a trial. In my case, as I look back on the past 11 years since our first loss, I see how God has used suffering to grow my love for God and His Word. God has used my suffering to grow me to be a better mom (who is still in need of growth there and in process). God has used my suffering to reveal sin in my heart. God has used my suffering to pass on God's compassion to those who are hurting. God's purpose can cover multiple areas of your life for now and for down the road.
I encourage you today to seek out learning about God's agathon - His good. Ask the Lord to give you His comfort, His peace in this process of growing and learning. Look to the anchored hope that is only from the Lord. I pray that today you are able to see glimpses of that hope - that agathon - that good - He is working in your life.
I am praying for you. Have you memorized Romans 8:28 yet? Print it out - put it in your pocket - tape it to your bathroom mirror. Write "agathon" down and place it around your house - perhaps someone will inquire to its meaning and you can share about what you are learning about God's goodness today.
Romans 8:28 is a verse I hear quoted frequently in the Christian community. When I ponder our past losses, I remember things friends said – dear friends – some who had not had a loss – and sometimes from friends who have had losses. It’s a cliché that often pops out of the mouth of caring sisters in Christ. “It was not God’s Will” – well, obviously it was not God’s Will for the baby to live; otherwise, it would have lived – sometimes I wanted to scream that in their face – obviously I did not and obviously they did not intend to say something that did not help me in my grief. I often encourage those who are grieving to continually give their friends grace. Overlook well meaning things people say that don't really help.
Yet God's Word is full of healing balm for your grieving soul. Romans 8:28 is full of the richness – of the fullness of God and His plan – His hope. Let’s look at it more closely today.
Before I break down this passage, let me reference a book that I just started reading with a group of ladies at church. It’s title is Spiritual Maturity by J. Oswald Sanders. Chapter one “The Overruling Providence of God” is where I am getting this content in regards to Romans 8:28. If you’d like to purchase a copy, I like to use Christianbook.com – here is the link for this book on their site.
First, let’s focus on the “who” of this verse. Who is it that things work out for the good? Is this something every person on earth can claim? This verse does not mean that everything works out for the good of everyone. No, it says “for the good of those who love him” and those “who have been called according to his purpose.”
“For the good of those who love him” shows us that those people who love God and are in relationship with God are those people whom this verse refers to. How do you know if you love God – if you are in relationship with God? Do you believe that God is holy? That He is the great creator? Do you believe that all humanity sins – that you sin – that you are not holy and that God cannot allow anything unholy into His presence? Do you believe that God sent His son, Jesus, to die for your sins – and that He raised on the 3rd day because He has power over death? Have you asked Jesus to be the front center of your life? If so, you are a person who loves God. God loves and cares for His people.
Secondly – those “who have been called according to his purpose.” Being a child of God doesn’t just mean only that you are a child of God – God has a purpose for you being in His family. There is relationship. Now, suppose and earthly father is quite rich and has many children. Those children could, due to their earthly father’s bank account, sit around and have fun and do nothing; however, a loving father gives his children jobs to do - He gives them a purpose. God does this. Everything that occurs in life will eventually bring about the glory of God. He has given you a purpose – a job to do. If you are a child of God, He has a purpose and a plan for your life. Part of His purpose in my life has been to encourage women, especially women who have suffered the loss of babies in their lives. He equipped me for this purpose by allowing me to experience four losses. It takes time, but for His children, He eventually works out hardship for good. Claim that promise right now!
So, now we know who it is that claim the promise of Romans 8:28. If you are still wondering if this promise is for you, I encourage you to check out this site here to go through the plan of salvation. I encourage you to seek out a friend, a pastor, a church who is committed to the Bible as being God’s Word and to ask questions about becoming part of God’s family – accepting Christ as your Savior.
Next we will look at the first of four promises for those who are in God's Family - four points of hope which you can look towards in your grieving. Please know that your grieving is close to my heart and I am lifting you up to the Lord in your grieving. I encourage you to dig into His Word and to choose one verse to put around your house to focus on - if you'd like some examples, you can look at my posting on verses of hope here. And I encourage you to start memorizing Romans 8:28.