[Aug 24]—All Things? Really?!

            Wow. Of all the passages out there, this is undoubtedly the one I’ve looked forward to the least as far as teaching. This has got to be the greatest example of Paul packing 10 pounds of theology into a one-pound bag, and to call this intimidating is the definition of “understatement.”
            Again, what’re my three favorite words when it comes to studying your Bible? Context, context, and context. I’ve heard verse 28 quoted pretty frequently, but most people don’t have the time (or inclination) to look at the surrounding passage.
            First and foremost, this verse is talking about our glorious inheritance in Christ, the benefits of being united to him. Right now, we’re groaning, along with all creation, because we have to live under the consequences of sin. But keep in mind what I noted a couple of days ago: You can’t be frustrated without knowledge about something better. We’re like birds living in a cage, created to soar but having to live in a sin-cursed world and in sin-cursed bodies. Through the eyes of faith, based on what God’s word says, we can see a glimpse in the window of our ultimate Home. And we sigh. And wait.
            What does this have to do with verse 28? Because if all you see with are your physical eyes and human understanding, then verse 28 seems to be a lie. Or worse, a sad and sick joke. As I write this, my wife’s grandfather is struggling with dementia in his later years. His moments of even semi-lucidity are getting fewer and farther between. How can my wife or my Mother-In-Law look at him and square it with God working all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to a Divine purpose?
            Or take an earthquake or a flood. An earthquake hits a poor region, where people are barely getting by on a sustenance level. Their already bad situation was just made a hundred times worse. Or imagine watching a loved one slowly and very painfully waste away from cancer.
            How is this an example of God working all things together for good?
            Look, I’m sure there are plenty of people reading this whose stories of sorrow can beat any “suffering” I’ve endured by a country mile. I’d never presume to tell them to “keep your chin up,” or that “better days are coming.”
            But the Lord--who suffered more than you or I would ever dream on Good Friday (the most ironic of names)--has this to say to you: “Everything that you see and everything that you don’t, I’m working into my plan, right now. This plan is for the good of every one of my children, including you. The reason you’re so frustrated is because you dream of something better. And very very soon, I’ll take those dreams and not just fulfill them; I will surpass them in ways you can’t even imagine.”
            But it takes the eyes of faith looking through the lens of Scripture to see this. The only way I’ll be able to accept that he’s working through all things for my good is if I know him on a personal level. I read his promises, believe him through the work of the Spirit, and walk with him on a daily basis. While you’re here in this world, he might reveal to you why he’s doing certain things in your life. But most of the time, he just asks us to, as the hymn puts it so succinctly, “Trust and obey.”
            Dealing with vss. 29-30, I’ve already dealt with them at some length in other contexts. First they deal with my eternal security in Christ. Please pardon me as I quote myself:

“In this passage, Paul lays out before us the unbroken chain of salvation: We were 1) foreknown, 2) predestined, 3) called, 4) justified, and 5) glorified. There is no one in group '1' who isn’t in group '5.' And glorified is past tense, just like all the other adjectives. As far as God is concerned, I'm already sitting with him in Heaven next to Jesus.”

            If you're interested in the topic of eternal security, I've dealt with it pretty extensively here
            Second, as I discussed before, this really gives insight into the “good” that God makes all things in my life work towards. The problem is that while I think that “good” would include good health, lots of money, a wonderful family, etc., to him “good” is being conformed to the likeness of Christ, and my Savior learned obedience from what he suffered. His idea of “good” and my idea of “good” can be very different.
            But one day, once I’m perfectly conformed to the likeness of Christ, I’ll look back, and know that everything, every little difficulty, every heartbreak, and every disappointment has all been worth it.

Lord Jesus, like another man once told you, “I do believe. Help my unbelief.” More trust, more obedience, please. Thank you that you’re using everything in my life for my good and your glory. 

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