And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28
This verse, found in Romans chapter eight, should be an ever present source of comfort for us in whatever situation or circumstance that we my find ourselves in. For it is certain that in this life we will have trouble (John 15:33), and we can be assured that the more we press into the kingdom of God, the more we become a target for all kinds of fiery darts from the wicked one (Ephesians 6:16). The Bible promises that ‘all those that desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution’ (2 Timothy 3:12). Paul, who penned those words, who is one of the most admired and respected men of all time, knew this by experience. The Lord said of him, “I will show him now many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). His list of troubles is partially given to us in 2 Corinthians chapter eleven—and this list should shut the mouth of all complainers (see 2 Corinthians 11:22-29). If anyone was in the position to be able to say ‘all things work together for good,’ it would be him, for he experienced many things that would not be labeled ‘good.’
And this is why I suspect that he began this verse with the phrase ‘And WE KNOW.’ When Paul was writing the book of Romans, he had already experienced the Master Weaver working all of the experiences and so-called ‘set backs’ and difficult times into a grand plan that brought about much good. He saw it over and over again, in fact. Many things that looked to be evil where turned out for good:
- On his first missionary journey, a evil sorcerer opposed him, seeking to turn people away from the faith. But this set back turned in to a ‘set up’ when the Holy Spirit came upon Paul, who pronounced blindness on the wizard. This sign led a prominent government official to faith. (See Acts 13:6-12)
- Not long after, he was stoned and left for dead by envious Jews. But the disciples raised him up and he kept preaching and many were saved. He was able demonstrate the truth of his preaching, which was, ‘We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.’ (See Acts 14:19-22)
- Next he was beaten and imprisoned, but God answered his prayers with an earthquake, and the jailer and his family were saved. (See Acts 16:16-34)
- Later he was arrested on false charges and imprisoned for some time. God used it for good, for much of that time was spent penning the scripture that we know have.
- As a prisoner, he was sent to Rome to stand trial, hoping to testify before Caesar. However, the ship was wrecked upon an island. To top it off, when he arrived safely at land, when building a fire, he was bitten by a poisonous viper. Sounds like a rough day to me! But God used it all to minister greatly to the people on the island. Many were healed and saved! (See Acts 27 & 28)
It was because of these and many other experiences that Paul was able to say, “WE KNOW that all things work together for good, for those who love God, to the called according to His purpose.”
We also can know this. Just simple reflection on days gone by will supply most Christians with an abundance of similar experiences of that of Paul. How many times have one of God’s people experienced a ‘set back’ that was really a ‘set up?’ For example, I was once fired from a job due to no fault of my own. I was tempted to be bitter and angry, but I fought those temptations and put my trust in my God. I soon found that this wasn’t a ‘set back’ from God’s point of view. It was a ‘set up,’ for I landed a job that paid me more than I had ever been paid before, more than twice what I was making at the job I was fired from!
As Christians, it is important for us to remember the good things that God has done in our lives. When we are able to remember the good that God has done it will help us to maintain the right attitude in any present distresses we find ourselves in. If you are in a difficult situation, make sure your heart is right with God, and then remind yourself that He’s taken care of you before and He’ll do it again.
The next thing important to observe from this verse of scripture is that it is in ‘ALL THINGS’ that God works His good. This includes your circumstances, your upbringing, your education level, your experiences—good and bad, your mistakes, and your sins. It’s not that God directly caused those things to happen, or that your sins were necessary or good, but that God is the Grand Weaver and is able to work with whatever we give Him. You may have made a disaster of your life. Give it to Him, He is able to redeem. He can take what was meant for evil and turn it for good. Give it to Him and watch. Moses was a murderer, Noah got drunk, David committed adultery, Paul killed Christians. Would it have been better if they never did those things? Yes, of course, those things brought pain and shame and hurt to many, including themselves. But they looked to God in their brokenness, and God turned evil into good.
I think of the disfunction of Jacob’s family. His older 10 sons sold their younger brother into slavery. It was an evil thing, but God worked it for their own good, and for the good of the family. Of course, you can imagine that none of them could see that at the time. Jacob, who thought his son was dead for 20 years, couldn’t see how good could come out of it. The brothers, who were plagued with guilt for 20 years, couldn’t see how any good could come out of it. And certainly Joseph, who became a slave in a foreign land, among a peoples whose language he did not speak, with no family nor friends, certainly he had trouble seeing how any good could come of it. It was likely he doubted the dreams God had given him. And Joseph, who kept a good attitude through it all, must have been greatly demoralized when, after things were looking up, was suddenly accused of rape and thrown into prison. He must of said to himself, “I’m moving backwards, not forwards! God, you’re taking me in the wrong direction!” But he would have been wrong! This seemingly downward placement was exactly where he needed to be. It was in that low and dark place that he met the king’s cup bearer. And when the time was right, Joseph was in the right place at the right time. If things would have been any different, he would have never become prime minister of Egypt.
This story is should give us ample reason to never give up, no matter how difficult or demoralizing our situation might become. If God is with you, you can be assured that, in the end, you will understand the reason for your sufferings. And if you remain steadfast, it will be a blessing for both you and those whom you love.
Next we see that “All things WORK TOGETHER for good…” These two words, ‘work together,’ are one word in the original Greek. It is the word, ‘synergeo,’ which corresponds with our English word, ‘synergize.’ It refers to the idea of two or more agents working together to bring about an effect greater than the combined efforts of what they could accomplish individually. In Romans 8:28, Paul is referring to the fact that God can do more with the good and bad in our lives than we could ever accomplish with only good. And by this, I mean that God will allow bad things to come into your life for the exact purpose of creating a synergetic affect that could never happen otherwise. Again, we can look at the life of Joseph as an example. Joseph was a good guy. He was living a good life. I’m sure that if he never was sold into slavery he would have been a good man and done some good things. But it was that bad thing that happened to him—those thirteen years in slavery and in prison—that made him much more than a good man. It made him into an extraordinary man. The good and the bad synergized together made him the savior that he was.
And let us not forget the ultimate Savior, who the Bible says was ‘made perfect by His sufferings’ (Hebrews 2:10). Not that Jesus was ever imperfect. But by ‘perfect’ it is meant ‘complete.’ He could not have been the Savior that we needed Him to be if He had not suffered as He did.
So don’t be too discouraged over the bad things that have happened to you in life. If we can have the right attitude, and put our trust in God, He will cause more good to come out of our lives than could have ever come if no bad had been present. This is why it is imperative that we never give up! What if Joseph had given up when things were tough. What if he had said, “Life has not been fair, I’ve been trying my hardest to do good and live the way God wants me to live, and yet here I am, a slave.” And what if he had used that excuse to yield to the temptations of Potiphar’s wife? It is likely that the story would be much different.
Don’t give up! Don’t give in! Even if you’ve sinned, get up and keep going. No matter what the circumstance might be, leaving the faith is never the right decision. Keep your faith in the Grand Weaver. He can bring good out of any situation if you will let Him!
Finally, we must consider the last clause of this verse. It says that all things will together for good everything for good to those that ‘love God and are the called according to His purpose.’ We must not leave that part out. Not everything will work together for good for everyone, but only for those that love God, and for those that are the called according to His purpose. And this is important, because this is the ‘man’ part. God is the one that works all things together for good. That’s His part. It’s our part to love God, and to answer the call to His purpose and plan. If we do our part, we can be assured that God will do His part.
So what must we do? First, we must LOVE GOD. Please do not mistake this love for affection. In the Bible, love and affection are not the same. It is certainly possible to love without the feelings of affection. This love that the Bible speaks of could be better translated as ‘care,’ or ‘honor.’ You don’t need to have nice feelings for someone to care or honor them, you just have to do it. That’s why Jesus said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me” (John 14:23-24). Any affectionate feelings that we might have for Jesus or God mean nothing if we do not obey His commandments. To love God is to care about what He thinks and says, and to do it.
Don’t be deceived into thinking that you love God if you don’t live in accordance with His commands. You can have feelings of love for God all day, every day, and it means absolutely nothing. The Bible says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 John 5:3).
Secondly, if we wish for all things to work together for our good, we must be among ‘the called according to His purpose.’ By ‘called,’ Paul is referring to those who have heard and responded to the call to eternal life and to the mission of God. It is important to understand that it is both of these things. Way too many people who sit in churches think that they can answer the call to eternal life without answering the call to the mission of God, but this is a deception. If you are called, you are called to salvation and to mission. This doesn’t mean that you are called to be a full time pastor or missionary, but it does mean that you are called to play your part in the Great Commission, which is to “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). If this is not on your mind then please take the time to revisit your salvation, for it may not be as secure as you think.
But for those who truly love God and live according to His calling, or for those who decide to do so today, we can have assurance that God is working behind the scenes to bring about good. He loves those that are His more than we can ever imagine. He has our good in mind, and loves to lavish good things upon His children. Our suffering is only temporary, and it works a ‘far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!’ (2 Corinthians 4:17)
God will truly ‘work all things together for good.’ Those that are His will all see this in time. Trust in His providence, and when the Grand Weaver is finished His work, you’ll see a life more beautiful than you could have ever imagined.