“And we know that for those who love God all things work together
for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” - Romans 8.28
The celebrated Scottish preacher and divinity schoolteacher A. J. Gossip used to challenge worshipers at the communion table:
“Do you believe your faith? Do you believe this I am telling you? Do you believe a day is coming, really coming, when you shall stand before the throne of God and angels will whisper together and say, ‘How like Christ he (or she) is?’ That is not easy to believe. And yet not to believe is blasphemy. For that, not less than that, is what Christ promises.”
In Romans 8, Paul is challenging us in a similar way! He isn’t saying that “everything will just turn out okay” in this life. Instead, he means that everything will work out for our ultimate good—that we will be conformed to the image of Christ. How God, in His wisdom and power, works all together for our eternal joy is an impenetrable mystery. But knowing that God gave His Son for us and knowing His love in our hearts, we believe it is so and we believe that one day we will actually see how it is so. This faith transforms how we face all the good things, bad things, and our personal failings in this life.
The Good Things. “All things” means that the good things God grants work together for our good. We should be grateful! We should give thanks for the routine good things in life. We shouldn’t just presume the good things we enjoy will happen, and we should not just take them for granted. Instead, we should give thanks to God for them. Notice, Paul isn’t saying that “things” just work together for good all by themselves! Instead, he’s saying that only God makes all the factors of life turn out for our good.
Many are disillusioned by the hardships and disappointments of life, but Christians shouldn’t be. We should be more ready to expect them. We believe that humankind defied a good God and brought death and destruction on ourselves. Therefore, we simply don’t expect things to work for our good. Yet when we do find things actually working beneficially for us, we acknowledge it’s only because of the goodness, grace, and power of God! We don’t say “Well, that’s the way it ought to be.” Instead, we praise God for His blessings! He is the author of every good thing under heaven.
The Bad Things. This promise in Romans also transforms the way we face the bad things in life. When life goes wrong, we can face it without being overwhelmed by fear and anxiety because we know God is in control. God “works” in “all things.” He is a hands-on kind of God, and He is completely in charge of this world. His hand may be hidden, but His rule is absolute. This means that ultimately there are no accidents. As the writer of Proverbs says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord (16.33).”
That assurance guards our hearts with peace. We are never in the grip of fate or chance. Since that is true, God is working for our good even when things go hard against us. The eighteenth-century pastor and hymn writer John Newton used to say: “Everything is needful that he sends; nothing can be needful that he withholds.” What wisdom! If we think we absolutely need some good thing that God has withheld, then in reality we don’t absolutely need it. If we feel our life has been ruined by some bad thing, in reality, God is using it to play some important role in our lives. God is ruling over it for our good. He’s using it to teach us, mold us, enrich us, humble us, and make us more compassionate.