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Biblical, battle-tested, real-life help for "living by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). — Steve Fuller

Does God Work All Things For Good?

Surfer on everystockphoto by Byron and TamaraGod Works All Things For Good

That’s what Paul says in Romans 8:28 —

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good.

We might respond: Really, Paul? ALL things? Even things like unemployment or cancer?

And Paul would say: Yes. ALL things.  God causes every event in your life to bring you great good.

But this can become a cliche — something we say because we’re supposed to, or to make someone feel better, even though we don’t know what it means.

So we need to dig deeper, and ask —

What Good Will God Bring Me?

Let’s say you lose your job.  Paul says God has purposed everything, including your job-loss, to bring you great good.  But does that mean God will bring you a better job?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

So that can’t be the kind of good Paul has in mind.

So what good does God promise?  Paul tells us in the next verses.  Read vv.28-30 — and notice the words that are in CAPS —

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for GOOD, for those who are called according to his purpose.

29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to BE CONFORMED TO THE IMAGE OF HIS SON, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also GLORIFIED.

So in v.28 Paul says God works everything for our good, and in v.29 he says that means being conformed to the image of Christ, and in v.30 that it means being glorified.

Just Words

OK.  But honestly, when I first read those, they were just words.  I was not feeling them as a great good.

So I asked — what’s so good about being conformed to Christ’s image and being glorified?  Why is that such good news?

To answer that, I tried to think of other verses where Paul talks about being conformed to Christ’s image and being glorified, to see if he explains more.

A Helpful Verse

And then I remembered 2 Corinthians 3:18.  In this verse Paul mentions the same two ideas as in Romans 8 — we are conformed (“transformed”) into Christ’s image, and we are glorified (“from one degree of glory to another”) —

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2Cor 3:18)

But here Paul also explains how we are conformed into Christ’s image and glorified — by beholding the glory of the Lord.

Now this is something I can feel.  Because I know that Christ’s glory is my greatest joy.

And Paul says that when the Spirit lifts the veil of unbelief from us so we see and feel the glory of Christ, we are transformed.  We image-forth his glory (we are conformed to his image) and we shine with his glory (we are glorified).

But what exactly does that mean?  See if this helps —

Beholding Surfing’s Glory

When I was in 9th grade I had no interest in surfing.  I didn’t talk about surfing, spend time surfing, or think about surfing.

But that changed in 10th grade when a friend asked if I wanted to learn to surf.  So we drove to Doheny State Beach — and I was hooked.  I beheld the glory of surfing. 

And over the next months I was changed — I imaged-forth surfing’s glory (I was conformed to surfing’s image by spending time surfing, reading Surfing magazine, hanging out with other surfers) and I shone with surfing’s glory (I talked about, praised, and celebrated surfing to everyone).

So — was imaging-forth and shining with surfing’s glory a good thing?  It was the best thing.  Because it meant enjoying surfing, which was (back then) my greatest good.

Back to Romans 8

God causes everything to bring us the greatest good of beholding Jesus’ glory so we image-forth and shine with his glory now and forever.

So does job-loss mean God will give me a better job?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But that’s not Paul’s point in Romans 8:28. Paul’s point is that God will use your job loss to bring you even more joy in Jesus’ glory, so you shine with Jesus’ glory.

That’s also true for infertility, sickness, loneliness, and setbacks.  God will use everything in our lives to bring us a greater experience of Jesus’ glory.  That is the good God promises us.  And it’s the infinitely greatest good, because our highest joy is beholding Jesus’ glory.

(To see how trials enable us to behold Jesus’ glory, read this.)

But what if that doesn’t feel like a great good?  What if you’d rather have your job than a greater experience of Jesus’ glory?

The only way you can prefer your job (or anything else) to Jesus’ glory is if you have forgotten what it means to see and feel Jesus’ glory.

So here’s what I suggest —

  • Turn to Jesus Christ just as you are, trusting Him to forgive, change, and satisfy you.
  • Confess that you are trusting other things to satisfy you more than his glory.  Ask him to forgive you through the Cross.  Be assured of his complete forgiveness.
  • Ask for him to increase the Spirit’s work in you — strengthening your faith and helping you see and feel Jesus’ all-satisfying glory.
  • Set your heart on Bible verses describing God’s love, power, mercy, justice, goodness, and wisdom as displayed in Jesus.  Think deeply on these truths.
  • Pray over these verses until you feel the Holy Spirit changing your heart, strengthening your faith, and enabling you to see and feel Jesus as your all-satisfying Treasure.
  • When he does this, you will be able to rejoice in trials, knowing that God will use it bring you even more of your greatest joy — seeing and feeling Jesus’ glory.

Sorrowful, Yet Always Rejoicing

How does Romans 8:28 affect us?  The same Paul who wrote Romans 8:28 described his emotional life as “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2Cor 6:10).

So trials will give us sorrow, a sorrow God feels with us, because they involve the loss of God’s good gifts.

But along with the sorrow we can feel genuine joy — because we know that every trial will bring us even more joy in Christ’s glory.

Comments?  Thoughts?

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(Picture from Everystockphoto by Byron and Tamara.)

Category: God's Promises, Problems or Trials

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2 Responses

  1. chrissy orourke says:

    thanks so much for sharing your insight into the deep mysteries of gods word. i have just been taken on yet another test of faith and praise god he comes through for us who believe that all things do work together for good for those who love him as faith cannot be destroyed just abandoned. The testing of faith is essential for growth and perseverance a chance for him to prove his sovereign power. God bless …..chrissy

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