Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Precious Promise of God's Providence

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. ~Romans 8:28

Life can be very difficult at times. Often when you think to yourself that something can’t get much worse, it does. Sometimes we find one heartache or disappointment followed by another and yet another. As the saying goes, “when it rains, it pours.” The question arises: What comfort can be found in the midst of the turbulent storms that we constantly face?

The apostle Paul was a man who knew great pain in his ministry on this earth. He gives a selective list of a lot of his sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 and I am sure that more could have been added to this list before his death. What kept Paul confident and going in spite of the terrible trials which he faced was the hope of a future without any pain. He states in Romans 8:18, For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. In viewing his sufferings in light of the coming completion of his salvation where he would have a new resurrected body and see Jesus face to face, he realized that one could not even compare his difficulties on this earth with the splendors of heaven. In fact, such coming glory is so wonderful that all creation groans in anticipation for it (Romans 8:19-22) and we as believers should be groaning for it as well (Romans 8:23-25). The picture that John gives us of heaven is that it is a place where there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain (Revelation 21:1-4). And of course while those things are absent, Christ is present! Contrary to the popular book, the time of a Christian’s earthly pilgrimage certainly is not “their best life now.” The “best life” is yet to come and keeping that in mind may make our burdens appear a little less burdensome. Also, not only do we have the glory of heaven to look forward to but God Himself uses the trials and tribulations that we face to prepare us for heaven.

Paul tells us that we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. The all things in this verse refers to “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” Those difficulties that you currently wrestle with or have questions about would fit in this category. This means that there is a purpose in the pain that you are experiencing. That purpose is for your good. The greatest good for a Christian is to be made holy as Christ is holy. In fact, God’s intention with every believer is for them to be conformed into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). Often God will use difficult circumstances in our lives to develop holiness within us. This is the reason why James instructs us to consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4). James is not saying to rejoice on account of the trial itself but to rejoice because God will use it to strengthen your faith and help you remain steadfast in Him. If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we learn more in those times that we spend in the valleys than when we are on the mountaintops. It is when we are at our lowest that we realize that Christ is the greatest and that He really is all that we need. It is during these times that we learn to trust Christ more. Think of your current struggles as a surgery performed by the Grand Surgeon. Surgery can be painful but often it is necessary; sometimes to save our lives. The temporary pain of the surgery, though difficult to bear in itself, would not be as bad as the greater pain it seeks to prevent. God’s surgery is using the trials that come into our lives to direct us back to Him and guard against us going astray, thus experiencing an even graver incomparable pain. This is how all things work together for our good under God’s providential hand.

Note that this promise is one exclusive to Christians. It is for those who love God and those who are called according to His purpose. These descriptions are only fitting for Christians. Those belonging to the world hate God and Paul uses the term call to refer to the specific call of the ones who respond to Christ in faith (Romans 8:30; 1 Corinthians 1:26; Ephesians 4:1). God does not work all things for the good of making unbelievers holy. God is still sovereign over them and everything that occurs in their lives but He does not use their difficult circumstances to make them holy and increase their faith since they have no faith to increase. We can have this hope if we have been born again and as a result of the Spirit’s work, placed our trust in Christ and His work alone to save us.

This is a promise that we can bank on. Paul does not say and we think or we believe that all things work together for good. Instead, he says that this is something we know. We can be certain of this truth. Find comfort in this truth. Though you may not realize it now, God has a purpose in the pain that you are experiencing. You may not understand how He might work it together for good but you can trust Him in it. God certainly knows what He is doing!

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

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