From the Desk of Cheryl Hauer
As much as we wish it were not so, there is much in our lives today that is simply not good. Natural disasters, deadly pandemics, drug addiction, abortion, child abuse - to name just a few - are atrocities that plague our modern world. Perhaps that is why Romans 8:28 is considered by some to be the most quoted verse in the entire Bible. The promise of good in the face of evil brings hope where without this assurance from God, there is no hope at all.
And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
Sometimes, however, reconciling what is happening in our lives with the beauty of that promise can be challenging. We have all experienced a prayer that seemed to go unanswered, a healing that did not come, a dream left behind as the path of life took a new direction. For some, that seeming contradiction can lead to disappointment and even anger at the God who didn’t keep His promise. But maybe He did. Maybe the contradiction exists because we don’t really understand the promise.
The Promise Examined
The best way to gain that understanding is to put our Verse in its proper context. The Book of Romans was written by the Apostle Paul to the church in Rome to introduce himself prior to his upcoming first visit. He clearly wanted the Romans to understand his positions on faith, grace, salvation, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit before he arrived. Much of the Book, and particularly Chapter 8, is filled with contradiction as Paul juxtaposes a life of the selfish pursuits of the flesh with one focused on walking in accordance with the righteousness of God. The letter was written in the late 40s to early 50s AD, a time when persecution of both Jews and Christians was taking hold in Rome under Emperor Nero.
Although he speaks at length of the struggle between the flesh and the spirit, and the carnal mind vs the life-giving spiritual mind, he reminds the Romans that as believers they are indwelt by the same Spirit who raised Jesus (Yeshua) from the dead, a powerful partner in their struggles with temptation. However, in Verse 18, he says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us,” an allusion I believe to a struggle beyond their own personal battle with sin, to the terror of Roman persecution. Nero was known to affix Christians and Jews to poles in his garden, drench them in tar and set them afire to provide light for his evening strolls.
It is in this context that Paul makes his declaration, “And we KNOW…” No uncertainty here, no guesswork required, “that God works ALL things…” not some things, or just the things we can understand or in which we see benefit, “together for GOOD TO THOSE WHO LOVE GOD, TO THOSE WHO ARE CALLED ACCORDING TO HIS PURPOSE.” And what is that purpose? Verse Nineteen tells us, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be CONFORMED TO THE IMAGE OF HIS SON, THAT HE MIGHT BE THE FIRSTBORN AMONG MANY BRETHREN.”
Like sages and scholars before us, we may sometimes grapple with the deeper meaning of Roman 8:28. But our God and His Book are timeless and unchanging, and together they bring a clear message for us today. The story of Joseph shows us there is no deliverance without bondage, while Job proves there is no healing without sickness, and Jochebed and Naomi, no joy without the knowledge of misery. Paul tells us throughout the Book of Romans that without evil there would be no recognition of good and without sin, no understanding of righteousness. As believers, sons and daughters of God Most High, it is clear that no matter what our situation might be, it is not random nor is it pointless. The sovereign God of the Universe has told us that ALL of our circumstances have purpose, to transform us into His likeness, and to impact our communities and even our world with the knowledge of Him.
How Good is That.
Blessings and Shalom,