GOD'S HAND IN YOUR LIFE
28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,[a] who[b] have been called according to his purpose.
(The introductory story is recalled from something I once read in a Ford Times magazine in the early 1980s.)
The practical attitude of many in our day seems to figure that God is distant and irrelevant when it comes to facing the issues of our daily lives. The Bible tells of our moral accountability to a Supreme Being when we leave this life and of the possibility of eternal happiness in the afterlife, but many can't seem to see how it touches every moment of this present life!
Scripture straightforwardly admits and teaches, of course:--> "How unsearchable are God's judgments and His ways past finding out." "My thoughts are not your thoughts and My ways are higher than your ways, says the Lord." We'd still like a closer feeling of His presence and better understanding of His ways and Will, though, wouldn't we?!
Young Michael's father was a forest ranger in the northwest. The family's house adjoined a visitors' center and parking and picnic area. Michael was forever being drafted for heavy labor with all the projects his dad kept inventing. He thought of his dad as "The Old Slavedriver" and could seldom see any rhyme or reason for the never-ending work schemes. His dad was out of control, and the sole purpose of Michael's life was to suit his dad's whimsical fancies, he felt.
When there was no more space to build outwards they built upwards on their house, and Michael couldn't figure out why they had to put in four times the manufacturer's recommended amount of vermiculite attic insulation, for example. When he questioned "the old slavedriver" about it, the reply was only, "For the future."
A few years later, after repainting hundreds of rocks and other uncountable projects, dad decided it was time to replace the roof. It was terrifically hot and dry, which made the work all the more miserable, but, as soon as the roof was dismantled, towering clouds appeared bringing a sudden downpour of rain like they had never seen. Mom began crying over the impending doom of their china cabinet and grandfather clock. In a panic the family watched from a picnic shelter, and then a miracle began to take place! - The cardboard-like chunks of insulation poured in years before were now swelling with absorbed water and bubbling out down the sides of the house like popcorn. Amazingly, there was just enough vermiculite to last till the storm sputtered out, protecting most of the inside of the house and its contents.
Now Michael figured he'd finally had a glimpse of his dad's inscrutable wisdom! His father had outsmarted "Murphy's Law," which says, if anything can possibly go wrong, it will. - In a drought year and dangerous fire season his father must have made it rain by their removing the roof, thereby saving the whole forest! And he had planned well in advance to save their house at the same time. Michael held his father in awe and with kindlier thoughts from that time.
That's a tongue-in-cheek perspective of Michael's experience, of course, but let it serve to remind us that God really is working with a much bigger picture than we can begin to realize, and it's enough for us to have His promise that:--> "..We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to (His) purpose." That's the text from Romans 8:28, and there are several points to consider...
THE PROMISE IS GIVEN FOR "THOSE WHO LOVE" GOD
The first thing is that not everyone is automatically included in God's promise to work things out for the good. Some people may think or say that they are, but they don't really live or act like it and truly have no rightful claim on God's good intentions. Yet it's not because of His desire, but because of their own stubborn refusal towards God and His blessings! He isn't willing that any should perish and wants all to be saved and come into the security of His fold, but they haven't truly sought or loved God. They think they have a right to Divine providence and protection, but they really have rejected it by not receiving God's Law and Gospel into their hearts. They don't repent of sin and therefore remain in its bind, and having no real faith they thereby turn down God's stupendous offer of unconditional grace and forgiveness through the Person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ! That's the pity of unbelief.
Those who do truly love God have no more right than anyone else to God's blessing or mercy through their own doing or status, of course. They have been changed and moved to sincerely love God by His prior love and action towards them! As St. John taught:--> "In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the expiation for our sins.. We love because He first loved us!" - God's own gracious Will is the focal and turning point that has created the love and faith any of us may have for Him. --- And yet it's precisely for such as these that God's blanket-promise does apply!
IN EVERYTHING GOD WORKS FOR GOOD
That promise is that God does work "all things..together for good." - Some think it sounds naive. They honestly struggle with trying to understand what real good can come from a terrorist massacre or the destruction of an earthquake or hurricane. They wonder what good there is in trying to keep an 80-year-old Alzheimer's victim alive or a baby born with severe deformities.
Truly evil things do touch our lives! We arrogantly try to assert control but lose it over our circumstances oftentimes, just because of the world's and our own having fallen into sin. Our own attempts do become futile, and things can seem to "just happen" where God doesn't appear to have charge or control, either. A thousand doubts and fears then enter our minds and hearts. We assume the worst and that God is punishing us, or He's indifferent or has forgotten us, or He's somehow lacking in wisdom or power, or maybe has even totally withdrawn Himself and abandoned us to chance.
It is we who have then forgotten Scripture's innumerable promises, though. God never sleeps. He will never leave or forsake His children. We are valuable and precious to Him. He intends for us to be at peace. He is with us always. He will direct our paths, even through "the valley of the shadow of death," -- and on and on...
The all-encompassing promise likewise still stands:--> Not one single experience or event in a Christian's life ultimately works for evil, but every single event works for good! - The picture is too big for us to understand how that can be so, but God invites us to simply trust Him to work out the details. "A man's mind plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps," says a Proverb.
WE "KNOW" THE CERTAINTY OF THE PROMISE
The text furthermore claims that we know the certainty of God's promise to work all things together for our good, but how do we know?! - Evidence abounds throughout Bible history! God has consistently delivered and worked good...
Isaac was rescued from the sacrificial knife. Joseph, sold by his brothers as a slave, was God's instrument to save the family from famine years later. The whole nation of Israel was led from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land. Through countless trials and narrow escapes David did become King. Esther's whole purpose was the saving of her nation through her position as a slave-queen. All of Christ's miracles and the personal attention He gave to Peter sinking in water and to others at the death of Lazarus... --It all speaks to us of God's presence and gracious guiding of the lives of frail human beings for whom He cares!
You have plenty of such "evidence" in your own life too, if you're completely honest with yourself. You have had God's guiding and protecting hand stretched over you throughout your life also, whether or not you've ever fully acknowledged it. --- The truth of Christ's sin-atoning sacrifice and resurrection is of course the final and perfect proof and security, however...
That God became Human in His Son to experience our pains and wants speaks volumes all by itself of His interest, attention, love and care for us. Every single thing Christ suffered and endured gives the message of God's goodwill towards us, whether it was physical, emotional, mental or spiritual! Even the very punishment of our sin was transferred to HIM, though! He endured the pangs of hell and died in fulfilling God's plan that by His "stripes" we might be healed. - It's where Satan and evil and hell were given the opportunity to do their very worst that God revealed the depths of His care and interest in us - at Calvary's Cross. The devil and world and our own sinful natures really do "storm" at us, but Jesus is like God's "vermiculite" Master Plan, absorbing it all for our protection and salvation!
The end-result for Jesus was His resurrection and ascension. After three days of being truly dead God restored Christ's life, and that speaks volumes to us as well! It says that God's ultimate intention is for a "goodness" we can't even yet imagine. Jesus is but the first of many "brothers," says the Bible verse that immediately follows the text-verse for this message (Romans 8:29).
No greater evidence or higher proof of God's grand intention is either possible or needed aside from Christ's Cross and empty tomb! We either trust God for the benefits Christ won and love and thank Him therefore, or we do not -- rejecting His Spirit's calling of our hearts.
God has already executed the vital part of His plan for our justification, so His ever-working "good" and the glorification of His loved ones is a foregone conclusion. It is certain! - Earlier in Romans 8 St. Paul asserted that any "sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." Elsewhere he wrote, "..This momentary affliction is preparing us (for) an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison." We can rest assured that our final good and glory is coming!