Thursday, October 30, 2008

All Things For Good

I have been thinking a lot lately about the goodness of God. In fact, over the past several weeks it seems like every time I listen to a sermon, read a theology book, even bounce around the web to some of my favorite blogs, I keep seeing the same verse over and over again. That verse is:
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
This verse says that if we love God and are His child all things work together for our good. As I have thought about this it occurred to me that not every Christian believes this verse (and some that do take it way out of context making it say something that it does not).

So, what does it mean that everything will work for our good, and what can we take away from this verse to help us in our walk with God? That is what I want to talk about here.

To begin, this verse teaches us several things about the nature and character of God; from this one verse we can see that: God is sovereign; God is omnipotent; God is omniscient; and God is good. Let's look at each of these individually:

God is Sovereign
First, we can see the sovereignty of God in this verse. In order for God to be able to say that all things will work together for our good He must be in control of all things. That God is sovereign means that He is the absolute ruler of the universe; He is completely autonomous and free of any external control - He is King of kings. A.W Tozer wrote:
God's sovereignty is the attribute by which He rules His entire creation, and to be sovereign God must be all-knowing, all powerful, and absolutely free.
The Psalmist wrote:
Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
Psalm 115:3

Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.
Psalm 135:6

In both of these verses we can see that God is sovereign. And we know that if the promise in Romans 8:28 is true (and it is) it is because God is in the heavens and He does whatever He pleases.

God is Omnipotent
The next thing we can see from this promise is that God is omnipotent. To be omnipotent simply means that God is all-powerful - that He possesses absolute power. Again, A.W Tozer wrote:
Sovereignty and omnipotence must go together. One cannot exist without the other. To reign, God must have power, and to reign sovereignly, He must have all power. And that is what omnipotence means, having all power.
Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God,
Psalm 62:11

After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
Revelation 19:1

Notice that in both of these verses (and there are many more) that the Bible says "power belongs to God." Not only does God need to be sovereign to fulfill the promise of Romans 8:28, He also has to be omnipotent because in order for all things to work for our good all things must be under His ultimate control.

God is Omniscient
Third we see from this verse that God is omniscient, which means that He is all-knowing. To be omniscient means more that just possessing all knowledge, however; that God is omniscient means that He never learns anything new - His knowledge is perfect and complete. Speaking of the omniscience of God, Tony Evans wrote:
The omniscience of God means that there is absolutely nothing He doesn't know; that no informational system or set of data exists anywhere outside of God's knowledge - nothing. He depends on no one outside himself for any knowledge about anything.
And here Tozer writes:
To say that God is omniscient is to say that He possesses perfect knowledge and therefore has no need to learn. But is it more: it is to say that God has never learned and cannot learn.

The Scriptures teach that God has never learned from anyone. "Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, or who instructed him, and taught him the path of judgement, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?"
And because God cannot learn anything, nothing that happens in this world surprises him. We read in Ephesians1:11 that He works all things according to the counsel of His will; therefore we can rest in the knowledge that anything and everything we experience in this life is working toward the ultimate goal of our good, which is that we are conformed to the image of Christ.

God is Good
Finally, this verse shows us the goodness of God. What, you ask is the goodness of God? Tozer explains it this way:
The goodness of God is that which disposes Him to be kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men.
Goodness is this attribute of God that is most easily overlooked by the majority of people; many will ask - Christians included - if God is good why does He allow bad things to happen?

Could it be that what we view as bad is really not bad at all? Could it be that what we experience as pain and sorrow is actually something that God is orchestrating to mold us more into the image of His Son? We never stop to consider that the goodness of God can be seen every time we take a breath of air, because He didn't have to give us that air. In fact, that you even awoke this morning is proof that God is good. Remember that God is also holy, and that every time we sin (or even think about sinning for that matter) He would be completely within His rights to destroy us. But He is good, and he is working everything out for the good of His children.

When I began this post I mentioned that lately everything that I hear or read keeps bringing me back to this verse, and I want to end this with just one of the many examples that I have run across lately. This is an excerpt from The Letters of John Newton:
September 28, 1774.
My dear friend,
Certainly, if my ability was equal to my inclination--I would remove your tumor with a word or a touch--I would exempt you instantly and constantly from every inconvenience and pain! But you are in the hands of One who could do all this and more, and who loves you infinitely better than I can do--and yet He is pleased to permit you to suffer! What is the plain lesson? Certainly, that at the present juncture, He, to whom all events and their consequences are present in one view--sees it better for you to have this tumor than to be without it! There is a cause, a need-be for it!

The promise is express, and literally true--that all things, universally and without exception, shall work together for good to those who love God. But they work together! The smallest as well as the greatest events have their place and use--like the movement of a watch, where, though some pieces have a greater comparative importance than others--yet the smallest pieces have their place and use, and are so far equally important, that the whole design of the machine would be obstructed for lack of them.

Some workings and turns of Divine Providence have a more visible, sensible, and determining influence upon the whole tenor of our lives. But the more ordinary occurrences of every day are adjusted, timed, and suited with equal accuracy--by the hand of the same great Artist who planned and executes the whole! We are sometimes surprised to see how much more depends and turns upon these minor events, than we were aware of. Then we admire His skill, and say, "He has done all things well!"

Such thoughts as these, when I am enabled to realize them, in some measure reconcile me to whatever He allots for myself or my friends; and convinces me of the propriety of that verse, which speaks the language of love, as well as authority, "Be still--and know that I am God!"

I sympathize with you in your severe trial, and pray and trust that your Shepherd will be your Physician. No storms, assaults, sieges, or pestilences, can hurt us--until we have filled up His appointed measure of service! And when our work is done, and He has ripened us for glory--it is no great matter by what means He is pleased to call us home to himself!
So the next time you are experiencing a trial in your life remember that our God is sovereign, our God is in complete control, and He is working everything out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Also remember that God does not do something because it is good - it is good because God did it.
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Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Chris! I'm going to pick this as one of the featured posts on an upcoming post in my regular "Good Reads" column.

Have a blessed Reformation Day!

Chris said...

Thank you for the kind words!

I would be honored to be included in your "Good Reads" column.