As we all know, life is neither perfect nor fair. Sometimes great things happen to evil people and very bad things happen to wonderful people. And the opposite is also true. What then, is our promise as believers in Christ?
We often hear Romans 8:28 quoted, especially when something bad happens. It is treated like an ointment to a troubled soul. But what does it mean? Surely, sometimes bad things will happen, as we are told in the Gospel of Mathew:
… for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. – Mathew 5:45b (KJV)
So when the rain falls, how can we hold fast to the promise of it working out for good, as Paul said in Romans???
Paul wrote his epistle to the Roman church around 57-58 AD while he was in Corinth. He was preparing to travel to Jerusalem to give a collection to the poor there then travel to Spain. He planned on stopping to visit the Roman church en-route to Spain. This epistle to the Romans contains a basic summary of what Christianity is.
Emperor Nero came to power in Rome in 54 AD and reigned until 68 AD. As Nero began severely persecuting Christians after 64 AD, this verse must have been a comfort to many Roman Christians. Nero so hated Christians that he had captured Christians burned in his garden at night for a source of light!
Beginning in verse 18, Paul instructs the church that the “present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” And he further says in verse 31, “… if God is for us, who can be against us?” and that we are “more than conquerors” (v 37). The entire latter part of chapter eight deals with suffering and the future hope that we have in Christ Jesus.
Re-read the King James Version of this verse, and then consider the NIV rendering: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 (NIV)
We must remember that God is in control, and that it is HE that is making things work out. Note that this does not mean that God wants bad things to happen!
Remember, it says that ‘all things’ will ‘work together’ for good. It doesn’t say how or when. In the Greek, ‘work together’ is one word: sunergon. We get the English word synergy from it. Synergy is when the end result is greater than the sum of its parts. When applying Romans 8:28, we must not ask, “How will God use this terrible tragedy for good?” The question is, “How will God use this, along with other things, to be good for me in the future?”
The promise of Romans 8:28 is not that we can simply claim the verse and then all of a sudden everything is ok… It might take time, perhaps past this earthly life.
What does ‘good’ mean?
Does it mean that since you lost your job that God will work that into a master plan for you to get a new job making three times as much money? Does it mean that God killed your kitty so that you can get a puppy and a goldfish? Well, not necessarily… Read verses 29-30. Does that perhaps change what might be the ‘good’ in this verse? Being conformed to the image of Christ is the ‘good’-est thing!
God won’t always take every circumstance and use it to make you healthy, wealthy and with anything you could ever want- He is making you into the image of His Son. Our definition of good and God’s are not necessarily the same thing.
Does that mean that God won’t use a bad circumstance to bring about good fortune? Certainly not! It means that we aren’t guaranteed that it always will. See verse 32.
- Who does this verse apply to?
- Does God make bad things happen? Sometimes? Always? Never?
- Notice that this verse uses the phrase ‘his (God’s) purpose’. How does that often differ from what we want? Are they always different?
“It all works out in the end. If it hasn’t worked out yet, then it’s not the end.” - Max Lucado