by Tristan Mahan
For this week’s meditation I want to take a look at Romans 8:28, which is a verse from one of our lectionary passages for the week. There’s a good chance you’ve heard it before. It reads, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
This is a powerful statement about the love and favor of God in our lives. However, I think it can raise a couple of questions for us. I want to address these questions, and in so doing seek deeper insight into the rich meaning behind this verse.
This first question is, will God only work everything for our good in the times we have love for him? Because it definitely sounds like that’s what the verse is saying. “For those who love God, all things work together for good.” Well, let’s remember that the verse goes on to add, “…for those who are called according to his purpose.” So it is those who love God and are jointly called according to his purpose for whom all things work together for good.
The passage goes on in the following verse to explain that these people are also those who have been foreknown by God, justified by him, and will be glorified by him. In other words, these people are Christians. This promise of favor from God is for all Christians, all followers of Jesus. We are all called according to his purpose, are foreknown, justified, and glorified. And we all even have love for him, despite our love sometimes seeming faint or questionable. He has placed a love for him in our hearts. His promise is not contingent on how much love we have for him, but on the fact that we are his children and his followers, and thus intrinsically have at least some love for him.
Therefore, this special promise of everything working together for our good is for every believer, regardless of how great our love is. No matter what, “…God is for us,” as Paul states in verse 31 of this passage.
The second question we can find ourselves asking is, “Then what does it mean for God to work everything for our good? I’m a follower of Jesus, but bad things still happen to me. It’s true that sometimes I bring it upon myself through my own sinful mistakes, but often times bad things happen when I’ve done nothing wrong. How is it that everything is being worked together for my good?”
The truth is, God is a doting Father who does love to take care of us in our present circumstances. He is concerned with our present needs. However, this is not what he is most concerned with. He has our ultimate good at heart, and worldly prosperity in our short life on this earth is not our ultimate good.
We live in a broken world, a world that God is bringing redemption to, but a world in which the battle for all that is good, true, and beautiful is still being fought. Therefore, we still encounter the bad things. We are still in the thick of it.
Yet, everything is somehow still being worked together for our ultimate good. How? Verse 29 gives us the answer. It goes on to explain that this is surely happening because “…those who he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”
So, the ultimate good God is working in our lives is to conform us to the image of Christ. No matter what, God is working everything together to make us more like Jesus. And this means a lot of things. At the very least, it means he is helping us to walk in righteousness, to live fruitful lives for the kingdom of God, and to walk more closely with him. We are being prepared for eternity, to be presented before him. We are being empowered to walk in his fruitfulness, loving others deeply and storing up heavenly treasures for ourselves. And we are being drawn into deeper communion with him, where true abundant life is found. These things are our ultimate good, whether we know it or not. And God is working everything together to give them to us. He loves us, and he knows what it means to bless his children.
No matter what trails we may face, we can be confident that God, who may not even be the one causing the trial, is using it to shape us…. to give us the best things a person can be given.
This can be hard to see, especially when we’re suffering greatly. And God mourns with us in our suffering. But he doesn’t waste our suffering. He redeems the worst to give us the best. He works everything for our good.
Let me pray:
Father, thank you for your incredible love. Thank you for taking care of us, and redeeming even the worst situations for our good. You are a good Father. I pray that you would help us to trust what you’re doing in our lives, and to rest more deeply in your love. In Jesus’ name, amen.
To listen to or read other meditations by members of St. John’s, visit our website.