Romans 8:28-39 In Everything God Works for Good
August 9, 2015
Chilmark Community Church
Rev. Armen Hanjian
A women dies. Her grief-stricken husband sits at the funeral home as friends and relatives pass by to offer words of sympathy. A few religious folk often share: ”All things work together for the good to them that love God.” It doesn’t feel like it rings true. He goes home even more confused and hopeless.
I’ sure most of you know what I’m talking about. That phrase from the King James Version “All things work together for the good” can explain anything in life. One of the high spots of the R.S.V., which had available older manuscripts than the 1611 KJV, has the verse reading “In everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose,” You see the difference? Things can’t work; rather, it is God who works in everything, and the good news is that God works for our good when God’s purposes and ours are the same.
You think, “Well that helps, but how can you read a paper or watch the TV and be made aware of droughts, wild fires, murders and such and still say God works for good in these things.
Ralph Sockman once said that the only way he could understand this verse was to think of it in terms of a ship. There are parts of a ship which taken by themselves would sink. The engine would sink. The propeller would sink. But when the parts of a ship are built together, they float. So with the events of my life. Some have been tragic. Some have been happy. But when they are all built together, they form a craft that floats…and is going someplace. And I am comforted.”
It’s one thing to say God created everything (many people tip their hat to God or give a wave). It is a far greater statement of faith to say God works in everything, even in the worst thing you could imagine, even an unjust execution. In the short view, even the disciples thought God’s purposes would be thwarted by Jesus being nailed to a cross; but in the long view, God will not be permanently or ultimately defeated.
Fearful people put Jesus to death; nevertheless, by his stripes we are healed. What about Jesus in all this? As any of us would, he prayed the cup of pain and suffering he had to drink would pass by. But he went on and said to God, “nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.” And for reasons only partly understandable, Jesus suffered and died. It is important to see that Jesus in his prayer trusted God’s will; he did not ask so much for an explanation, as he did for power to overcome or withstand the suffering. The important thing was not that everything would turn out rosy, but that nothing could separate him or us from the love of God. “In everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to
Let’s not miss the truth that not only does God work, but that God cooperates with us. The Good comes when we cooperate with God; not when we work it out all by ourselves and not when we turn it all over to God to work out, as did the college student on taking a Christmas exam. The question was, What causes a depression?”
The student wrote, God knows! I don’t. Merry Christmas!” The paper came back with the professor’s notation: “ God gets 100. You get zero. Happy New Year!” If we turn everything over to God or if we turn nothing over to God, God wins and we lose. Both God and we win when there is cooperation.
….as when a little boy asked his father for help in repairing his
wagon. When the job was done, he turned his face upward and said, “Daddy, when I try to do things by myself, they go wrong. But when you and I work together, they turn out just fine.”
John Oman, in his book, The Paradox of the World,(p.30) has pointed out how all persons are used by God. He writes:
“All of us alike are God’s instruments. By not setting of our hearts on wickedness or doing evil with both our hands can we prevent God from using us. Our folly will serve Him, when our wisdom fails; our wrath praise Him, though our wills rebel. Yet, as God’s instruments without intention and in our own despite, we generally serve God’s ends only as we defeat our own. To be God’s agent is another matter. This we are only when we learn God’s will, respond to His call, work faithfully together with Him, and find our own highest ends in fulfilling His.” You could add, no one is good for nothing, you can always serve as a bad example.
So the real question is not will God use me, but whether I will be an unconscious tool or God’s conscious partner – a yoke fellow.
To know that God is your active partner is the source of inexhaustible strength.
Whatever you do, don’t get the impression that God works for us just because we love God. Jesus said, God sends the rain upon the just and the unjust alike and the sun shines just as brightly on the good as upon the evil. None of us has merited God’s help. It is God’s free gift to all. We are blessed not because of our good works, rather we are blessed because our purposes and God’s purposes are one. Paul put it this way: “The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the children of God coming into their own.”
What the Christian faith affirms is that there is a divine purpose to this creation in its entirety; namely, that we children of God come into conformity with the image of Christ – Christlikeness. God has called us to this end and we believe God can and will finish what God has set out to do.
If we do believe that God’s good pleasure is to will our highest good even in the happenings of the world around us, then, the first question which always must be asked is, “How is God working for good here? We are not through with crime and violence and drugs until we ask, “How is God working for good in these social illnesses?
And you are not through with that problem of yours until you ask, “How….” (thoughts from Let Us Break Bread Together, p119)
When we are on God’s side it doesn’t matter who is working against us for nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God. The early Christians knew that as they faced a hostile world. They faced death unflinchingly. Unlike many of us whose anxieties over things make us miserable, those pioneers of the
Christian way kept things in their perspective by keeping their eyes on Jesus – their living companion. Then, as now, a true
Christian is, by nature, an optimist. Those who flounder in fears do so because they leave God out. They think they must pull themselves up by their bootstraps and they only sink deeper in the mire of fear. They fail to count on God’s activity.
Before WW I I, a manufacturing company in NJ received an urgent message from a customer in Japan who had purchased a piece of equipment. It read “Machine does not work. Send man to fix.” The man was dispatched, but before he had a chance to carry out his assignment, the company received a second message, “Man too young. Send older man.” The company wired back: “You had better use him. He invented the machine.” We believe this old world was made in the mind of God, and that is why we commend it, with all the things that have gone wrong, into the hands of God.
We firmly believe and find comfort in the fact that “In everything God works for good with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.” And why not- it is God’s world isn’t it?
Hymn: “This is My Father’s World”