I am currently preaching through the book of Romans. It is the second time that I have preached through it and I can say that it is definitely one of my favorite books in the bible. The gospel is on full display in every passage. This week I will be covering one of the most well known verses in all of Scripture:
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
As I previously stated, it is one of the most well known verses in the Bible, but I must add, it is also one of the least understood verses as well. The reason why I believe this verse is so misunderstood is because we fail to look at it in context. In verse 29 we read this:
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. -Romans 8:29
In verse 29 I believe that Paul is describing what “good” means in verse 28. When Paul writes that “all things work together for the good” he is talking about the fact that God is at work in our lives for the specific purpose of conforming us into the image of Jesus Christ.
So, how is it possible that a promise like this can actually end up making us miserable? Let me explain. Many times we will associate God being good to us when he makes our circumstances in life better. For example:
I got the promotion, God is good.
I ‘m no longer sick, God is good.
I got into the college of my dreams, God is good.
I’m getting married, God is good.
My kids are doing well in school, God is good.
My depression and anxiety have eased up, God is good.
Paul’s point in Romans 8:28-29 is that God’s primary way of revealing his goodness to us is not by making life more pleasant but by using the good and bad stuff of everyday life to make us more like Jesus. When we fail to understand this important biblical truth we become angry, cynical, depressed, impatient and distant towards God because he is not doing what we want him to do. We need to be reminded that God is not aiming for our comfort, he is aiming for our heart. God wants to change us more than he wants to change our circumstances.
One final thought. Having our circumstances improve can only, at best, make us temporarily happy. As Augustine pointed out a long time ago, the stuff of this world can not fill up the gaping hole in our heart. God is working to make us more like Christ and he knows that this is also the pathway to our deepest satisfaction, contentment and joy.