“We know that In everything God works for good with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
Listen to a man named Robert as he shares about life with his wife of twenty-five years…
“I sat on the window seat that Helen had recently covered in corduroy. I stared at the rain pelting down on dead Fall leaves. The gloom of the garden matched my mood. As I brooded aloud on the meaninglessness of life, an ash from my cigarette burned a hole in the new window seat cover. It seemed a perfect symbol of the hopelessness of everything! But then Helen threaded a needle and stitched a colorful flower over the charred spot. That’s when I knew that here was a woman who could get me through the night. I had married a mender of damage, a repairer of holes— and souls!”
And do you know that God is like that, too? He can take our woe and work it into something beautiful! Romans 8:28 is an affirmation of these things. And, right now, let’s pause for a closer examination of this truth.
The text begins by affirming, “We know that in everything God works for good . . . ” Focus in, if you will, on the word “everything.”
A few years ago I was called to do the funeral of a stranger. An elderly woman had died in a local rest home and her daughter from out of state had called me to do the funeral. It seems she had been reading my editorials in the newspapers and decided to call and see if I was available.
As I sat down with this daughter to find out “everything” I could about her mother, an amazing personality began to be revealed. She’d lost her father when she was fifteen. He was killed in World War I. She never got past ninth grade in school. During the Depression she’d hauled buckets of coal for a hotel in Richmond, Virginia, to make a living. She married a truck driver, then came World War II and he was killed in action. She reared single-handedly four children of her own and six more that she informally adopted. Four of them were to precede her in death— two in car crashes, one of a heart attack, and one by the flu. She played piano, was an active member of a little church on the edge of the city, and even won a savage four-year bout with cancer. Her surviving children spread out to find work all across the nation and she moved into a small “flat” in a transitional neighborhood. She was broken in on, robbed and beaten, and after much deliberation ended up in a local rest home where she lived for seven years, dying in her 81st year. All this, and I was called to do her funeral!
I mean, think of “everything” this saint of the Lord had endured— the Depression, a dozen recessions, World War I and II, Korea, Vietnam, six or seven moves, the death of mother, father, husband, friends, children, and of course, robbery; beatings, all of her possessions stripped away to live dormitory style in a rest home, cancer, and now her own death.
It’s awesome, isn’t it? And it makes your ears perk up a bit when the text says, “We know that in everything God works . . . ” The “everything” of life includes a new pair of skates and a “D” on your English theme. “Everything” includes an alcoholic father and a trip to Disney World. “Everything” includes a raise in pay, a symphony, tulips, a new house and divorce, rape, a car accident and getting laid off. All of this is thrown into the mix of life the text sums up as “everything.”
Perhaps some of us here think that because we are Christian we are immune from suffering, that God has us hedged in from all sorrow, all reversals, any betrayal. But to think so is to be naive!
Focus again on the text if you will. It says, “We know that in everything God works . . . ” Now, pay particularly close attention to the words, “God works.” What do you make of them?
The Bible in Genesis 1 and 2 points out that the Lord worked for six days creating the heavens and the earth. And on the seventh day God rested. But now the text says that God is working again. In fact, Jesus said in John 5:17, “My Father is working still.” So, what are we to make of this?
Just this: Satan has slipped into creation, successfully tempted the human race, and brought about the terrible carnage of sin and judgement.
In other words, we don’t live in the world as God originally created it. Our earth is abnormal. It’s broken. But God is not any happier with it than we are. And that’s why the text says, “God works.” He’s not resting any more. He’s gone back to work to make the world normal again through the grace of Jesus Christ?
Take special notice of the picture of Jesus one sees in the New Testament. Christ is a worker. He’s on the scene in His work clothes, speaking, healing, training, arguing, demonstrating, even sweating and dying on a cross!
He’s come into the “everything” of this broken world and gone to work.
Now, back to the text!
God Works for Good
Be careful to notice that the text does not say, “Everything that happens to you is good.” What it does say is, “In everything God works for good.”
It is exciting to note that the Greek word for “God works for good” in “sunergeo.” It’s a rare word, only used maybe six other times in the scriptures. And it is one of those Greek words that has been lifted right out of the ancient language into modern usage. “Sunergeo” is our modern word, “synergy.” It by definition means that “the sum is equal to more than the parts.”
For instance, an artist uses many different colors of paint, rough and smooth brush strokes, shadows and light to present a particular scene. Each technique alone would seem rather meaningless, but combined they accomplish their task. This is synergy.
Or, look at it this way. There are parts of a ship which if taken alone will not float. A lone brass propeller sinks. An anchor alone sinks. A huge metal plate alone with its rivets sinks. A simple porthole without its associates sinks. But fit all these things together into a ship and it not only floats but it moves through the water! This synergy.
There are parts of our lives, which, if taken alone, would be devastating. But taken as a whole it fits into a broad scheme of things that works! And the reason is synergism.
The text literally says that in everything— everything— divorce, war, cancer, reversal, betrayal, amputation, bankruptcy— everything— nothing is outside this grace!— in everything God works for good. He has the love, the wisdom, the power, the ability to synergize the events of our lives so that taken as a whole it works out beneficially.
Now, notice who is making this statement about God here in Romans 8:28. The author is none other than the apostle Paul. This affirmation comes from a Christian who was five times lashed with forty stripes save one, three times beaten with rods, once stoned and left for dead, three times ship wrecked, a night and a day in the sea, hungry, thirsty, cold, snake bitten, frequently run out of town, the man with poor eyesight and short stature whose words were hard to comprehend and who spent some of his best years in prison for crimes he did not commit. This is the man who said, “We know that in everything God works for good . . . ’
This is one of those texts that first lays out the principle, the promise of what God can do, and then lays out what man must do to appropriate those promises in his life.
Many verses fall into this formula . . . “In my Father’s house are many mansions . . . I go to prepare a place for you . . .” Aye! That the promise; now the command . . . “Let not your hearts be troubled . . . believe!” Aye, that’s John 14. Now this in Matthew 11:28-30. “I will give you rest . . . my yoke is easy . . . my burden is light . . .” That’s the promise; now the command . . . “Come to me . . . take my yoke! Learn from me!”
And our text today is one of the same categories of God’s promises. ‘In everything God works for good.’ That the promise of God. Now this, our responsibility . . . ‘With those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.’
Take Paul for an example. He loved God. He was called according to God’s purposes to be a missionary. And after three very successful mission tours of Turkey and Greece he got thrown into prison unjustly. It would seem a dead end to a brilliant career. But God worked in it for greater benefit. Prison is where Paul finally found the quiet and the time to write letters and theology, most of which were later collected into the New Testament. Prison is also where Paul met, evangelized, and discipled the soldiers of the elite praetorian guard who were later assigned to active duty all over the Roman Empire and who took the Gospel with them (Philippians 1:12-14).
You can see this same synergizing work of God in the life of Joseph, the Old Testament patriarch. His jealous brothers sold him as a slave in Egypt. There he was falsely accused of rape. Again, it would seem a dead end. But Joseph loved God and was called according to his purpose. And the God who can never be out-maneuvered brought the benefit of it. You remember the story in Genesis 37-50: A dream, an interpretation, prime minister, the reconciliation of his family, salvation from famine and Joseph’s own affirmation, “You meant it for evil but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).
Synergy. Working everything together for good. Do you believe God can work like that in your life? Do you believe that in everything . . . everything like failure, prison, illness, poverty, rejection . . . God is alive and willing and able to make it turn out to your benefit as He says He will when you love Him and are walking in His will?
The text begins where we end. “We know,” Paul affirms. “We know that everything God works for good with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.” “We know.” “We know.” We know these things by faith.
A few years ago we were weeding out old toys and clothing to have a family yard sale. I’d found one of my daughter’s old T-shirts that had a mysterious black stain on the front of it and was prepared to use it as a car rag or sell it for a dime in our sale. Well, Claire commenced to arguing about how that used to be her favorite T-shirt and we just couldn’t sell it, so she took the thing and disappeared. Later, she returned wearing the same T-shirt, except that around and over the stain she’d drawn beautiful flower. And if our text says anything it says that God has that same talent with the events of our lives.
Perhaps there is a one of you here today that has never known this great love God who has made Himself known to us in Jesus Christ. Reach and embrace Him by faith. Ask Him into your life as Savior and Lord.
And perhaps there is a one of you here today for whom life has dealt a terrific blow. There has been some rejection, some reversal, some disappointment, some loss or sin or failure. And right now you’re feeling like it’s all over for you. Listen! For those that love God and are called according to His purpose God works everything . . . yes, everything . . . for good . . .
We know. We know! By faith we know!
Lord, to me my life is sometimes a confusing jumble of puzzle pieces that I can’t seem to fit together. But I love you and will serve you. And I trust You to fit it all together for good. For Christ’s sake. Amen.