Do all things really work together for good? Consider the following:
- A seemingly healthy 12-year-old girl develops severe migraine headaches. On Friday she is taken to the hospital; on Saturday she dies. Her father calls her “the sunshine of my life.”
- A young boy goes with his church youth group on an outing. That night he comes down with a fever. The next morning he has trouble breathing and his mother calls the doctor. By the time the ambulance gets there, he has stopped breathing. The doctor does everything he can, but the boy dies from a bacterial infection.
- A man feels the call of God to go into the ministry. He leaves his good job and moves to a distant city to enter seminary. His wife takes a job to help him make it through. He’s in his last year now. In just a few months he’ll take a church somewhere and begin serving the Lord. But one day his wife comes in and says, “I’m leaving you. I don’t want to be a pastor’s wife.” She walks out and never comes back.
- A policeman stops a man known to be a drug dealer. It happens on a busy downtown street and a crowd gathers to watch the unfolding drama. There is a struggle and somehow the drug dealer grabs the officer’s gun. Someone in the crowd yells, “Shoot him, man.” And he does, at point-blank range, in the face. The officer was in his early twenties.
Do all things work together for good? Do they? Can we still believe in Romans 8:28? Let me give you the verse the way I learned it, in the King James Version:
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
Let us be honest and admit that we have at least two problems with these words by the apostle Paul.
1. They promise something we have trouble believing. Our text says, “And we know that all things work together for good” (KJV). Paul, how can you be so sure about that? Most of us are not as sure as Paul was. We hope all things work together for good; we believe they do. But do we really know that to be true?
2. They include things that we think ought to be left out. When Paul says “All things work together for good,” that seems too definite for us. All things? We might go far as to say that “some things” work together for good. We understand that out of difficulty we learn great lessons of faith that cannot come any other way. Yes, some things clearly work together for good. But can we be sure it is really all things? Perhaps these words are true in the theoretical sense or perhaps as a statement of faith. But are they true to every part of life?
I do not have to tell you that Romans 8:28 is one of the most beloved verses in the Bible. You know that. Many of you could give testimony to that fact. You were sick, and this verse was like medicine to your soul. You lost a loved one, and these words somehow carried you through. You were crushed and beaten by the winds of ill-fortune, and this verse gave you hope to go on.
Therefore, it shocks us to know that there are many who secretly doubt it. They hear this verse quoted, and instead of a balm to the soul, it seems like a mocking, cruel joke.
They say, “What do you mean by good?”
- Sickness is not good.
- Murder is not good.
- Divorce is not good.
- Suicide is not good.
- The death of a child is not good.
This verse is sometimes misused by well-meaning Christians who throw it in the face of those who are suffering as if it could answer every question of life. When it is misused that way, it produces an effect opposite to that intended by Paul.
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