Again this morning the next in Dr Eryl Davies’s devotionals
from Romans 8
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 verse is like being in an orchard with many apple and pear trees. The fruit is ripe and ready to eat yet time limits us in picking all that we want – that is how I feel sharing these words for we could say so much and enjoy so much more delicious truths!
Let us observe where the emphasis lies in this verse. The order of words in the original text can be translated literally as: ‘And we know to those who love God all things work together for good.‘ Paul is saying that only Christians can gain comfort and assurance from these words. If you are not yet a Christian, then you are invited warmly by our wonderful God to trust in his Son, the Lord Jesus who died in the place of sinners like ourselves so we can be right with God. Don’t delay but trust Christ today. He will not reject you but will give you a huge welcome.
However if you are a Christian and if you love God, then you need to live by this verse and believe what is being taught. Though many Christians enjoy reading the Bible, praying, and attending church, they fail miserably when problems and suffering enter their or their families lives. How easy it is to grumble, feel hard done by, and let down by God simply because things are not working out as we want. The challenge is clear: those who love God need to believe and heartily accept God’s providence, whatever that involves. We need to trust, but also go further, because in our experiences God uses all the trials and events ‘for good’ and in ways we can never imagine. This means from our hearts we bow to his sovereign providence in our lives, whatever our circumstances or problems.
The words of Dr James Packer (1926-2020) who developed an incurable eye disease causing loss of vision at the age of 89 are helpful here. His response to friends was, ‘God knows what He’s up to … something for His glory is going to come out of it … I don’t see how any Christian can be discouraged, because God is in charge … our hope is in Christ. Those things don’t change, and these are the things to focus on.’ Dr Packer loved God and believed with all his heart that the Lord was in charge in every situation, even his loss of sight. Is this our response?
Having noticed the emphasis we must consider another challenge here.
While Paul does not explain what ‘good‘ means in this verse, in the context it is obvious what it refers to. In the previous verses we saw the big picture relating to the end of the world when the Lord Jesus will return personally in glory to consummate God’s glorious purpose. The restoration of creation and the resurrection of the dead are among the things the Lord will accomplish at that time. Christians, in tandem with creation, anticipate eagerly this event which will successfully complete God’s purpose for the church and the world. Here and now Christians are saved through trusting Christ and are slowly being made more like Christ. One day we will see the Lord in glory and/or at the personal return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
While wonderful things lie ahead for Christians yet here and now God is still working ‘all things’ for ‘good’. An essential part of this ‘good’ purpose is to bring us closer to Christ and to strengthen our faith and deepen our love for Him. This happens quite often in our troubles as the Lord deals with us in the Word. That is the ‘good’ we ought to desire, accepting that providences are used by the Lord to achieve that purpose.
In his influential Geiriadur (Bible Dictionary), Thomas Charles, Bala describes providence in detail, reminding readers that different words are used in the Bible to describe God’s providential purpose as in Acts 4:28, Romans 8:28-30, 1 Corinthians 2:7 and Ephesians 1:5, 9-11. God does not do anything without a wise, righteous, and good purpose, though often his actions are beyond our understanding. Charles himself experienced this in his relationship with a young lady, Sally, who was known as a strong Christian. Sally herself struggled with a lack of assurance and was unsure about courting Charles. She thought the possibility of marriage was ‘at some great distance’ and ‘as a thing never to come to pass…’ What comforted her was that ‘the wheel of Providence is in a good hand … If we had to turn it for ourselves … we are often blind to our own happiness, and seek it where it is least to be found.’ I love those words of Sally.
We must ask who would we rather to turn ‘the wheel of providence’? To do so ourselves would be disastrous, but we can trust our gracious God who works wisely for our ‘good’. This may sometimes involve us experiencing difficulties and suffering, but through them we learn to trust and love Him more and become more Christ-like.
Are we tuned in to God’s ‘good’ purpose?
Dr Eryl Davies (Heath Church Cardiff)