And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 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. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Romans 8:28-30
There are times that it's easy to be happy, easy to have joy. The Fourth of July is certainly one of those times, for most, if not all Americans. Christians and non-Christians are aware that Christian joy is present in all sorts of circumstances.
The Bible states that this joy should at least keep us 'quietly happy', even in the presence of the greatest grief. John 17 features a prayer of Christ to His Father, one verse mentioning that His joy be upon and made manifest within us. A chapter earlier He tells the disciples of joy that is truly unmovable, a joy that nothing or no-one can take away.
Joy by the world's standards has its volatility. Romans 8 certainly discusses that there are circumstances that could test our joy. Paul mentions earlier than the stated verses how these afflictions are nothing compared to the glory before us, who is Christ... but the featured verses, according to Dr. Keller, are the heart of the joy.
One can look at the featured verses and conclude:
1. Bad things turn out for good.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (8:28)
"For those loving Him, God works together all things for good." - Translation direct from the Greek.
a. 'All things' - Christian circumstances are no different from the circumstances that happen to anyone in the world. Bad and terrible things do happen to Christians as much as anyone else, and we shouldn't believe that being a Christian gives us a lesser percentage of bad things happen. All things is all things. Paul says these things in v. 35 - Trouble, the sword, anxiety, they're all there. All things happen to us. All things will happen.
b. If there's anything good that does happen in our lives, then that's what we must attribute to God. God works all things together for good, guaranteed. The sand you see on the beach used to be mountains. Everything falls apart... but God works all things together.
c. Though bad things happen, they work for good. They may happen, but they will eventually be worked together for good, by God. We are not saying bad things are good. Jesus Christ Himself was angry and in grief before Lazarus' tomb, He certainly didn't say it was a 'blessing in disguise', recognizing that death is still bad... but that is not the end of the line. There will never be a silver lining in every circumstance, but God will take all of it and work it together for our good!
The promise is not that if you love Him, and if you believe in Christ, more good things will happen, or that bad things are actually good things... No, it's that in the totality of it all, God will take all things, good or bad, and work it for good. This reinforces our motivation to continue to trust in Him.
'Everything is necessary that He sends, nothing can be necessary that He withholds..' - John Newton
We may have our own perceptions of what a good or bad thing is, but let us not waste our time, only knowing that all of it will be worked together by God for good. We are free of the shock which is associated with our shallow expectations that things should be better - no, our Hope is way deeper and so much further than our perceptions, more than what we can believe.. We are rooted in a deep understanding.
" A good man may look down upon all the whole army of worldly afflictions under his feet with a slight and disregard (that is, as evils, for he ought to have the greatest regard to them as they are for his good), and consider with himself and joy therein that, however great they are and however numerous, let them all join their forces together against him and put on their most rueful and dreadful habits, forms and appearances, and spend all their strength, vigor and violence with endeavors to do him any real hurt or mischief, and it is all in vain" - Jonathan Edwards
This is one reason that worship stirs up in us. We are patient in times of shock. With Christ, indeed, we can say, 'death, where is your sting? Hell, where is your victory?'
2. Our good things can never be lost.
Romans 8:28 is such a famous verse on its own, like a swiss knife verse. Unfortunately, all by itself it is misinterpreted as 'bad things happen, so surely something good will happen.' That isn't really the promise!
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 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 8:28-29, emphasis on FOR
God does not promise better circumstances, but a better life, a joy which is independent of all our circumstances. Jesus Christ did not suffer so that we would not suffer. No, He suffered so that when we suffer, we would be like Him. What is the good? In Verse 29, Paul mentions 'predestined' not to confuse us, without sparking our agendas. Paul mentioned predestined as 'fixed' and absolutely set. So He predestined us, He absolutely set us to conform us to the image of Christ.
To be a Christian, we are amazed automatically with the being and character of Christ. We are attracted to Him. Everything that happens in our lives is molding us, shaping us into the image of God's beloved Son. This is in the form of incredible compassion, incredible forgiveness. This is absolutely guaranteed. God is committed to making us as holy and as happy as Jesus, conforming to the image of His Son.
[Here's yet another perspective on the love of God through our Savior, Jesus Christ. God is constantly changing us through our circumstances to make us conform to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. Part of our salvation is this continuous move, which is definite and never fading, to the point that we recognize how He is indeed the firstborn, the eldest in terms of order, among many of us who conform to this image.
As my brothers, and as others who have been brothers to me have had so much impact on my behavior, so Christ continues to reveal Himself, and so God continues in transforming me in every circumstance, good or bad, step by step closer to conforming more into His image.
I may not have recognized the love of my Dad, but when I saw God's fatherly love upon me, I understood how my Dad loved me so dearly. I may not be experiencing what others may say is the ideal bond between brothers, but because of Christ's finished work, I can see their contribution to my identity as a brother in the Lardizabal family, and, more importantly, how it all works towards conformity to Christ's image. Halleluyah!]
We are in a collision course towards greatness. We are able to forgive when hurt, as Christ called out for the forgiveness of all who crucify him.
We are adopted into the Family of God, and all the previous formalities have turned into absolute closeness and intimacy. Being conformed to the likeness of God's Son means that we are adopted and have intimacy and wealth, everything accomplished by Christ's finished work placed upon you.
When you become a Christian, there is absolutely no second-class brother or family member in His family. Boom! Your circumstances cannot affect this absolute Truth which was sealed by Christ's finished work! This is the better life which trumps our recognition of better circumstances!
3. The best things are yet to come.
"And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified." - Romans 8:30
Again, we understand Dostoyevsky's words through a Karamazov: "I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world's finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, for all the blood that they've shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened."
Don't come to Christianity because it is relevant.
Don't come to Christianity because it is exciting.
Come to Christianity because it is true. That's what makes it relevant. If it isn't true, how could it be more relevant and exciting!
Of all things, we should not trivialize suffering. We are not downplaying suffering in any way. Glory does not trivialize brokenness and pain. Our joy is not found in circumstances but in these convictions of Christ being our Truth! It's not found in the absence of thinking but in the presence of more thinking, adding the perspective of Christ in all our circumstances!
Jesus is, indeed, who He says He is. Glory does not trivialize brokenness. Your souls are so precious, and your suffering is so deep, that nothing but His glory would overwhelm.
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May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift His countenance upon you and give you His Shalom. - Numbers 6:24-26