It's All Good (Romans 8:28)
Topic: Romans Passage: Romans 8:28
It's All Good
(One Truth: Walk in Truth)
January 22nd, 2017
I. What Doesn't Kill You...
Maybe you've heard it. Maybe you've used it. As far as I can tell, it's become a fairly common phrase in the last 10-15 years. I'm sure you know it. If you don't, then let me give you a hint: it's the title of this message: “It's all good.”
Ever had someone say that to you? “It's all good.” At it's best, the phrase is used to express genuine reassurance or forgiveness for a possible or real offense. It's pretty synonymous with phrases like, “Hey, it's no big deal” or “Don't worry about it” or “It's not a problem...really”.
But at other times, it's a dismissive phrase. It's a smokescreen. It's an easy out. I like how one online writer defines this phrase:
Platitude that covers so many emotions and situations that it says little; its only real meaning is that the speaker is trying to rise above whatever problem exists, without expressing their underlying negative emotions. (anger, sadness, frustration, disappointment, etc.) Often used in a passive-aggressive way. Rarely, used compassionately for someone else, trying to make them feel better. A favorite of inarticulate teens; fills in the gaps between: “like”, “dude”, “whatever”, “so”, “hey”, etc. [for example] Ariel: "I'm breaking up with you." Campbell: "Whatever. It's all good."
Ever used that phrase in this way? Ever said, “It's all good” when inside it wasn't? Often this is how our world deals with suffering. And at times, we are tempted to do the same thing.
But this morning, I believe God would have us redeem that phrase by thinking about how that phrase can point us back to God's word. So let's do that by turning over to Romans chapter 8.
II. The Passage: "Together for Good" (8:28)
We've heard it already this morning, but listen once again to verse 28 of Romans 8. We will see from the context that the topic of suffering has been, will be, and is being discussed by Paul. So keep this in mind as you listen to that verse again. Paul writes...
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Like the phrase we talked about at the outset, I'm guessing you've heard this verse before; maybe many times. And like the phrase we talked about at the outset, this verse is also built around the word “good”, AND, in a context of suffering of some kind.
Now, to really understand the depths of what Paul is saying here--in fact, what God is saying through Paul to you...and me—to really grasp the fullness of this verse, I'd like us to think about three more phrases. But these phrases come right out of the verse.
So as we normally do, and as we should do, we will use the bigger context of Paul's discussion here to make sense of what he's telling us. Let's start with the phrase...
1. “Those Who Love God”
This phrase defines who Paul is addressing in this verse. Yes, he is writing to the Romans. But clearly Paul is affirming that his words, that the statement he is about to make, can be applied to anyone and everyone who loves God.
Now, last week, we talked about “love for God” being the highest and fullest summary of our calling as human beings; of why we were created. As Jesus said, it is the greatest, the most important of all commandments. But for Paul, this phrase cannot describe anyone and everyone who simply claims to love God.
You see, Paul knew his own story. Before Christ called him, Paul would have emphatically affirmed that he loved God. But Paul has already told the Romans this about the love of God:
...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:8-10)
Paul knew that if God did not first love us, we would still be God-haters. That's the ugly truth about the terms Paul uses here: we were “sinners”; we were “enemies”. Another apostle, John, made this point very succinctly when he wrote in I John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.”
So what Paul is about to say here is not true for every person. It is only true for those who have been reconciled to God through the blood, through the death of God's Son, Jesus. But consider along with this, the second phrase I want to highlight...
2. “All Things”
Look again at what Paul wrote in verse 28: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good...
“All things”. Now, if we don't think about it too much, if we read it like we read a fortune cookie saying or something printed on a teddy bear at the Christian bookstore, then this phrase is fairly harmless and broadly palatable.
But if we dig down into the context, this phrase becomes very problematic. Why? Because when Paul writes “all things”, he means “all things”.And in the context of this passage, there is a very clear emphasis on painful things...on scary things...on heart-breaking things...and confusing things...on hard, hard things. Verse 17 talks about suffering with Christ. Verse 18 speaks of “the sufferings of this present time”. Verse 23 talks about “groan[ing[ inwardly”.
And Paul will go on in verse 35 to address these hard things, whether it be “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword”. And then he follows it up in verse 36 with this quote from Psalm 44...As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
So we need to be clear about this. When Paul speaks about “all things” in verse 28, he is truly talking about “all things”, even those things we feel must be excluded; things that could not be placed in that category. But wait. What category? Well that's the final phrase...
3. “For Good...His Purpose”
Paul wrote, And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
What are we tempted to exclude from the “good” category? Well, “bad”, of course. As you look into your past, as you look around at your present circumstances, there are situations, events, episodes, experiences, conversations, relationships, seasons that you would inevitably describe as “not good”.
“She wasn't a good friend.” “I was not in a good place.” “That conversation did not have a good ending.” “That was not a good time in my life.” “It isn't a good relationship.” “The job is definitely not a good fit.” “The doctor's report is not good.” “No good can come of this situation.”
Paul understands this distinction between good and bad in terms of our experiences. And he's not arguing with this distinction. He knows many bad things have happened to his readers, and that they were currently dealing with many bad things, and that they would face many bad things in the future. He's not disputing that label.
What Paul is telling us here is that God can and will take “all things”, including those bad things, and work them into a good thing. (2x)
He is like an artist who takes broken, shattered, stained, and twisted pieces, those from the trash heap, and places them in a stunning mosaic, more beautiful than anyone could ever imagine.
You see, as the verse tells us, the “good” Paul speaks about here is in accordance with God's “purpose”. And we have been “called according to His purpose”. How do I know? Listen to what Paul says about his readers at the very beginning of this letter: ...you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,  To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints... (Romans 1:6, 7)
So “those who love God” are those who have been called by God, for His purposes.
And those purposes are for our eternal good. But what else does this passage tell us about this monumental, this incomparable, this beautiful “good” toward which God is working, and using “all things”?
Well, the very next verse reveals His eternal, overarching purpose for your life, if indeed you belong to Jesus Christ, by grace through faith. Verse 29:
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.
Did you see it there? The glorious purpose which God is accomplishing, the beautiful mosaic which He is constructing from your “all things”, both good and bad, both happy and hurtful, both light and heavy, both appealing and agonizing, both rewarding and regrettable, both fulfilling and crushing?
What will you see in the end, when you look at the mosaic of your life? You will see Jesus. We are being conformed to the image of God's Son. That is God's plan, and nothing, “no-thing” can derail it, because “all things” must, in the end, serve His purpose. As Paul declares in verse 30...
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. [what He began, he will finish]
Just as God called you and forgave you and cleansed you, just as He renews you and empowers you and uses you, He will also complete His work in you. Talk about good news! Talk about an abundant, ever-flowing source of encouragement and comfort!
So speaking with this eternal perspective, shouldn't we be able to say in the end, “It's all good”? Because it was all FOR good...your eternal, incomparable good, as planned by God.
Now think about it: this is a far cry from the world's version of this promise. Haven't you heard people say, “Every cloud has a silver lining.” or “If life give you lemons...” or “I know it will all work out in the end”, “I guess there's a reason for everything”, or as a popular pop song puts it, “What doesn't kill you makes you stronger”. These are different ways of saying the same thing. It is one way the world works through the reality of suffering.
But this isn't what we're talking about. This isn't the same as God's promise to those who are called, those who love God. Just listen to the some lyrics from that aforementioned pop song:
Thanks to you I got a new thing started, Thanks to you I'm not the broken-hearted
Thanks to you I'm finally thinking about me, You know in the end the day you left was just my beginning, In the end, What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, Stand a little taller, Doesn't mean I'm lonely when I'm alone, What doesn't kill you makes a fighter, Footsteps even lighter
Doesn't mean I'm over cause you're gone.
Though we get the songwriter's point, the sentiment is not always true. Yes, by God's common grace, a painful experience or a season of sorrow can be a bridge to something better (we can point to God in that). But pain and sorrow that doesn't kill you can also harden you; it can't leave you bitter or vengeful or indifferent or despondent...for the rest of your life.
But this isn't what we're talking about. That isn't God's promise. Remember what we said, What Paul is telling us here is that God can and will take “all things”, including those bad things, and work them into a good thing. That is God's plan, and nothing can derail it, because “all things” must, in the end, serve His purpose.
Does Paul ever get more specific about this Jesus-focused, mosaic-creating, shaping of our sufferings? He does. Just three chapters earlier Paul wrote:
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (5:3-5)
III. Hope & Patience
So through the fires of our suffering, God forges hope. And that is precisely what we find in chapter 8, just before our main verse. Look at verse 18...
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us...[In v. 23 Paul goes on to describe how] we...groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, [and in this context, Paul specifically means] the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (8:18, 23b-25)
As we think about the promise God gives us in verse 28, we need to talk a little about how that perspective leads to practice.
First, I believe that perspective is a corrective for any unhealthy perspective on our sufferings. Yes, in hard times, you will be tempted to bitterness, to anger, to resentment, to indifference, to escape, to despair, or to fear. That's understandable. But the perspective God gives us in 8:28 should turn us from those things. It gives us armor and ammunition to fight against those temptations. [How about you?]
And second, we fight them in order to claim hope. When you are thinking about hard experiences, when you are going through a painful season, God wants to give you hope that up ahead, there is rest; up ahead, there is joy; up ahead, there is wholeness and healing, and the kind that lasts forever...the kind that is worth waiting for. And it isn't in spite of the suffering. In fact, it is the God-shaped redemption OF your suffering. [How about you?]
And so as we see in verse 25 (almost continuing the list from Romans 5:3-5), this hope produces patience. We patiently endure through those seasons of suffering, eyes fixed on Jesus Christ. If you belong to Him, He secured this precious promise with His precious blood.
And if you do not yet belong to Jesus, then reach out with trust today. Reach out so this promise can be yours. The world's counterfeits will leave you empty. The are false and impotent. May all of us find incredible comfort and encouragement and hope in the promise and power of the God we've just heard from.
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