“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
~Romans 8:28 (NIV).
According to God’s purpose... let us hear that resound for a little while.
When things appear too good to be true we should always investigate further; this is no different when it comes to biblical truth—and this one’s a classic example. So many people have taken it worlds away from its context.
We all know oh-so-well via the very nature of life—an existence that’s often very cruel in its justice—that Paul cannot possibly be making such a naïve statement (“all things work together for good” or “God is working in and through all things for good”) without qualification.
This verse is actually full of practical difficulties, yet it doesn’t mean that it’s not still perfectly relevant to our lives. It could never be more relevant.
Those Who Have Been Called
Whoever is Christian is presumably called by God. This is a reasonable assumption. Why would someone call themselves Christian without having been called? We, of course, know that that is a ridiculous statement—there are millions of people who’ve called themselves “Christian,” and yet have never been ‘called’.
These people could not possibly comprehend or understand the meaning of this verse; the ‘life’ God’s called them to.
Those who have been called into the grace of God through Jesus Christ cannot help know their lives are now different, changed and transformed. These have been called in accordance with the purposes of God.
This is a heavily significant matter imposing itself on the further context of this verse.
The Focus Is On the Bad Too – Not Simply the Good
A fundamental premise in true Christ-belief is the acceptance that bad things happen to good people—that bad things happen, period. Sure, we’re not told this very often when we’re evangelised into the Kingdom, but it’s nonetheless true.
For those who truly love God this is less of an issue. Their pains and heartache are spent on behalf of God’s further glory—and this is, of course, a mature attitude to have. No one gets there overnight.
These things that occur to us—the bad and the good, but especially the bad—are the very things that are (i.e. present-tense) bringing glory to God via the way we handle them.
Rick Warren calls the message behind this section of Romans, “Transformed by trouble.” He says,
“God’s plan for your life involves all that happens to you—including your mistakes, your sins, and your hurts. It includes illness, debt, disasters, divorce, and death of loved ones... If you will give God all your distasteful, unpleasant experiences, he will blend them together for good.”
Let’s Not Now Forget the Nature of Life
This is the most compelling of all reasons to be Christian.
Why would we deliberately choose to become hurt by life, or allow ourselves to be hurt by it, by responding in the wrong ways? It seems here that the proper Christian response—to endure all the hardships to the glory of God—is simply logic and common sense considering how much injustice all of us will inevitably have piled up upon ourselves over a lifetime.
We can readily see now that whatever is to God’s good is also fundamentally and eventually always to our benefit also.
The Christian life really is simply the smart life—all of life considered.
Any of the costs we bear, in our alignment to Christ and his way, are paid back in full, with generous portions of interest! And even now we will not ever fully comprehend this concept—not this side of heaven.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.
Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996), pp. 527-30.
Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans – Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 1998), pp. 448-55.
 Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (