Joy in Trials

Experiencing joy during a time of trial may seem like a counter intuitive concept. Trials bring pain. Trials are hard. Trials are messy. How in the world can there be any joy during a trial? Well, thankfully, the answer to that question is found in the Word of God.

There are at least four main texts that I have been using over the past few years to help me deal with various trials and troubles in my own life. I have put them here with some very brief commentary. I believe the texts alone speak with great power but I also think it it helpful to talk through them. My prayer is that this may bring you some measure of comfort and grace when you are faced with trials in your own life.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭1:6-7‬

In this text Peter is writing to believers who are scattered far away from each other and living in hostile places and being persecuted. And his instruction is startling, he tells them to rejoice in their grief, to rejoice in their trials. Doesn’t that sound strange? Doesn’t that strike you as odd? How can they rejoice when their circumstances are so bad?

They can rejoice because the trials and the grief they are experiencing is being used by God to purify their faith. Their faith is like a valuable piece of raw unrefined gold that has been found but is not yet perfect, it still has some impurities in it, it still has some imperfections. What do you do with that piece of gold? You thrust it into a hot fire melt it and purify it which makes it even more valuable and precious.

It’s a vivid word picture for sure! That’s what trials do, they purify us, they test us, they prove that our faith is genuine, and all of this brings praise glory and honor to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Trials in this word are good because they refine us, they burn away the dross in our life, they take away the impurities, they loosen our grip on this world and help us live for the world to come.
“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.” Romans‬ ‭5:3-5

Here it is again, but not from Peter, this time it is Paul and he is telling the Roman Christians that they need to rejoice in their sufferings. How can this be? How is it that someone can rejoice when they suffer? Well, he gives us the answer, we can rejoice when we suffer because we “know” something, he says, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing…” You have to know something before you can rejoice when you suffer, you have to remember something, there is a body of truth you need to think about. Rejoicing during suffering doesn’t just happen by accident.

Here is what you need to know: “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.”

Suffering produces all of these Christlike characteristics in us. Suffering makes us more like Christ, it molds us into His image. Christ had endurance, Christ had character, Christ had hope and those things are produced in us when we suffer.

There is also a link here to Romans 8 where we learn that God works everything together for our good (v.28), the good the bad the ugly, He’s working it all together for our greatest good. What is this greatest good? The verses that follow Romans 8:28 tell us that the greatest thing that God can do for us is to conform us into the image of His Son, to make us like Him. And back in Romans 5 we see that suffering does just that, it makes us like Jesus.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” ‭‭James‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭

Here we have yet another writer in the New Testament, James the half-brother of Jesus. Yet, we have a similar theme, joy in trials. James tells us to “count it all joy when we meet various trials”, that seems a hefty task. All joy? How am I supposed to consider it all joy when various trials come?

Well, like Paul, James gives us a list of Christ-like character traits that are produced in us when we rightly endure through a trial. Also like Paul, James tells us that we “know” this, we think about it, we remember these facts, we set our mind on these truths. Again, this does not come natural, we must be diligent to know and remember these truths.

What truths? What truths do I need to know to have joy during a trial? These truths: “…the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Trials produce endurance and steadfastness which bring completion or wholeness. Trials grow us and help us mature. They cause us to become more and more like Christ, that’s why we can count it all joy when we run into them! Because they are being used by God to make us more like Christ.

One final text.

“looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews‬ ‭12:2‬

Here is the final text with the same theme but from still another writer. We do not know with 100 % accuracy who wrote the book of Hebrews, but yet again we see this theme of joy in trials. Jesus for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross and despised the shame. Jesus had joy on the way to the cross, surely the cross was a trial, surely the cross was suffering, surely it involved pain. Yet Jesus considered it all joy. Jesus knew what the cross would accomplish, He knew it would please the Father, He knew it would save sinners, He knew the end goal and because He knew all of this He had joy in the suffering, joy in the trial.
As we have seen above, all four texts connect joy with trials. Trials are difficult to be sure, but when we approach them Biblically, they produce in us Christlike Character traits like the ones listed in Romans 5 and James 1. They refine and purify our faith like in 1 Peter 1. And when we endure and when we meet trials with joy we are acting just like Christ did in Hebrews 12. Trials are tough, they are messy, they are painful but they are  also the faithful instrument God uses to bless us and grow us.

For more on trials and temptations see my post on The Difference Between a Trial and a Temptation

Here is a very encouraging song along these lines by Shane and Shane

Grace and Peace 

No Distrust

“No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” (Rom4.20-21)

This is so good. Distrust is at the heart of all unbelief, yet with regard to the promise of having a son, Abraham had no distrust. He did not waver at all but instead grew strong in his faith. I want that. I want a faith that believes God despite my feelings, despite my circumstance. I want to believe and live fully convinced that God is able to do what He has promised.

Think about all of the reasons Abraham had to not believe God, reasons that could have been and probably were a great temptation for him to distrust and disbelieve God. Here are the 2 big temptations from the near context for him not to believe that he would have a son and that he would become the father of many nations :

1. He was old (about 100) and his body was considered as good as dead (v19)

2. Sarah was barren and old (v19)

These are huge factors when trying to conceive a child, and yet these realities did not weaken his faith. He did not distrust God with regard to the promise that they would have a son and Abraham that would be the father of many nations, that’s amazing, that’s convicting.

His old and as good as dead body and her barren womb (which are the two key physical components needed for them to have a son) did not suppress their faith, it increased it! I need faith like like. I want faith like that! If God says something in His word, if He has made a promise, I need to believe against hope, against experience, against feelings, that He will do what He has said He will do. I need to trust God and give Him glory. Great faith gives God great glory! Oh God give me this faith, help my unbelief!

Abraham Justified by Works? (James 2:18-24)

Have you ever read a portion of Scripture and wondered, “That seems like a direct contradiction to what I read somewhere else in the Bible”?

Hopefully you have not and do not remain is such a terrible condition. Surely, all of Scripture is true and cohesive and when you meditate and mull over it you often find that the “obvious direct contradiction” is really not at all what you thought. Today I want to walk through such a passage.

Over the last two months I have been bothered by the following text and I have made bold the specific part:

“But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”
(James 2:18-24 ESV)

At a first quick glance it seems that this text is saying that Abraham achieved his justification before God by his works, I mean it says “Was not Abraham our father justified by works…”.

I thought that justification was by faith alone. Isn’t that Paul’s argument in Romans 4?

    What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness (Romans 4:1-5 ESV)

    For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
    That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Romans 4:13-25 ESV)

What about Galatians 3?

    O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
    Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Galatians 3:1-9 ESV)

In Romans 4 and Galatians 3 Paul uses the same reference to Genesis 15 where Abraham believed God (exercised faith) and it was counted to him as righteousness (justification). So Paul seems to argue that Abraham was justified by faith not works.

Wait…

Didn’t James say that Abraham was justified by works? Hmmm…it must be a contradiction!

Or….

We just need to dwell on, meditate on, and pray over the text and see if we can figure it out. Let’s see if we can make some sense of it.

Look back at James 2:23 “and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”  That’s the same Genesis 15 verse Paul used in Romans 4 and Galatians 5 to demonstrate that Abraham was declared righteous (or justified) by God because of his faith (he believed God).

So somehow that verse was fulfilled when Abraham “offered up Isaac on the alter”. Wait, “fulfilled”? Doesn’t that usually mean that there is some sort of a sequence? Something must begin or happen for it to then be fulfilled or brought to completion.

So, when Abraham offered up Isaac on the alter the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”. We already know from our look at Romans 4 and Galatians 3 that Abraham was declared righteous (justified) in Genesis 15. When did he offer up Isaac on the alter?

This is important. Abraham offered his son Isaac on the alter in Genesis 22, seven long chapters later. In those seven intervening chapters years went by. In chapters 16-21 Ishmael is born, Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed, Lot captured and rescued, circumcision instituted (Ishmael 13 years old at this event), Abraham and Sarah move to Gerar and Abraham tells the king that Sarah is his sister, Isaac is born and then Abraham offers up Isaac. Some 15 – 20 years go by between the two events.

Here is my point. In Genesis 15 Abraham is justified (declared righteous by God) by faith. This is a one time event. Once you are justified you are completely justified. Once God has declared you righteous you are righteous. This means coming into the offering up of Isaac on the alter in Genesis 22 Abraham is a completely justified man, a man justified by faith.

So what does James mean when he says “Was not Abraham our father justified by works…”?

Well, from what we have seen, it doesn’t mean he was declared righteous, first of all it doesn’t say or imply that and second of all he already was declared righteous because of His faith in Genesis 15.

Here’s what I think. When Abraham offered up Isaac he was externally demonstrating what was an inward reality. Abraham was demonstrating with his works that he was a justified man. His justification which was established by faith was being completed or perfected by works. When he offered up Issac he was fulfilling or bringing to completion the reality of being a justified person.

Application

  • Have I put my faith in God for my justification?
  • Do I have external fruit that demonstrates inward realities?
  • Am I growing in holiness?
  • Is my faith real? Is there any fruit in my life to affirm this?
  • Where is my faith? (God, self, money, hobby, skill, job, relationships, etc.)
  • Is my faith being perfected and completed by my works or do my works destroy my faith?
  • Where do I need to change and how can I do that?
  • Is my trust in my works or is my trust in God and that reality produces works?
  • Do I have a faith that is alone or am I saved by a faith that is not alone?
  • Do I have a faith that works?

Grace and Peace

A Key to Understanding James

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” (James 1:19 ESV)

If you are like me you are probably familiar with the verse which heads this page. If you are like me you were probably instantly convicted by it. If you are like me you have probably even used it to encourage, exhort, or admonish someone you love. And, if you are like me you probably know little (or at least not enough) about the context or thrust of this verse. In this post I want to accomplish two goals 1) I will argue and persuade you that this verse is the key to the book of James and 2) I want to whet your appetite for James so that you want to go read it yourself. Here we go.

James 1:1-18 which leads up to our text masterfully deals with trials and temptations and James 1:21-4:11 which leads away from our text wonderfully expounds and explains our text. Let me try and prove this second observation since I have already done so with the first in a previous blog post (see my blog post on The Difference Between Trials and Temptations).

James, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gives us the first command as a positive, let every person be quick to hear. From chapter 1 verse 21 through the end of chapter 2 James explains what it means to be a true hearer.

A true hearer has the following characteristics

  • They put aside all filthiness and wickedness and humbly receive the Word (v.21)
  • They don’t merely hear the Word, they are doers of the Word (v.22)
  • They are not forgetful hearers, but doers who act on what they have heard (v.25)
  • A true hearer then acts and visits orphans and widows and keeps themself unstained (v.26)
  • A true hearer does not show partiality (2:1)
  • A true hearer acts, James chapter 2 outlines the necessity and attributes of such action which is preceded by being a true hearer

Next James gives two negative commands the first of which is let every person be slow to speak. James chapter 3 expounds this point and is very detailed in explaining why every person must be slow to speak and the dangers of the tongue.

Every person must be slow to speak because

  • those who teach will be judged more severely (3:1)
  • if you are able to bridle your tongue you can bridle your whole body (implied is the fact that the tongue is most difficult) (3:2)
  • bridling your tongue is like putting a bit in a horses mouth (3:3)
  •  the tongue is like a rudder on a ship (3:4)
  • the tongue is a small member yet it boasts of great things (3:5)
  • the tongue is a fire (3:6)
  • humans able to tame all animals but not able to tame the tongue (3:7-8)
  • with our tongue we bless God and curse people (3:9)
  • from same mouth blessing and cursing, should not be so (3:10)
  • a spring can not pour forth fresh and salt water, neither should your tongue (3:11)
  • a fig tree cannot bear olives, neither should your tongue (3:11)

Finally, James give a second negative command, let every person be slow to anger. James 3:13-4:11 then goes on to explain the reasoning behind this.

Every person must be slow to anger because

  • the wise and understanding are meek (3:13)
  • those who have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition are false to the truth (3:14)
  • where there is jealousy and selfish ambition there is disorder and every vile practice (3:16)
  • a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace (3:18)
  • passions (lusts) are source of quarrels and fights (4:1)
  • desire and do not have so you murder (4:2)
  • you covet and do not obtain so you fight and quarrel (4:2)
  • friendship with the word is enmity with God (4:4)
  • Cleanse your hands, purify your hearts, mourn and weep (4:8-9)
  • humble yourself before the Lord (4:10)
  • do not speak evil against one another, if you do you speak against the law (4:11-12)

So as you can hopefully see that statement in James 1:19 is then more fully realized and more thoroughly explained throughout the rest of the book.

So when you want to know what it means to be quick to hear meditate on James 1:21 through the end of chapter 2. If you want to know why you need to be slow to speak look at James chapter 3. If you want to know why you need to be slow to anger study the end of James 3 and the whole of James 4.

This is a beautiful book and I hope that this helps frame it in a helpful way and makes you want to dive in yourself. If the whole book is not an option I encourage you to run to these sections for help in a time of need.

Grace and Peace.

The Difference Between a Trial and a Temptation (James 1:1-17)

Currently I am working through the book of James with a small group on Wednesday nights and we are about to wrap up the first chapter. The first chapter of James is a goldmine of goodies just ready to be explored and excavated, the greatest of which might be the instruction found on enduring and persevering through trials and/or temptations.

What is the difference between a trial and a temptation? Is there a difference? How do you know?

The first chapter of James really helps define this issue so lets turn there. The Greek word translated into English as “trials” in 1:2 is the same Greek word (but in a different tense) translated “tempted” in verses 12-17.

Wait…I thought these were different? Are they different? Why are they translated different if they are the same word just in different tenses? How do they know? How can I know?

Well let’s look to the context of these two sections and see if it helps us understand the true difference between a trial and a temptation. Let us first look at what a trial is, what our attitude is to be towards it, and the outcome of such an event.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways…Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”   (James 1:2-12 ESV)

From James 1:2-8 we learn these things about trials

  1. We are to welcome trials with joy
  2. There will be various kinds of trials for us to rejoice in
  3. Trials test our faith
  4. Trials that test our faith produce steadfastness in our faith and lives
  5. Trials lead to maturity and wholeness , full functioning christian life (perfect and complete do not imply sinlessness but instead the completion of the maturation process)
  6. Trials produce a faith and a life that lacks nothing
  7. Trials provide opportunity to trust God
  8. Trials provide opportunity for God to provide
  9. Trials provide opportunity for us to be humble and acknowledge our need and God’s goodness
  10. Trials provide us an opportunity to prove our faith and not doubt
  11. Trials provide a test by which our faith can be measured, in part
  12. Blessing is promised to those who remain steadfast under a trial
  13. God promises and gives the crown of life to those who endure trials
  14. Trials provide and opportunity for God to keep His promises
  15. By the very fact that there is a promise from God for enduring such trials we can conclude that God also sovereignly sends these and is in control over them

To sum up, trials are actually great blessings that are given to us to grow us, bless us, and to glorify God. It is easy to see that trials are good and why we should consider it all joy when we encounter them.

Now turn to James 1:13-17 which is translated as tempted or temptations and see if the context and commands and attitudes we are to have will help us to see the difference between a trial and a temptation.

 “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.  Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”   (James 1:13-17 ESV)

From James 1:13-17 we learn these things about temptations

  1. There is an immediate negative command to not embrace or do something
  2. Strongly taught to not attribute a temptation to God
  3. God cannot be tempted with evil
  4. Temptations must then be evil
  5. God does not tempt anyone
  6. The source for our temptation is our own desire (lust)
  7. Our own lust lures, entices and pulls us away
  8. Temptation is sin in seed form
  9. Temptation gives birth or life to sin
  10. Sin gives birth to death (so temptation fully realized and played out leads to death)
  11. Do not be deceived
  12. God gives every perfect and good gift, so do not associate temptations to sin to Him
  13. God is unchanging

To sum up, temptations are bad. They are utterly and fully bad. Just as trials are entirely good and should be embraced, temptations are entirely bad to be avoided.

  • Temptations are opportunities to obey self and please self, Trials are opportunities to obey God and please Him
  • Temptations end in death, Trial bring a crown of life
  • Temptations are deceptive, Trials fulfill promises
  • Temptations directly not from God, Trials directly from God
  • Temptation follows a sinful conception process, Trials produce a godly maturation process
  • Temptations leave you empty, Trials bring you to completion and wholeness
  • Temptations are evil and have evil motive, Trials are good and have godly motives
  • Temptations seek to break you down, Trials seek to build you up
  • Temptations entice and lure you away, Trials are meant to produce steadfastness and remaining
  • Temptations take things away, Trials equip you and produce more in you
  • Temptations reveal our sinful hearts, Trials reval the goodness of God

The next time a situation arises and you wonder whether you are facing a trial or a temptation the answer is probably both. From the standpoint of your sinful flesh it is an opportunity to tempt you to sin, to tear you down, to decieve you and for you to worship self, but from God’s standpoint it is an opportunity for you to prove your faith, mature and grow, remain steadfast, bring about wholness and completion, and to worship and trust God.

May this be a helpful encouragement to you as you encounter various trials.

grace and peace.

 

 

 

 

Romans 8:28 part 3

“And we know that God cause all things to work together for good, to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28

In the last two blog posts we have established a couple of things, (1) the framework and context of this great promise and (2) the general theme of the Bible that God is able to bring good out of bad . We also asked the question “Was God able to work the death of Jesus, the greatest act of evil ever committed, together for good?” The resounding answer to that question is “Of course!”

Think about it. The plot to kill Jesus, the rejection, the timing, the day that it happened, the betrayal, the responses, the garden, the kiss, the cross, the death, the darkness…God purposed and worked every tiny piece together for good.

With that in mind it is easy to think, “Well sure God is able to work the big things together for good but what about the small things? Does He really work even the small things together for good?”

Let’s answer that question with a text we looked at in our first post, look at Romans 8:26-27

“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness ; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words ;and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

What do we learn from this text?

  • The Holy Spirit helps us
  • We are weak
  • We do know how to pray like we should
  • The Holy Spirit intercedes for us
  • The Holy Spirit makes groanings that are too deep for words
  • The Father searches our hearts and minds
  • The Father knows what the mind of the Spirit is
  • The Holy Spirit is interceding for us according to the will of God

This has proven to be one of the most comforting sections of Scripture for me. The Spirit is interceding so often for me and is so acquainted with my situation that He is constantly going to the Father on my behalf and the Father therefore not only knows my heart and my mind but He fully knows what the mind of the Spirit is about my situation. So amazing, try and dwell on that.

So what?

So why look at this text? Yes it’s really cool and rich and teaches us about how the Spirit is praying for us but what does that have to do with verse 28 and our question about God working the small things together for good.? I have two really cool points that I think will help clarify this for you.

First, this verse sets up verse 28 so perfectly and I must take time to explain this. Verse 28 starts “and we know that God causes all things to work together for good…” well of course we know that because we just learned that the Spirit is always talking with the Father and the Father is fully aware of all things going on in my heart, in my mind, and in the mind of the Spirit regarding the whole situation. Think about it like this, the Father knows exactly how to work all things together for good because He is fully imformed and He is fully able. God is not surprized. God is sovereign and good and He promises that He is working all things, each thing together for good. So good.

Second, this verse says that we are weak and we do not even know how to pray, even at our best we still do not pray perfectly nor are we able to make groanings that are too deep for word like the Spirit does. Is there anything less that a weak prayer done improperly? There might be but that is pretty low. Well, this verse says that in our weakness, praying as people who do not know how to pray like we should the Holy Spirit helps us, He makes our prayers good. God works your prayers together for good. That’s amazing! Here is a prefect example for verse 28, God even works our prayers together for our good! That’s rich truth. So pray often and pray hard, because when you pray God is helping to make them good.

What have we learned?

So far we have seen the basic framework of this great promise in Romans 8:28, we have seen that a general theme of the Bible is the ability of God to work bad things out for good, and we have seen the spectrum of things that God is able to work out for good from the most evil act (the murder of Jesus) to the smallest thing (a weak prayer). Because of these things we can confidently say that we know that God causes all things to work together for good.

Grace and Peace

Romans 8:28 Part 2

“And we know that God cause all things to work together for good, to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28

In my last blog I set out to frame this great promise in its context to help reveal its great power and comfort. Today I want to address the huge topic of God bringing good out of bad.

This is a great promise because it necessarily implies that God is causing the bad things in your life to work out for your good. Think about it this way, if the promise was only that God is causing all the good things in your life to work out for your good there would be no promise, no power, and no comfort. Anyone can seemingly make good things work out for good.  Instead, we know that God causes all things to work together for our good.

This promise could not be more counter-intuitive. To illustrate this point the most common objection of the atheist is “Well if there is a God then why is there so much evil?” But anyone with a Bible can clearly see that God is in control of all things whether evil or good. In fact, I would argue that you could say the entire theme of the Bible (from Genesis 2 on) is God bringing good out of bad. Let me show you some classic texts.

{Below are a small sample of texts showing God bringing or working bad things out for good. The Red highlights the “bad” and the blue highlights the “good” that is brought about in light of the bad, because of the bad.}

 “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”   (Genesis 50:20 ESV)

 “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.” (Romans 5:3-5 ESV)

 “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6 ESV)

“’Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  ‘Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.'” (Matthew 5:10-12 ESV)

 “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,” (1 Peter 3:14 ESV)

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”   (James 1:2-4 ESV)

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV)

There are many more such texts but I think the point has been made. Not only does God promise to work things out for our good He is able to do so and He does it easily.

I am going to leave you with one question to help illustrate and drive this point home. But first you must answer this, What was the greatest act of evil ever committed? Can you think of it? Undoubtedly it is the scourging, spitting, slapping, dragging, blasphemous, cruel murder of Jesus the perfect God-man.

Here is the question I want to pose to you and leave you with, “Did any good come out of that great evil? Was God able to work that most venomous and personal attack on His own personhood, the murder of of His own Son, for good?”

The answer to that is astounding and greatly comforting. If God was able to work that out for good, and He was, then surely He is able to work all things in your life together for your good. I encourage you to meditate on that. I encourage you to take this promise with you moment by moment, event by event. May this truth greatly encourage you and cause you to love our great God and Savior all the more.

Grace and Peace.