PULPIT TODAY SERMON
By Robert D Pace
“All Things Work Together For Your Good!”
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God,to those who are called according to His purpose.” [NAS]
Romans 8:28 is a profound Scripture. And you can especially feel the strength of its structure when you inspect its five divisions . Listen again:
1. “And we know . . .” Means, we are fully convinced of this truth!
2. “that in all things . . .” This excludes nothing!
3. “God works . . .” Think about those two incredible words, “God works”! Say them loudly, God works! And He works with all his omnipotent and sovereign power!
4. “for the good . . .” Say these words quietly, “for the good.” This is the way the compassionate and merciful God prefers to work. He wants to work for the good of people. But, specifically, which people does God want to bless and favor? That’s what the fifth and final division identifies.
5. God “works for the good of those who love him, [for those] who have been called according to his purpose . . .” Christians are the beneficiaries of God’s goodness!
Do you see how God has assembled this Scripture? He strategically placed each word in this verse to assure Christians of his pleasure to work for their “good.” And it applies to every aspect of the Christian life. Regardless of what happens to you, God makes everything cooperate for your good!
(Transition) Let’s take a few minutes to look further at this Scripture. As we do, I want you to notice the last portion of this verse because, as I just noted, it identifies the recipients of God’s promise—Christians.
I. God’s Goodness Works for Believers
It’s important to understand what Romans 8:28 does not say: Paul did not say, “God works all things for the good of “all” people.” While God’s prevenient (“coming before”) grace works for the welfare of all humanity, causing “the sun to shine on the just and unjust,” God reserves a special grace of goodness for “those that love him and are called according to his purpose.”
This may sound unfair! Nevertheless, the Bible shows that in God’s infinite wisdom, he does indeed work for the good of some to the exclusion of others. But why? How can this be just and right? There is a good reason for this, so let’s see what it is:
The Blockades Against God’s Goodness
1. It is because sinners have willfully rejected God’s goodness! Romans 8:28 doesn’t reward those that break God’s commandments, persecute Christians, and seek their own interests. Roman’s 8:28 belongs to the Redeemed! And I’m glad it does.
(Insight) When I was in my twenties, I discovered two things that amazed Jesus: Faith and unbelief. And this is something that both sinners and Christians can do. Everyone can believe and everyone can disbelieve.
But but if you want to avoid missing out on God‘s goodness there are two things you should watch out for: They are: (1) Unbelief toward God, and (2) The Rejection of God’s working. Those two impediments—unbelief and rejection—will instantly halt the flow of God’s goodness into your life! I’ll illustrate both.
One day Jesus returned to his hometown to teach and minister, but the people were offended at his ministry. Matthew 13:58 says that Jesus could not work “many miracles there because of their unbelief.” The blockade of unbelief impeded the miracle-working mercy of Christ!
2. Notice what Rejection of God’s ways will do:
Now notice how rejecting Christ restricts his flow of goodness. It occurred in Gadara, where Jesus expelled about 6000 demons from one man called “Legion.” (Legion was a military term that identified 4200 to 6000 troops.) When Jesus dismissed the demons, they entered a herd of swine that then lunged into the waters. You would think the Jews of Gadara would have delighted in Christ decimating the pork industry of this vicinity. That’s because Moses’ Law forbade the Jews from eating pork. But Mark 5:17 says the people pleaded with “Jesus to leave their region”! Do you recall Christ’s reaction to their request? Did he say, “Oh please, let me stay! I’ll try a miracle of a different sort.” No! Mark shows that Jesus got into a boat and left them!
Always remember that God will release his goodness to those who obey and believe his Holy Word.
(Transition) Now let’s investigate God’s promise to make “all things” work for your good.
II. “All Things” Work For Your Good!
God says, if you’re on his side, then every event in life, from the least to the most significant, cooperates for your good, and nothing is permitted to happen contrary to that intention.
Notice: Romans 8:28 doesn’t say “all things are good.” Hatred and evil aren’t good; being afflicted or ridiculed by others isn’t enjoyable. What this statement says is: God creates “good” out of every circumstance.
The two words, “work together” mean: “to cooperate.” And as those words apply to Romans 8:28 they mean: God mysteriously coordinates everything happening to you—the adversity, mysteries, answered prayers, unanswered prayers, prosperity, setbacks, friends, and foes—with the command to work for your good! God actually demands all things to work for the good of his chosen people . . . all the time!
Now, that’s a mystery beyond human comprehension! We don’t understand how God’s providential mastery can craft and shape invents into something good; but he does. God knows how to make everything work for our good. And that means he even knows how to take Satan and his minions to work for our good!
(Illustration) Sometime back, I read the story of what halted the gladiatorial contests of Rome. Rome was supposedly Christianized, yet it forced its slaves and political prisoners to fight in Coliseums. But there was a monk named Almachius who wanted to stop the brutality, so he headed for the arena. Once Caesar arrived, the gladiators squared off. That’s when Almachius bolted onto the field and raised the cross of Christ. He separated the gladiators and shouted, “In the name of our Master stop fighting!” The entire arena fell silent. But moments later, mayhem erupted and the crowd began stoning Almachius. His body was then beaten to the floor, bludgeoned, and the people were left staring at his corpse. History says a feeling of revulsion sank into the crowd and without further fighting, the people dispersed. Before another contest could convene, the Emperor issued an edict that forbade all gladiatorial games. And it was all because a monk became a martyr and let God work for “the good” of others. Today, Almachius wears a martyr’s crown and will forever be blessed for his willingness to intervene.
Do you see a moral to this story that might apply to your life? Here’s what I see: Things don’t have to work out like we planned for God to work for our good! He works for our good even when we endure tough times!
(Illustration) When I was a kid, I had two horrific injuries that have affected me throughout my life. (Reap what you sow. I was young. I hadn’t sowed wild oats. No! To this day I have seen no purpose for these injuries. But one day, God will show me!
God Works for our Good when Life is Tough
Think about something: When it comes to making major decisions, we employ the “Pleasure Principle.” We compare the benefits with the costs; we consider what others will think about our choices; we consider how much pleasure it will bring us. Now, this isn’t always the wrong approach; but it can be!
The Bible calls Lot a “righteous man,” but he sure made some terrible choices. Lot longed for the lush, well-watered plains of Jordan rather than facing the challenge of cultivating Canaan. And the dwelling-place he chose for his family brought the death of his wife!
I wonder how many would be in this auditorium if, years ago, our spiritual ancestors had chosen the path of least resistance and not ventured out in faith to claim God’s best? Good things often occur when we’re willing to accept unknown consequences!
I wonder how long Rome would have continued its bloodletting in its Coliseums without that monk?
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had no clue whether they would live or die when they refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s image; but they were willing to trust God. And when Nebuchadnezzar saw the fire couldn’t consume these men he repealed his decree and an entire nation was delivered from worshiping a pagan god.
(Transition) You see, good things happen even when life gets tough! But good things also occur when we’re willing to accept unknown consequences!
God Works for our Good when the Future is Unknown
Namaan, the leprous General, didn’t understand why Elijah told him to dip in the Jordan River seven times in order to be cleansed, but he was healed when he obeyed!
I’m sure the Israelites didn’t understand God’s military strategy for defeating Jericho when he told them to silently circle it for seven days. But victory followed their obedience!
And what about the strange and odd things Jesus did immediately before manifesting his goodness to people?
He spit on his fingers and touched a man’s tongue in order to heal him.
He coated a blind man’s eyes with clay before restoring his sight.
He told his disciples to throw their nets on the opposite side of the boat if they wanted to catch fish.
The Bible repeatedly discloses how God does good things when people are willing to work with the mysterious ways of God.
(Illustration) I remember an unusual way God demonstrated this to me years back. I was preaching one hot, sweltering night, while preaching my sermon, I removed my jacket. While holding my jacket and before I could lay it down, the Holy Spirit said, “Strike both sides of the pulpit with your coat.” I instantly thought: If I do this everyone in the auditorium will think I’m weird! And when I obeyed, they probably did think my “striking the pulpit” demonstration was absurd! Anyway, after the message, the altars filled with seekers. Among them was a visitor to the church that walked up on the platform wanting me to pray for him. I was totally surprised at this man’s response. The man, far from being “in the Spirit,” responded to the prayer by ramming into the pulpit that sat atop a high platform. His antics sent that pulpit spiraling toward those worshiping in the altar. But as Providence would have it, God had placed a 6’3”, 250-pound man, right in front of the pulpit. And all he did was hold out his hands, catch that weighty pulpit and replace it with skillful ease!
Do you know why God moves people to do strange things—like striking the pulpit during a sermon? Do you know why he veils his work in mystery before manifesting his goodness? It’s God’s way of building faith within us. When we step out by faith in small things, and witness God’s working, it builds faith to believe him for greater things.
(Illustration) Through the years, I have occasionally employed the services of chiropractors to help alleviate some aches. Here’s what I’ve discovered about medical care. Like Jesus sometimes demonstrated, there’s a process that’s attached to obtaining relief and not always an instantaneous cure. And that process demands that we, the patient, trust the doctor’s expertise. As I’ve visited a chiropractic clinic I’ve said, “The lower back is the problem,” or “I have stiffness in my neck.” Now generally, here’s the doctor’s procedure: He says, “First, lie on this table and let this machine message your back.” (I’m ready for that!) After several minutes he moves me to another room and asks me to lie on my side. And I think, ‘okay, no problem.’ Then he says, “Now, bend your right leg.” I say to myself, “A little strange, but he knows what he’s doing.” Then he says, “Alright, now cross your arms.” And now I’m on the verge of needing a second opinion! From there, he proceeds to bend over my twisted skeleton and simultaneously grab about six different places of my body and suddenly squeeze! And guess what? A tingling sensation runs up my spine and creeps into the base of my neck and relief starts.
Do you see the issue here? It’s trust! The doctor is saying, “Trust me, I’m credentialed for this.” And that’s what Christ is saying when he pokes his hand into our life and churns us up with unexplainable mystery. He’s saying, “If you’ll trust me, something good will happen!”
We want God to show us “the end from the beginning,” but that’s not how God solves our difficulties. Psalm 9:10 says those “who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.”
We want to know all the possibilities and variables, but Proverbs 3:5 says: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not unto your own understanding but in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.”
Before we make the journey, we want God to promise a trip without trouble, but that doesn’t always happen. The answer is found in John 14:1 where Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.”
Good things occur when we’re willing to trust God and accept unknown consequences!
But do you know what really vexes us? Situations that never make sense—events that remain mysteries even years after they occur! That’s what vexes us. It took years before the Romans understood the meaning of that monk’s death in their colosseum. And making sense of random acts of violence or rape, or an unexpected divorce, or abandonment, plane crashes, car wrecks or terminal diseases may never be deciphered until we arrive in Heaven.
We like to say, “Hindsight is 20-20”; but it’s not. Some parts of life will never be decoded. Romans 8:28 doesn’t say, ‘And we completely comprehend everything happening to us.’ The Bible is filled with God working in ways that totally mystified people. But “mystery” is part of the process that builds faith. Some things will remain mysteries until we reach the shining shores of Heaven.
What Romans 8:28 does say we can understand is this: God commands “everything that touches us to operate for our good.” That means, if God allows something to pass your way; he will work it for your good. God is always working in your behalf!
Robert D Pace