Hope in Adversity: All things for Good (Romans 8.28-30)

– Bishop Stephen Hale

The climax of Romans 8 is one of the most majestic in the whole of the Scriptures. It starts with verse 28, which is one of the best known verses in the whole of the Scriptures. As John Stott says, ‘On it believers of every age and place have stayed their minds. It has been likened to a pillow on which to rest our weary heads.’(p.246)

At present all us have weary heads. Even if we’re not doing very much (due to Stage 4) there is so much tension around. This is true at the community level and also the local level of our own households and families.

As Paul puts, ‘and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purposes’(v28).

Paul is making a huge claim here. In all things, God is at work for the good of those who love him. One of my little quips is, ‘somehow how God is in control.’ By faith we know and trust that in all things God is at work for our good. In all things, somehow, God is in control. I think all of us can reflect upon times in our lives when it wasn’t in any way clear that God was at work for our good or that somehow, he was in control.

So, what is Paul affirming here?

  1. God works and that work is in our lives. The God of the universe is invested in and interested in us and our lives!
  2. God is at work for the good of his people. He himself is wholly good and wants what is good for his followers.
  3. God works for our good in all things. This includes the sufferings referred to in verse 17 and the groanings (v23) we reflected on last week. Nothing is beyond being used by God for his good.
  4. God works for those who love him. God’s providential plan and purpose is the completion of our salvation. This is a lot more than ‘all’s well that ends well’.
  5. Those who love God are those who are called according to his purpose. Their love for him is in response to his love for them. As disciples we are people who have been called, we have a purpose and we share in God’s mission in God’s world.

Paul says we know these things. We don’t always know the details of why what is happening today is happening today. But we do know that somehow our lives are caught up in something much bigger and we can trust God as we cope with what we’re living through at present. There are many mysteries, but there is also much to be confident in and about. Just think of Joseph who was abandoned by his brothers in the desert. As he said, ‘you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good…the saving of many lives.’

On top of all this Paul lists five undeniable truths.

  • God’s foreknowledge
  • God’s predestination
  • God’s calling
  • God’s justification
  • God’s glorification.

Space doesn’t permit me to go into each of these in any detail,  but they are remarkable truths.

Today, this week, this unprecedented year, next year and beyond, know that ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him, and who have been called according to his purpose.’