“Consider it pure joy, … whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” —James 1:2-3
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
All things are not good. It would be mockery to say that they are. The death of a child is not good. Cancer is not good, drug addiction is not good, war is not good, blasphemy is not good.
But the Bible says, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”(1) In the chemistry of the cross God takes things that, in and of themselves, are bad, and He puts them together, much as a chemist might take chemicals that, in and of themselves, may be deleterious and mixes them to make a medicine that brings healing.
Many of us have some salt with our meals. Table salt is made up of both sodium and chloride. By itself, sodium is a deadly poison, and so is chloride. Put them together, and you have table salt. Salt flavors food, and a certain amount of salt is necessary for health and life. We cannot live without some salt in our systems.
God can take things that are bad and put them in the crucible of His wisdom and love. He works all things together for good, and He gives us the glorious, wonderful promise that He will do so.
We know that we have victory over sin and over Satan, but this verse in Romans teaches us that we also have victory over our circumstances. It says that all things work together for good.
I want to point out five things about this promise in Romans 8:28 so that we can see how God works together to help us rise above our circumstances.
The first thing is the certainty of the promise. Notice how the verse begins: “We know.”(1) This is not conjecture, this is not happenstance, this is not perhaps, this is not maybe; this is ironclad certainty. “We know that all things work together for good”(1)–it’s not a hope, not a vague opinion.
Sometimes it may look as if God’s plan ebbs and flows, but in God’s timing His plan will be high tide. We can be certain. We live by His promises.
The second thing is the completeness of the promise: “We know that all things work together for good.”(1) That’s a big promise, but it’s there, and it’s absolutely certain.
God is a teacher who, by our standards, seems strange. He gives the test first, and then He gives the lesson. We learn through affliction. Think about Joseph in the Bible. Think of all the terrible things that happened to Joseph. He was maligned by his brothers. He was thrown into a pit and sold as a slave; he was lied about and accused of rape. Then he languished in prison.
But Joseph, as he looked back, said something that is much like Romans 8:28. Talking to his brothers, Joseph said, “As for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”(2)
The third thing is the cause of the promise: “We know that all things work together for good.”(1) But don’t get the idea that things inherently, in and of themselves, automatically work for good. Greek scholars tell us that literally the verse says, “We know that God works all things together for good.”
In his Letter to the Ephesians Paul clarifies this point: “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.”(3) If there were not a God in glory, there would not be the promise of Romans 8:28 in the Bible.
God is not dead. He is alive and well. He’s not sick. He’s not worn out. He’s not even old. It is God who made this promise. He is the cause of it.
The fourth thing is the condition of the promise. It’s not axiomatic, it’s not automatic. The promise has a condition. What is the condition? “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.”(1) If you don’t love God, you can’t claim this promise. The condition is that we must be lovers of God. Haters of God cannot claim this promise.
Some people may be able to sing better than we can sing. Others may be able to teach better than we can teach, preach better than we can preach, lead better than we can lead, give more than we can give. But can we love God? That above all other things pleases and honors God. The first and great commandment is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”(4)
The fifth thing is the purpose of the promise. It is about those who are called according to His purpose. What is His purpose? In Romans 8:28-29 we read, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.”(5)
That’s the key. What is the good that all things are working together for? To make us like Jesus. To be conformed to the image of His Son. There is no higher good than to be like the Lord Jesus Christ.
Many times this promise has been trivialized. For example, someone may be driving down the road and a tire will blow out. The person may say, “Oh, well, the Bible says that ‘all things work together for good.'(1) Maybe there’s a sale on tires.” That isn’t what this verse means. The good is not to make us necessarily healthy or happy but to make us holy, to make us like Jesus. If the goal of our lives is not to be like Jesus, that goal is too small. Our goal must be to be conformed to the image of God’s Son.
We may go through many dangers, toils and snares, but one day we will be like the Lord Jesus Christ.
Whatever the circumstances that come to us, we can rely on God’s promise in Romans 8:28. No matter our circumstances, no one can take this verse out of the Bible–and may Satan never take it out of your heart.
(1) Romans 8:28, KJV. (2) Genesis 50:20, KJV. (3) Ephesians 1:11, KJV. (4) Matthew 22:37, KJV. (5) Romans 8:28-29, KJV.
This article is taken by permission from “Rising Above Your Circumstances,” by Adrian Rogers, a seminar at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, outside Asheville, North Carolina. ©2002 Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Bible verse marked NIV is taken by permission from The Holy Bible, New International Version, copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, Colorado Springs, Colorado.