DO ALL THINGS REALLY WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD?

26 Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because7 the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,8 for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:26-30)

 I’d like to begin by quoting from my son-in-law’s Facebook page.

 Two years ago, today I almost lost my wife...but God had other plans. His ways are always best! I love you, Grace :)

 Ivan is not a Facebook guy. He only began ‘Facebooking’ when Grace, my daughter (then barely 23 and married only 11 months) was almost killed by a careless, neglectful driver who ran a 6 second old red stoplight at a major intersection, running my daughter down, shattering her body, giving her traumatic brain injury from blunt force trauma to her right frontal lobe (hope of personality, intellect, and other higher executive functions) also occluding her right carotid artery, resulting in two debilitating strokes on her right parietal and occipital hemispheres of her brain.

 As a result, her brain injuries, Grace has developed a rare form of life-threatening epilepsy that is largely untreatable and complicated. Ivan turned to Facebook to keep family and friends updated on her progress rather than fielding tons of phone calls. He wrote the statement above on the two-year anniversary of her accident. Today, while aspects of her recovery remain near miraculous, she is largely housebound and susceptible to seizure due to light sensitivity. She also had to learn to walk again (and talk and think). If you want to learn more about them and their lives, click here:  https://walkingwithgraceweb.com/

 Grace’s life (and Ivan’s for that matter), as well as my life and the life of our family will never, ever be the same. Due to the complexities of her condition I can only visit Grace for about 30 minutes a week, tops. Her injuries, complications, and medications will abbreviate her life.

 All of this begs the question: “Do all things really work together for good to those who love God, really?” People have asked that question of me directly, as a pastor and her dad, both verbally and silently as I continue the ministry here at Hillside Church in San Jose. I was only 5 months into “the job” when she was struck and was forced to commute back and forth and preach on weekends until we could move, she and Ivan up here. My family was in SoCal for 5 months and I was here in the Bay Area. A tough row to hoe.

 What was God thinking. Where was God? I have to confess, I’ve never been angry at God, not for one minute. Neither has Grace. Neither has Ivan, to my knowledge. Why? In short: the big picture. God causes all things to work together for good. And knowing God’s character and clinging to that knowledge like a life raft has been something like my salvation. It’s kept me focused on the big picture.

 Don’t get me wrong. It stinks that my daughter had this accident. Every day is not an easy day. In fact, no days since then have been easy days. I feel older, more tired, and sometimes bone weary. I’m sure Grace, Ivan, Teri, and Anna do too. But as a family, we try and kept hold of the larger picture. God has used this apparent tragedy in a number of ways and ministered to a lot of people through Grace’s suffering. Moreover, “All things work together for good” is not some New Age, or Eastern, mantra. And it’s not some stand-alone Bible verse that anyone should carelessly take out of context. Our strength comes from its meaning and context.

 Let’s consider the passage and its context.

 26 Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because7 the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,8 for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:26-30)

 We cling to what is true, fact rather than feeling:

  1. Verse 26 reminds us (as Jesus promised) we are never alone. The Holy Spirit is in us and with us forever, bearing witness to the fact that God is with us.

  2. Verse 27 reminds us that the Spirit of God not only assures us we are God’s but guides our thoughts and prayers as we seek the Father in prayer, according to the will of God.

  3. Verse 28 reminds us of what is true. Our suffering is not wasted. God, who is sovereign, has a plan for each and every person’s momentary and brief life. We were saved by grace according to the purposes of God to do the works of God, created in Christ Jesus, that we should walk in them (also see Ephesians 2:8-10). Not every path is an easy one. Not all of our callings are the same.

  4. Verses 29 and 30 is the “why” to our peace—my peace. It keeps things in perspective. This life is short, really short, and eternity is long. And eternity is what ultimately counts. God is conforming us to the image of His Son. That’s not a bad thing. Moreover, Grace (and Ivan’s) eternities are secure. As real Christ-followers, we will all spend eternity together with the Savior, in heaven. That’s the sure thing.

 Whether we are rich or poor in this life, well or unwell, whole or disabled, does not matter, really. Life is short on planet earth. Whether a person lives to see 30 or 90, in the scheme of eternity it’s all a wisp of smoke or a mist on a hill dispersed by sunlight and wind. 500,000 years from now we’ll all still be together whole, no longer seeing through a mirror dimly but we shall see Him as He is. And we will see each other as we shall be, with new bodies and callings in our heavenly home, together forever.

 I just finished preaching through the Sermon on the Mount. We are called to lay up treasure in heaven rather than on earth. The stuff of earth doesn’t last. It’s all gone in the blink of an eye or the changing of a light from green to yellow to red to green.

 My peace if found in verses 29-30 and what it says about God implicitly and explicitly. Look again.

29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:26-30)

 Here is found the reality that enables us to see clearly through the ‘fog of war’ in this fallen world.

  •  Those whom God foreknew will be predestined to salvation (vv. 29-30a).

  • Those whom God predestined God called to Himself (v. 30b).

  • Those whom God called God justified/saved (v. 30c).

  • And those whom God saved are as good as glorified already (v. 30d).

My daughter is safe in the arms of God and we will move through this trial into our heavenly home where every tear, every pain, and every hardship will be wiped away. And there we will all be (Teri, Grace, Ivan, Anna, and I) together always… Always whole, always safe, always at peace; always with joy—always with Jesus. Life is good.

 Now, I’m certain some of you may find cause to disagree with me theologically. That’s too bad. And for those who struggle with this concept of God’s sovereignty in all things—even our salvation—I’ll spend a moment showing you what I mean. Look at verses 29-30. It all comes down to a proper understanding of foreknowledge.

 Foreknowledge has to do with intent now knowing the future. God does not simply know what will come to pass. He ordains it. Foreknowledge in both the OT and NT sense has to do with Him setting His heart among His people. He ordains who will be saved from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8 and Matthew 25:34).

 All those God foreknow God predestined to salvation. And those He predestined to save He called. And all He called He justified. All He called He saved. And those He saved, each and every single one, will be glorified with Him in heaven. That’s good news. There’s hope and peace and consolation in that.

 Imagine if foreknowledge had to do with simply knowing the future, like knowing who would be saved and who would not. Then our passage would make no sense at all and God would be powerless at His core:

  • Some He foreknew He predestined.

  • Some He predestined He called.

  • Some He called He justified.

  • Some He justified He glorified.

Now if all He knew about were saved, there’d be no need for a savior. Then everyone would be saved. That’s not how it works.

 It works this way:

  • All He foreknew, all He purposed to save, He predestined.

  • All He predestined He called (each and every one).

  • All He called He justified (no one slips through His fingers).

  • All He justified He glorified (God does not lose one of them—John 17:12).

 Both my daughters embraced Christ as young girls. They have loved God and loved on Christ throughout their lives since then. And no one can rip them from the Father’s hand (John 10:28-30). Ultimately, all things work together for good for them because their salvation set their eternity and every trial between salvation and home-going is to bring glory to God, good to others, and growth to them. And then after running the race, they will receive the ultimate gift of God’s grace and we will all spend eternity together. Not because we were special but because God is gracious and good—and sovereign. My peace of mind comes from knowing Him and knowing that He is bigger than all my hurts and fears—He’s got His children in His hand for all eternity. And there is peace and contentment and sanity in knowing that because one knows God. There’s more to say. Next time. But it’s true: All things really do work together for good!