Romans 8:28-29. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, 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.
Romans 8:28 has been called a “pillow for the weary heart.” It’s a verse that if you have been a Christian for more than a minute or two you’ve probably heard. Maybe you’ve quoted it. Or maybe you’ve had it quoted at you. Some people find it cliche. Like “God is good.” “All the time.”
But the truth is Romans 8:28 is quite possibly the most glorious promise that we have in all of scripture. It should never be cliche. It should be claimed every day and poured deep into our weary hearts and souls.
This week we’ve been moving backwards through Romans 8:28-29. Here’s what we’ve seen so far:
in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers – God’s ultimate purpose is to have a family – sons for himself, and siblings for Jesus. All to the glory of the Trinity.
those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son – God is restoring humanity through our union with Christ. We are being changed into the likeness of Christ by the Spirit, by grace, and by glory.
Because of these two truths, we can claim this promise:
we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Because we are destined to live forever in God’s family, as his sons and daughters…we know.
Because we have been and are being gloriously transformed into the same likeness as Christ…we know.
Because our future is this secure, this grand, this holy, this spectacular…we know.
If we know the outcome of our lives (and we do), then we know that everything leading up to that final outcome, if God is in control (and he is), must contribute to that final outcome – the conforming of our lives to Christ’s life.
All things. The infinitely seen and unseen. Known and unknown. It all contributes to our transformation into the sons and daughters of God who image Christ. And listen, all things means ALL THINGS. Successes. Failures. Sufferings. Groanings. The good. The bad. The ugly. Even when we sin, God turns it into part of the equation for our conformation into Christ.
It’s kind of like that scene in Terminator 2 where you think Arnold (Terminator) is trying to kill young John Connor, but actually… it’s all good.
How is this possible? God. Good is who he is and what he does. He takes everything that is futile or purposeful, worthy or unworthy, right or wrong, and transforms it into the good. The ultimate good – the image of Christ in us, his ultimate creation. This is the sovereign providence of God at work. This is why we can trust him and declare him to be good in all things – because his goal for us is good. It is Christ. This should fill us with great gratitude and faith in God. Without him, nothing would ever work out for this ultimate good. All would end in meaninglessness. Without him we would be at the mercy of fate. But instead we are IN the mercy of God.
Please note that this verse doesn’t say “all things are good.” Nope. As you know, many things in this life are very bad, even for Christians. Christians experience all the same things, good and bad, that everyone else does. But the promise of this verse is that all things, from the senseless tragedy, to the planned out evil, God will use to change us. But this does NOT change the thing itself. It is still futility. It is still evil.
This verse does not make suffering good. It does not make it something to be embraced or sought after. But it does mean that we no longer have to despair in our suffering. We no longer need to doubt God’s love for us. The cross proves this. Our union with Christ proves this. In Christ, now everything has meaning. Everything serves his purpose when you are called according to his purpose. When you are called to being conformed to Christ.
When you love God, when you are in his family, he WILL work it out for your ultimate good, your ultimate growth, your ultimate glory. Nothing is an accident. Nothing is random. All worry and fear can melt away. The plan of God has not been thwarted by our mistakes, our sins, or our suffering.
“To live is Christ” means we know it all works out in the end. Is that a cliche? Maybe. But it’s a really really good one.
Here’s some real cliches: