Friday, January 11, 2013

And We Know

This week each member of our Students International staff was invited to ask God for a verse to focus on for the year.  The verse that has been on my mind for the past couple of months is Romans 8:28:
“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. 
It was a part of a sermon I was privileged to preach to my church family while I was in the U.S.  It’s been playing through my mind as I’ve looked back on the past year of life and ministry here in the D.R. 
Even though this verse has been playing over and over again, I hesitated to make it THE verse.  Why?  Well, it’s a bit goofy to admit, but I was hoping for something ‘deeper’.   
You see, this verse was one I held close when I was much (MUCH!) younger.  Father, surely at 45 I’m ready for a ‘meaty’ verse, not the same ‘milk’ one I devoured when I was a pre-teen!
But, as I continued to ponder it, I discovered just how much depth and ‘meatiness’ is there!  Paul says ‘And we know’.  Not,’ we hope’ or ‘we think’, but ‘we know’.  To me, that signifies assurance and confidence in this truth as a fact. 
What would it look like to live in a way that faces each situation with a sure knowledge that God is at work for our good?  Not waiting until the storm passes, but declaring this truth as the ground itself crumbles under us?    
Now, I know, sometimes Christians can take this verse and misinterpret it to imply that we are to call Bad stuff Good.  There are really bad things that are happening in lives right now.  We do a disservice to each other when we try to ‘spiritualize’ and minimize the pain and suffering of another.    
Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him.  The cross itself was not ‘good’ or a ‘joy’!  Instead, Jesus could endure because of what God was going to do in it, through His sacrifice.  This is our hope and assurance, as well.  
Jesus was called according to God’s purpose and was faithful, but that did not take away the ‘badness’ of being tortured to death and having His Father turn away as Jesus became sin.
The good news is not that bad things, terrible, painful, torturous, nonsensical, confusing, overwhelming things, are good.  The good news is that if God was at work in the gore of Calvary, redeeming us, washing us clean in His Son’s blood, He surely is at work in our lives, too.  

As His disciples, the world needs to hear us saying, “God, I know you are at work for our good” not when everything is peachy keen, but in the middle of the very worst of times.
For me, this is where I hear God’s invitation for the year.  To turn from my ‘milk’ way of using this verse – out of the valley, looking back and tracing God’s hand – to a ‘meat’ way of using it as a declaration when everything around me seems to be falling apart and I cannot see at all.

And so, my verse for this year is Romans 8:28.  My corresponding goal?  Getting to the place where my first response to all things – the really awesome ones, and the things that make no sense whatsoever… That my first response is, “God, I trust You, and I know, I truly know, You are at work right here, right now, for my good and Your glory.”
Father, thank you for Your invitation, Your challenge, to put my trust in You no matter what may be happening around me. 

Thank you, Jesus, for enduring the cross.  I can have joy because of what You endured.  Help me to endure.
Holy Spirit, give me Your words to declare to this broken and hurting world the truth that because of Jesus, we can know that God is at work in all things.

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