As I shared yesterday, my verse for 2013 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.
This morning I was thinking about the phrase ‘for the good’. God is at work, Paul says, for the good of those who love Him. What is ‘the good’? Is it having a smooth and easy life? Jesus said He came to give us ‘abundant’ life. The problem I have is that I think I have the right to define what that abundance should look like, and then complain when it doesn’t.
The Heidelberg Catechism defines the good as ‘my salvation’ (Lord’s Day 1, Question 1). Having been raised in the Christian Reformed Church I love this centuries old document, and find so much truth in it. I ‘rediscovered’ it late last year. If you’ve never read it, I encourage you to check it out!
But, with all due respect to the Heidelberg, I think we need to go a bit further than ‘my salvation’. God is at work in individual lives, absolutely, but He has a larger purpose. In Revelation 7:9 John sees some from every tribe, tongue, language and nation. My good is not just about me and my personal salvation.
If I love God, I will desire what He desires. And that is so much bigger than me. So, sometimes, what for me personally may not look ‘good’ – pain, suffering, disappointments, struggles – may be at work for someone else’s good.
While Paul does not say that in this particular verse, if we look at what he went through for the sake of the Gospel, a lot of it definitely didn’t seem much good for him. Being flogged, beaten, ship-wrecked, imprisoned…
It is important to remember that all of this happened after Jesus met him on the Damascus Road! We have this notion that once we’ve accepted Christ, the bad stuff should fade away. The Bible seems to say the exact opposite. It’s after finding salvation that the trials begin.
But, because God is so amazing, if we are obedient, if we seek His kingdom first, He blesses us with all we truly need. Not the things we think we need – and that’s part of growing in Him. As we seek His kingdom, our very definition of ‘need’ tends to change.
There are Christ-followers living under severe persecution right now. For the sake of their Savior, they have got to a point where they don’t even see being alive as a ‘need’. Oh, to get to that place! When whether I live or die is not what matters, but only Jesus!!
My life, my true eternal life, is hid in Christ. That kind of assurance should make me willing and able to accept some less-than-good things in my life here on earth if through them someone else’s life can be transformed. What could be more ‘good’ for me to do? (Yes, terrible grammar!!)
Serving Jesus is the best way I can spend my life. He bought me with a price, and so He has the right to ask anything of me. Again, because of how amazing He is, it truly does do me ‘good’ to pour myself out. Not good as the world might define it, but good because it’s what the Person I love most desires.
As I continue to explore this verse, I pray that I will stop looking at myself and how the particular circumstances in my life are impacting me. Instead, I pray that as the tough stuff happens, I will look up past me, and eagerly anticipate how God will use it to work in someone else’s life. That really will be ‘for the good’!