“All things work together for good, you know.”

That scriptural sentiment has been tossed around so flippantly that for some it has become cliché. Too often a well-meaning person has mindlessly uttered these words by the sickbed of a friend, or the casket of a friend’s loved one. Others, seeking comfort and hope in a season of suffering, have quoted these words almost as an accusation to God. “If all things work together for ‘good’, why won’t you grant the good I’m asking you for right now?”

There is a problem with the way the scripture is understood both by would-be comforters and by comfort-seekers.  “Good” for many is synonymous with comfort, ease and the absence of struggle. But the “good” in Romans 8:28 is clearly defined in the words that follow. Let’s review the text:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 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.

You see, the “good” (v. 28a) is further defined as consistent with the “purpose” of God (v. 28b). This purpose is clearly identified in v. 29: God is working to make each of His children to become like His one beloved Son, Jesus. We are being “conformed to His image.” This work of conforming is the good God is up to – and one day it will be complete (“. . .when he appears we will be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:2).

So is God working all things together for good? Count on it! When he grants the requests I make in prayer, He does so to make me more like Jesus. When he denies the requests I pray, He does so to make me more like Jesus. When he allows sunshine or rain or blessing or pain into my life, He is using it all to make me more like Jesus.

As I become more and more like Jesus, then God is pleased because He receives greater glory and praise. All things really are working together for good – the greatest good – the good of Jesus being seen, known, and loved in the world.

About Sam Harbin
I am the President of Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, PA as well as the Chair and Professor of Pastoral Theology.

One Response to “All things work together for good, you know.”

  1. Jonathan Bach says:

    Thanks Sam – appreciate the simple reminder – cutting through the volumes of words that might have been said.

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