Apologetics: ə-pŏl'ə-jĕt'ĭks from the Greek απоλоγία Def: The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines.

God's Purpose, Platitudes & Silver Linings

♫ ♪ Que Sera Sera ♪ ♫ . . .

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 21 April 2009

“Give yourself permission not to know and be satisfied knowing the One who does.”
~ by Joyce Meyer, I Dare You

Because ". . . we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) In context, the Apostle Paul wrote these words to Christians in Rome who had to have been beside themselves wondering whether God was really even hearing their prayers in the midst of some very real suffering and affliction.

Doesn’t every Christian sometimes wonder that same thing? Yet, Romans 8:28 is very clear: in everything God works for good. Paul wanted the believers to give themselves permission not to know -- not to understand their suffering -- and simply be satisfied knowing the One who does know and does understand?

Period. End of explanation. But I’d be quite a foolish teacher and writer to stop there.

So here we go: It would do us well to skip verse 28 entirely until we fully understand verse 29. When you start with Romans 8:28 -- or worse yet, use it as a solo verse -- you run the risk of turning profound Biblical truth into a trite piece of conventional wisdom.

I’ve heard many Christians mumble Romans 8:28 as a capsule of encouragement for life’s problems – sort of a theological version of the proverbial saying that “in every cloud there’s a silver lining.”

To reduce Romans 8:28 to conventional wisdom would be to do a terrible injustice to Paul’s teaching and to rob God’s Word of its truth. Open the door with me to a better understanding:

Romans 8:29: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” See, God is at work among us -- He has been for centuries -- and He is in absolute control. He will bring about His intended purpose. The eternal plan will unfold. But make no mistake; this does not mean that God plays with our lives like puppets for His Divine amusement. Neither does it mean that God is “letting be what will be.” (♫ ♪ Que Sera Sera ♫)

Not at all. God has an eternal plan and He is working to bring about his saving purpose -- that is, to conform Christians to the image of his Son Jesus.

Think about the life of Jesus. He died a cruel death between two criminals for me. And for you. And THAT is the journey on which the sovereign God is taking us . . . a Death to Self.

Becoming in Christ’s image is by no means a glorious thing -- only light and love and good thoughts (good grief!). Rather becoming in Christ's image is something that happens in the everyday depths near which we always always find ourselves: stressed out, sick, facing tragedy, suffering, confused, brokenhearted, hopeless, helpless . . . .

True: There's really not a lot of optimism here. It’s not as if “all things work together for good” means that there is some small increment of good that is always being worked out in spite of appearances. (A silver lining behind every cloud . . . ) That would be false hope. God’s Word does not do that.

When we start with Romans 8:29 and know that it is the image of Christ to which we are being conformed, it keeps us from reducing 8:28 to the idea that there is a hidden good in our present suffering and the evil that surrounds us. It prevents that “every cloud has a silver lining” kind of thinking.

God’s eternal purpose is infinitely wider and deeper than silly platitudes that everything will be all right. God’s eternal purpose is not separate from but encompassing of our suffering and confusion. God’s eternal purpose uses even the worst that sin, death, and Satan have to give us in order to bring about His eternal purpose.

What sustains us in our present suffering and confusion is to know our prospect of a future glory and to know for certain that God is fulfilling His eternal purpose in our lives yet today. . . but in His time.

“Give yourself permission not to know and be satisfied knowing the One who does.”
~ by Joyce Meyer, I Dare You


~ Esthermay Bentley-Goossen
© 2009 The Heart of a Pastor's Wife




This installment of InOtherWords is hosted by Nina on her blog, Mama’s Little Treasures.

22 comments:

Denise said...

Amen my friend, amen.

Barbara said...

Honestly, I've never looked at Romans 8:28 this way. Awesome Lesson.

Petra said...

This is a great lesson. When you make it 'printable' ? Can I use this in my Bible Study Class? Pass it out? This is so timely for me right now.

Laurie Ann said...

Very interesting take on this quote. I love how putting the verse in context really applies here. Thanks for sharing!

MiPa said...

Great post! I want my Scripture to have meaning, not trite comfort. This shows the depth of the meaning Paul was sharing. Bless you for sharing.

Debbie said...

Knowing that He has an eternal purpose is good enough for me. His ways are higher than mine and I need to trust Him.

This was a wonderful teachable moment and you don't let those moments get by you. I love that!

You're so right; taking one verse can lead to misinterpretation. This was great how you wove Scripture together as it is to be.

Jesus didn't promise us a life of ease. We shouldn't be surprised that we go through suffering to conform us to the image of Christ. I just want to learn quickly so He can mold me quicker. Sigh ...I guess in His good time, right?

kalopoieo said...

Amen. you won't get away with this teaching in most churches today. Suffering and seeing it as part of God's all-knowing plan just doesn't match up with our "Best Life Now," does it!
As always you write with wonderful discernment. Taking verses out of context has eternal consequence. Taking verses in their proper context is rich and edifying. Thank you for always staying true to God's Word.

Sharlyn Guthrie said...

You said, "becoming in Christ's image is something that happens in the everyday depths near which we always always find ourselves: stressed out, sick, facing tragedy, suffering, confused, brokenhearted, hopeless, helpless..."

I couldn't agree more. I love the depth of your posts, and the understanding of Scripture and knowledge of the Father that comes shining through.

Love and blessings to you today!

Esthermay said...

Petra:
Yes.

Patricia said...

So true - "is infinitely wider and deeper than silly platitudes that everything will be all right." God is not a lucky rabbits foot to keep us from all evil.

Kate said...

Esthermay, You write: "When you start with Romans 8:28 -- or worse yet, use it as a solo verse -- you run the risk of turning profound Biblical truth into a trite piece of conventional wisdom."

You've put into words a thought I've felt for some time. This was very good. thanks.

Karen said...

We shouldn't need to be reminded about what God promises us but we do. Guilty as charged myself. A promise like Rom 8:28 isn't one we should take lightly. We need to take it tightly, tightly in our hearts as we wrap our arms tightly around our Lord and hang on for the ride.

Susan said...

Powerful!!!! Love your take on this quote.

God’s eternal purpose is infinitely wider and deeper than silly platitudes that everything will be all right.Amen and Amen!!!

Thanks Esthermay♥

Rhonda said...

YES, this is true.

Crown of Beauty said...

Thank you for linking this post to what I wrote about "gracious uncertainty." Yes, we always need to give ourselves permission not to know, and God does not really owe us an explanation.

Your heart is a well of wisdom. I thank God for the encouragement that you give.

TRUTH SHARER said...

I'm a day late - but actually God's perfect timing for me to read this Word today and a mighty WORD OF THE LORD it is for me THIS DAY!! God has been speaking volumes! It's all about His timing! And right now..... I'm in the 'WAIT' mode!

A place where I need 'a passion for patience'. [courtesy of Beth Moore - Esther study]

WRT: 'everything's gonna be alright..." - I ask you - "What if it's not?" God is in it - either way. He can turn the 'not alright' - into a 'good thing' if it's surrendered to Him amd left to His timing and His perfect work! And... all for kingdom purpose!

Choosing JOY,
Stephanie
[kneeling in prayer]

LauraLee Shaw said...

As always, deep, thought-provoking, honest. Anointed. Wow.

Betsy Markman said...

Great teaching! I've heard people get frustrated because they had to stop at red lights, and they say, "Oh well, maybe God was saving me from a car accident down the road." Then one day someone asked me, "How many car accidents could He possibly be saving me from?" She was upset because she could see the ridiculousness of that view of Rom. 8:28, but she couldn't see an alternative. It never occurred to her that the "red lights" of our lives help us grow in patience and in the kind of love that yields to others...in other words, to grow in Christlikeness...if we let them! And that is a far greater good than being spared endless potential car accidents!

Thanks for this article.

Michelle Bentham said...

Esthermay,

I think sometimes in the quoting of Romans 8:28 we also miss the "called according to His purpose" and "for His glory."

What is good? Being conformed to the image of Christ, matured in our knowledge of Him through our experiences and His Word is good. Revelation is good. God does work all things for our good - does that mean our lives will be all roses, peaches and cream... No and anyone who reads this verse with that idea has missed the rest of the Bible entirely - in the end we will be better for our experiences tough and not so tough when our focus is discovering and allowing God to reveal His glory in our lives. He has to be our focus... But, more than that He works all things for His glory. I often tell people "[This] is bad [hard, ugly, messy, etc - maybe even a little stupid], but God knew this day was coming and His will is to work it out for our good AND His glory." In this context, you can never... NEVER... Separate the two --- in this context our good does not come without His glory. Without His plan. It is the very reason a prostitute and a Moabite ended up in the lineage of our Lord.

I told my cousin this week. This was not what you planned for, you didn't ask for it and it's true this is just painful, messy and hard... But at times like this we can only trust that God knew this day was coming and He has a plan for it. At times when things don't make sense I have to trust God more. When I pray Romans 8:28 I ask, "Would You turn this for our good and so Your glory can be revealed?"

We must never trivialize the word of God by trivializing the wounds and sinfulness of His people with cliches and trite expressions of Scripture meant to cover our own inadequacies rather than minister to the needs of others.

Whatever will be will be... doesn't agree with Jeremiah 29:11 or Genesis 40:20 where Joseph told his brothers "...what you meant for evil God has turned to good."

It just means God isn't ever at rest or conjuring up a tragedy just to see how we will react. Instead everything He allows to pass into our lives He does in order to teach, correct, and bring us fully into His will. What is our purpose that we would be ambassadors, a reflection of His nature and character on earth and we would be evidence of His existence, His redemption, His love and His grace to others.

We can always find a Scripture taken out of context to back a bad position. We must seek to know the Truth that sets us free, not just settle for the occasional trite expression to bandage a moment.

Blessing and Love. Obviously you made me think!

sara said...

I have come by here MANY times to read this latest post and before I could finish something would call me away. It was frustrating. Now I know why, I needed to hear it TODAY!

thanks EM!!!

Alleluiabelle said...

WOW! This touched me deeply. To quote you: "God’s eternal purpose is infinitely wider and deeper than silly platitudes that everything will be all right. God’s eternal purpose is not separate from but encompassing of our suffering and confusion. God’s eternal purpose uses even the worst that sin, death, and Satan have to give us in order to bring about His eternal purpose." That certain does draw me to full attention!

You took be deeper today and I thank you for this insightful and teaching post.

Love & Blessings,
Alleluiabelle

LisaShaw said...

I don't get by often but when I do I'm encouraged and left with food for deeper thought.

Bless you!

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