All Things for Good (Romans 8:26-30)

Main Idea: God’s idea of “good” is a lot different from ours. God wants to give us Himself.


You’ve probably heard and maybe even said many times that God is good, but do you really believe it?

In her book, The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Book wrote:

Often I have heard people say, “How good God is! We prayed that it would not rain for our church picnic, and look at the lovely weather!” Yes, God is good when He sends good weather. But God was also good when He allowed my sister, Betsie, to starve to death before my eyes in a German concentration camp. I remember one occasion when I was very discouraged there. Everything around us was dark, and there was darkness in my heart. I remember telling Betsie that I thought God had forgotten us. “No, Corrie,” said Betsie, “He has not forgotten us. Remember His Word: ‘For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him.'”

Corrie concluded:

“There is an ocean of God’s love available–there is plenty for everyone. May God grant you never to doubt that victorious love–whatever the circumstances.”

Do you ever doubt that God is good to you? Like, maybe God is good to some people, giving them anything that they ask for, blessing them with so many things, but you sometimes wonder why you end up with what feels like scraps. Or you wonder why so many people in the world seem to have gotten the short end of the stick. And you wonder how God can be good when there’s so much suffering in the world.

President Ronald Reagan used to love telling a story about a twelve year old farm girl who relentlessly begged her parents for a pony for her birthday. “Mom, Dad, may I please have a pony? I promise I’ll take care of it!” And she would just ask them over and over, begging them for a pony. Well, on the morning of her birthday, she ran out to the barn, hoping and even expecting to see her very own pony. She flung open the doors, but she didn’t see a pony. All she saw and smelt were mounds and mounds of manure, to which she declared excitedly, “With all this manure around, there must be a pony somewhere!”

The point of the story is simply that when life begins to look and smell like a barn full of manure, remember that there IS a pony somewhere! God doesn’t give stones to His children when they ask for bread. God gives us good gifts. And while sometimes those gifts might look like manure at first, we can trust that even that is for our good.

Romans 8:26-30.

In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified. (Romans 8:26-30)

Father, help us. We don’t always know what to pray for, because we’re often so overwhelmed by the worries of life. But You know us. You know us inside and out. So we trust You. We trust that Your plan is for our good and Your glory. But help us not just to know it, but to pursue it. Help us to rest in Jesus, walk by the Spirit, and be transformed for Your glory. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

I’ve mentioned this before, I’m sure, but I love those movies and shows in which there are a whole bunch of seemingly unrelated stories, and you get really confused, and yet it finally makes sense in the end. Shows like Lost, and movies like The Sixth Sense and The Prestige, in which in the end, you can finally see how it all fits together, and I’m just like, “That was really cool.”

I only mention that because today, my sermon this morning may at first seem like three small unrelated sermons because there are three points in the Scripture today that from our perspective appear to be distinct from one another. But by the end, I hope that we’ll see how understanding them together invites us into a deeper and more meaningful relationship with God.

Our first sermon this morning is on verses 26-27.

In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)

Basically, life is hard. We’re all weak sinners, and sometimes that means that life is so overwhelming that we don’t even know where to begin when it comes to asking God for help. I’m sure we’ve all been there. Maybe you’re too exhausted, or you’re too confused, or you just feel so weak that you don’t even know how we should pray in those situations.

But when that happens, you can trust that God knows. God knows every hair on your head. He knows every detail of your life. He knows and cares about the situation that you’re going through right now. So when you don’t know how to pray, or what to pray, rest in God and know that He’s got the whole world in His hands, and that includes you.

You see, Jesus promised us that the Holy Spirit would comfort us. So when you trusted in Jesus as your Savior, the Holy Spirit came into your life. And among other things, that means that when you’re so overwhelmed by life that you don’t even have words for what you’re feeling, the Holy Spirit even prays on your behalf.

The second sermon I have for you this morning is on verse 28, and it’s a great verse to memorize if you don’t have it memorized already. Verse 28.

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

One principle of studying the Bible that we need to always remember is that every Bible verse has context to it. Every verse of the Bible is part of a larger story. So even when we memorize individual verses for encouragement in our faith and life, and I hope you do, even then, we need to keep in mind that those verses which we memorize are a part of a larger chapter, which are part of a larger book, which are part of the whole Bible. And while it’s certainly true that many verses can speak to various issues, sometimes even larger than the context they’re in, we need to be careful to understand and apply God’s word to our lives the way it was meant to be understood and applied.

The classic example of this is Philippians 4:13, which says:

I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

Does that mean you can do anything you want? Does it mean you can do anything, even things that aren’t humanly possible? No. Because if you look at the larger context in which it was written, it’s talking about going through trials, and even through blessings, but going through them without despair, and without an ego, because no matter what you go through, Jesus is with you. So no matter what situation that God places you in, that’s the context, you can do all things through Him who gives you strength.

So, when we read in our passage today that “all things work together for good,” what does that mean? Does it mean everything will work out the way that you want? Does it mean that God will give you everything according to your understanding of what’s good? No. Look at the context. Paul just wrote that we’re weak, and we pray with groaning, but that even when we pray that way, God knows what we really need. So “good” is defined not by what we think we want or need, but by what God knows is good for us.

I read a story about a Christian named Tom who had been suffering for over a year from intense nerve pain around his abdomen area. If his shirt even brushed against his skin, the sensation was as though he were being set on fire. Medical professionals couldn’t figure it out, and they tried tons of things, but nothing relieved Tom’s pain. Tom would have to simply pray and trust that God had even this under control, all evidence to the contrary.

One day, while on vacation with his family, Tom began to also suffer a breakout of shingles all over his face, adding even more discomfort to a life now overwhelmed by chronic pain. And Tom’s thinking, “God, how could You allow this to happen? What good can possibly come from this? Please heal me of all my pain!”

So once again, Tom visited his doctor, this time to address the outbreak of shingles. He was prescribed medication to treat his shingles, and within a few days, he also began to notice a little relief from his nerve pain. After a few more days, the pain was only about 10% of what he had suffered for the last year. Apparently, the medication to treat the shingles was clearing up the nerve issues that had plagued him night and day for over a year. God had begun to heal him, and it came about by first giving him shingles. Before he could be fully healed, he first had to go through even more pain.

That’s often how God does it. God works all things for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose, but we often don’t realize that God is using the pain that we’re currently experiencing to bring about that good.

And once again, God knows everything. He knows everything about you. He knows your hopes, and your fears, and your future. And God is good. God truly wants what’s best for you, but He knows what’s best for you far more than you know what’s best for you.

We’re all like kids in a candy store. We see all this candy and we start salivating and want to buy it all and eat it all. But our mom is like, “No, you can have a little, but first you need to eat your vegetables!”

You see, God’s idea of “good” is a lot different from ours. And ultimately, God alone is good, so what God really wants to give us is Himself.

And He did. God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were still sinners, at our weakest point, Christ died for us. He gave us Himself.

Our final sermon this morning is found in verses 29-30.

For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30)

These verses divide many Christians and even whole denominations. Even within the Southern Baptist Convention, how you understand these verses can majorly affect whether many people would even consider you to be Christian at all. It shouldn’t be that way, but it often is. And it all comes down to how you understand that one word: predestined.

Does God predestine who will and will not be saved? Now, this is a huge oversimplification of the debate, but Calvinists say yes, and Arminians say no. Calvinists, following the teaching of the French theologian John Calvin, say, “Of course God predestines us, God is sovereign. That means He’s in control.” But then Armimians, following the teaching of the Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius say, “There’s no way God predestines us! He loves all people and gives all people the ability to receive or reject Jesus according to their free will.”

But the simple reality is that predestination is in the Bible. I mean, we just read it. These verses make it clear that there’s a direct and unbroken chain linking those whom God foreknows and predestines, to those whom God justifies and then glorifies.

So, Arminians stress that God is compassionate, and that He truly desires for everyone to be saved.

And Calvinists stress that God is powerful, and that He truly saves everyone that He calls.

I believe that Scripture teaches both. The Bible teaches that God is love, and so desires to save, that God is Almighty, and so can save. And it teaches that God sent Jesus, and is Jesus, and so does save.

But He doesn’t just save us from hell. He saves us from sin. And I think this is something that’s often missing from that whole debate. Verse 29 says that God predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son, that’s Jesus. So God doesn’t just want you to go to heaven. He wants you to be like Jesus.

Do you look like Jesus? I’m not talking about physical traits, obviously. I don’t think God wants us all to look like young Jewish men from the Middle East. Obviously, it’s talking about lifestyle and moral purity. Are you becoming more and more like Jesus?

Because Jesus Himself is who ties all three of these sermons together. When Jesus felt weak, He prayed in the Spirit, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And I think God the Father answered Jesus with something like verse 28. “All things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” And yet, Jesus still had to endure the cross. But it was through the cross that Jesus would show that He was predestined for that purpose, so that He would be glorified through His resurrection, given the name above all names so that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

So if you love God, just know that He may call you to be crucified as you follow the One who was crucified for you. Not many of us would say that sounds “good” to us, but God’s idea of “good” is a lot different from ours. To God, and in reality, “good” is that which makes us more like Jesus.

So often, we don’t really want what’s good for us. We want what’s easy for us. But Jesus said in Matthew 7:

Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)

Jesus is the narrow gate. There’s only one way to heaven and the good that God desires for us, and that’s through Jesus. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Me.”

In Jesus, we see the goodness of God. Even while we still have so many questions, we can know that God is good.

Vance Havner was a preacher best known for his quote, “The church is a hospital for sinners, and not a museum for saints.” He’s also quoted as saying, “Plenty of church members are shaky about what they believe, while not many are shaken by what they believe.”

But pertaining to our topic today, Havner said this:

God does not always answer our ‘why questions, but He does understand our asking them.

Moses asked, ‘Lord, why have you brought trouble to this people?’
Gideon asked, ‘Why then has all this happened to us?’
Naomi said: ‘I went out full, and the lord has brought me home again empty. Why?’
David asked, ‘Lord, why do you cast off my soul? Why do You hide Your face from me?’
And Job asked, ‘Why have you set me as your target?’

(In fact, there are over 300 questions in the Book of Job, and most of them go unanswered.)

“But the greatest ‘why’ in the Bible was uttered by the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross when He said,

Jesus: ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’
And there is something about that ‘why’ that swallows up all the others. – Vance Havner

You see, just as Jesus gave Himself on the cross with His own question unanswered, you and I are to trust God even though there will be things we don’t always understand. We don’t have to have all our questions answered up front before we can choose to trust God. Knowing God can be trusted should be enough.

You see, God is good. Even when we don’t understand it, God is good, and He’s calling you even now to trust in His goodness and grace.

Pastor Chris Huff

Pastor Chris Huff has been with us since July 2009.  He and his wife, Abby, have four children.  Chris is originally from St. Louis, MO and even though he was raised as a city boy, he has a small town heart. Chris is all over the internet, so you can find him on Facebook, Twitter,… (read more)

Bible Passages: Romans 8:26-30
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