Working Together for Good

I’d be missing a great opportunity if I went through Romans and skipped Romans 8:28.

After all, it’s a cornerstone for many Christians. The rest of the world hears us preach it all the time. We claim it at every turn — in everything from missed parking places to flooded homes, from ear infections to cancer. To those who don’t understand, our preaching sounds glib, perhaps uncaring. Even rather naive.

But the verse, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them,” has deep meaning. It is an anchor, which we believers toss overboard when the winds of trouble begin to blow. It keeps us. Holds us.

But what does it mean?

Certainly not what unbelievers may think. Not, “it doesn’t really matter in the long run.” Not, “it’ll all work out eventually.” Not, God’s going to give me something better.”

The meaning of the passage is found in the verse that follows. “For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn, with many brothers and sisters.

The meaning of the verse reflects our deepest calling as people of the King.

As we grow in Christ, we are to become ever more like him. In every part of our lives, in our frustrations, our disappointments, in our love lives, in our kindnesses, in our business, in our finances, in our worship, in our family lives, YES, even in our freeway driving, we are to reflect his character. Day after day, week after week, year after year we are to grow ever more like him. In every way, we are to reflect him.

Recently I had the privilege of seeing this lived out in the life of a dear friend. Kerrie is now battling stage three lymphoma. But before the diagnosis was final, before she knew for certain, she sent me an email.

“Perhaps Cancer is a gift,” she wrote. “Yes, I see pain. Incredible darkness. Bleakness. Weakness. Much suffering. Sorrow. Wanting to give up. A fight against depression, hopelessness. I see that too. I’m not looking through rose colored glasses into LA LA land. Yet, even in these dark things, I see the facilitating of the treasures that cannot be bought, and depth that is not attained by blissful living.

What if cancer isn’t a plague of the enemy, a way to wipe us out of the running? What if it’s a way to actually make us a force to contend with? What if it’s a way to prepare us for battle and to help wipe out the enemy instead? What if it’s a way to grow in us those character traits of God, that we could act and look and smell and touch more like he does? What if it’s a way to make our shadow more dangerous?”

You see this is not the blissful, clueless, “blonde” approach to difficulty.

In fact it is exactly the opposite.

It is the mature, willing, thoughtful embracing of difficulty.

We embrace difficulty because we believe it has purpose in our life. It shapes us. Carves us. Knocks off the edges of selfishness and foolishness.

And the purpose of difficulty is to reflect, like a mirror, the perfect image of the one who made us.

In my trouble, he polishes his image in me.

Find someone who loves Jesus. And watch. See if you see his image.

And by the way, Mr. MacGregor, YES, it was in 1974. I was 19 at the time.

Bette

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