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. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. 31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
With the Elections right around the corner, everyone is making their choice of who they think will lead this country to a brighter tomorrow. Whoever is elected as President, if things turn around in terms of the economy, they will get all the praise. If things stay where they are or they worsen, they will get all the blame. On a national level, we place that kind of tremendous burden on the shoulders of one man.
How about on an individual level? Who do you look to in order to secure a brighter tomorrow? Don’t we place the burden on ourselves? Many people say, the future is what YOU make of it. Go for your dreams. This is the land of opportunity. Work hard and you can achieve whatever you want.
Is that true? If my dream is to be a gold medalist in the the 100 meter sprint and I work really hard, will I ever beat out Usain Bolt? There is such a thing as genetics. As an Asian American, I am a physically inferior creature. I admit it. I’ve been told that I have short extremities. Short arms and short legs. In college, some of my friends called me T-Rex.
As a kid, I also wanted to be in the NBA. But it doesn’t matter how much I want it or how many hours I practice, I can’t change the fact that I can only jump 2 inches.
There was a time in junior high school that I was really into taekwondo. I grew up watching Ralph Macchio in the movie, The Karate Kid, and I thought he was the coolest. A wimpy guy who learns karate and then beats up the bully in the karate tournament while he was limping on one leg. It’s the classic David and Goliath story. And I wanted to be like Ralph. So I joined my first taekwondo tournament with high hopes of being Karate Kid Part II in the making. Things were going well… until I got kicked in the face.
Get an education, work hard and all the pieces will fall into place, or so we’ve been told. Don’t ever let anyone say you can’t do something. Ever heard that one? We all know that these are flat out lies. Hard work is one factor. Genetics and natural ability is another factor. Also, there’s luck. People think, if only I get my big break. If only I get hired by that company, I’ll be set. If only I get into that school or that program or that lab, my future will be bright. If only I meet Mr. Right and I am swept off my feet. Then I’ll live happily ever after.
Consider your worldview. How do you account for good things, blessings in your life? Do you attribute those things to yourself? Your hard work. Your perseverance. Or do you attribute success to lucky breaks? I thank my lucky stars. Lady Luck is smiling down on me. It’s destiny. Somehow, in the grand scheme of the universe, it’s fate. This was meant to happen. It’s fate that I met this person. Even the term fate or destiny seems to point to powers that are beyond us, beyond hard work and beyond natural abilities.
As you get older, you soon realize that you don’t have control over much of anything. You didn’t do anything to be born with your brains. You didn’t do anything to be born to your parents. You didn’t do anything to be born in countries where you had many resources and opportunities. Success is more than working hard. Many things we received that we never worked for.
Plus, there are many factors out of our control. Not everyone gets the break they need. Not everyone meets Mr. Right. People get sick. Tragedy hits. Does your worldview account for tough times? The same way we think it’s destiny or fate when good things happen, do we say bad things happening is also destiny or fate? Working hard, getting lucky breaks, being blessed as well as explaining why tragedies occur and giving you the strength to weather the storms–does your worldview account for all of these things? Otherwise, you don’t really have much of a worldview.
Many adopt a worldview of blind optimism–things will just work out. Somehow. Or they adopt a worldview of pessimism–life really doesn’t have ultimate meaning so why bother striving? Or the worldview of hedonism–because life has no ultimate meaning, I should just eat at great restaurants and travel and enjoy simple pleasures.
The Bible gives a very robust worldview in Romans 8:28–
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good…
This is one of the greatest promises in all of Scripture. God works all things for good. However, God working all things for good is not a blanket statement that applies to all people. The first thing we need to notice from v28 is that all things don’t work together for good for everybody. The promise that God will turn all things for good is not true in everybody’s case. There are two things that need to be true in order for this promise to apply to you. One is that you love God, and the other is that you are called according to his purpose.
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.
Paul says, in effect, if you don’t love God, you can’t claim this promise. If you are not called according to his purpose, this promise doesn’t apply to you. Or to put it another way, for the person who does not love God and is not called according to his purpose, being optimistic is foolish and out of place. Pessimism is exactly the right state of mind for one who does not love God and is not called according to his purpose.
The promise–God works all things for our good–applies when 2 requirements are met: 1) you love God and 2) you have been called according to his purpose. Let’s unpack those 2 requirements. What does Paul mean by loving God?
He does not mean that you go in and out of loving God, and if you have a bad experience while you are loving God, don’t worry because it will turn out for your good. And if you have a bad experience at a time when you are not loving God, well, tough luck because things will not turn out for your good.
We know that Paul doesn’t mean that, because he clarifies “those who love God” with the description at the end of the verse: “those who are called according to [God’s] purpose.” Usually, people throw around the term “calling” to mean, I’m called to be a professor or I’m called to be a pastor or a teacher. Calling in the Bible doesn’t refer to a choice of a vocation.
Calling often refers to THE calling, the calling unto salvation. It is the effective, once-for-all work of God to call me from death to life, and from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, and from enmity toward God to loving God. The calling into faith in Christ is once for all, and so love for God is the mark of the truly called person.
Of course, our love for God has moments of intensity and moments of weakness – just like every other love relationship we have.
In marriage, you go through a honeymoon stage when your emotions are at their peak. Your spouse can do no wrong. Then, as time passes, what was once cute, a quirk, becomes annoying. A glariing flaw. The emotions fade. The honeymoon feeling ends and then the real marriage begins. The same is true in our spiritual lives. There is a honeymoon stage early on when your love for God is emotionally charged. Then, it fades. Emotions come and go over the years. But like a good marriage, love for God deepens. There is greater trust. Stronger commitment. There is more substance undergirding the relationship.
But for those who have been called, love for God is what defines them. It’s the abiding condition of our hearts – whether that love is emotionally strong or weak. So Paul is not saying all things work for good for Christians some of the time (i.e. when their love for God is strong), and all things don’t work for good for Christians some of the time (i.e. when their love for God is weak). He is saying that for Christians – the called, those whose hearts have been brought from enmity to love for God – all things work for good all the time.