I was reading Romans 8 this morning contemplating how I would split it up for my students to memorize in the spring semester. I began this intending their good and ended up serving mine.The fact that my good was served is owing to the Holy Spirit acting in my heart upon the wings of God’s Word (as my pastor would say). I have so many thoughts that occur to me as I read God’s Word, observe culture, read theology and Christian books. Some of my thoughts are helpful to mention others are not and even the one’s that are helpful can be jaded by my intentions, in the moment of mentioning. This thought, I feel is helpful.
People often quote Romans 8:28 and why not, after all it has a comforting message. It occurred to me this morning that believing, and quoting this verse without loving the Gospel that produces it is both ironic and horrific. "And we know that for those that love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." I came face to face this week with the reality that my love for God is truly presumptuous at times, for I believe that His love for me must act in accordance with my idea of love. Now those of us who walk in theological circles would never say this is correct thinking but really ask yourself how often you practically live this way.
The fact is I have been mad at God and many of you are saying right now, that is normal, true but normal is also sinful and it is not ok for me to be angry with God. The question is why the anger? Answer; I believe I deserve to be treated a certain way because I love God. So, without a correct belief in who God is or a belief in his gospel you will have defective, damming emotions as well. Paul goes on to articulate that this working of all things for good" is because God chose to know me, predestine me, call me, and justify me to the extent that nobody can be against me because He is for me (Romans 8:29-31).The Word pierced my heart reading the next verse, Romans 8:32 (not quoted as often). "He who did not spare his own son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also graciously give us all things." Because of the death of God’s son I get God, the best of all things! I also get an amazing window that helps me see my deepest pain rightly.
I do not know what the future holds for the life of my unborn child, and it hurts deeply to think that this life would be anything less than what we imagined it would be. But I do know and believe that the death of Christ guarantees the Fathers goodness to me. God is good at all times, but without the hope of the gospel I can not be assured on any level that my pain is working for me. Some would ask for more clarification on how God’s goodness is at work for me in my trials. Milton Vincent, in A Gospel Primer for Christians sums this up with unreal clarity and this is something worth memorizing. My heart rejoices that these words are so true!
More than anything else could ever do, the gospel enables me to embrace my tribulations and thereby position myself to gain full benefit from them. For the gospel is the one great permanent circumstance in which I live and move; and every hardship in my life is allowed by God only because it serves His gospel purposes in me. When I view my circumstances in this light, I realize that the gospel is not just one piece of good news that fits into my life somewhere among all the bad. I realize, instead that the gospel makes genuinely good news out of every other aspect of my life, including my severest trials (Romans 5:1-5). The good news about my trials is that God is forcing them to bow to His gospel purposes and do good unto me by improving my character and making me more conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28; James 1:2-4; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Preaching the gospel to myself each day provides a lens through which I can view my trials in this way and see the true cause for intelligent rejoicing that exists in them. I can embrace them as friends and allow them to do God’s good work in me.
May God give us more grace to believe these things! We need this understanding to stick so desperately today.
Grace and Peace,