“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28
Paul says that all things work together for good. Then we read how he was imprisoned, impaired, and threatened with death.
“In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” – 2 Cor 11:27
How could Rom 8:28 bring even an ounce of hope to Paul if he had so much bad experience?
This does not sound as if all things were working together for good, but they were.
The Good Life
Paul did not think that the good life was to live the most comfortable happy life he could without struggle, pain, failure, or trouble. The good life is lived according to the purpose and power of God (Phil 1:21).
“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;” – 2 Cor 4:8-9
This sounds like someone with stability, inner strength, and hope.
When trouble was on every side, Paul remembered who he was in Christ, the purpose of God, and the hope he had of eternal glory. These doctrinal truths preserved his mind from being destroyed, distressed, and in despair through his bad circumstances.
All of these spiritual doctrines are unseen. It takes effort to bring them to mind when everything we see around us is terrible.
“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” – 2 Cor 4:18
We may not be able to change our bad circumstance, but we can change our response to it by our understanding of sound doctrine.
Things work together for good if we understand that it is good to live according to the eternal purpose of God.
What We Must Learn
In order for us to experience the hope filled promise of Romans 8:28 we must learn some things.
When our life seems to be a failure and we inhabit the lowest places among men, we learn in Romans 8:17-18 that God promises our future glorification, not as a result of our own works, but the work of Christ in us.
When we find ourselves unable to make payment, we learn in Rom 8:32 that God gives us freely all things as a result of our position as his sons.
When we are charged with sins in our flesh and from our past, we learn in Rom 8:33 that there is nothing that can be charged to us, because the God of the universe has declared us righteous in Christ.
When stones are thrown at us for who we are, what we say, and what we do, we learn in Rom 8:34 that we face no condemnation since we did not procure our salvation, but it was Christ that died and resurrected in our place.
When it seems that everyone wants to separate from us, we learn in Rom 8:37 that nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ.
When we never have enough, we learn to gain by being content (Phil 4:11; 1 Tim 6:8).
When we suffer, we learn that the grace of God is magnified in our body when we are weak (2 Cor 12:9).
When we learn God’s purpose to give us the mind of Christ we can confidently say with Paul in adversity:
“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” – Phil 4:13
Strength Through Suffering
Often Rom 8:28 is read with the false hope that God will restore our failed dreams, our failed businesses, or that every bad circumstance has a silver lining.
Instead, Paul is talking about the good that can happen when we allow sound doctrine to work effectually in us.
God’s purpose is not that all our circumstances will be rosy and comfortable, but that he will strengthen us through suffering, failure, distress, pain, and this present evil world.
“According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.” – Phil 1:20
When all is well, we can easily magnify Christ with all our strength. When all is trouble, we see that Christ can still be magnified in us.
Our weakness gives an opportunity for the strength of Christ to show in us, which strength comes from God’s word in us. Our weakness proves the strength of Christ in us.
Either way, through suffering or joy, all things work together for the good of Christ magnified and God glorified.
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” – Rom 8:18