I once heard of a Christian speaker who said that believers should basically not quote Romans 8:28 to one another. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (ESV)
Now obviously, there is a time and a place for everything. I don’t quote this verse when I’m going through the receiving line at a funeral. That just feels…well, insensitive. Like I said, a time and a place. But I don’t think this man was speaking of such extraordinary circumstances. I think he was thinking of more normal troubles. And I’m not sure why he said this – maybe he thought it was a cliché which is overused.
But if I understand him correctly, I heartily disagree. Of course there is a right and thoughtful way to use this verse, but Romans 8:28 is one of the most wonderful truths in the Bible, and as far as I’m concerned we ought to meditate on it and pull it out to encourage one another often.
After all, Paul knew exactly what he was talking about when he wrote it. This is the same man who, when we pick up with him in Acts 25, has been in prison for two years.
Now think about that for a moment – the apostle in jail for two years – and eventually it would be much longer. Of course, readers of the New Testament are used to the thought of Paul behind bars. There are all the letters he wrote from prison like Philippians, Ephesians and Colossians. So most of us never give it a second thought.
But if you really consider it, it’s one of the oddest ideas in the Bible. And here’s what I mean: if you were the Sovereign God of heaven, and you were moving your missionaries and saints around to accomplish your purposes like much loved chess pieces (if I may speak so crassly) why ever would you put a resource like Paul the Apostle in prison for years at a time?
But there he sits, year after year, “wasting away.” Except, that is, for Romans 8:28. You see, Paul knew good things were happening. After all, if you were wondering, his letter to the church at Rome was already written at this time. He likely had written the letter on his most recent journey, when he was in the city of Corinth.
And so it might be a strange idea for us to think of the Apostle in prison, but not so much for him. He understood that there was a God in heaven who knew exactly what he was doing putting this “valuable resource” away for that period of time.
God was molding him, and making him into the man he needed to be.
Just like he is doing for you and me in whatever we’re walking through today. And what hope there is in that – God is sovereign and loving and He is molding us into the image of Jesus. And therefore everything that we who love him walk through is going to work out for our ultimate good. I just think that we probably don’t meditate on this truth often enough.
And I definitely think it’s a truth we should not keep to ourselves.
For tomorrow, Tuesday, March 17th: Acts 26