One of the most misused verses of the Bible, especially by the exploiters of the Gospel, is the following:
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NKJV)
Romans 8:28 is not about personal blessing and pleasure. It is about the coordinated effort of those who are called according to God’s purpose. Notice how it does not say, “For your good.” But what it does clearly imply is, “For the good according to His purpose.” What is His purpose or master plan? We need not go any further than the Great Commission which is the propagation of the Gospel throughout the world. This hopefully leads to us fulfilling the motto, “To win the lost at any cost.”
Romans 8:28 is also not a blanket statement for one to claim so no bad will come upon them as a believer. All that one has to do is read the book Foxe’s Book of Martyrs or study history about the persecution of Christians from the conception of the Church until this very hour we live in.
Paul, the same writer of Romans 8:28, wrote this:
“Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.” (II Corinthians 11:23-28 NKJV)
Paul further re-enforces this in the following:
“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (II Corinthians 4:8-11 NKJV)
But Paul does not leave us hanging. He let’s us know what the secret is:
“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13 NLT)
No one in their right mind would say that the things that happened to Paul were always good or pleasant for him on the personal level in the physical realm. But as far as they were for the advancement of the Kingdom of God, they most definitely were good. This does not mean that good on the personal level cannot be reaped as a by-product. When God works all things together for good and He is glorified, His people will always reap spiritual blessings from it and this can carry over into the tangible realm with good things spilling forth!
Now let’s move on to the real meaning of Romans 8:28 and see how it can be best illustrated of what the word good in this context means. It can be best illustrated by the following poem:
by Annie Johnson Flint
In a factory building there are wheels and gearings,
There are cranks and pulleys, beltings tight or slack—
Some are whirling swiftly, some are turning slowly,
Some are thrusting forward, some are pulling back;
Some are smooth and silent, some are rough and noisy,
Pounding, rattling, clanking, moving with a jerk;
In a wild confusion in a seeming chaos,
Lifting, pushing, driving—but they do their work.
From the mightiest lever to the tiniest pinion,
All things move together for the purpose planned;
And behind the working is a mind controlling,
And a force directing, and a guiding hand.
So all things are working for the Lord’s beloved;
Some things might be hurtful if alone they stood;
Some might seem to hinder; some might draw us backward;
But they work together, and they work for good,
All the thwarted longings, all the stern denials,
All the contradictions, hard to understand.
And the force that holds them, speeds them and retards them,
Stops and starts and guides them—is our Father’s hand.