by Scarlett Stough
Do “all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28 KJV)? That depends. There are two qualifiers in this promise which tell us “who” the promise applies to and for “what” purpose. We know by experience that not “all things” are good. As mortal human beings we have our own ideas about what is “good.” We have wants, cravings, and needs. If we don't get what we think we want, or crave, or need, we do not think the result is actually “good.”
The first qualifier is to those who love God and are called by God.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.Romans 8:1-4
The second qualifier is “called according to his purpose.” His purpose for mankind is “to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.”
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. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.Romans 8:29-30
One of the “all things” we do not consider to be “good” is suffering. Who actually wants to suffer? Nobody I know. Yet, for those who love God the sufferings we endure, as all human beings do suffer, result in conforming those who love God into the likeness of Christ.
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.1 Peter 4:1-2
Whether our sufferings are of the kind that is common to man or the suffering caused by persecution for our faith, we are assured:
These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.1 Peter 1:7-9
From the beginning, God stated his purpose for mankind is to be created in his image (Genesis 1:27). He sent Jesus to reveal the likeness of the Father. Jesus told his disciples:
If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him…Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.John 14:7, 9
By absorbing the words and actions of Jesus the Christ, the Son of Man, the Son of God, and by living according to his teachings as well as enduring patiently our afflictions, we can both come to know God and to be conformed to his likeness according to his original and continuing purpose for humankind.