A question that many of us have asked at some time in our lives is, “Why do bad things happen to good and godly people?” There is no way to deny that there is evil and suffering in this world – and that it affects Christians.
This is one of the greatest challenges to our faith. People think that we can’t explain the problem of evil and suffering. And at the end of the day, there’s simply a lot that we won’t know and understand in this life.
But how do we cope with tragedy? How do we reconcile our belief in a loving, all-powerful God with everything that’s wrong in the world?
The apostle Paul offers some direction in Romans 8:28-29. And we can break these two verses down into three sections:
- a promise that is given
- a condition that must be met
- the meaning of that promise
The Promise That Is Given
In this part of Romans, Paul is writing about suffering in the world – not just the suffering of people, but of creation itself. And then he drops this in verse 28:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Right up front, Paul says that we know that this is true. We can be sure about what he’s saying because of what God has already done for us in Jesus Christ (Romans 5:6-11), because of what He is doing through the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14-17, 26-27) and because of what He will do when Jesus returns (Romans 8:18-25).
So what is the promise?
For those who are called according to God’s purpose, all things work together for good. Good things, bad things, trivial things, important things – all things work together for good. Everything in our life cooperates to a given end.
Life is not the random mess it sometimes appears to be. Yes, it’s a mess – but it’s not random.
The Condition That Must Be Met
Many people (both Christians and non-Christians) quote Romans 8:28 to say, “The Bible says that everything works together for good.” But that’s not all it says. This promise is not for anyone – it’s “for those who love God … who are called according to his purpose.”
Who are those who love God? Simply put, they are those who respond to the love He showed them through Christ. Who are those who are called according to His purpose? Those who are brought into salvation.
If you don’t love God and haven’t received salvation, then verse 28 is not a promise for you. Things might work out well, but they might also end up in your destruction. This promise is only for Christians: followers of Jesus Christ.
What Is the Good That Everything Is Working Toward?
What is the good that everything is working toward? If you break up with your girlfriend, does it mean you’re going to get a nicer one? If you lose your job, does it mean that God’s going to give you a better one?
The thing is that our idea of “good” is terribly subjective and often based on our temporal happiness. But God’s idea of “good” is found in verse 29.
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
What is the ultimate purpose of God in every believer? That we might be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. His plan isn’t necessarily for us to be rich and famous, but that we might become more like Jesus. This is the good that God is working everything together for in the life of Christians.
This does not mean we shouldn’t question why bad things happen. About a third of the Psalms are psalms of lament. But we must also understand that God is under no obligation to give us an answer. Think about the story of Job – did he ever learn why he suffered?
To Wrap Things Up . . .
Romans 8:28-29 doesn’t promise that everything is going to work out the way we like. But it does promise that it will contribute to our good – to make us more like Jesus.
So here are some questions to think about:
- Do you love God? You may have said a prayer, become a member of a church and been baptized, but do you love God? What is important to you? Are you obeying His commands?
- Have you been called according to God’s purpose?
- Do things in your life move you to be more like Jesus, or do they push you further from God?
The progress toward Christ-likeness might be slow at times. But if you are a Christian, you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God is working everything together to make you more like Jesus.
So why do bad things happen to godly people? To make us more like Jesus.
- Is the promise in verse 28 for everyone? Explain.
- What is meant by “those who love God” and “who are called according to his purpose”?
- What is the good that God is working everything together for?
- Are you becoming more and more like Christ?
Guest Speaker: Rev. Justin Nash
If anything in this message stood out to you, please let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!