Romans 8:28 contains an awesome promise from God. It is a promise that many like to quote when things aren’t going their way.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Have you ever wondered how God does that? What does something ending in good look like?
Many times in the American church, this looks like someone getting their “breakthrough”. Sure, that is great (the word breakthrough also sounds pretty cool too). But I think there is an unhealthiness that creeps in and perverts the Christian life to where our breakthrough centers around us.
I have been to meetings where week after week, even year after year, the messages were pretty heavily focused on not giving up because our “breakthrough” was just around the corner.
“Keep believing for your financial breakthrough. Don’t stop confessing that you’ll get that job promotion. You’ve sown into your breakthrough, so you’ll reap soon. Don’t worry, what the devil meant for evil, God’s going to work together for good.”
Things like this were constantly said, but it seemed as if nobody was really getting anywhere. Were we to simply try harder each week? Believe more, confess Scripture more, maybe even fast for breakthrough?
Another thing believers go after is their “healing”. “Someone hurt my feelings so I need me some healing.” Again, nothing wrong with healing as God calls Himself our Healer. But I have seen this to where we are introspective and mostly concerned with feeling better about what someone did to us without regard to the fact that we have already been accepted by God and we should be able to forgive and bless those who offend us and not just be concerned with our own well being. Maybe that offensive person could come to the Lord through your Christ-like reactions to them and you could have the privilege of spending eternity with them :)
Please hear my heart. I’m not wanting to put down anyone who is trying to encourage the Body of Christ, nor am I against getting goodies like healings and breakthroughs from God our Papa. But could it be that our view of the Christian life tends to get introspective and need oriented?
Here’s a thought. In the verse after Romans 8:28, God gives us insight on what this “all things work together for good” thing looks like.
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29).
So could it be that the way God is working these “things” of this life into good is by using them to conform us into His image?
In every situation, both God and the enemy are endeavoring to conform us to their images. Discouragement, bitterness, depression, etc. are all characteristics of the devil. That is what he is like. In Daniel, it mentions that there is a demonic strategy to wear down the saints. This evil plot is not just meant to defeat us but rather, the devil and his cohorts are worn out and misery loves company.
If somebody wrongs me, then the best way that the situation could turn out for me is not by having said person get their backside whooped. Although that is the mindset of this fallen age, we have not so learned Christ. If somebody wrongs me, the best thing that could happen is that I, as someone dead to the world but alive in Christ, would react with absolutely no offense and love the hell out of them!
Please do not think that I am preaching a “hyper-sovereignty” Calvinist type of message; where everything that happens is because of God or because He is allowing it. What I am saying is that God is good at making lemonade out of lemons He did not plant. It does not say God causes all things or that all things are good, but that God causes all things to work together for good. He is the One who is for us in the midst of the open war that is known as this present age.
By conforming us to the image of Christ, God is making us invincible to this fallen age by instilling in us a love that is out of this world. What can anyone do to someone who is so beside themselves in love with Jesus to where you cannot hurt them? What can your enemy do to you when you are addressing him as “friend”? How can I be concerned with only my own needs when I am overflowing with His love and acceptance?
So this being like Jesus stuff is not a religious sentiment or a catch phrase without substance. It is the essence of why we are here and God does this really cool thing where He takes everything that comes our way and turns it into our helper in growing up into Christ. What an awesome Dad we have! This is why Romans 8:28 is for “those called according to His purpose.” Our purpose is to look like Him; “in His image” was always the intent.
When it says that the promise is for those “who love God”, this is a description of a believer (one who was first loved by God) and not a condition we must constantly try to meet. However, when we are in tune with the love of God, this promise will make a lot more sense as we will value what He values, bringing the image of Christ forth in us. We will discern how the very character of Jesus, the One we love, is rising up in the bad situation and re-writing it into something great. We will say, “God, that was amazing how you did that. I now feel more love for you and the people that I thought I could never love.”
I hope this excites us to where we aren’t so caught up in what we need from God as far as external blessings that may leave us just as needy and worried the next time trouble comes. I pray that we stop carrying around hurts and offenses from others as we realize our identity as sons who look like His love. This is really the greatest blessing we can have from God; to share one nature with Him and getting to look like Him in this world.
John G. Lake, a man who was passionate about knowing God and had seen hundreds of thousands of miracles through his ministry had this to say about partaking in the likeness of Christ:
“So my heart has not been satisfied at all that I have been saved, not because the Lord has baptized me in the Holy Ghost, nor because God has used me in His ministry. Not at all.
I have had a vision before my soul that fascinates my heart night and day. The pure, radiant, wondrous Son of God, Jesus Christ, Who purposes in His grace to keep me in His hands and in His heart, until by the grace of God you come forth in the holy likeness and the heavenly power and the magnificence and glory and wonder of His understanding, a Son of God in deed and in truth.” – taken from his sermon, The Development of Christian Consciousness
I find it interesting that Lake’s deep journey into the supernatural Christian life led him to this burning desire, looking just like Jesus. John G. Lake was simply captured by God’s ultimate desire for the Christian.
One of the greatest examples of this Romans 8:28 truth is in the life of Joseph, who was a type of Christ. When Joseph met his brothers years after his betrayal, instead of ordering them to be executed he said,
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive (Gen. 50:20).
Even though Joseph had prestige, power, and wealth, he said that the good that came from his betrayal was “that many would be saved.” He did not mention the fact that he ended up getting a good job (second in command in all of Egypt) or a nice house. When the image of Jesus is formed in us, we become all about other people as our hearts are satisfied in His love and we obtain His heart for people.
The nature of Jesus Christ is the true treasure that will last for eternity. What better outcome to a situation can there be then to walk away unscathed, victorious, and looking like Jesus, the One who overcame the world?