“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8.28
These words are filled with a promise from God. Paul declares that we can KNOW this one thing: “all things work together for good to them that love God … ” Have you ever struggled with this verse? I must confess that I have. But I think that my question has been this: “How is God going to make this _____________ work together for me in my lifetime?” And then the thought comes to mind, “Why does it MATTER HOW God is going to do it? If He said it, it will happen.”
Let’s loo for moment at the phrase “all things … ” Does that mean the death of a spouse? Yes! Does that mean the death of a child? Yes. Does that mean the premature death of a parent? Yes. Does that mean the loss of a good paying job? Yes. Does that mean a grandchild who is born with birth defects? Yes. Does that mean a marriage that goes wrong and ends in divorce? This is only a small portion of things that we could include in God’s “all things.” But if the verse is going to mean anything at all to us, we must literally believe “that all things work together for good to them that love God … ”.
Some manuscripts read, “God works in all things for the good.” But what is the context of meaning for this last phrase: “, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”? Let’s consider this translation: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” What is God’s purpose for me? For you? I believe His purpose for us is to be His hands and feet, mouth and ears to a lost world. How are they going to know The Christ we know if He is not reflected in our lives? Perhaps today we should consider BEING His hands and feet, mouth and ears to the lost world around us and to the believing world of which we are all a part! Just my thoughts …
“Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7.25
There are two principal truths in this verse: (1) salvation and (2) intercession. Both of these are made possible by Jesus Christ. When we read that “he is able also to save them to the uttermost … ” we must understand that He is able to save those who, in our minds are farthest from Him. We would look at them as “really bad people.” Somehow it may seem to us that being a really bad sinner makes it harder for God to save them. It takes the same amount of God’s grace to save a serial killer as it does to save a child who is still at a tender age and knows that he/she needs to be saved because of sin. While we may choose to categorize sin, to God sin is sin.
This matter of intercession is perhaps greater than we think. After we are saved, we still commit sin on a daily basis. In order for us to maintain a close fellowship with God, we must deal with that sin. So Jesus is seated at the Father’s right hand to intercede for us. Can you picture this? Every time we sin, Jesus says to His Father, “I paid for that. He’s/She’s still perfect.” But you and I need to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit to confess that sin to God so that nothing is between our soul and the Savior. I may have related this before, but it is worth repeating. Charles Spurgeon was crossing the street with a friend when all of a sudden he dropped to his knees and began to pray while traffic passed all around him. When he finished to went on to the other side of the street and his friend said, “What were you doing out there?” and Spurgeon replied, “I felt a cloud come between my soul and my Savior and I couldn’t take another step until I dealt with it.” We need to be sensitive to the Spirit’s prompting in our lives. Just my thoughts …
“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. 11I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” John 10.10 – 11
Abundant life – what is that? What does it look like? I can tell you what it is NOT? It is not a life of continual complaining, continual blaming someone else for my problems, continual whining because life has dealt me a terrible blow. It is not living life like I am a victim instead of an overcomer. If that sounds a little strong, then lets think for a bit about what Jesus said.
The abundant life is a life that looks at the beginning of each day and says to God, “Lord, today you and I make a majority. I can handle it because you have prepared it.” Sound too simple? Not at all. It is a matter of knowing who is in control. When I am willing to release my day, my hour, my minute to God for Him to control, then I can embrace and enjoy the abundant life. The abundant life does not mean that I am happy all the time, because happiness depends on what happens. But I can still have a joy-filled life in the midst of my greatest storm – because I have transferred control of my life to God.
Transfer of control is not a one-time deal. It is something that I need to do every day. Perhaps more than once a day, depending on whether or not I insist on taking back control because I think I can handle it better than God can.
When we look at verse 11, we quickly discover a valid reason for embracing this abundant life. In stark contrast to the thief who comes (1) to steal, (2) to kill, and (3) to destroy, our Shepherd sealed everything for me when he gave His life for me. As one of His sheep, I know His purpose for me, and that is for me to embrace the abundant life, and when I do that, my life will bring honor and glory to God. Just my thoughts …
“But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. 16Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” 1 Peter 4.15-16
Peter has two thoughts running side by side here and we need to hearken to both of them. His first concept here is that our suffering ought not be because we have done something we should not have done, such as murder, stealing, evil doing, or sticking our nose into someone else’s business. We may need to read that last one again and ask God to deliver us from being too noisy.
Then he tackles the concept of a Christian suffering. Looking back at the book of Job, we see Job’s friends ASSUMING that Job is suffering because he has done something wrong. Not just one of them makes that claim, but all four of them. So when you and I see another brother or sister in Christ suffering, let’s not assume they have done something wrong and God is punishing.
If you are the one who is suffering, there is no shame in suffering. And God alone may be the only one who knows WHY you are suffering, and He may choose not to reveal that to you. So what is the attitude that we should take if we are suffering? Peter tells us: “let him glorify God on this behalf.” You may ask, “How can God be glorified in my suffering?” Is it possible that God is allowing you or me to suffer to show those who are watching us that God is enough – even in our suffering? I think there are times when we neglect to think that our suffering may not be about us at all. It may be about those around us who are waiting to see how we respond to our suffering.
It is also possible that God allows us to suffer so that we can do as Paul suggests in 2 Corinthians 1.3-4: “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” While these are just my thoughts, they are worthy of our consideration …
“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. 10But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep tings of God. ” 1 Corinthians 2.9-10
There are certainly some beautiful sights down here on this earth. We just returned a few days ago from seeing the Grand Canyon. I have never seen such natural beauty in all my life. God really outdid himself when He formed the Grand Canyon.
But Paul’s words here is attempting to prepare us for what heaven will be like: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” Even though we use the most descriptive language possible, we cannot come close to what heaven will be like. There are times when we say things like, “This is a little taste of heaven”, but we really don’t know that. I have seen some pretty awesome houses that men have designed and built. But again I will say, nothing can compare with what we will experience when we get to heaven.
Paul goes on to say, “God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit:” The Holy Spirit’s job is to lead us into all truth. Jesus promised that when He was about to go away and leave His disciples. I think it is probably a good thing that God chooses NOT to reveal some of these things to us. The unknown remains a mystery and that should make each one of us all the more anxious to be there and see God’s handiwork. The Holy Spirit is able to know the heart of God – the deep things of God – and when He reveals some of the mystery to us, we are all the more anxious to be there with God and see what He has done for us. “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also. ” (John 14.1-3)
It is real – just believe it. Just my thoughts …
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:” 1 John 4.1-2
I think by now most of us have become experts at recognizing a “telemarketer” when one calls. They have gotten very creative and some of them SOUND very believable. The same kind of “spiritual telemarketer” hits us up on a daily basis – sometimes on an hourly basis. So John’s counsel here is critical to our everyday walk with the Lord.
Consider: “Beloved, believe not every spirit … ” I had a professor in college who gave this quote: “Sometimes the good becomes the enemy of the best.” Every idea that Satan presents isn’t always bad. It may sound “good” but you can be sure it is not “God’s best” for us. He continues: “try the spirits whether they are of God … ” Why would we be warned about that? Here’s the answer: “because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” In a world where we have access to almost everything, religious untruth abounds everywhere. Just because a person has the funds to pay for a national radio and/or TV ministry doesn’t mean they always speak the truth. Just because something SOUNDS good doesn’t mean that it IS good. Remember, “try the spirits … ”
Verse 2 gives us a sound bit of truth: “2Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:” God will ALWAYS make it clear when He is speaking to us. “2Hereby know ye … ”This is HOW we know. We must compare what we hear with what we KNOW is true from the Word of God. And the best way to do that is to read God’s Word daily. Just my thoughts …
“With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” Isaiah 26.9
As believers in this New Testament era, we have a faith that is both historical and experiential. When I think of prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah and the others we find in the Old Testament, I wonder what their experiences with God were like. They were looking forward to the cross, and we are looking back to the cross.
When I read these words from Isaiah’s pen, his longings certainly seem to be a lot like mine. He says: “With my soul have I desired thee in the night … ” There have been numerous times when I have awakened during the night and the longing of my heart is to cry out to God about something that is bearing on me. I know He hears me no matter where I am or what time it is. He is “on duty” 24×7.
And then we hear him say: “with my spirit within me will I seek thee early:” I think Isaiah was an early riser. That was when he met with God. The day was young, his mind was fresh, and his spirit had a longing to speak to this God who wanted to hear from him. I know that there are many whose work prohibits them from rising early. I believe it is not so much the time of day as it is the beginning of OUR day.
This last phrase causes us to reflect on how the world sees this God whom we worship: “for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” Sometimes we hear false teaching that tells us that God is love and He will ultimately take everyone to heaven in the end. That sounds a bit syrupy because it is not true. When this world see God at work in His “judgments” here on earth, some people in the world begin to pay attention to the fact that this is the hand of God and not just a fluke of nature or that something else “just happened.” Where is our place in all this? Let’s seek God with our whole heart and live in such a way that even the vilest sinner will look at us and say, “there’s something different about that person’s life.” Just my thoughts …
“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. 7Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” 1 Peter 5.6-7
As Christ followers, you and I are called to a life of humility and total dependence on God. That being said, the emphasis of these two verses is a reminder to us that God longs to care for us but in order for Him to do that, we must yield control of all of who we are and all of what we possess. I think it is noteworthy that Peter is the disciple chosen of God to write these words. When he first met Christ he was anything but humble and when it came to the cares of his life, he handled things in a pretty head-strong way (remember the Roman soldier who came to arrest Jesus and Peter cut off his ear).
Think with me about this first phrase: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God … ” When God tells us to humble ourselves, what does that mean? I believe He is saying to us that we need to remember Whose we are when we are in His presence and there is never a moment when we are not in His presence. Peter tells us the reason for this statement: “that he may exalt you in due time..” When I am willing to humble myself before god, He will exalt me in His time.
When we have humbled ourselves, the next verse becomes much easier: “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” The realization of our need as Christ-followers will cause us to WANT to cast our cares on Him. When He offers to carry my burden, that means that I don’t have to. And if we are brutally honest, there are some burdens that we THINK we can carry, but we can’t. So why not let God be God in your life and see how you attitude and countenance changes. Just my thoughts …
“Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. 5 Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him: and he shall bring it to pass.” Psalm 37.4-5
I have a number of verses that have become favorites over the years. This duet is one of them. The psalmist gives us three very positive words in these two short verses: (1) delight, (2) commit, and (3) trust. Delight is the very opposite of disappointment. So for us to delight ourselves in the Lord, we must be something other than disappointed. Delighting ourselves in the Lord is not the same as understanding everything that He does in our lives. We do not have to UNDERSTAND everything that God is doing in order to delight ourselves in Him.
This second word “commit” implies a total act of faith. Ever get on an elevator and press the button for your floor and wonder, “Will this thing make it?” Once the door closes, you hear the motor begin to move it, but you can’t be guaranteed it will reach the floor you want. You do not have an attendant onboard to assist you. You have just exercised a total act of faith in that elevator. Can I just say that our God is much more dependable than that elevator? We don’t always KNOW where the next step will lead us, but we take that step anyway, believing that once we “commit” that step to the Lord, He will show us what’s next.
The final word is “trust.” We trust something or someone everyday. We walk into a dark room and switch on the light, trusting there will be electricity for the light. We go to work and our supervisor says something like, “You have never done this job before, but I trust your skills to do it.” You think to yourself, “He trusts me, and I trust him.” Look carefully at these words: “trust also in him: and he shall bring it to pass.” What does this little word “it” mean here? I like to think of this as God giving me a blank check and saying, “You trusted me. Now I am going to bring to pass whatever you have trusted Me for.” I find delight in that and it becomes easier to commit to God the next time the need arises. Just My Thoughts …
“With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. 11 Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Psalm 119.10-11
The encouragement and practical example for daily living found in this Psalm is powerful. Carefully inspect the words of this first phrase: “With my whole heart have I sought thee … ” That is what Mark Batterson calls being “All In” (in His book by that same name). The commitment made by the psalmist indicates several things: (1) intentionality, (2) focus, (3) purpose, and (4) a life filled with God’s best.
When I read the words of the second phrase, I need to understand that for which he is asking: “O let me not wander from thy commandments.” Is he saying to God, “Do what you must to keep me on the right path”? How often have we said to God, “Go ahead Lord and discipline me. I need it.” Most of us don’t want to experience discipline because we think, “Everything is ok in my life.” God KNOWS what is ok and what is not.
When he pens the words of v. 11, he is following through with what he can do to insure that he maintains his “whole heart” commitment. How does he propose to do that? “Thy Word have I hid in mine heart … ” In this age of digital technology, many have come to the conclusion that they don’t need to memorize scripture because “I always have my phone with me and I can look up what I need.” Hear me on this, that is Satan’s lie. If you can memorize your cell phone number, you can memorize a Bible verse.
Why was it so important for the psalmist to “hide” God’s word in his heart? “that I (he) might not sin against thee (God).” Several years ago I asked a guest speaker at the church I was attending to write something in my Bible. These are the words he wrote: “Sin will keep you from this Book. This Book will keep you from sin.” Think about it. Just my thoughts …