Stronghold 10: Romans 8:28 (In All Things).
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Our next stronghold is a verse that’s a favourite for many people. It’s probably one of the best known verses in the Bible, and for good reason. This is an incredible sentence, deserving of even greater fame than it already has. But it’s also worth getting to know better, because it’s misunderstood in a few ways, and also because I don’t think we make the most of it.
Let’s break it down bit by bit. This verse is one of a string of incredible truths in Romans 8 and must be read in context. Its power is amplified when we remember what’s gone before it, and when we keep reading to see what comes after.
The word ‘And‘ at the beginning isn’t superfluous, it’s a vital link to Romans 8 verses 1-27. This verse would be sensational just on its own, but when it’s the latest in a long line of divine promises it’s simply mind-blowing. What’s gone before? We are no longer condemned (v. 1), we’ve been given life instead of death (v. 2), we’re set free for better things (v. 6), God’s power is at work in us (v. 11), we’ve been adopted as children of God (v. 15), we can call Him ‘Abba’, ‘Daddy’ (v. 15), we’re heirs of God blessed with an incredible inheritance (v. 17), we’ve got glory waiting for us (v. 21), our bodies will be redeemed and renewed (v. 23), the Holy Spirit helps us and prays for us (v. 26). AND we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.’ v. 28) Wow. That’s a breathless barrage of blessing, an unstoppable flow of good news and a reminder that Romans 8:28 is just one particularly radiant jewel in a sublime crown.
And that’s only the first word in the verse! Next up – ‘we‘ – ‘we know’. This is a shared truth and a shared blessing. It’s not just for a chosen few or the specially holy people. Paul knew it, the Roman church knew it, we can know it.
‘All‘ – ‘in all things’. This promise is universal in its application, with no exemptions. God works in all things for our good. Not just some things, not just some of the time, but in all things, all the time. He’s working in the good things, the mundane things and even the bad, painful things to do us good. Whatever happens to us, God is working for our good. There’s nothing in your life that God can’t work in or transform into something for your good.
‘God works‘. This is all about God and what He does, not about what we do. It’s all because of His grace and on His initiative. It’s done with His power and guaranteed by His proven faithfulness. Not only that, but the fact that God ‘works’ shows us that He puts the effort in for us. He doesn’t take a back-seat or merely watch over things; no, He rolls up His sleeves and gets to work on your behalf. When things aren’t working out, God is working in. He’s working in all things for your good.
‘for the good‘. We need to remember that it’s this word ‘good’ and not any of a whole host of other words we sometimes think or wish it was. It doesn’t say ‘comfort’, because what’s good for us is not always comfortable. It doesn’t say ‘financial gain’, because God’s blessings don’t always mean worldly wealth. It doesn’t say ‘status’ or ‘fame’ because God’s purpose is not about us but about our part in His big plan. It doesn’t say ‘pleasure’, ‘power’ or pride’ because those things are either bad or beside the point. He’s working for our good, nothing more, nothing less. God knows what’s good for us better than we do, so we need to trust that what He’s doing for us really is best, even if don’t always think so in the moment. He make sure the good things don’t spoil us and that the bad things don’t break us. However it starts, God ensures it ends up as good.
‘of those who love Him‘. This promise is limited to certain people only. It’s not for everyone. If you don’t love God, then this verse isn’t talking about you and doesn’t apply to you. It’s for those who love God and believe in Jesus. There’s no other qualifying mark or criteria. You can’t earn this, buy this or manipulate this. It’s a free gift, but you have to accept it, and everything that goes with it.
‘who have been called.’ Those who love God have been called by Him. Those God calls love Him. It didn’t start with you, it started with God. He put the call on your life, then you loved Him, not the other way round. If you’re wondering whether or not God has called you – He has. The fact that you’re even wondering proves it. And if you’re not sure, just ask yourself, do I love Him? If so, you are called, because the two things go together. God wants you, chose you and includes you. You only get excluded if you exclude yourself by rejecting the call.
‘according to His purpose.’ This isn’t just for us, just for our good as the end. Our good is just a means towards God’s greater end of redeeming the whole world and the glory that will mean for Him. God has a purpose for our lives. That goes for all of us. Verses 29-30 go on to explain more about this purpose and how it works – how we’re all in it together, justified, glorified and conformed to become like Jesus. But we need to realise that although God has a purpose for each of us, God’s purpose is also bigger than any of us. We have the privilege of taking part in the grand drama of redemption.
So you see, when you break it down and unpack each part, you see quite how much stuff is in this verse. So much good. We can mis-apply it and mis-quote it, but when we bring it back to what it actually says, it adds up to an incredible expression of God’s interaction with us in which the blessings are far more than the sum of their parts.
Why is it a stronghold? Because it affirms us, reassures us, encourages us and reminds us that God is in control. When we doubt, we can come back to this certain truth. When we feel all alone, we can remember that this is a communal promise shared by our brothers and sisters. When life throws hard things at us, we can claim them all under the promise of God working it into good. Nothing need dismay us and nothing can diminish God’s hand in our lives. If these stronghold verses are a castle, this is the shining turret at the top of the tallest, strongest tower. It offers protection and perspective, and is just stunning in its richness and inexhaustible validity.
God is good, and He’s always working for your good.
(come back next week for Stronghold number 11: Romans 12:2. You can find my first nine Strongholds, Numbers 6 , Psalm 23, Psalm 84, Psalm 121, Psalm 139, Proverbs 4, Isaiah 40, Jeremiah 29 & Zephaniah 3 here).