Three lessons from Romans 8:28 remind my doubting, sometimes fearful soul of the truth that God is using this pandemic for good.
By Dennis Rainey
Good morning … I hope you and your family are well. Barbara and I are healthy, I think. Like you, we are practicing “social distancing.” We don’t see much of anyone outside occasional Zoom meetings or waving at a neighbor as we take a walk.
I’ve been reflecting on Romans 8:28 over the past three weeks. Unfortunately, this passage is so familiar that it can be used as Christian “slang” or religious jargon—kind of a “spiritual catch all” for people who have suffered losses. But it’s not a trite, glib, half-hearted throwaway now, not after three weeks of facing the pandemic, seeing the skyrocketing numbers of the ill and the dead, and hearing the President last night warn of even harder days ahead.
No, when I revisited the Scripture again this morning, there it was, reminding my doubting, sometimes fearful soul of the truth of God and the truth about God:
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”
A couple of other translations or paraphrased editions of this verse are helpful. The first is from an old paperback Bible that’s falling apart in my hands, The New Testament in Modern English, by J.B. Phillips. It must have been a high school graduation gift to me because the date and note are inscribed on the title page:
To Dennis Rainey
from your friends in the First Baptist Church,
Ozark, Missouri … May 22, 1966
Romans 8:28 in this version reads, “Moreover we know that to those who love God, who are called according to His plan, everything fits into a pattern for good.”
And one last translation deserves a look … The Amplified Bible:
“And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose.”
Three lessons from Romans 8:28
When we face a crisis like this, God wants us to know something very, very important:
1. We can embrace circumstances with CERTAINTY that God is at work. He’s not absent. He has not abandoned you. Even though you may have doubts, He wants you to be assured He is in control.
But beware of the enemy of your soul and his tactics. In Genesis 3:1 we read that the serpent came to the woman and tempted her to doubt the veracity of God’s Words, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Do you see the devil’s tactics?
Entertaining those three little words, “Has God said …?” will cause you to question what God said with certainty. Here’s where I love the Amplified version, “And we know [with great confidence]” Know … count on … bank on it … appreciate … realize … recognize. He wants you and me to experience the liberating confidence of knowing He is at work, even though it may not be all that clear right now.
Barbara and I have experienced how God is using this for good:
We’ve talked to every one of our six kids, most of their spouses and many of our grandchildren in the past week. These days you never know when it may be your last conversation with them.
Bryan, a leading pastor in the Dallas area, told me that they usually have 9-10,000 people attend Concord Church on Sunday morning. The first Sunday they had to cancel church, they had over 22,000 listening in online to the worship service and sermon.
God delights in birthing good out of something bad.
Application: Counsel your soul with the truth. Know this, oh my doubting soul, that you can be certain of God’s promise. Don’t let doubt and fear trample your heart and rob you of your convictions as you attempt to step out in faith.
2. The Spirit of God places two conditions on us if we are to experience what God promises: “for those who love God” and “for those who are called according to His purpose.”
Ah, what a great reminder for me as we face this monster virus. Are my affections in the right place? In the right order?
J.R.R. Tolkien implores us, “All of life is setting one’s affections in order.” Am I paying attention to truly loving God? Or do I love the security of my 401K? Do I love the world and its trappings more than God? What or who do you love supremely? As imperfect as it is, God desires your love and a relationship.
A second set of questions are good to revisit in these days of such fearful news: Do I know what my “calling” is? Am I fulfilling my calling? Am I preoccupied with what I’m losing or what I have lost? Or am I “on mission”? Do I maintain a war-footing mentality in the spiritual battle against such a deadly foe?
Application: I’m reminded of the advice of a great 20th century English preacher, Martin Lloyd-Jones, who was reflecting on the promises of Scripture:
“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself rather than talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problem of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking.
Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s [the writer of Psalm 42:5] treatment was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself, ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks. His soul has been repressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you’.”
The Holy Spirit of God wants a moment with you. He has words for you and a promise for you in Romans 8:28. He will help you remind yourself of the truth.
3. The promise for true followers of Christ is: If you are indeed in the process of loving God and are truly seeking to fulfill your calling, then you can know for certain that God is using all this mess for your good and for His glory.
And if you are not a committed, born-again Christ follower, then why wait to surrender to the One true God through His Son, Jesus Christ?
Sleep well tonight. God is still in control.