“We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Perhaps no Scripture has brought more hope to believers, sustaining our faith as we have attempted to navigate our way through various difficult seasons of life, than these words of Paul to the Romans. This is the one verse on which I have personally climbed atop and taken my stand, finding refuge and hope in times of confusion and need.
The promise is constructive in its appeal
As we dissect the elements of this powerful and very personal promise, we immediately note that it is constructive in its appeal. Paul assured us that “things work together.” This is one of the most comforting thoughts in all Scripture; things that come our way in life have a supernatural way of working together for our good. They can be constructive in nature. As you look back over your own faith journey, consider the events that, in the moment, seemed disastrous yet had a way of actually working out for good. This verse is a reminder that God Himself is behind the scenes in our lives, and things have their own way — not by accident or by blind chance — of working together for our good.
In the language of the New Testament, one Greek word translates this entire phrase, “things work together.” The word is synergia, and we derive our English word synergy from it. A constructive and synergistic principle is at work in our lives. This certainly does not mean that everything that comes our way is good. In fact, many of us are confronted with issues that are downright bad and painful. You may be faced with financial setbacks, sickness, disappointment and so on. However, this verse assures us that God can take our mistakes, messes and misfortunes and work them together for our good and His glory.
King David captured this truth and recorded these poignant words for posterity: “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (Psalm 119:71).
The promise is comprehensive in its approach
Not only is this promise constructive in its appeal, it is comprehensive in its approach. The promise says, “All things work together for good.” When I meditate on this promise, I am prone to ask myself if I can really believe it. Had Paul said “some things,” or “many things,” or even “most things,” it would be a bit more palatable. But “all things”? All things can include unfair things. This was certainly true for Joseph, who was sold into slavery, taken to a foreign land, falsely accused of a crime and thrown into an Egyptian dungeon. Also, consider the one from whom these words flowed. Paul was shipwrecked at Malta, stoned at Lystra and left for dead, and repeatedly beaten and berated during the years of his missionary journeys. For Paul, these words were not simply trite platitudes but were issued out of his own personal experience as the Holy Spirit led him to record this promise.
Yes, all things are what? Working together. For what? Our good. All things — not in isolation, not necessarily in and of themselves, but when worked together in the tapestry of the cross — have a way of coming out on the other end for our good. This promise is comprehensive, not just constructive.
The promise is conditional in its application
However, before you claim it as your own, look closer. This promise is conditional in its application. It is given exclusively to “those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” It is not for everyone. This is not a blanket, unconditional promise. It is for those who “love God.” Only those who love Him and sense that there is a purpose in their lives can understand the deep truth of Romans 8:28. And when they do, they can say with Job, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
Love is something you do. In the Bible, love is always equated with action. “For God so loved the world… that He gave” (John 3:16). He did something. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). John framed it thus: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 John 5:3). Loving God and abiding in His will “according to His purpose” is the condition by which the truth of this promise comes home to our hearts.
There is one final thought. Don’t leave out the first phrase of this promise. It begins with “We know….” Note carefully the plural pronoun at play: “we.” Yes, we know. This promise was never intended to be understood by the world. It is a foreign language to those outside Christ. It is, in its essence, a family secret for those of us in the family of God. The promise found in Romans 8:28 is something that we know that those who are not part of God’s forever family cannot comprehend. But we can. Yes, “We know that… all things… work together for good — to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
The next time you feel overwhelmed by situations or circumstances swirling around you that seem beyond your control, climb up on this Bible promise. Stand there. Believe it. Claim it as your very own.
A promise and a prayer
“The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever” (Psalm 138:8).
Lord, in the midst of the storm, help me to hold fast to Your promise that “all things are working together” for my good and, most importantly, for Your glory. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Taken from The Promise Code by O.S. Hawkins. Copyright © 2022 by Dr. O.S. Hawkins. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson.
O.S. Hawkins is the chancellor of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has served pastorates, including the First Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, for more than 25 years. A native of Fort Worth, Texas, he has a BBA from Texas Christian University and his MDiv and Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. For almost a quarter of a century, he served as president of GuideStone Financial Resources, with assets under management of $20 billion, serving 250,000 pastors, church staff members, missionaries, doctors, university professors, and other workers in various Christian organizations with their investment, retirement and benefit service needs. He is the author of more than 40 books and regularly speaks to business groups and churches nationwide. All of the author’s royalties and proceeds from the Code series support Mission:Dignity. You can learn more about Mission:Dignity by visiting MissionDignity.org.
Read more articles by Dr. O.S. Hawkins at: https://www.goodnewsfl.org/author/o-s-hawkins/