Growing up, I played competitive tennis, golf, soccer, and football. I was good at many of these sports, but I was only great at one: golf, which I picked up at the age of thirteen and continue to enjoy playing at a high-level today. Throughout high school, I felt drawn...
Before I knew Christ as my Savior, I was familiar with the phrase “everything will work out for good.”
The more familiar I became with evangelical Christianity, the more I learned similar phrases like “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” and “God helps those who help themselves.”
As a determined optimist, I clung to these concepts. Yet they proved frustrating and confusing as I began to consider faith in Jesus.
Soon, “everything will work out for good” was added to my list of non-Biblical, untrue philosophies. The concept didn’t seem to fit with the truth of sin’s consequences or the call for believers to set themselves aside.
Imagine my surprise when, after receiving Christ as my Savior, I discovered this verse in the Bible:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
A Promise for Believers
What I had mistaken for a false platitude is a Biblical promise—and it doesn’t stand alone against the rest of Scripture.
God working all things for good is nestled in a passage about believers’ new life in Christ as God’s children, who the Spirit works within and on behalf of. This is a promise to those who God calls.
In Romans 8, we also learn that for those who are called, God:
- Predestined to be like Christ
- Justified and glorified
Like all good gifts of God, this promise is given out of his abundant grace, not because we earn it.
A Promise of Good for Believers
The word for “good” in Romans 8:28 is Agathos which is the broadest, most versatile definition of the concept. It is used to describe all sorts of good things, like fertile ground, gifts, usefulness, people, and even generosity.
How can all the things we get, give, and come up against be worked for all sorts of good?
Part of the answer is described in the rest of the passage. Because Christ has reconciled us with God, we are constantly (in all things) being:
- Aligned with the Holy Spirit who dwells in us
- Given life and peace resulting from a mind set on the Spirit
- Testified about as adopted as God’s children and heirs
- Prepared to share in Christ’s glory because of his righteousness
- Interceded for by the Holy Spirit in line with God’s will
We don’t need to question if what God does or allows in our lives can be worked for good, because God is good and his Spirit is at work in us just as he is at work in all things.
A Purposeful Promise of Good for Believers
Among the most important words in this famous verse are these: “according to.” Without purpose, the “good” God works things for is subjective. If we are called without purposefulness, then the verse is merely a platitude for an aimless people.
Like the “who” and the “what” of Romans 8:28, the “why” is tied to the rest of the passage, and all of Scripture. God’s purposes are the anchor that makes this promise something we ought to hold onto.
We find in the rest of the Romans 8 several pieces of God’s purpose:
- God intends for believers to be conformed to Christ
- God is going to gloriously redeem creation and his people
- God will reconcile all things to reveal his glory
The purpose God works all things together for good for, which we are called to, is the same as it is in all of Scripture: God’s glory.
What This Promise Means for Believers Today
Unlike my earlier suspicions, Romans 8:28 isn’t a platitude at all. There is nothing placating about God working all things together for good for his perfect purpose. Instead, this promise should embolden, strength, and direct us.
As verse 15 in the passage points out: “You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons.”
We who are called by God have a place in his purpose. All the things that fill our lives have a part in his purpose. God will keep his good, good promise.