All Things Work Together For Good, How Gears Turn & Romans 8:28

There are good things and there are bad things and good things are not bad things. But those who love God have a staggering promise: that all things- good things and bad things- work together for their good. That’s Romans 8:28.

 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. 

We know this verse and many of us know it by heart. It’s on shower curtains and calendars and notecards. But when you really stop and consider it, Romans 8:28 is baffling.

To some ears, it might even sound like divine hocus-pocus.

Is Romans 8:28 Spiritual Hocus-Pocus?

Romans 8:28 almost sounds like the work of a fairy godmother.

As if God waves his silver wand over the bad things in a believer’s life, things like cancer and conflict and infertility and injury and accidents and temptation and pain, and then- bibbidi-bobbidi-boo!- the lowly pumpkin suddenly becomes a golden coach that whisks the suffering saint straight to the palace and prince.

Like hocus-pocus magic. As if to disguise the reality of the badness, because we know good is good and bad is bad and good and bad are quite often opposites. And yet Romans 8:28 boldly states: All things work together for good to those who love God. And of course, all things means good things and bad things.

But how can this be? How can things working in opposite directions-things like health and disease, kindness and mistreatment, birth and miscarriage, reconciliation and separation, comfort and distress- both be working, pointing, moving for our good? 

If good points right and bad points left, how can they both be leading to our good? 

I don’t know about you, but visuals help me understand. And I need a metaphor to grasp this hard thing. My little pea-size mind needs an image to help make sense of such a staggering promise.

But it’s not a silver wand. It’s a watch.

Watch The Wheels Turn.

In “Working for our Good,” Martyn Lloyd-Jones offers another image. It’s at the end of his sermon, but it hit me so hard I played and rewound and transcribed for an hour so I could describe this unbaffling image. Here it is:

Take your watch and open it. What do you see? You see wheels turning in opposite directions. You see one wheel moving in an anti-clockwise direction attached to another wheel going in a clockwise direction.

And you… look at this machinery and say “This is mad. This is quite ridiculous. Here are wheels working in opposite directions. The man who made that watch must have been a madman.”

 Of course he wasn’t. This is how he’d arranged this watch to work and move the hands around. Because all these different wheels are ultimately controlled by a main spring.

There’s a purpose at the back of it all. At the back of the main spring is the watchmaker who made the watch and wound it up… One gear is turning this way and one turning that way, but they’re all working together to move the main wheel and tell the time.  All these things that seem to be in contradiction are working together to the same end. It’s like that.

See the Gears Spin with a Spiritual Eye.

You look at life and say at first, “What’s happening? I can see that certain things are good for me, but look at all these other things. These are all against me.” 

“Think again,” he says, “Think again. Think of the One who’s planned it all. Don’t jump to conclusions. Look for an ultimate purpose. Look for an ultimate end. And if you do so with a spiritual eye as you should you will soon begin to see that God knows what he’s doing.”

Yes look at it again with spiritual eyes and will come to the conclusion that all things- everything- yes everything- that’s happening too you is working together. God’s made it like that. He wound it up. He keeps it going. The watchmaker is working it all together for our good.. 

Could there possibly be a more comforting and reassuring truth than that? Could there be a more heartening promise?

 

Don’t Slap It On.

I could stop here. After the watchmaker is working it all together for our good.

But I know Romans 8:28 is so encouraging we might be tempted to apply it quick and loose to others in pain. At our best we do so because it’s we’ve felt it’s immense comfort and we want to comfort others with the help we ourselves have received from God (2 Corinthians 1:4). There may well be a time to share Romans 8:28.

At our worst we apply the verse like a slap job. It’s a take-this-pill-and-get-over-it. It’s saying, “It’s all for the best,” at a funeral for a child. It might mean, “Hurry up and heal, so I don’t have to see you hurt.”

Besides that, it might come off as if we’re saying that bad things are good. They’re not. In the context of Romans 8, Paul had just finished talking about trials and suffering and all creation groaning (see Romans 8:17-27).

Paul was not calling black white or dark light and neither should we. To do so would be “false spirituality and a crass insensitivity.” 

Because evil does enter our homes. Things invade our lives that are just plain bad. We’re not to be glib and slap on Romans 8:28 like we slap a band-aid on a crying four year-old’s knee, to quiet him and send him away.

Our freshly wounded friends need our presence and hugs and listening ears. A slapped-on Romans 8:28 won’t heal their hurt.

Fools rush in. Wisdom can sit and wait when words won’t come.

But Hold On Tight.

But we, reading this now- we need grasp the watch and the gears- and hold on tight to the image when things go “anti-clockwise.” Because bad things will come to us. Things will go anti-clockwise.

That’s why we need to latch on to ALL THINGS. Because Romans 8:28 tells us that no meaningless trial comes to us. It affirms that no suffering- no bad thing- is wasted. Romans 8:28 teaches us that there is no experience ever in the Christian’s life that will not be worked for good.

Most of all, we know- not think or hope, but know- that in his providence God uses every single seemingly isolated event, to bring about his purpose- that we be conformed to the image of Christ and finally brought to glory.

Finally, in a Romans 8:28 sermon of his own, Pastor Geoff Thomas quotes one Daniel Howland,

All the events that take place in the world carry on the same work—the glory of the Father and the salvation of his children. Every ill­ness that may seize you, every loss you may meet with, every reproach you may endure, every shame that may color your faces, every sorrow in your hearts, every pain in your flesh, every ache in your bones, is for your good.

Oh, Christians, see what a harvest of blessings ripens from this text! The Lord is at work; all creation is at work; men and angels, friends and foes, all are busy, working together for good.

Oh, dear Lord Jesus, what have you seen in us that you should order things so wondrously for us, and make all things- all things – to work together for our good?

The Lord is at work. Clockwise or anti-clockwise the wheels turn for His purpose.

Rest assured, the watchmaker turns all things for our good.

 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.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 

Romans 8:28-29

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