work-together-for-goodAnd 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)

This passage is typically used to teach that God will use the bad things that happen to us in life to bring about some future blessing (financial, relational, ministerial, etc.).  Some go so far as to teach that each instance of suffering has a corresponding blessing attached to it.  Let’s look at the context.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Rom 8:28-30)

The first thing to notice is that the promise that all things will work together for good is not a universal principle that applies to all people, but a promise only to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.  The reason is simple: The “good” that Jesus speaks of is a good that only Christians experience.  What is that good?  It is conformity to Jesus’ character (29).  That this is the good Paul had in mind is clear from Paul’s use of “for” in verse 29, indicating that he is explaining and elaborating on what was just said in verse 28.  The reason we know that God will work all things for our good is because He foreknew us and predestined for us to be conformed to Jesus’ image (character), and ultimately to be glorified.

This observation brings us to our second point: The good that Paul has in mind is sanctification, not personal blessings such as a better job, more money, a spouse, happiness, etc.  There is no promise that God will provide a temporal blessing corresponding to every temporal evil we experience.  God has not promised that if we are unjustly fired from our place of employment that He will provide us with a new job making more money.  There is no promise that every time we are slandered we will receive some corresponding temporal blessing.  What God has promised us is that the evil we experience in life will be used by God for the purpose of making us more like Jesus – which is the ultimate blessing.  We know this to be true by experience.  While we enjoy temporal blessings, rarely will such things help us to become more Christ-like.  Suffering, however, has a way of changing our character to be more like Jesus.

Will all things work together for our good?  Yes, if by “our” we mean Christians and by “good” we mean conformity to Christ.

Keep it in context….