Coffee shop ponderings — God’s “good” plan

Here I am…posting my coffee shop ponderings from outside of Coffee Choices.  Actually…I never made it there today to write my sermon (I did make it there this morning for coffee though).  I usually start writing the sermon in my office and finish it at my coffee shop, but today was different.  I got on a roll and couldn’t stop typing.

On Sunday I am continuing my sermon series on Romans by preaching on chapter 8 verses 26-39.  I started pondering and praying about verse 28 where it says, “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.”  Upon pondering this verse I started thinking how this verse is often misused (or at least used in the wrong situations).  The times I have heard this verse used is when someone is facing a devastating disaster or disease diagnosis or something else devastating.  And in times like those, Romans 8:28 is the last verse I want to hear.  If I am mourning the lost of my house and possessions because of a tornado, quoting Romans 8:28 almost sounds like that God planned this disaster so he could do something “good”.  At the moment that is not comforting.  After the fact I may be able to look back and see the good that came from that disaster, but not right now.

I think this verse is used because of our insatiable desire to explain everything.  If we can’t explain it in scientific or logical terms we chalk it up to God’s divine plan (“I am not sure why this happened, but God is going to do something good thought it; it was God’s will.”)  Telling a parent, who’s child just died, that it was God’s will is often not the right thing to say.  Or trying telling them that God will do something good though that death.  You might get an angry response in return.  But who knows how they will look at death later on down the road.

Instead, I see Romans 8:28 as a proclamation of grace.  The “good” God is working towards is nothing else than our reconciliation through Jesus Christ.  Ever since the Fall, God has been working to reconcile creation back to himself.  And it is only though faith that we can recognize this “good”.  Sometimes the “crap” of this world can cloud our faith so we cannot see God active in our lives.  But after the dust clears, then things begin to clear up.

In a simple phrase, quoted by a friend of mine on Facebook, “It’s all grace!”  And that is so true.  God IS working for good, but let’s be careful how and when we use this verse.  We might do more harm than good.  Instead, share with people how God has gotten you thought difficult times.  Talk about God’s amazing love and how he never left you when you were going to a tough time.  Let people see the “good” for themselves after the dust has cleared.

What are your thoughts on Romans 8:28…especially in the context of verses 28 – 39?  Do you think this verse often gets misused?

There will be no “Coffee shop ponderings” next week as I will be on vacation up north.  Actually, there might not be a whole lot of activity from me at all next week, but you never know.  In the mean time, I look forward to reading your thoughts here.  Take care and I will catch you later.


6 thoughts on “Coffee shop ponderings — God’s “good” plan

  1. Thanks, Eric,

    Good ponderings.

    Yes, I believe this verse is often misused, particular at the time of death. However, it became one of the family-requested texts for two of my last four funerals! It did work to preach, though, because the witness of those two people’s lives bore it out.

    I often find myself having to respond to people who misuse the text by saying something like, “[The tragedy] was God’s will,” by saying, “Actually, I don’t believe [the tragedy] was God’s will, [because God does not will that any should perish], but I am confident that God will bring us through this, and somehow, good will one day come in spite of this.”

  2. Eric – I think your interpretation of grace in 8:28 is dead on. Back in verse 21, Paul has just been speaking about our bondage to decay and the universal longing throughout creation for a release from that bondage. In verse 25, I think Paul basically says almost the same thing you have said in your post:

    “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Rom 8:25 NRSV)

    That hope is grounded on the promise, which rest entirely in Christ, that *despite* the brokenness we now experience, there will be a redemption. Included in that promise, that hope, are those whose lives have ended under tragic circumstances.

    P.S. I’m on Facebook as well, finally.

  3. Do Not Be Surprised
    Do not be surprised when some church leaders do not accept you, for there has always been people who hold high positions in churches who speak evil of men and women of God.

    Many of God’s people over the centuries have come up against people like that. We read in 3 John v 9 & 10, of an elder called Diotrophes, who with foolish and malicious words spoke evil of the Apostles and who would not receive them or their teachings.

    He loved to have pre-eminence among the local church at that time, and if any did not obey him, he would have them thrown out of the church. Have things really changed today?


  4. Michelle — Hey there…it’s been a while. Thanks for the comment. Your response to a tragedy being God’s will is a great one and one that I would use. Even though many people are looking for a reason “Why” something happened, hearing they are not alone goes a long way towards healing and getting through their present tragedy.

    Chris — Thank you for your comments. It goes to show that before we take a verse out of scripture and use it for a particular purpose we need to look around and see the context. Romans 8:28 is about grace not explaining why things happen. Thank you.

    cornishevangelist — I’m sorry, but I fail to see your connection with what I wrote.

  5. Eric,
    Enjoy your vacation,
    thanks for the thoughts especially about remembering our context as we hear Paul’s words. Paul is announcing the power of God to do great things. Paul’s words are his own confession of faith and a proclamation of God’s power for the world to hear. Paul, or any of us could say such wonderful words, but we aren’t always ready to hear. Maybe we’ll even doubt or worse yet recoil at such words of faith because of something that’s happened to us that’s shaken our faith, but not God’s faithfulness.
    thanks for the posting

  6. Eric, especially here in CPE land, your words not only ring true they downright resonate. Because I agree with Michelle especially and I am just done with a long shift I will not reiterate what has been said well by her and by you.

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