Romans 8:28-39 Everyone in the world knows that there is a God. His power and presence are clearly on display in the created world around us. Our conscience bears witness to the Law written on our heart by a righteous God. Everyone in the world knows that there is a God who is holy and powerful and wise. But what is his attitude towards us? Is it one of love and concern? Or is God out to get me and do me harm?
These are questions that cannot be answered by observation or inner testimony or experience. These are questions that must be answered by God’s own revelation of himself. And so they have. The Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write:
We know that- for those who love God -all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
How devoutly we believe these words when our life is filled with good things! How we struggle to believe them when it is difficult and hard things that fill our lives! But whether there are pleasant things or painful things, the promise of God is the same: in every moment and circumstance of our life, he is working for our eternal good.
You see, God has created us and redeemed us so that we would live with him forever as his children. Everything he does works together so that we can be confident that-come what may-we WILL reach heaven. Paul wrote:
Those whom God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
A simply summary is this: God has always known you and loved you and he has chosen you in Christ to be his children for time and eternity. Moment by moment, situation by situation—pleasant or painful—God is at work in your life, shaping you into the likeness of Jesus so that you might be called Jesus’ brother and God’s Son.
Before there was time—when there was simply the God WHO IS—you were already on his mind and in his heart. Paul wrote:
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
To bring you back into his family, God he predestined you—that is, he chose you in Christ to be his own- and designed a perfect plan for you so that everything that happenes in your life would play a role in shaping you into the image of his only-begotten Son—so that you could enjoy the very same life with the Father that Jesus has.
A big part of that plan was accomplished when he called you into his family by the power of the Gospel. Maybe that happened when you were baptized. Maybe it happened later in life through the preaching of the Gospel. But however and whenever it happened, the Holy Spirit called you to trust in Jesus—and in that moment, God declared that you were right in his sight—justified by faith in Jesus Christ.
And having justified you in his sight, he prepared an eternal home for you in heaven where his life and presence and glory would shine upon you forever.
From everlasting to everlasting God has loved you and known you and he has done everything necessary to make you his own precious child for time and eternity.
That is why we can be so certain that all things are working for our good—because God is for us and always has been and always will be. Paul wrote: What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
We may have our doubts about the “ALL” in “all things” that God chooses to work for our good. We would very much prefer to avoid hardship and suffering and the difficulties of life that rise up against us as enemies of our happiness and ease.
But there can be absolutely NO DOUBT that even in the midst of trials, God is working for our good because his love stretches from eternity to eternity and standing right smack dab in the middle of God’s eternal love for you is the enduring sign of that love: his own Son’s death upon the cross. Paul wrote that:
God…did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
None of us can peer back into the hidden counsels of God when he predestined us--or gaze into the future at the glory to come—they have to be revealed to us for they lie outside of time and space. But we can know—beyond any shadow of a doubt—in a concrete way—God’s attitude towards us because of the gift of his Son.
Jesus entered into time and space and took upon himself our own human flesh. He offered up upon the rough cross of Calvary the one perfect, fully sufficient sacrifice that has reconciled us to our heavenly Father—fulfilling the law’s demands and suffering the punishment for sin we deserved.
The person and work of Jesus are preached to us so that our ears can hear it and they are poured over us in the waters of Holy Baptism so that we can feel it and given to us in bread and wine so that we can taste it.
And so then, having given us the gift of his own Son—having bestowed salvation upon us in Word and Sacrament—why on earth would God withhold even one good thing from us?! He won’t! All things have already been given to us in Jesus Christ.
Some of them we enjoy right now: forgiveness, peace with God, hope for the future, a family of fellow believers. Some of them we have to wait for: a new heaven and earth, bodies unencumbered with sickness and sorrow, and the end of death.
But having already given us the very best he can give in Jesus—we can be absolutely certain that God will not withhold a single good thing from us—no matter what the world, the devil, and our own flesh have to say about it. Paul wote:
Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
When we endure hard times our spiritual enemies are right there tempting us to doubt the promises of God. The world ridicules for believing that there is a divine purpose and plan for our lives. The devil attacks our identity by tempting us to doubt we are God’s children because hardships have come into our lives. And our own sinful flesh rebels against the very idea that God can bring good things out of suffering.
But what are these spiritual enemies—with their temptations and accusations and condemnations-- compared to the verdict of Almighty God: that we are his children through faith in Jesus? Who can possibly condemn us when God has acquitted us? Who will dare to accuse us when Jesus is our defense?
The same One who died on the cross to forgive us and rose up from the grave to give us new life --has ascended to the Father’s right hand where he lives to be our advocate: and beseeching his heavenly Father to forgive us our sins and bring us safely into the home he has prepared for us.
It is this eternal plan and purpose of our heavenly Father for our lives- and the work of his Son Jesus Christ for our salvation- that assures us that nothing, absolutely nothing—no matter how terrible, no matter how difficult, no matter how painful-- has the power to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Paul wrote:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
Hardship and difficulty and suffering are real possibilities for the child of God. Faith in Christ is not a vaccine against suffering and hardship.
Paul quoted a psalm that was written nearly a thousand years before Christ about the suffering those believers were enduring. The church of Paul’s day was going through that same thing. And of course we’ve had our own share of life’s difficulties.
But do these hardships have the ability to destroy Christ’s love for us? Can they undermine the Father’s plans for us? Will they separate us from God?
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What does it mean that we are MORE than conquerors? After all it certainly seems that we have our share of defeats: we give in to temptation—we are opposed by the unbelieving world—we have to endure hardship and suffering—and all of us will die one day if the Lord does not come first. Where is the victory in all this?
It is in Christ—the One who loved us and gave his life for us. It is his victory that makes us more than conquerors in our daily battles.
Jesus never gave in to temptation—not even once. Jesus defeated the devil again and again. Jesus healed the sick and fed the hungry. Jesus conquered death and the grave. The crucified, risen, ascended Christ rules heaven and earth at this very moment for our good and through faith in him, his victory is our own.
We ARE more than conquerors in the hardships of life because the victory that we possess by faith is our Lord’s victory and nothing that we will ever face in this world is greater than his love for us. His love chose us in eternity. His love rescued us from our sins and made us God’s children. His love has prepared a place for us where we will dwell eternally. And his love is still with us in this waiting time—this hoping time—working all things together for our good. Amen.