Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Suffering, Good, and the Glory of God

Would God allow suffering in a person’s life if it would bring glory to Him? What if my suffering would help others to find God and to know God? Let’s take this a bit further: Would God purpose suffering in my life if it would bring glory to Him? I’m asking this question because I believe it will guide us to understand Romans 8:28, which reads: “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.” Or, as The Message puts it: “That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”
First, to understand this great promise we have to understand the meaning of “good.” Biblically “good” is defined in relation to the being of God. Seven times, in Genesis chapter 1, God creates and we then hear the words – “And God saw that it was good.” James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shdows.” “Good” has to have a standard, otherwise the term “good” has no meaning. For example, many years ago I played the flute. I have not touched a flute in 30 years. If I played it now and someone said that I am a "good" flute player, I would say – “I don’t think you know what “good” flute playing really is. I heard Alexander Zonjic at the Monroe Jazz Festival this summer – that is “good” flute playing.” “Good” has a standard, and the source of all good on earth derives from the very essence and being of God who is, in His essence, Good.
God works all things together for “good.” This means: “Good” as understood by Him. God Himself is the greatest Good. In that earthly things are good they reflect their Creator. If our lives are “good” they give glory to God. And this means that God is working all things together in our lives so that our lives give glory to God and point people to God.

Perhaps you have heard someone misuse Romans 8:28 like this: “OK, you may have lost your job, but God has a better job for you, because all things are working for your good.” The problem with this is that it’s far too narrow and, often, it’s self-centered and even materialistic. The ultimate good is God’s glory. And God is glorified when His children live as Jesus did and attain the glory He has destined them for. God may take us out of a secure, well-paying job in order to shake us out of a materialistic lifestyle that does not honor Him, and we may never have as good a job again. Of course God can include material blessings in the Romans 8:28 promise. But it is a mistake to define “good” in Romans 8:28 by what we want. The greatest good for you is your life used by God to glorify God. To bring people to a knowledge of God. Remember that God is not working to make us “happy” but to fulfill His purposes.
Paul is not saying that all things are good. He is saying all things are turned by God for good. This does not mean that God removes all suffering. It does mean that God takes the sufferings and works them together for good, which is glorifying to Him and accomplishes His purposes. "All Things" includes the "bad things"
Would God allow a person to suffer if it gave glory to Him and accomplished His purposes? Of course. Just look at Joseph and Job and Jonah and Paul. Esther suffered, but it was for “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Jesus suffered. And it was all worked out to the glory of God and for our eternal good. So let us love Him! And so we will be blessed with the phenomenal promise of Romans 8:28