Sunday, June 9, 2024 ()

Bible Text: Romans 8:28 |

One of the most comforting verses in the Bible is found in Romans 8:28 which states: “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (NASB)   What a wonderful thought:  “All things working together” ultimately for our “good.”  Yet, when we look around and see all the difficulties, trials, sufferings and troubling experiences that Christians endure, it is hard to appreciate the full meaning of this verse.  In our own church community, Carolyn had an awful fall, then surgery.  And now, she is experiencing the continuing pain of rehab.  Before that, Christian’s and Trinity’s friend, Tyler Campbell, suffered painful and debilitating injuries which continue to plague him after being electrocuted at work.  For the past month, Jeff and his family have been coping with the difficulties in providing care for his parents.  Bill has recently experienced a trying time with the surgical removal of a camera from his digestive tract that his doctor had insisted would be for his good. As it turned out, it was anything but good! I think of the tragedy involving Gladys’ great-granddaughter who died as an innocent, little infant several months ago.  Larry’s wife, Terrie, suffers from wracking pain in her back, accompanied by heart ailments that she deals with on a daily basis.  Wayne’s and Rose’s granddaughters have had ongoing difficulties and health issues all their lives.  Gayle Tipson is continuing to experience the tiring effects of “long-COVID.” Clarence is facing a very serious operation on his lower leg toward the end of this week.  Faye’s sister is suffering from terminal cancer and now faces extreme suffering associated with chemo treatments and surgery.  Ray’s uncle was recently killed in a gruesome accident when his lawn tractor overturned.  And yesterday, Jean Blackburn’s grandson was found dead in his home in Mineral.  We could go on and on—adding to this list of pain and sorrow.  And so, how can we honestly say, “All things are working together for good of those who love God?”

Well, one of the keys to answering this question comes from the fact that the man who wrote the Letter to the Romans was no stranger to pain and suffering.  And, who was he?—the Apostle Paul, of course.  His life was anything but “pain-free.” He had been put in prison repeatedly over the course of his missionary career.  He was whipped seemingly countless times.  In fact, on five different occasions the Jews had served him with the maximum penalty of 39 lashes.  At three other times, Paul was severely beaten with rods.  Once, an angry mob almost stoned him to death.  His life was endangered out on the open road, in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas.  With respect to latter, he was shipwrecked three times on the high seas—once having to float on a piece of wreckage for an entire night and day.  Many times, he suffered from hunger and thirst.  At other times, he shivered in the cold without enough clothing to keep him warm.[1]  Despite all this, Paul is the one who proclaimed, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (NASB)  Paul didn’t make this up on a day when things happened to be going well.  No—these words were inspired by the Holy Spirit and form one of the cornerstones of our faith that apply to all circumstances in our lives.  So, to understand what the Spirit is telling us here, let’s unpack this statement of faith and review its component parts.  In doing so, I am going to follow an excellent outline provided by one of the most astute and engaging pastors of the latter part of the 20th century, the late James Montgomery Boice.

At the very beginning, he points out that this Scripture tells us that we “KNOW” Paul’s statement to be absolutely true.  But, as I have just mentioned, when we look around at our circumstances, all that we seem TO KNOW are the trials and difficulties that seek to overwhelm us.  During these trials, it is essential that we realize this Scripture is not stating a mere proposition that may, or may not, be reliable.  Rather, when Paul says, we “KNOW,” he means exactly that.  We have faith in this saying because we know that it reflects the reality of a Christian’s life experience.  And, as you are aware, “faith” isn’t a whimsical thing.  True faith has the quality of certainty to it—for as the Scriptures tell us elsewhere, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)   But, to better understand what Paul means, we need to understand how, and to whom, this Scripture applies.

To do this, let’s start by defining the people to whom Romans 8:28 applies.  Does it apply to humanity as a whole?  The answer is clearly, “No, it does not.”   In that very opening phrase of “WE know”—the “WE” to whom Paul is referring are those who are fellow believers.  So, bear in mind that when Paul says all things work together for the good of people, he is not speaking of all people.  Rather, he is including only those who “love God.”  As such, this promise is limited only to Christians.[2]

Let’s move on to another key word in this text.  The word is “good.”  What is the meaning of “good” as used within the context of this Scripture?  When Paul says, God causes all things to work together for the “good” of Christians, is he speaking of material things—like money?  Or, he is speaking of things like physical health and a pain-free life?   If God causes all things to work together for those kinds of “good,” wouldn’t that be great?  The noted preacher of prosperity gospel, Joel Osteen, apparently thinks so.  Osteen once said:  God can cause opportunity to find you. He has unexpected blessings where you suddenly meet the right person, or suddenly your health improves, or suddenly you're able to pay off your house. That's God shifting things in your favor.[3]  He also said: It’s God’s will for you to live in prosperity instead of poverty. It’s God’s will for you to pay your bills and not be in debt.”[4]  Is Osteen right in saying this?  Is Paul talking about those kinds of “good” things?  No—of course not!  It is interesting that Joel Osteen would say God wants to bless you with wealth and riches in light of Jesus’ conversation with the rich young ruler.  This wealthy, young man felt that he had followed all the Ten Commandments his entire life.  Jesus, of course, knew otherwise.  In any event, Matthew’s Gospel says: 21  “Jesus told him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ 22  But when the young man heard this, he went away very sad, for he had many possessions. 23  Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 24  I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!’” Matthew 19:21-24 (NLT2)  When reading this, it’s crystal clear that Jesus does not perceive worldly riches and wealth to be a desirous blessing.   Quite the opposite is the case.  Rather, when Jesus spoke to the Church at Laodicea, He told them:  My advice to you is to buy pure gold from Me, gold purified by fire—only then will you truly be rich.” Revelation 3:18a (TLB)   Joel Osteen’s prosperity gospel would have been well received in the Church of Laodicea.  You see, Laodicea was a city of great wealth and commerce.  The members of the Church of Laodicea had adopted a worldly view of what being “rich” means.  Jesus was telling them they must shed their notions about the value of worldly gold and exchange it for Jesus’ “pure gold”—for His “gold” is nothing less than genuine faith in Him.

As so many of you know, wealth and/or health is often missing from the lives of believers.  Yet, that does not mean God is not using all things to work together in bringing “good” into the lives of Christians.  With this being our reality as followers of Christ, James Montgomery Boice pointed to the obvious question.  He asked: What is meant by ‘good’?”  Boice continued by saying: “That is an important question to ask, because if ‘good’ means ‘rich,’ as some would like it to mean, the text is not true, since most Christians have not been given a great supply of this world’s goods. The same thing is true if ‘good’ means ‘healthy.’ Not all believers have good health. Similarly, ‘good’ cannot mean ‘successful’ or ‘admired’ or even ‘happy’ in the world's sense, since God asks many Christians to endure failure or scorn or very distressing personal experiences or severe disappointments.  What does ‘good’ mean, then, if it does not mean rich or healthy or successful or admired or happy?”[5]   Good question.

The answer lies at the heart of our Christian faith and is found in the following verse.  In Romans 8:29a, Paul states: “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son. . .” (NIV)  If you were to paraphrase that, it would read:For from the very beginning God decided that those who came to Him—and all along He knew who would—[they] should become like His Son. . .” Romans 8:29a (TLB)   That is what we, as Christians, are called to do.  On a daily basis, we are to seek, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, to become more and more like Christ.  That is the ultimate “good” any Christian could ever receive in this world!  If you want to know what life is all about, that is the answer, pure and simple: Spend your days becoming more like Jesus—your Creator, Lord, Savior and friend.[6]

               Now, let me pose another question that arises from all this.  Can the bad things we experience in life that involve trials and suffering actually bring on the “good” that Paul is referring to here in Romans?  The answer is, “Yes.”  Things like diseases, pain, persecution and sorrow are terrible things.  Yet, God can use even these dreaded things to His own good ends for those who trust in Him.[7]  When we have faith in God during these difficult times, it strengthens our relationship with Him. The Apostle Peter experienced many trials and painful experiences which served to strengthen his faith.  It may have been that the most notable trial was an emotional and spiritual one when Peter heard that rooster crow after vehemently denying Jesus three times.  Jesus had warned Peter that this terrible trial would be coming.  Despite the warning, it was such an awful experience that it shook a rock-of-a-man like Peter to his very core.  The Scripture says he turned away in bitter tears.[8]   But, God used this lowest point in Peter’s life to produce good—for, despite this failure, Peter truly was a man “called according to God’s purpose.”  Perhaps, reflecting upon this terrible experience, Peter later wrote:  6  “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. 7  THESE TRIALS WILL SHOW THAT YOUR FAITH IS GENUINE. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1st Peter 1:6-7 (NLT2)

The Bible gives us many examples of people whose faith was tested by the fires of difficulties.  And, out of those terrible circumstances, God took the bad events in their lives and used them for good.  Take Joseph as an example.  His brothers were jealous of him and threw him into a dry well to die.  Then, some slave merchants “happened” by, and his brothers sold Joseph into slavery.  Joseph ended up being purchased by a man named Potiphar who was the chief of police in Pharoah’s Egypt.  Up to that point in Joseph’s life, all these events were bad experiences.  But, God turned them into an opportunity for Joseph to become the head servant in Potiphar’s household—which was a pretty good position to have back then. But then, evil struck again when Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of making advance upon her.  As a result, Joseph underwent another trying time when Potiphar had him thrown in prison.  Once again, God turned a bad thing into good when Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams landed him the job as Pharoah’s top administrative aid in the entire Kingdom.  And, the greatest good came about when Joseph used his influence to save his starving Hebrew people who had migrated to Egypt during a famine.  Looking back to the time his brothers meant to kill him and all the circumstances God had addressed since then, Joseph summed it up by telling his brothers:  “You plotted evil against me, but God turned it into good, in order to preserve the lives of many people who are alive today because of what happened.” Genesis 50:20 (TEV) [9]

Now, bear in mind that these various events in Joseph’s life happened over a long period of time.  If the trials and difficulties were examined individually as they occurred during his life, it would have been impossible to see what God intended as the long-term good that was to be achieved.   That is the way it is for us as well.  Christian writer, Richard Exley, explains it this way:  “I know one minister who returned to his pulpit ten days after his son committed suicide. Under duress he read his text: ‘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.’  Visibly struggling, he said, ‘I cannot make my son’s suicide fit into this passage. It’s impossible for me to see how anything good can come out of it.  Yet, I realize that I only see in part.  I only know in part. It’s like the miracle of the shipyard.  Almost every part of our great oceangoing vessels are made of steel.  If you take any single part, be it a steel plate out of the hull or the huge rudder, and throw it into the ocean, it will sink. Steel doesn’t float!  But, when the shipbuilders are finished, when the last plate has been riveted in place, then that massive steel ship is virtually unsinkable. Taken by itself, my son’s suicide is senseless. Throw it into the sea of Romans 8:28, and it sinks. Still, I believe that when the Eternal Shipbuilder has finally finished, when God has worked out His perfect design, even this senseless tragedy will somehow work to our eternal good.”[10]

Christian counselor and writer, June Hunt, testifies to the same conclusion.  A while back, she went through a very difficult time when those she thought were her friends verbally attacked her over something she said or wrote.  They were painful, ugly words that stabbed her like daggers in the back.  She recalled:  “How vividly I remember the powerful emotions that churned inside me day and night. Yet there came a point when the Lord, my Refiner, gently reminded me that He stays with us throughout our most painful and unexpected trials. Even when the heat of pain intensifies, our Refiner will stay with us – never leaving us. The Bible says [in the Book of Malachi], “[God] will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify … and refine them like gold and silver.” (Malachi 3:3) And that’s exactly what God intends when He allows trials to enter your life. If you’re willing to surrender your will to His will, God promises to produce through your trials something far more valuable than gold—[HE WILL PRODUCE IN YOU] A CHRISTLIKE CHARACTER.”[11]   That’s exactly what I am talking about here—the greatest good we can receive in this life is to be transformed by the Holy Spirit into an image closer to Jesus Christ.

In closing, note that another translation of Romans 8:28 may help us to see something extremely important.  Today’s Living Bible translation states verse 28 like this: “We know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are FITTING INTO HIS PLANS.” Romans 8:28 (TLB)   God has a plan for your life.   Never doubt the fact that God is always concerned about the pains, suffering and trials of His people.  When we go through such difficulties, the Holy Spirit feels our pain.  He knows our frailties and weaknesses.  And, for those who cling tight to their faith, even when passing through the fiery trials of life, the Holy Spirit groans with us and intercedes with prayer on our behalf.  He prays that we will stay the course and continue fitting into God’s plan for our lives.[12]

This morning, are you fitting into God’s plan for you?  Pastor Warren Wiersbe tells us that:  “God has two purposes in that plan: [No. 1,] our good and [No. 2,] His glory.  Ultimately, He will make us like Jesus Christ!  Best of all, GOD'S PLAN IS GOING TO SUCCEED! . . . Our suffering today only guarantees that much more glory when Jesus Christ returns!” [13] Whenever you are experiencing tragedy, sorrow, pain, frustration or disappointment, remember that God can make “all things work together for good” if you will just hold tight to the Hand of Jesus Christ throughout the ordeal.  The LORD promises: 2  “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. 3  For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:2-3 (NLT2)   THAT IS A PROMISE OF GOD AND GOD NEVER BREAKS A PROMISE. 

He has a good purpose to which we are called.  But, it is not a call for worldly riches, good health or worldly prosperity—as some false preachers and teachers would have you believe.  It is all for God’s glory.  Never forget: The glory of God manifested itself on one dark afternoon on a hill outside Jerusalem when His own Son, Jesus Christ, died on the Cross.   It is God’s plan that all who repent and surrender their lives to His Son can take advantage of this greatest good of all—Christ’s sacrifice for your sins and mine.   This is the fulfilment of the words in the Book of Jeremiah which read: 11  “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.’” Jeremiah 29:11 (TLB)   Submit to the Lord, Jesus Christ, and let God complete His plan for your life.  Let Him order your daily steps that all you do may bring glory to Him.  For as a psalm of David proclaims:  “The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” Psalm 37:23 (NLT2)  And, remember the words of the disabled Vietnam vet, recipient of the Silver Star and Bronze Star, and former U. S. Senator, Max Cleland who once said:  “Remember, things don’t work out; God works out things.”[14]  Let Him work out the things in your life and finish what He’s started in your heart today.


Darvin Satterwhite, Pastor

Forest Hill Baptist Church

June 9, 2024

©2024 All Rights Reserved as follows:

Anyone is at liberty to use this sermon or any portions thereof for educational or religious purposes, with or without credit. The pastor believes the material presented herein to be true to the teaching of Scripture, and desires to further, not restrict, its potential use as an aid in the study of God’s Word. The publication of this material is a grace ministry of Forest Hill Baptist Church in Louisa, Virginia.

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[1] 2nd Corinthians 11:23b-2723b   I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. 24  Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. 25  Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. 26  I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. 27  I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. (NLT2)


[2] James Montgomery Boice, Romans, Volume 2: The Reign of Grace (Romans 5-8), Paperback ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 904-905.


[3], Joel Osteen,


[4] Quote Fancy, Joel Osteen,; see also,  [accessed June 5, 2024].

[5] James Montgomery Boice, Romans, Volume 2: The Reign of Grace (Romans 5-8), Paperback ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 905-906.

[6] Ibid.

[7] James Montgomery Boice, Romans, Volume 2: The Reign of Grace (Romans 5-8), Paperback ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 906.

[8] Luke 22:62 “And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.” (NLT2)

[9] James Montgomery Boice, Romans, Volume 2: The Reign of Grace (Romans 5-8), Paperback ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 908.


[10] Richard Exley, "Decent Exposure," Leadership (Fall 1992),  p. 118, cited in

[11] June Hunt, “Trials: God’s Refining Process,”

[12] Romans 8:26-27  26  “And in the same way—by our faith —the Holy Spirit helps us with our daily problems and in our praying. For we don’t even know what we should pray for nor how to pray as we should, but the Holy Spirit prays for us with such feeling that it cannot be expressed in words. 27  And the Father who knows all hearts knows, of course, what the Spirit is saying as he pleads for us in harmony with God’s own will.” (TLB)

[13] Warren Wiersbe, Be Right (Romans), (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2003), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 541.


[14] Lloyd John Ogilvie, "Pastoring the Powerful," Leadership (Fall 2000), cited in 

   Also: Wikipedia contributors, "Max Cleland," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed June 6, 2024).

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