CU Chapel Devotion
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Romans 8:28-39 Sermon
April 7, 2014
WORKING TOGETHER WITHOUT SEPARATION
TEXT: [Paul writes] "28 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.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who 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? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 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. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, 'For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.'
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 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."
This morning, I want you to imagine this simple scenario. You're getting out of your car, and you're in a hurry. Somehow or other, you manage to slam your finger in the car door. Ouch!
As you are gritting your teeth and writhing in pain, someone walks up to you. They have this big plastic grin on their face; and in this sing-songy voice they say, "Oh, I see you have hurt your finger. Well you know what the Bible says, 'All things work together for good.' Have a nice day!" And they go skipping off into the horizon.
So now you are fuming as well as being injured. All things work together for good. Here you are with what might be a fractured finger, and you are bleeding. And all this person could do to help you was to give you a rather cliché "all things work together for good" statement. As true as those words are, this was neither the time nor the place to use them.
If you are anything like me, I'd be tempted to take my uninjured hand and punch them square in the nose. Then I'd be tempted to say, "All things work together for good, huh? Well, I hope that was as good for you as it was for me."
Our Scripture reading from Romans chapter 8 provides some great words of comfort, hope, and encouragement for the Christian. These were words that the Christians in Rome needed to hear, and we need to hear them as well. And it is really sad when such words become little more than a cliché statement to use when things aren't going right in our lives.
One of the classic Biblical illustrations we have for this concept is recorded for us in the book of Genesis. It's the story of Joseph. He was the 11th of the 12 sons of Jacob, orIsrael, and the first-born son of Rachel. He was also the favored son of Jacob, and so his father gave him a very fancy coat. We hear it referred to as a "coat of many colors;" but a literal description of it would be "a coat with sleeves that touched the ground." That had to be weird looking.
For this and other reasons, Joseph's brothers were very jealous of him, so they plotted against him. They sold him into slavery, and then took his coat and stained it with blood. This was to make their father Jacob think that Joseph had been attacked and killed. And it worked.
Joseph's brothers were afraid, because they knew full well that they had sinned by what they had done. Jacob had died, and the brothers were very worried. Listen to the description of this in Genesis 50:15-21: "15 When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, 'It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.' 16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, 'Your father gave this command before he died: 17 ‘Say to Joseph, Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.' And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.' Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, 'Behold, we are your servants.' 19 But Joseph said to them, 'Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.' Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them."
There are numerous lessons taught in this story. We see the sin of jealousy and pride. We see the sin of anger and hatred. We see the repentant sinners pleading for forgiveness. And we see grace in action as Joseph forgives the sins of his brothers in the same way God has forgiven him his sins.
But now comes the theme that Paul picks up in our text for this morning. In Genesis chapter 50 verse 20, Joseph says: "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. "
As Christians reading what Paul writes to the Romans, we must understand that the Christians in Rome were having an exceptionally tough time of it. The Roman government was persecuting Christians in all sorts of dastardly ways.
With all of this, Paul speaks those words that have sadly become cliché to a lot of people. All things work together for good, for those who know Jesus their Saviour and witness his Gospel.
This is where this whole section becomes subjective. We've all had various things happen in our lives that we cannot understand. We've undergone hardships, misery, suffering, pain, and a whole variety of things that are uniquely ours. Life isn't easy for us.
We've all had to deal with sin in our own lives as well as the sin of others when they sin against us. It can seem like the deck is stacked against us all the time.
God has called us through the Gospel. We come to Jesus confessing our sin and seeking the forgiveness he offers. When we come to faith in Christ, we are joined together with him as well. If we skip back a couple short chapters in Romans, to chapter 6, Paul shares these words with the Romans in verses 3-5: "3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his."
Being united to Christ is a very important thing for us to remember, especially if the going gets a bit tough. In our text for today, Paul lists a whole bunch of things that can threaten our faith and make us think that God isn't around; or if he is, that he just doesn't care. Persecutions and hardships can certainly jade a person's perspective of God and his relationship with humanity.
As Paul ends our text for today from Romans chapter 8, he gives us these words of assurance in verses 38-40: "38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 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."
Paul reminds us that all things work together for good when it comes to the believer and God's grace. At the beginning I used the illustration of somebody injuring their finger in a car door, and somebody rather flippantly commenting about all things working together for good.
So what good could ever come out of this kind of injury? Well, perhaps we should consider some other issues that could come into play. Perhaps somebody saw you get injured, and was amazed that you didn't break out into a barrage of profanity. Perhaps you might have the opportunity to witness to someone in the emergency room as you're waiting to have your finger examined. Maybe someone waiting there has a family member who is at the point of death and they need to hear about what their Saviour has done for them so they may have eternal life. There are lots of good things that can arise out of life's difficulties and setbacks.
This morning, I'm going to close with a story that somebody Emailed to me several months ago. It's a fictional conversation between a believer and God; but even though it's fictional, there's a very real truth being conveyed.
Me: God, can I ask you a question?
Me: Promise you won't get mad?
God: I promise.
Me: Why did you let so much bad stuff happen to me today?
God: What do you mean?
Me: Well, I woke up late;
Me: And then my car took forever to start.
Me: Then at lunch the cook made my sandwich wrong and I had to wait.
Me: On the way home, my phone went completely dead, just as I picked up a call.
God: All right.
Me: And on top of it all off, when I got home, all I wanted to do was to soak my feet in my new foot massager and relax. But it wouldn't work!!! Nothing went right today! Why did you do that?
God: Let me see, the death angel was at your bed this morning, and I had to send one of my Angels to battle him for your life. I let you sleep through that.
Me (humbled): Oh.
God: I didn't let your car start because there was a drunk driver on your route that would have hit you if you were on the road. That would have caused you many problems.
Me: (ashamed) All right.
God: The first person who made your sandwich today was sick and contagious, and I didn't want you to catch what they have; I knew you couldn't afford to miss work.
Me (embarrassed): Okay.
God: Your phone went dead because the person that was calling you was going to give false witness and lie about what you said to them on that call. Your reputation would have been damaged, so I didn't even let you talk to them.
Me (softly): I see God
God: Oh and that foot massager, it had an electrical problem that was going to disrupt all of the power in your house tonight. I didn't think you wanted to be in the dark.
Me: I'm sorry God!
God: Don't be sorry, just learn to trust me; trust me in all things, both the good and the bad.
Me: I will trust you.
God: And don't doubt that I'm always looking out for you. Always remember that I want the best for you, regardless of how things may look at the time.
Me: Yes God. And let me just tell you God, thank you for everything today.
God: You're welcome child. It was just another day being your God, and I love looking after my children. And always remember that all things work together for good for those who are my children through faith in Christ Jesus.