Romans 8:28

About a month ago, I asked myself the question, “Had Romans 8:28 never been mentioned or recorded, how much of a difference would it have made?”

The story of Job is one that many of us relate to when, in fact, none of us can really say we understand it. Here’s a man who had the reputation of being righteous and that there was no one like him in all the land. God allows this same man to pass through terrible years. He goes from being a wealthy man to having nothing, from having ten children to having none, and from being healthy to, well, being covered in unbearable pain. He gets no comfort from friends, we’ve all been there and we’ve all been those friends too, and although he does his best to understand his situation, he just could not make sense of it.

When God finally speaks to Job, what he receives is not a direct answer or justification for what he is going through. Let’s be honest, had we been Job’s friends we would have slapped him with Romans 8:28 without thinking twice. Even God didn’t slap Job with Romans 8:28. The reason why, I believe, is because Romans 8:28 is not a justification for when things go wrong. Romans 8:28 is just a fact. I don’t bear my pain more just because God works for my good. I don’t accept my predicament more just because God works for my good. God’s ultimate question to Job was, “Who are you, and who am I, Job?”

You see, Romans 8:28 is great but it’s not meant to be the reason behind my obedience, my commitment, my faithfulness to the God of the universe. If I ask you to tell me what Romans 8:26 and 27 say, would you be able to recite them? What about Romans 8:29 and 30? Those whom He foreknew, He also predestined…these whom He predestined, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. Are we living that glorified life? Are we living that justified life? Are we living the life that we are called to? The life we were predestined to live? No, see, I just care that God works for my good. Otherwise, you know, He’ll have to answer for these things I don’t like about my life.

We have all become lawyers with our use of Romans 8:28. “God works for my good, that’s what it says here; I’m keeping my mouth shut just because of that. If I find out it isn’t true…”

Had Romans 8:28 never been mentioned or recorded, how much of a difference would it have made? I had to conclude, no difference at all. What God allows, He has the right to allow. What God withholds, He has the right to withhold. Knowing that He does that for my good is my privilege, not my anchorage.

So, I pose that challenge to you. Had there never been a verse written that said, “And 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”, how much of a difference would it have made in your life? In your struggles? In your pain? Will you, like Job, be willing to go beyond the hearing of the ear, to where your heart sees Him and accepts His will?

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Come to the Basin and Wash

While reading through the book of Exodus, I began to wonder why things were so specific then that, now, we’ve blurred or muddied.

It shall be so long, and no longer, so wide, and no wider, so high and no higher. It shall be made of acacia wood, covered in bronze, with rings on the side and held with poles and so on. Why did they have to do all that? The reason given was simple, “so that they will not die.”

Sure, that was the Old Testament and we’re not bound by the same details that they were bound by but God is the same, He doesn’t change; what was important to Him then is still important today. The essence and heart of what He was saying hasn’t changed.

What really grabbed my attention this morning were a few verses in Exodus 30 where God tells Moses that a basin should be made at which the priests are to wash their hands and feet before ministering or even entering the tent of meeting. I thought, how amazing.

Any time we come before the Lord, do we wash our hands and feet? Do we say, “Lord, I’ve wronged you. My hands did what they shouldn’t have, my feet went to places they shouldn’t have, my heart felt things it shouldn’t have, my mind pondered things it shouldn’t have. Forgive me.”

When we come to our meetings, do we wash our hands and feet before the Lord? Do we say to God, “Lord, I’ve wronged You this week, forgive me.”

Before we say grace at the meal, do we wash our hands and feet before the Lord? Even physically speaking washing our hands is a good thing but what about spiritually? Do we say a prayer in our hearts, “Lord, I’ve wronged you this morning. Forgive me.”

When we come to pray at the end of our day and kneel before the Lord, do we wash our hands and feet before the Lord? Do we say, “Lord, I wronged you today” , “Lord, I wronged you in the past hour”, ” Lord, on the way to my bedroom to pray, I remembered someone who hurt me and my heart turned to anger rather than forgiveness, forgive me.”

Do we care to be consecrated? Do we care to be holy before the Lord? Do we treat it with utmost importance since, if we don’t practice that, we could be severing the blessing of having communion with God? I’m not talking about the bread and wine, I’m talking about a deep, genuine, committed communion with God.

Isn’t that a fate worse than death?

Where is your basin? I’m going to be carrying mine everywhere I go because I can find plenty of use for it.

If My People … Pray (Part 6)

Continuing on with our topic in Prayer, we now look at a hair-raising prayer of absolute agony that we perhaps expected to be answered but, at the same time, are glad that it wasn’t.

In a Garden called “Gethsemane”, Jesus pleads with His disciples to pray with Him as He takes a few steps further, kneels down and utters these words,

My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me … – Matthew 26:39 NASB

In other words, “Is there no other way? Does it have to be this way?”

Within a passage of a few verses, Jesus’s humanity is stripped of any doubt. Here is the Messiah, Son of God and Son of Man, fully God and fully man, Jesus Christ “who was made for a little while lower than the angels” (Hebrews 2:9), vocalising the suffering and pain that He was already enduring while He looks ahead to the horrors that await.

My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me … – Matthew 26:39 NASB

More than just the physical torture and pain, more than the lashings, the mockery, the humiliation and the crucifixion, Jesus looked ahead to two more frightening realities that were mixed in this cup that He was about to drink.

  1. God was going to make “Him who knew no sin to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21), the Lord was going to lay “on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6), and
  2. Jesus was going to face this alone; forsaken by the Father (Mark 15:34)

If you recall in two previous posts concerning prayer (Part 5 and The Haven Through the Storm), we looked at the most terrifying reality that any believer can ever face which is to be separated from God. Christ bore it on the cross so that we didn’t have to. The second lesson we got from those two posts was, prayer is not my supplication for what I want; prayer is my cry to align my will to His.

Here’s the rest of Jesus’ prayer:

And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”

– Matthew 26:39 NASB

Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, fully God and fully man, by Whom, through Whom and for Whom “all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities” (Colossians 1:6) bows down to the will of the Father and shows obedience “to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8)

What is prayer? It’s obedience …

What is prayer? It’s humbling myself and bowing down to His will …

What is prayer? It’s nothing of myself, but all of Him …

… even to the point of death.

 

 

The Greater Pleasure

Bear with me as I share this thought because, although it’s about our two dogs again, I think it’s worth sharing.
Of the many different things that my wife and I have taught our two border collies to do, one is to drink on command. There are many reasons why that is useful so we made sure that both dogs learnt to do that. A phase passed, though, when they stopped listening to that particular command. We would tell the dogs to “Get a drink”, but they just would not go to their water bowls.
At first, we ignored it but it made me curious, “why would they suddenly stop?”
One day, after playing with the dogs, my wife and I were about to step back inside the house. My wife told the dogs to “Get a drink” and resumed to open the fly-screen door which led to the living room from the patio. Suddenly, things clicked for me.
It became clear as day when I noticed that the reason our dogs stopped drinking on command was because they tied the command of “Get a drink” with us going inside and no longer being out with them. In other words, they refused a pleasure because it meant a disconnection with us.
I was pondering that thought as this came back to me today. When we give in to ungodly pleasures, it drives us away from God; so, I laid out a challenge to myself, am I willing to lay aside a pleasure, be it innocent or destructive, because it meant a disconnection with my Master? We may justify our pleasures with excuses like, “But it’s not hurting anyone” or “But everyone else does it” or “It’s not technically wrong.”
When King David once desired a drink from one of the wells near Bethlehem, three of his best warriors broke into the Philistines camp and got him water from there. He refused to drink it. He refused the pleasure that came about at the expense of someone else’s risk and so he poured it on the ground. May we be faithful to refuse the pleasure that makes us unfaithful to God, as innocent or destructive as it may be.
Regarding the dogs, they now both drink on command again as we made sure to stay out there every time we told them to get a drink. The problem is, though, that now Nala refuses to eat while we’re out there because she prefers to spend time with us while we’re outside; so, we actually have to go inside for her to finish her food. That’s a thought, and a lesson, for another time.

Happy New Year!

Another year over and we step into a whole new year. New opportunities, new journeys, new ups, new downs, new disappointments, new lessons, new experiences all await us and I pray that, by God’s grace, we’re able to use each of those to draw nearer and nearer to Him and to the path He’s charted for us.

The end of 2017 was interesting for me, to say the least. From standing at my desk in the office one day, contemplating packing up my things and walking out with a colleague with nowhere else to go, and to finding out, a few weeks later, that a large sum of money had been stolen from our (my wife’s and my) bank account, along with a number of other “obstacles” that I will leave undisclosed which worked together to make for a difficult end of year.

Still, I am indebted to God for His care, His protection and providence through it all. I know that my circumstances are nothing compared to many around me; many of whom lost loved ones before the new year. As a matter of fact, before the new year, I heard news of four different families who lost loved ones, and those are only the people I know of.

Of course, this isn’t to say that the Lord didn’t have His protection over those families, just that He called their loved ones home early. I believe the four people whose passing I know of were all believers so there’s comfort in knowing that they now sit in the presence of our Saviour where

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:4 NASB

Thank God for Jesus. Thank God for His Salvation. Thank God for the cross.

I pray that this new year will be a year of new blessings for you and your families. God bless you and, once again, Happy New Year.

The Haven Through the Storm

To anyone who may have been following through with the prayer series, I haven’t forgotten about it but what I have been typing up was really put to the test these past two weeks. With no intention of getting into the details, I hope it’ll be sufficient enough to say that the storm has not yet passed.

I think it’s imperative that I mention this because Part 6 of the prayer series discusses what we think is an unanswered prayer of Jesus. Just before the cross, Jesus prays, twice, “Let this cup pass from me …” speaking, of course, about the cup of pain He was meant to drink on behalf of us. Now, I’m in no way comparing my trivial situation to the agony that Christ went through, so please don’t misunderstand me. I’m simply stating this as a reminder that what I write on this blog is usually a reflection for myself on what I, myself, am going through.

Those who know me will be perfectly aware that I’m a closed book when it comes to sharing grief or sorrow. I bottle up pain and emotion. If anyone reading is nodding and thinking, “Yep, I’m the same”; let me advise you against it.

You smile and soldier on and people think that everything is, as the British say, “tickety-boo” but you know it isn’t so. It isn’t healthy to act as though there is no problem. Instead, rather than bear it alone, we ought to wholeheartedly trust the matter to the Lord, even if, and especially when, His deliverance does not bypass the storm.

As we’ll see in the next part in the prayer series, Jesus wasn’t praying to run away from the problem at hand. Instead, Jesus’ prayer was asking a question of, “is there no other way?” He wasn’t backing out. He wasn’t running away. Think, the world’s sins, past, present and future, were to be placed on Him. He, who knew no sin, was to become sin for us [2 Corinthians 5:21]. He, who was one with the Father was going to be separated from Him, turned away, forsaken. He, who was the Word from the beginning and from the beginning was with God and since the beginning was indeed God, was now going to be left alone, torn away from God.

The road to Calvary was a mere drop in that horrible, dark, agonising cup, and He was going to drink it, willingly. There was no other way.

As I was halfway through typing up Part 6, I felt disconnected because I was preoccupied with my own tiny storm. Naturally, God suggested that we go for a stroll through it. Right in the heart of it all, I found myself praying to God, “I am not asking You to take it away. All I’m asking is that You don’t leave me alone.”

It connected, finally. When you know God and are known by Him, the most terrifying reality that you could ever face is not a burden, as crushing as that may be to carry; it is not an illness or death, as horrible as that may be to face; it is not a loss, as heartbreaking as that is to endure. The most terrifying reality that you could ever face after knowing God and being known by Him is to be separated from Him. Thank God for Jesus who bore it so that we wouldn’t have to.

I learn from them, more than I seem to teach

In an age where speed is everything, it feels like patience has lost its place. We want the fastest internet, the fastest cars, the fastest computers, the fastest routes and, if we’re honest with ourselves, the fastest sermons.

Sometimes, when we pray, the answer isn’t a “Yes” or a “No”. Sometimes, God answers with a “Wait”.

That’s not something I do well with. I pray and when the answer doesn’t come quickly enough, like two seconds later, I begin planning all the possible outcomes of the situation; and, with that, what my responses will be for each outcome. Even though God has just told me to wait, I’ve already lost focus.

This morning, I woke up and, passing by the door to the backyard, I saw our dogs sitting in their crates. I let them out and we ran around for a little while. Remembering that I needed to give them their breakfast, I walked in and said to them, “Wait!” as they sat about a meter away from the glass door.

“Wait” is what I tell them when I intend to be back within a minute. I can’t remember ever taking any longer than that. Otherwise, I usually close the door behind me without saying a word.

Walking to our kitchen, I realised that their food needed some preparation and so I took my time in preparing it, completely forgetting that I had told them to wait. They were out of my sight and I was out of theirs.

Half an hour later, I walked up to the door expecting them to be running around in the backyard. To my surprise, both dogs were still in the same place I had left them with their eyes still focused and set on that glass door, waiting for it to open.

I had said, “Wait”. To them, that meant that I was coming back.

Running back to the kitchen, I quickly finished preparing their meal and ran back outside to let them enjoy it.

As I stood there watching them, I was reminded by my lack of trust. When God says, “Wait”, He means it. He will answer and His answer will be what’s best; and, unlike me, God doesn’t forget.