When I believe God is on my side; when I expect him to influence the outcome of every circumstance in my life; when I believe that what others intended for evil, he will take it, re-shape it and make it help me in the long or short run ~ When I allow my thoughts to go there, I can begin to choose better options in my responses.
I sat over several weeks, looking at everything that was going wrong. When one more thing happened, I found myself thinking, “Here’s another sermon illustration.” I wondered what I could do to find the good. I began to automatically ask God, “What do you have in mind for this one?” I realized, I don’t have to get frustrated. This is going to work out.
The reality is, God miraculously intervenes in history at times, and in your life so that evil does not triumph over you.
I worked with a Vietnamese friend in the refugee camps in the Philippians. He had suffered in re-education camps. They would torture him and on one occasion were horribly beating him. I remember him telling me how bad it was. He reached a point where he couldn’t take it any more. He said, “I cried out to God to help me. They kept beating me, but I felt no more pain.” Part of the good that came out of that was far more than simply having the pain stop. It established his faith. It increased his trust in God. When God’s at work, things that happened years ago, continue to bring blessing to others and to you. Often times the good that comes in life is miraculous.
But there is a thinking that says, “If all things work together for good, then we shouldn’t experience bad.” That is not what the Bible says and it is not what this verse is about. We really do have an enemy and we really are in a war.
Jesus invited us to take up our cross and follow him. He said, “If they persecute me, they will persecute you.”
I realize that some of the illustrations I give seem other worldly to some of you. My reality is different than many people. Yet it is still my reality. Being surrounded by so much persecution in my childhood, in the Vietnam war, and knowing so many stories of courageous Christians that willingly gave up their lives for Jesus. I grew up wondering, “If a gun was put to my head, would I deny Jesus?”
That is my heritage. Persecuted Christians didn’t seem to ask why there was persecution. They knew why, so they chose to focus on, “God, give me the strength to not deny you.” There are some things worth sacrificing for. When evil transpires ~ strength and courage can also mature. When horrible things happen to me, I don’t first ask whether or not I deserve it. I tend to think I’m being attacked. I might first ask why, but then I often ask for help to process that experience in a way that honours God.
The “good” you’ve been expecting, may not be the good that is best for you.
Many things in life are superficial. They simply don’t matter. What are the things that matter most? The reality is, we don’t always want or enjoy giving up some things, even when we know they’re actually not good for us.
There are times God invites us to sacrifice. How many of you like the word “sacrifice”?
“I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” - Romans 12:1
There have been so many times God has told me to give money away that I felt I could not afford to give. There have been times God has told me to forgive people who had wronged me. I didn’t want to forgive. I wanted vindication. There have been so many times God has told me to allow others to receive recognition and told me to remain in the background. Do I like those times? Do I invite them into my life? This I will tell you. When you are just starting out with God, some decisions seem to be overwhelming. The longer you walk with God, you begin to share experiences together. He proves himself to you. You look back and see how you benefitted by being obedient and how many of those experiences are now blessing others. It wasn’t easy, but it was a source of peace. You knew you had done the right thing and the burden you had been carrying seemed to get lighter.
God is good all the time. Not just when good is happening. If bad is happening we feel God isn't good, and that is foolish.
I drove into a church compound in Northern Uganda late at night. It was during a time when 10,000 children would leave their homes in the fields (night commuters) and come into towns to sleep on the ground in order to be safe. Koni was abducting children for the Lord’s Resistance Army and turning them into child soldiers. As the headlights moved across the parking lot, the ground began to move. Hundreds of children began to stand up. When they say us they began to sing and dance. One child yelled out, “God is good.” Across the parking lot another answered, “All the time.” Then another, “All the time,” and still another, “God is good.” I remembered wiping the tears and thinking, “How can they be so thankful and live in such a dangerous place?”
We need to move to that point where we fully trust again.
“In all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good—with those who have been called according to his purpose.” - Romans 8:28
David Collins is our interim lead pastor! He is the founder of Canadian Food for the Hungry International, the Global Hunger Foundation, and Paradigm Ministries. He's been a pastor, CEO, consultant and mentor. He and his wife have worked abroad to seek sustainable solutions in the midst of human cruelty and natural disasters. Author of two books, David continues to help people understand the power of ideas and how someone's motives correspond to Biblical integrity.