Greg Laurie - All Things
You know I was checking out what the top scriptures are that people search for online. According to Bible gateway which is a site where you can access different Bible translations that I use actually quite frequently. Here are the top five passages people search for:
Predictably, number one is John 3:16. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life".
Number two of the most searched for scriptures is Jeremiah 29:11. That's one of my favorites too. "I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope".
Number three is Philippians 4:13 where Paul says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me".
Number four is Psalm 23:4 where David says, "Yea though I walk to the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for thou art with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me".
And finally number five is the verse we are going to be looking at in this message. Romans 8:28 and it is up on the screen. I want us all to read it out loud together. Ready. "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose".
And we know all things work together. That's why I have called this message "All things". This is a beloved verse. It's an often quoted verse. But do we understand what this verse actually says? When the Bible says "All things work together" that is not for the general public. It is not true for every person out there because all things don't work together. There's sort of a variation of it that says something along the lines of well all's well that ends well. And then we sometimes hear people say, "It's all good, man". You know what? It's not all good, man. Sometimes it's really bad and things don't make sense. Things happen to us that are inexplicable. This verse is for the person who has put their faith in Jesus Christ.
There are so many of these inspirational sayings out there now. You find a lot of them on Pinterest, Instagram. Usually over a sunset. Something that's supposed to inspire us. Here is one I came across. "Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift. That's why we call it the present". Ooh. Not bad. How about this one? "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade". Seriously? Are you really going to go with that? Here's another one. When the tough gets going... Or excuse me, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going".
You know, crazy stuff that's supposed to bring comfort or help, but here's one that I've actually had said to me that actually is so unhelpful it's almost unbelievable. "You know what? There's always someone worse off than you". Really? I know that, but how is that supposed to make me feel better? Now I don't need your inspirational sayings. I need the Bible. I need the Word of God because that is the only thing that could correct my course and get me in sync and get a proper perspective. The Bible has the power. None of this stuff does.
All things work together for good to those that love God. As I said, this is a very specific promise to a very specific person and that person is someone who loves God. If you love God, and by that I mean if you put your faith in Jesus Christ and trusted him as your Savior and Lord, you can lay hold of this promise for yourself no matter what you're going through right now. Notice that it says "We know". We know that all things work together for good. It doesn't say "We think" or even "We hope" or "We suppose" or "We wish". We know.
But wait. How do I know? How do I know that all things work together for good to those that love God? Well the answer is found in verse 32 of Romans 8 where Paul says, listen, whenever I am tempted to doubt the love of God and I'm wondering if things are really working together for my good, I need to take a long look at the cross and remember Jesus demonstrated his love for me by dying there in my place. Because as I've often said, it wasn't nails that held Christ to the cross, it was love for you and for me. Paul said, "He loved me and he gave himself for me". And if this is true, and of course it is, will he not freely give us all things?
So whatever's going on in your life, you know that all things work together for good to those that love God. How do I know it? Because God has shown his love toward us by sending Jesus. There are certain things that we just know in life. We just know them. And we know that all things work together for good to those that love God.
You know, I think Christians are the most realistic people around. Sometimes people will say, "Oh, you know, you Christians you read your Bibles and you believe in God who is in control of all things, and you have your head in the sand, or worse, you have your head in the clouds". Are you kidding me? The Christian is a realist. The Christian is a person that recognizes bad things happen in this world that we live in today. The world is not a nice place. It can be a very bad place. But the good news is we serve a very good God.
So we know that. We know mankind is not basically good. We know the rest of mankind is as sinful as we are. And we know that people do bad things but we know God loves us. So when something bad happens we know that God can cause it to work together for good. Listen to this, there are things that are bad. They'll always be bad. So this verse is not saying God makes bad things good. No. It says all things work together for good. So the Lord can even take something that is evil in its intent, something that is designed to harm us, and somehow in his providence turn it into a thing that ultimately produces something good in my life.
We don't believe in dumb luck. We believe in God's guidance. We don't believe in coincidence. We believe in providence. And when things are not working out for good in the given moment, we don't freak out because we know that there are no accidents in the life of the Christian. Psalm 119:91 says, yes. All things. Ephesians 1:11 says, so this is a very important distinction to make. Because sometimes things happen and we go, "This is not a good thing". How do you know? Do you even know what a good thing is? "Yes I do". Well, maybe it isn't a good thing? Has it ever occurred to you that that thing you think is a good thing can ultimately become a bad thing for you? So how do we know what a good thing is? How do we know what a bad thing is?
We have to go to a higher authority. So we go to God and we start with this basic truth. God is good. The Bible says, "Taste and see that the Lord is good". So with this in mind that means that God is the final court of arbitration when it comes to defining what is good and what is not good. So if God says something is good, it is good. If God says something is bad, it's bad. You say, "But what is good"? Answer: good is what God approves. But you say, "But wait a second. Where do we go beyond that"? We don't go anywhere beyond that. God says it's good, therefore, it's good. You say that is circular reasoning. Actually that's biblical reasoning.
So we say God knows what's good and there are things that happen to us that seem like they may be bad that are actually kind of good. Example: for us, good is well just everything going our way, right. Good is green lights. Good are blue skies. Good is paid bills. Good is good health. Good is everything happy. And that is good. I will agree with you on that, but sometimes an affliction or a hardship can be good because it can cause us to turn to God. Because sometimes when things are going really well, lets be honest, we forget God. We don't pray like we ought to. We don't read our Bibles that often. We just take these things for granted. But when the bottom drops out and a crisis hits, we drop right to our knees and that's good.
So God can take what is perceived as a bad thing and can actually become a good thing in his hands. But there are things that happen and we say, I don't think anything good will ever come out of this. This might surprise you to know I thought that. I thought that when my son Christopher died in an automobile accident 10 years ago. I thought nothing good will ever come out of this. This is effectively the end of my life. You're saying, "Greg, you're a pastor. You thought..." You better believe I thought that and I felt that and I felt that deeply.
I don't think that Romans 8:28 should be the go-to verse in every situation. For instance, if you just had a loved one die - if your husband died or your wife died or your child died - you don't need a Christian coming up to you and saying "Romans 8:28 says all things work together". Just stop. Okay. That is the Word of God. I believe that word. But the Bible also talks about a word that is fitly spoken. There's a right verse for the right situation. When I talk to someone who has lost someone they love I quote, instead, the statement of Jesus when he said, "Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted". And I'll tell them there's a time to mourn and there's a time to laugh and this is the time to mourn. I'll encourage them to cry.
"Cry? No. They should be rejoicing". No. They should not. Don't be stupid. Of course you mourn the death of a loved one. The depth of your sorrow is an indication of the depth of your love. Even when the godly young Stephen was martyred when he was stoned we read godly men mourned over him. There's a place to mourn. You've got to mourn. But you don't stay there forever. Because it says, "Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted". Now later on we can start seeing how Romans 8:28 works all things together ultimately in our life.
You say, "Well did that work for you, Greg? Has it been Romans 8:28 since your son died"? Yes. But it's still in process, isn't it. There's still things I don't understand. It still hurts. We still miss him. But I will say to you, there have been things that God has brought out of this that have worked for good. For starters, it's changed us, my wife Cathe, my son Jonathan. It's given us more compassion for others who are hurting. It's given us a ministry to people who've lost loved ones, especially children since then. It's made us stronger in our faith, causing us to take bold steps of faith we would probably not have taken otherwise. So yes, I can see all things working together for good. So in light of this bad thing, God has produced a good thing.
People ask me, "Are you disappointed with God"? The answer is absolutely not because I'm not in the explaining business. I'm in the trusting and praying business. And I know God is in control and I know his plans for me are better than my plans for myself. I know that one day all of my questions will be answered. I know that a disappointment can be turned into an appointment with God. Maybe some of you who are here today or watching, you've you just had a huge disappointment. You are saying, "Where is God in all of this"? Maybe he orchestrated it or maybe he just allowed it, but he is at work.
I heard about a young man who saw a beautiful woman on his college campus. It was a Christian campus and he thought he would ask this girl out to go to dinner with him. So he walked up to her and said, "Would you go out with me"? She said, "No. I won't". He said, "Why"? She said, "Well because you're not spiritual enough. I'm looking for a godly man and I don't think you're godly enough". That really got his attention and he made a deeper commitment to Christ. By the way, his name was Billy Graham.
So you have that setback. That was bad. Was it bad? If it got you to make a deeper commitment to Christ, was that thing actually bad or in reality was that bad thing ultimately a good thing? You see, God can cause all things to work together for good to those that love him. You know, sometimes God is protecting us from ourselves. There is an interesting story of when Jesus fed the multitudes with the loaves and fishes. By the way that's the only miracle found in all four Gospels. And after the miracle was done, we read that the people wanted to make Jesus king. And so Jesus said to his disciples "Get into the boat" and they went out across the sea of gallery. Not gallery. Galleria. The Sea of Galleria, no. The Sea of Galilee and this great storm comes.
There's three kinds of storms that come into the life of the Christian. There are perfecting storms, correcting storms and protecting storms. So there are correcting storms. We mess up. We bring these storms on ourselves. That's what Jonah did more or less. Then there are perfecting storms. God allows hardship in our life to make us more like Jesus. But listen, then there are protecting storms. Jesus was protecting his disciples from all that adulation because he knew it would've gone to their heads and ruined them.
The people wanted to make Christ king. They would've rule and reigned with him. So we might say, "Lord, I want to be famous. I want to be wealthy. I want to have everything this world has to offer". Do you? Is that really the best thing for you? So God can take a good thing and he can maybe... Or excuse me, God can take what is perceived as a bad thing and bring good out of it and sometimes a good thing can actually be a bad thing. The classic example of the guy who lived out Romans 8:28 is not in the New Testament but in the old. His name is Joseph. So his dad gave him a super cool coat that was given only to the people who were sort of over the workers.
So instead of working in the fields like his brothers, he had this nice coat and he would kind of cruise around wearing it. Maybe he was a little bit of a show off. Maybe he was a little too much of a snitch on his brothers. But those are the worst things he did. It's not a lot. But his brothers despised him. They said, "Let's kill our brother Joseph. That will be the end of it". But then as they were preparing to kill him and thinking about it and talking about it, a group of slave traders passed by so they said, "Let's just sell him to the slave traders. Make a little money off of him". So they sold their brother to slave traders, and they go home to dad with his coat of many colors, put some animal blood it and said, "Oh. Sorry, dad. Your beloved son Joseph got killed today by wild animals".
Meanwhile, Joseph is on his way. Destination: unknown. He is bought by a man named Potiphar who is actually effectively the head of security for the Pharaoh. Potiphar brings him into his beautiful home, puts Joseph in charge. Because Joseph was such a godly man, everything is running along beautifully. Potiphar is prospering. But Potiphar had a lustful wife that put her lustful eyes on young Joseph. She was the original cougar. Day in and day out she would say basically, "Have sex with me". And he refused her. The Bible even tells us he was very good-looking. Very well built. But he refused her advances and said, "How can I do this horrible thing and sin against the Lord"?
One day she decided to have every servant out of the house and only Joseph was there. She grabbed him by the coat to pull him on the bed, and he ran out of there as quickly as he could and she falsely accused him of rape. Now he's in prison. From the time he went to the house of Potiphar to the time he was released from prison was around 11 years. How easily he could have doubted God. "God, what are you doing? I believed in you. I didn't give in to the advances of this woman. I lived a life of integrity and look where it's gotten me". But he waited. And ultimately, the Pharaoh had a dream. Joseph interpreted the dream. It resulted in him being the second most powerful man in all of the kingdom of Egypt. He was in charge of the food supply because he told the Pharaoh a great famine was coming. Pharaoh believed him.
So Joseph was over everything. Now he can see the hand of God is working because his brothers come to Egypt looking for food because the only food supply was now under the control of Joseph, but they didn't recognize Joseph. They thought he was dead. His head was probably shaved like an Egyptian. Had that cool Egyptian eyeliner. Walked like this you know. Walked like an Egyptian. He recognized them. They didn't recognize him and the day finally came for him to reveal to his brothers who he was.
This could have been the ultimate revenge story. He could have turned to his brothers and said, "I have a particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a long career that make me a nightmare for people like you". Sorry that was from taken . No this is... It could have been payback time. But instead, Joseph makes this amazing statement in Genesis 50:20 "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to save many people alive".
Joseph, are you crazy? Your brothers sold you to be a slave. You were falsely accused of rape. You were in prison, and you were an innocent man. What do you mean God intended it for good? Because Joseph seemed to understand Romans 8:28 before it was even written. God was in control of his life. Don't miss this. This is the most important insight of this message. You might want to write this down. After Romans 8:28 is Romans 8:29. Is that good or what? But it is good because Romans 8:28 - let's put it on the screen again - says, "We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose". Now look at verse 29: "For whom he did foreknow, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son that he might be the firstborn among many brothers".
People will debate endlessly about who is and who is not predestined. I'll talk about that later. But they miss the point of what we're predestined for. What does it mean to be predestined? It means that God chose you before you chose him. Jesus said, "You did not choose me. I chose you and ordained you that you should bring forth much fruit". So we'll sit around and talk about who the elect are, who the elect are not, who is chosen, who isn't chosen and miss the whole point of why were chosen. Why was I chosen? Again, to bring forth spiritual fruit. Why did God predestine me? So I would be conformed into the image of his own dear son. So God's endgame is to make you more like Jesus.
Whatever you're going through right now, it's to make you more like Jesus. He's getting you ready for that day when you will see the Lord. I don't know what your problem is right now. I'm sure you have one, but I want you to know that it's going to ultimately be resolved. Maybe it will happen today. Maybe it will happen in a week. Maybe it will happen in a month. Maybe it will never be resolved in a way that you understand till much later. Perhaps as you get little older and reflect back in your life you'll understand why. And for others, it won't be resolved until you get to heaven, but you will understand that God is in control.
Now look I want you to do something. If you have a pen or a pencil, I want you to pull it out. Go to your Bible right next to Romans 8:28, draw a little bracket around it, and over to the side I want you to write down your problem. Maybe it's one word. Maybe it's two words. Maybe it's three words. But whatever your problem is - family problem, financial problem, health problem, other problem - whatever it is just write it down. You say, "Why"? Because you're going to look back at that verse in a few months, maybe a little later, maybe a little sooner, and you're going to start seeing how God is causing even that to work together for your good and for his glory.
You might say, "Well, I don't think that my problem will ever be resolved. Here's another verse that mentions all things, Matthew 19 "With God all things are possible". All things. "No. Not my problem". No it says all things. It doesn't say most things, or everything except your problem. With God all things are possible. You say, "But I'm so weak. Greg, I can't go on another day". Paul says in Philippians 4:13, some might say, "I've really messed my life up. I've made so many mistakes. Even God couldn't sort this out".
I'm sorry. I have to disagree with you because revelation 21:5 says, "He that is seated on the throne says, 'behold, I make all things new.'", then he says, "Write this down". That's why I like to write things down. "Write this down. These words are trustworthy and true". Yes, even your mess can turn into a message. Yes, even your problem can be resolved. Yes, God can even take what you have done that is wrong and bring something good despite it and he can make all things new. This is only true for the Christian.