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Jack Graham - God's Promise for a New Year

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    Jack Graham - God's Promise for a New Year
TOPICS: God's Promises, New Year

Please take your Bible and turn with me to Romans chapter 8 and verse 28. And it’s always good to look out and to see so many of you opening the Scriptures with us, turning the pages of God’s Word, marking and underlining your Bibles. Well, as we began this new year there’s so much uncertainty and insecurity. Many are discouraged and even despondent as result of what’s happening in our nation and around the world. But we're all, if you're believers and followers of Jesus brokenhearted about the spiritual state and condition of our culture and of our own lives. The lawlessness which is a result of godlessness, a result of hopelessness in so many people's lives. We are in the middle, we've known this all along, in the middle of a spiritual battle, and our war is not with flesh and blood, but the powers of darkness in this world.

That's why the Scripture tells us in Romans chapter 13:11-12, "You know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake up from sleep. (It's time to wake up, church.) For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. And the night is far gone; the day is at hand so let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light". There's so much disappointment in people's lives today. People's families today. Chaos and confusion, questions regarding the future. But what if you knew a secret that would keep you as a child of God calm, confident and courageous? It's that secret in Romans 8:28, a family secret for those who love God, the family of faith, it is to those of us who are believers and followers of Jesus a secret that should be an open secret in that Romans 8:28 is one of the most well known and beloved promises in all of God's Word.

Romans 8:28. Most Christians know it and I want to make sure that we all lean in to what God has promised. A promise for a New Year. Romans 8:28 is, someone called it a pillow upon which to lay our weary head. "For we know", the Scripture says, "that all things work together for the good, to them who love the Lord and who are called according to his purpose". What if you knew beyond any shadow or doubt that this promise, Romans 8:28, is true? What if you knew that and believed that? It would change your life. Yes, all of God's promises are unchangeably, irrevocably true. God stands by His Word always. He is trustworthy and His promises to His children, His plans for each one of us, they never ever fail! Because God never fails!

And Romans 8:28 is a guaranty from God that He is always, always working in our lives, progressively, purposefully, creatively, constructively, continually, that God is always working in our lives. In your destiny, what you are becoming and will become, but not only in the destiny, but in the days and even the details of our lives. And when you ask questions of yourself and of your family... You know children are asking questions about what's happening in the world today, your children, our grandchildren. What are you going to tell your children Well, I hope you will say in great part what God the Father is saying to all of His children. And that is, "I am in control of all of this. I’ve not abandoned authority and Lordship over all things! I am in control! And I reign and rule and where I don’t rule, I overrule"!

Every person and every nation, God is in control! And more than anything we need this message of hope for our world today. Romans 8:28 is a message, a promise for the future that is good. Hope is the sure expectation that God has control of our future. As hope for today and bright hope for tomorrow! Romans 8:28 is not a Christian cliché. It's not a slogan. It is Scripture; it is God's guarantee for all of us. And it's so much more than Little Orphan Annie, "The sun will come out in the morning". It's so much more than just wishful thinking or optimism, and I've told you many times, I am an optimist! I am! But the Christian has a reason to be optimistic. The true Christian optimum leans in and lives out this truth: that our God "we know is working together all things for His good, for our good and His glory". It's an eternal promise of God.

I tell you this about Romans 8:28. When you wonder what’s happening around you, Romans 8:28 is still right where it’s always been in God’s Word. And the devil cannot take it out of God’s Word, nor can he take this truth out of your heart! "We know that all things work together for the good, for them who love the Lord and called according to his purpose". In other words, there’s no shelf-life on the promises of God. Romans 8:28 will never ever expire. When we live it out, that’s when we have peace and confidence and courage and hope and joy! In the middle of our greatest fears, in the midst of our copious tears, God has promised in every circumstance of our lives to fulfill His greatest good for us and His greatest glory for Himself.

That said, I want to show you in Romans 8:28 four certainties because it begins with the words: "We know". We know by experience, we know and believe, and truth, certainty number one is God is in control of my life. We know this. It is not something we feel always. He doesn't say "We feel that God is in control of our lives" but this, not that I see it always, not that I always feel it or sense it even, but this thing I know! In some of the more contemporary translations of the Scripture, such as the New American Standard this phrase "For we know that God is working together", reverses it a little bit to say "And we know that God causes all things to work together for the good".

Now, it's a little bit of flip of the Scripture because you may have memorized this verse years ago, "For we know that all things work together for good, that God causes all things to work together for good". But in this translation, it's properly placed at the start, that God is the one working! Again, not our good luck, but good God is working in all of this! We know! Now, interestingly enough, Romans 8:28 is akin to a verse right here close by, verse 26, which says there’s some things that we don’t know. Look at verse 26 of this same passage, for it says: "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words".

So there’re some things we don’t know. Sometimes life can be so hard and pressured that we don’t even know how to pray. Have you been there? I have. When you’re so broken by life, broken by experiences, death, sorrow, heartache and pain. All you can do is groan. God says we don’t know. We are realists about these things. We don’t know everything, and we don’t need to know everything. Sometimes we don’t even know how to pray. But even then, God says "I'm faithful and true. My Spirit will pray in you and through you and with you".

Did you know you have the Holy Spirit as your prayer partner? So you cling to this promise of knowing that God is in control. Someday we'll understand what we don't understand. And remember this, just because you don't, life doesn't make sense now, doesn't mean life doesn't make sense. Don't demand to understand! But understand that God knows and trust in Him! You know the Hebrew language is written backwards. Not left to right, but right to left when you read it. And someone said that life is like the Hebrew language, it can only be read backwards. And it’s true, isn’t it? We look back on our lives and we read it, we may understand it more. We may not understand at all until we get to heaven. I’m certain of that! But we can all look back on our lives and say, "Yes, it’s true. God was in control. I didn’t understand it then, I’m trying to understand it now, but I’m trusting in God".

Always remember this: God knows what He’s doing. God always knows what He’s doing. God’s ways are not our ways. And as the great British preacher Spurgeon once said, "When you can’t see His hand, you can always trust His heart". You can trust His heart. That's why, by the way, this whole idea of knowing God, these things we know, is why you need to know your Bible. Bring your Bibles to church and show up and hear the Word of God. Because it's in the Word of God that we know who He is and what He is like. And not only His wonderful works, but His ways in our lives. These are things that we know because God has said it, and we have experiences. We know that God is in control! Certainty number two is God never stops working in our lives. Ever! Never does God cease to work in our lives. "For we know that God is working".

The word there working in the language of the New Testament, the Greek language is a word for which we get our word "synergism". You know what synergism is? Synergism is when two different elements or multiple elements are working together to produce a greater effect, a greater dynamic. A simple illustration would be to take a pencil, just take a wooden pencil and if you take a small wooden pencil, you can simply, easily break it. But if you put two pencils, three pencils, four pencils together, it's very difficult for the average person to break them. The more synergy takes place, the greater strength. And that's the illustration of what God is doing here.

The Christian life is the synergy and the strength of God working in us and through us in these circumstances of life, both good and bad. The Christian life is not what happens to us, but what God is doing for us. God is working. And that our difficulties are working for us. Our bad times are working with us. This means our lives is not, they're not just a series of incidence and accidents, chance and circumstance, blind luck, fate. No. For the Christian there's a plan and God is weaving like a beautiful mosaic this plan in our life. It's a word that we all should recall at this time and it's the word providence. God providentially, He sees in advance what is coming, what is happening. We can't but God knows, so we trust in providence which has been described as the invisible hand of God. The hand that is invisible; it's a hand that is invincible; always working. May I tell you that what God originates, God orchestrates. What God ordains He sustains.

Philippians 1:6 "He who began the good work in you will perfect it, will complete it until the Day of Jesus Christ". We see this promise, this providence at work in our lives. We see it in the lives of others in the Bible. Think about Joseph, perhaps the best example of it all. You know, there's not one negative thing said about Joseph in all of the Scripture. He was a godly, devoted young man. God put great dreams in his heart. And yet, in the envy of his own brothers he was sold into slavery into Egypt, rose to prominence among the slaves of Egypt. And yet was lied about, slandered, was put in prison. He had to be thinking along the way, "God, where are those dreams"? His dreams had turned to nightmares. And yet all along God was preparing, God was providentially planning God, his future, Joseph's future. And from the pit where he was sold as a slave, from the slander that he received in Egypt, those years in prison, ultimately, he rose to power and prestige, second in command to pharaoh himself, over all of Egypt.

And then one day when his brothers, the same brothers who sold his away, came and stood before him, do you know what Joseph said? Joseph said, according to Genesis 50 and verse 20: "While you meant this for evil, God meant it for good". And that's the Romans 8:28 of the Old Testament. All along even when Joseph couldn't see it or feel it or know it for sure, God was at work. What about Jesus? Jesus Himself who was ordained of God to be the sacrifice for sin, who went to the cross and on Friday when Jesus died it appeared that all was lost. But in the providential, purposeful hand of God it was not finished; it was just beginning. On the third day God turned evil into good. And when men did the worst thing imaginable, God did the best thing imaginable by giving us His Son Jesus to die, to rise again.

When Jesus died and rose again, God transformed the most despicable act of evil and turned it into the greatest joy of all which is the joy of salvation. God is always working! And what is true for these great people of faith, true of Jesus Himself, is true for you! For we know that God is working synergistically, strategically in our lives all things for good. Certainty number three, we know all things are ultimately the best things, all things are ultimately good things. Now this scripture does not say everything is good. Of course not. We're realists concerning what is good and what is bad. He doesn't say all things are good. Some things are evil, some things are painful, some things are sinful. So we don't deny the reality of evil. Some things are imponderable in that we cannot believe it happened.

When we see the death of a child or the tragedy of a man taken or a woman taken at midlife, or we see disease of all kinds. When we see tragedy, when we see suffering, suffering can appear to be so senseless when there's no human explanation for tragedy. No, this is not good in and of itself. But listen to what the psalmist said in Psalm 119 and verse 71: "It was good that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes". God takes sickness and illness and pain to speak to us, to correct and discipline us and to cause us to be more dependent and obedient to Him. God uses tough times, terrible times. We often learn more in our defeat than in our victory. In our losses even more than our wins.

Every Christmas I bake a cake. It's the one cake I know how to make. I get a little trouble, I get a little help from the box, I admit it. The cake in a box. But I make a German chocolate cake and it's a stellar cake, I've got to tell you. But when I making that thing, you know you put in the baking soda, put in the baking powder, put in the sugar. None of that stuff tastes good by itself. Anybody thought about taking a spoonful of baking soda before you go to bed at night? No, none of that tastes good, but when you mix it all together, you put it under the right heat, it comes out luscious and delicious. God takes all the elements, all the things, some bitter, some sweet and works it all together. And in this cruel, sick world in which we live which causes so much immeasurable pain and suffering, where Satan is on the loose, a Christian can say it’s all good.

It doesn’t always feel good, but we know it’s all good because God is working! Our breakdowns become breakthroughs in our lives. "For if God be for us", verse 31, "who can be against us"? One final word, we know God is preparing us for eternity. We know God is in control. We know that God is working, continually, constantly in our lives, always working. We know that God is working all things together for good. Ultimate good, His glory, our good. And we know that what God is doing is preparing us for eternity. So I have one as a result of what we know here. I have one big resolution that I am making this year, and I want to encourage you to make. The apostle Paul in chains said, "for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain". Thats a man who could write Romans 8:28 over every situation of his life. And so can you if you are a lover of God.

I want to caution you here. Some people look at a verse like this and again it becomes cliche ish. Well, you know, all things work together for good. Que sera sera. Little Orphan Annie. The sun will come out tomorrow. That's not what this verses say. It says that God causes everything to work together for good. To those who love God and are called according to His purpose. In other words, for Christians, this is a family secret. It's an open secret for the children of God. But I'm here to tell you, if you don't love God, if you don't live for Christ, you don't have Christ in your life, then everything's working ultimately for bad, even the good things. God says, "I've set before you an open door. Choose, therefore, for life or death".

Choose Jesus who is the door. But if you choose to reject Jesus, who will come and bring all of the good things of life and all the promises of God? If you if you choose to reject Him, Jesus is a savior of life and a life to those who believe in death and the death of those who do not believe. If you do not trust in Jesus, then you only await the judgment of God. The Scripture says, "by Him, Jesus, all things hold together". You wonder why your life spinning out of control. If you don't have Christ in your life at the core of your life, if you can say to me to live as Christ, if you say For me to live is something else. To live is beauty, to live is health, to live is business, to live is money, to live is is sexual pleasure, to live is anything but Jesus, then to die is loss is not gain. God is working together, "causing all things to work together for them who love the Lord and are fitting in, called according to His purpose".
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