And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 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. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. – Romans 8:28-30 ESV
There is a method to God’s seeming madness. Let’s be honest. Living the Christian life can sometimes be a maddening and quite frustrating experience. We have been promised abundant life, but at times it can feel as if that promise applies to everyone but us. We face difficulties. We experience trials of all kinds. We go through hard times. And we find ourselves wondering what has gone wrong or where God has gone. And yet, Paul tells us that “all things work together for good.” But where is the good in the loss of your job, your health or, worse yet, your child? How are we to find any good in what appears to be the obviously bad experiences of life? Paul would tell us that the answer has to do with our perspective. If we live our lives as if this world is all there is, then we will see the troubles and trials of life as setbacks to our joy. We will end up expecting all the blessings of God in this life and question His love and goodness when anything that doesn’t measure up to those expectations comes our way. But Paul had a different perspective. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18 ESV). You see, he had his sights set on something other than this world. He had his hope placed in something far greater and far more reliable than anything this world has to offer. He said, “we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23 ESV). Then he reminds us, “For in this hope we were saved” (Romans 8:24 ESV). In other words, it is our future glorification for which we must hope and wait. God is not done yet. He has a purpose in mind for us. He has a plan that He is working. Which is exactly why Paul wrote, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 ESV). God’s purpose for us is multifaceted. It has stages. But it also has a culmination or completion point. At this point, we are being “conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29 ESV). Paul told the Corinthians, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NET). God’s plan called for our ongoing transformation or sanctification. But that is only part of the plan. Paul gives us the outline in its glorious entirety. God called us. He justified us. And one day He is going to glorify us. But interestingly enough, Paul uses the past tense when referring to our future glorification. He speaks of it as if it has already happened, because it is as good as done. We can trust God to accomplish what He has promised. He is as good as His word. But if we don’t keep our hope focused on the final phase of God’s plan, our future glorification, we will find ourselves struggling to make sense of all that goes on in this life. We will measure the trials and troubles of this life from our limited, earthly, time-bound perspective.
In this life, God’s goal is to make us increasingly more like His Son. He is transforming us from our earthly sin nature into the likeness of His Son. And He uses anything and everything to accomplish that goal – the good, the bad, the painful, the pleasant. God called us, justified us, is currently sanctifying us and will one day glorify us. And while we will experience difficulties in this life, they in no way change or alter the fact that our future glorification is guaranteed. God’s love for us will culminate in His glorification of us. That is why Paul asks just a little bit later on in this same chapter: “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? ” (Romans 8:35 NLT). And then he answers his own questions: “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39 NLT). God’s love for us cannot be stopped and it will not be complete until His plan for us has been fully fulfilled. His love for us is best illustrated in His Son’s death for us. He loved us enough to send His Son to die in our place. But Christ’s death was intended to provide for not only our justification, our being made right with God, but also our future glorification. It is for that hope we wait. And it is when we keep our hope placed firmly in that reality that we find the strength to endure the difficulties of this life. We can trust that God has a purpose behind our pain. He has a reason for allowing us to suffer in this life because He is preparing us for the next one. He is slowly weaning us off our dependence upon this world and getting us ready for the life He has prepared for us.