“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.” (Rom. 8:28, NKJV)
There it sat. Too big to fit under the twinkling Christmas tree, but glittering right there beside it. A brand new, shiny red Schwinn bicycle, the Cadillac of bikes in its day. I was thrilled. But when it came to my other presents – shirts, socks, a winter jacket – not so much. I may have been alone in my disappointment in receiving clothes for Christmas, but I doubt it.
This was in a day when parents would wait until Christmas to buy things for their children. “Maybe you’ll get that for Christmas,” was their tease. The prospect certainly tided me over. The wait made it special. Involved was more than a present; it was a dance.
That’s not the way our heavenly Father has ever approached His gift giving. Jesus reminds us that our Father gives us good gifts if we ask Him (Matt. 7:11). And He doesn’t just wait until Christmas. Every day is filled with good things from the hand of our God. We need only open our eyes to behold His mercies morning by morning, each sunrise revealing an array of blessings.
Moreover, God’s gift giving not only pertains to some things; it extends to all things. Paul explains: “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” (Rom. 8:28). The lives of God’s children are filled with indications of His presence, waiting to be unwrapped through the eyes of faith.
This notion that all things are good might cause us to scratch our heads, especially when we consider how many bad things sometimes happen in our day. Clothes for Christmas might have been a bad thing to a young me, but at least I had a good thing or two to make up for it. But to have gotten coal in my stocking or to have something horrible or hurtful happen! – there’s no way that could be classified as “good.” Could it?
When Paul tells us that God works all things for good to those who are His children, he doesn’t leave us to puzzle. He lets us in on the rest of the story: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29).
There we have it. Now we “get” the “good.” It has to do with God’s handiwork of grace to conform us to the image of His Son in sanctification. Sanctification, growth in holiness, is the subject of Romans chapters six through eight. What we consider “bad” that happens to us, and what we consider “good,” and what we don’t consider at all because it’s so ordinary all fall under the “all things” that carry the purpose of our Heavenly Father for our growth in grace. It’s all good.
God does give us clothes for Christmas. Paul lays them out for us in Romans chapters three through five. They are the spotless righteousness of Jesus Christ. Through faith in Him, we are cleansed by His blood and clothed in His righteousness. Paul explains this extraordinary gift in his letters to the Romans and Galatians, both which speak of the apparel of the adopted. They come with and through the Christ whose birth we celebrate this time of year (Rom. 8:18-23; Gal. 4:4-5). The more we learn about them, the more we will delight in them.
But clothes are only part of the haul we receive from the hand of our God. We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:3). The entire selection of the Sears catalog (let the reader understand) of salvation has been shipped to our door, each item marked with our name, from God the giver.
Every “bad” thing is purposed for our spiritual growth. The things that fill our lives, our closets, our pantries, our agendas that we appreciated to a degree become consecrated through our new eyes of faith to see the hand of our God who gave them to us. We learn to give thanks in all things, even for the shirts and socks and winter jacket.
“Father, I confess that I grumble and complain. I take things for granted. I covet what others have that I don’t. Not only am I not content, I rebel. Forgive me, I pray. Teach me, O Lord, to rest in Your perfect providence and to rejoice in You and all that You have given me in Jesus.”
- What “bad” is happening in your life right now? How could it possibly be counted “good”?
- How should you respond to both the treats and the trials of life?