Bad things happen to good people … but for those that love The Lord … bad things will always end up being good things!
I remember when I was a baby Christian I left teaching 6th grade for a few years to start a business. Well, that business failed. Another business failed. And, my word, yet another business failed. Failure is not fun, and this kind of persistent financial failure wasn’t easy on my mind, stress level, faith, or even my wallet. Yet, if those businesses had flourished right out of the gate, I can promise you that I wouldn’t be the same person I am today. I know, that I know I would be a Christian who believes Jesus is a magic lamp that if rubbed just the right way – you get exactly what you asked for and STAT! Look, I would be a spoiled Christian, who has no idea who Jesus is … or who I am to be in Him. I’d have certainly been useless and fruitless (Romans 7:4). You see, my failures have become kingdom successes. Everything in our lives that seems painful, is merely a kingdom success in waiting.
Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Well, according to the color scheme I have placed in that verse, I want to break this scripture apart into 3 sections.
The scripture says, in all things God works for the good of those who love him. It doesn’t say all things are good, Paul is saying that in every circumstance – good, bad, or ugly – GOD is working on your behalf for your good! The scripture isn’t saying that all things are good – far better than that – Paul is saying that our God is GOOD in all things.
Here is a better way of looking at it. Ever make pancakes? Ingredients to make pancakes include items like milk, butter, eggs, flour, baking powder, salt, blueberries, strawberries, bananas … and chocolate chips. If you were to eat these ingredients raw … I’m betting that most of them would taste yucky. Now, some of the ingredients like the chocolate chips and fruit may taste great apart from the other parts of the recipe. That is where, I personally, get very impatient and what was meant to be in the pancake mix finds its way into my belly!
Yet, when the pancake is cooked and ready … all of the ingredients together taste wonderful! In fact, too much or too little of each of the necessary ingredients for the recipe would destroy the balanced taste of the pancake. In that case, what a waste of time, effort, and resources! When The Lord is ready to put a perfectly balanced short stack of pancakes on your plate … every ounce of pain you have been through will make much more sense. Each moment of joy and pain in your life becomes perfectly balanced together to create abundant life in you to advance The Lord’s kingdom and His purposes. Not everything was good, but God worked on your behalf for it ALL to taste good together!
Now, of course, the next part of Romans 8:28 talks about those who have been called. Let’s look at that part this way. Let’s say I am cleaning out my junk filled and dirty garage, and I send an e-mail out to all 277 of my friends and family members inviting them ALL to help. It’s a yucky volunteer job description, but I promise pizza, laughs, good music, and lots of hugs and pats on the back to those that show up.
Everyone that received the e-mail has been called … yep, each of them. But those that actually show up … those are the chosen. All of those that personally know me had been invited to the “garage clean up fest” … but few of them had been chosen to actually help out (Matthew 22:14). It doesn’t matter if a 85 year old man, a 29 year old pregnant woman, or a 10 year old child shows up at my house … they each were chosen by me and they will each be assigned responsibilities in the garage that fit their interests, abilities, talents, and skill sets.
EVERYONE who knows The Lord have been called … but few have been chosen. EVERYONE who knows The Lord have been invited to help advance the kingdom, but few have been chosen. On to the next part of the verse …
We have been called according to His purpose … not ours. Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” We don’t get to tell God what we will or won’t do in His garage once we do show up. He – and He alone – assigns our purpose in the kingdom of His garage. Why? You can’t do what you weren’t equipped, prepared, built, or designed to do. For example, I probably wouldn’t ask the 10 year old child to work on the faulty wiring in the garage door system. But, I would certainly love to have the 10 year old child sweep out the floor or help move small boxes. In the kingdom of His garage, yes it’s tough to fathom, but He doesn’t assign ONE person to do ALL of the work in the garage – lest they burn out and not come back! 1 Corinthians 12:12-27
What’s more we don’t tell God, “Hey, while I’m here – let me go inside the house and vacuum for you.” No, you ask God first, “God, would you like me to go in the house and vacuum?”
Yet, this is where many Christians get stuck in a “law” or “works” mode. I must do, since I was asked by someone. I must help out with so and so or this and that because I’d be letting someone down. I must do my part or this and that is going to fail. I must help out or they won’t like me. Yes, we must take every request made to us, and bring it before Him. Honestly, YOU may not have been on the e-mail by Him for THAT project!
Anything that is OUTSIDE of our specific purpose … must be left right at His feet. In fact, when we race to do EVERYTHING we have been asked to do by others … we rob someone else of that blessing and opportunity to grow. Go figure! As someone once said, “We are human BE-ings, not human DO-ings.” Worse, when we live to “do” … there is a price to pay. We are robbed of time with God and our families, our focus is taken off the very assignment God has for us, and we get sapped of our strength. In truth, the assignment we WERE given by Him … greatly suffers.
I’m NOT saying NOT to do things! I’m NOT saying NOT to help people or causes. We are each called to push the kingdom forward. We are each called to bear fruit. We are each called to be servants of the Most High. Yet, I AM saying, we must sincerely take each and every thing we do in His precious name and ask Him first, “Father, what do you say about this?” Otherwise, we risk living a life outside of His purpose for us (Matthew 7:22).
When we are outside His will – and we work on stuff of our own choosing in His garage – we become destined to fail, we open ourselves up to unnecessary hurt or pain, and we risk experiencing a drag in our relationship with both Him and others. Because we failed and experienced hurt … in a situation that wasn’t ever designed for us … all too often our spiritual growth takes a hit. Hey, maybe you weren’t designed to change the light fixture in the garage?
But of course, the problem with asking Him first … is that we need to know how to listen. His sheep know His voice, and we must seek out that voice. And, we need to be ok with the answer.
Thank you for your e-mails to me about your garage Father! Thank you for allowing me to serve You! I praise you God for my pain, and I praise You for making everything work out for my good and the good of the kingdom.
Matthew 22:14 (NIV)
14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”