May 15, 2016
By John Ulrich, Senior Pastor
Happiness, unlike joy, is connected to our circumstances and how we regard them. A specific circumstance could be happy to some folks and the opposite to others.
In Romans 8:28-30, the apostle Paul shows God’s view of how Christians should look at the circumstances of life:
1. God is not against happy circumstances.
Happiness is a gift from God (Ecclesiastes 5:19, James 5:13). In Jesus’ ministry, He created happy circumstances, such as when He fed hungry people, told disciples where to fish and turned water into wine. As Americans, we have so much to be happy for — good health care, abundance of food, police and government that work for our good. We need to lean into our happiness and be thankful.
2. We are not to live for happy circumstances.
The sum total of God’s will is not our personal happiness. Christians should expect to face unhappy circumstances. In 2 Timothy 3:12, Paul said, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Jesus Christ will be persecuted,” and in John 16:33, Jesus said to His disciples, “In this world you will have trouble.”
In Romans 8:28, Paul told us: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” This verse is located between two passages in Romans 8 speaking about suffering. As Christians we should sometimes expect unhappy circumstances, which are a consequence of living in a fallen world, where the enemy of Christians wants to keep things broken.
3. The key is to know that God uses both happy and unhappy circumstances for our good.
In Romans 8:28, Paul shows us that God Himself is working in all of our circumstances.
Here God is not promising that everything we face in life is good, that we will see on earth the good that God is up to, or that the sum total of our circumstances here on earth will be pleasant. Sometimes we will never see the good until we reach eternity.
This is a promise that God is using everything in our lives as Christians – past, present and future – for our ultimate good. By faith, we know God is at work in our daily lives for our good in all circumstances. And how does God define our “good”? In Romans 8:29, Paul explains the Father is working in all things to make us like His Son. God promises us: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Transforming us more and more into the image of Jesus is His view of “good” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Anything else is too small!
God’s goal in this promise of working for the good in all things (Romans 8:28) is that He will use whatever we are going through to make us more like Jesus’ character — consistent, kind, loving, truthful, acting with intimate dependency on the Father. And just as Jesus will be glorified, so will we, as we are transformed into His image: “…those He called, He also justified, He also glorified” (Romans 8:30).
This promise is only for those who belong to God, “those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28b). God works in all circumstances to help make us more like Jesus Christ. Some of the happiest people have learned the good in both happy and adverse circumstances.
You call us to believe that You are at work for our good in both the happy and unhappy circumstances of our lives. May we believe this by faith, and with Your help, grow to be more like your Son.