Devotion for Thursday, July 30, 2020
Lectionary Readings for the 8th Sunday after Pentecost:
Collect: Almighty and everlasting God, give us an increase of faith, hope, and love, that, receiving what You have promised, we may love what You have commanded; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Hymns of the Day: “From God Can Nothing Move Me” – (LSB 713)
This past Sunday, we focused our attention on the last chunk of the Epistle lesson, but as with many of the lectionary readings, there was more than just that one topic in the reading for that day, and so for the devotion this week, I wanted to take a closer look at the beginning of that reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, the first verse of it to be precise:
28 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)
But how can the bad things that happen to us ‘work together for good’? What’s so go about a flat tire, or a sudden cold, or quarantine, or a death in the family? How can these possibly ‘work together for good’?
These are legitimate questions, especially when people often misuse this verse to make it seem as though the bad things that happen are all ‘part of God’s plan’ for you and your life, but that’s not what the verse is saying. God has certainly not made bad things to happen to you. He doesn’t have your life laid out before Him making everything happen just the way He wants it to. How do I know? Well…besides the fact that God doesn’t like sin, and so would not make us do it to get from point A to point B in our life journey, we also have the verses both before and after this one verse that helps us to see it in the context of what God was actually telling us through the writings of St. Paul.
26 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. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 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. 30 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 8:26-30)
The verse isn’t saying that God has planned for all of this to happen, on the contrary almost, it’s saying that God’s plan for you, for your salvation, is brought about despite the bad things that happen, and that these bad things are just stepping stones on the way to what He actually does have planned for you: Eternal glory, with Him, through the justifying work of His Son.
Even before this passage, from verse 18 to this point, St. Paul is talking about the glory that will be coming to us in the future, about the hope that we have in our salvation. It’s not the bad things themselves that lead us to this better future, but God leading us through the bad things that accomplishes this. These words are meant as encouragements, telling us that, “yes, bad things are happening, and they will continue to happen, but you need to look past them. These bad things are only temporary, and I will bring you through them to something bigger, something better.”
God has the power to take those bad things in your life, and there are bad things in your life, and turn them into a stepping stone on your way to your eternal rest. I have seen Him use the quarantine to bring people closer together (oddly enough) through phone calls and video calls. I know that I, myself, have talked to more of you over the last few months than I had over the previous two years before them (and yes, I have been here for two years now). I have seen someone who was having a really bad day receive a little pick me up when they got a flat tire, and a concerned driver stopped to give them a hand, helping them both to change their tire, and put a small smile on their face. I have heard of a man who had not been responsive for two days, say the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed in the presence of his family during the pastor’s visit and the rite of the commendation of the dying, leading his family, who had mostly fallen away from the faith, to be at peace with the knowledge that their father was going to a much better place.
I have seen God move people through horrible, frustrating, annoying and just plain unpleasant situations, with a hope in their heart and even a smile on their face as they realized that if this was the worst that life can throw at them, they’d be ok, because God was right there with them seeing them through it.
My fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, God is there with you, going through whatever it is you’re going through. He is walking with you and leading you through it. As St. David wrote in his most loved Psalm: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” And that is what this passage in Romans is assuring of us once again. God is with you, even in the bad times, especially in the bad times, leading you through it towards your heavenly home, and nothing that happens here in this life will ever change that.
You have been chosen. You have been brought into God’s family. You will one day be brought home no matter what you have to deal with here in earth. Give thanks and praise to God that He is turning all the bad and good things in your life and working them together for the good of those who love Him. Amen.