Observations on life; particularly spiritual

Please explain Romans 8:28 in light of such disasters as the earthquakes in Haiti in 2010 and in Japan in 2011?

“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. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Rom. 8:28-29NIV).

The context

Disasters are one of the characteristics of our sinful world. Our present suffering and future glory is the theme of Romans 8:18-30. In this passage believers are given three things to help us through times of suffering. They are truths that we should know (eido in Greek). First, “we know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time …” (v.22-25). Christians are not the only ones suffering and it won’t last forever. As “the whole creation” is suffering, Christians are affected as well as the rest of God’s creation. Our suffering ends either when we die and go to be with the Lord or when we are resurrected to receive new bodies (1 Cor. 15:51-57; 2 Cor. 5:1-10; 1 Th. 4:15-18). Second, because “we do not know what we ought to pray for …”, the Holy Spirit prays for us (v.26-27). So, we can know that the Holy Spirit prays for us when we are going through difficult times. Third, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him …” (v.28-30). God’s desire is that believers would be “conformed to the image of His Son” because they have been “called”, “justified” and will be “glorified” (v.29-30). So, Romans 8:28 is set in the context of things to help us through difficult times.

The text

Romans 8:28 mentions two things to help Christians through difficult times:

  • Believers have “been called according to His purpose”. God wants to make all believers like Jesus Christ; so they share His character. He wants their lives to be transformed (2 Cor. 3:18). Everything that happens, whether good things or bad , has this purpose. This includes disasters, suffering and tragedy.
  • “In all things God works for the good of those who love Him”. What does “for the good” mean? Surely anything that is consistent with God’s purpose, which is to transform our lives to be more like our Lord’s. “All things” includes all the circumstances of life. So this verse is saying that God uses them to achieve His purposes. For example, although Joseph was treated harshly, he recognised that “God intended it for good” because it was used to save many lives, including the descendants of Abraham (Gen. 50:20). Also Hezekiah recognised that the anguish he went through during his serious illness “was good for me” (Isa. 38:17NLT) as it enabled him to praise God when his health was restored (Isa. 38:18-20).

The explanation

How can good come out of disasters such as the recent earthquakes, tsunamis and tornadoes that resulted in so much suffering and tragedy? We need to realize that “the good” Romans 8:28 is addressed to believers. God permits suffering and uses it for our good, for the blessing of others, and for His glory. The writer of Hebrews wrote, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11). Also, when Peter addressed the end times, which are characterized by disasters, he advised us to keep praying, help the needy, and use our gifts to serve others (1 Pt. 4:7-11). Disasters provide opportunities for us to bring comfort and relief to those in need, and pray for them. Disasters provide opportunities for us to develop our divine nature by becoming more Christ-like (Eph.4:22-24).

But what about death? Death is the worst thing that can happen to unbelievers; but it ushers believers into God’s presence, which is the best thing that can happen to us! Paul said “to die is gain” because it means going to be with Christ (Phil. 1:21).

But it can be difficult to balance the physical and spiritual aspects of life. Paul said that God “has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). Here we see that the blessings that are promised to believers are spiritual, not physical. Although disasters, suffering and tragedy may destroy our physical possessions, they don’t take away our spiritual blessings. God gives us what we need, not what we want. After all, Jesus died to save our spirits and souls, not our bodies. Of course, at the resurrection He gives us new bodies. We know God loves us, not because of how our lives go, but because of Christ’s death at Calvary.

So, Romans 8:28 says that God uses “all things” for our spiritual growth. When we apply this principle to disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis and tornadoes we begin to realize that even they can be used to help us become more Christ-like.

Written, April 2011

Also see: Where is God when disaster strikes?

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8 responses

  1. Please read and comment.
    http://hubpages.com/forum/topic/57937

    April 12, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    • The post by “Lord Aganus” addresses: major judgements, diety and the interpretation of Scripture. As the original text of the Bible was inspired by God, the Creator of the universe, the Christian Bible is the best authority on these topics (Genesis 1:1; 2 Timothy 3:16).
      Major judgements
      According to the Bible:
      • the greatest judgement on humanity in the past was the catastrophic global flood in Noah’s time, which wiped out all of mankind except for Noah’s family (Genesis Ch. 6-8).
      • In future, there will be major judgements on humanity in the period before Jesus Christ returns to establish His kingdom on earth (Revelation Ch. 16).
      • In the longer term future, everything will be burned up with fire before being replaced by a new eternal creation (2 Peter 3:5-13).
      • We’re only a breath away from our personal judgment day: “Anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).
      Diety
      The Bible is monotheistic, not polytheistic:
      • Polytheism was prohibited: “You must not have any other god but me” (Exodus 20:3).
      • “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:19).
      According to the Bible, there is only one supreme, supernatural, and spiritual God. This is the God who created the universe. Actually, God is three persons in one – Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:19; Acts 2:32-33; 2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Pet. 1:2). In a way that only He can understand, God is a trinity: three in one and one in three.
      Because the idea of plural “Gods” is not consistent with the Bible, it comes from either people’s minds or from other spiritual beings such as Satan or his demons.
      Interpretation of the Bible
      The Bible largely interprets itself. For example:
      • It is a progressive revelation.
      • The interpretation of a particular passage must be consistent (and not contradictory) with the progressive revelation in the rest of the Bible.
      • The context of a particular passage may supply clues to the correct interpretation.
      Conclusion
      As most of the post by “Lord Aganus” is a subjective opinion, when put beside the Bible it shows up as unreliable.

      April 14, 2011 at 10:28 pm

  2. Lord Aganus

    My opinion is not subjective opinion.
    Gods did give me many evidences before I made the conclusion.
    There’s none in the world but me who have the chance to see 7 Gods twice.

    You don’t know even who had written the bible you are following without any question. Whoever they are, they never dare to say that they have any chance to see Gods. Indeed everybody, except the blind, has already seen Gods, but they don’t know they did.

    Just pray to your God about Lord Aganus, and you will get some response.

    With love & peace,
    Lord Aganus

    June 19, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    • Opinions are subjective. One person may have an opinion, but how many people have witnessed or verifed it?

      The Bible is a historical fact that has been confirmed by ancient documents such as the Dead Sea scrolls. It presents highlights of the God who created and sustains the universe acting in history. The Bible is comprised of 66 books which were compiled over a period of about 1,500 years. Its human writers were men such as Moses, David, Solomon, the prophets, and the apostles of Jesus Christ. It is an accurate record that includes people’s faults and failures and is internally consistent because the writers were given their words by God the Holy Spirit:
      – “all Scripture was God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16)
      – “prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21)
      – “not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words” (1 Corinthians 2:13)

      June 20, 2011 at 9:34 pm

  3. Lord Aganus

    You believe that God is the creator of the universe. So should you believe that God can move or destroy the whole planet in a few seconds?
    Do you believe that God can control our mind (edit, delete, read our mind), possibly millions of people at a time?
    If you do believe those 2 powers of God, which method do you think God used to move Israelites from Egypt?
    1. God moved those people across the Red sea in a few seconds and edited their mind so that they did not know that they were moved across the sea in a few seconds.
    2. God made a big long chanel for them to walk across the Red sea, and God was very patience to wait more than 10 hours for that mission.
    Please notice that the energy to lift the mass of that water is much more than the energy to move those people.

    July 3, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    • The post by Lord Aganus asks how God moved the people of Israel across the Red Sea. The Bible says: “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left … the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.” (Exodus 14:21-22, 29). This is an example of a creator influencing their creation.
      Some of God’s great power over nature is described in Job chapters 38-41.

      July 9, 2011 at 8:31 am

  4. Lord Aganus

    Dear brother George, I have already known that you’re a walking Bible.
    But you don’t understand my question.
    Please read my above question again.
    Thank you.

    Cheer

    August 12, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    • 1. Can God move or destroy the whole planet in a few seconds? Yes, for example here is a description of the destruction of the world at the end of time: “But the day of the Lord (God’s judgment of evil doers and final triumph) will come like a thief (suddenly). The heavens (universe) will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare (burned up). Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you wait eagerly for the day of God (eternal state) to come. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells” (1 Peter 3:10-13 NIV edited)
      2. Do you believe that God can control our mind (edit, delete, read our mind), possibly millions of people at a time? Just because God can do something doesn’t mean that He will do it. This is a theoretical question with no reliable answer because God hasn’t revealed such information to us. Instead, God said, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).
      3. Which method do you think God used to move Israelites from Egypt?
      i) God moved those people across the Red sea in a few seconds and edited their mind so that they did not know that they were moved across the sea in a few seconds.
      ii) God made a big long channel for them to walk across the Red sea, and God was very patience to wait more than 10 hours for that mission. Please notice that the energy to lift the mass of that water is much more than the energy to move those people.

      The second method is more consistent with the description of what happened (see Exodus 14:21-22, 29 in my previous comment). By the way, because God has more power and energy than anything in the universe, He doesn’t have to use the easiest method!

      October 14, 2011 at 5:10 pm

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