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Processed For His Purpose

by Julius Hovan

Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program

I welcome you to this broadcast of Words of Life. What a difference it makes if we have words that bring life and hope and blessing and joy rather than bad news or difficulty. We have enough of that in our life, difficulty, sorrow, those kinds of things. And so we broadcast this message by way of this radio so that you might learn about words of life from the Word of God. Thank you for tuning in. We hope you will stay tuned for the next few minutes.

If you are familiar with the Word of God, then you are well aware that the apostle Paul wrote 13 epistles, or letters as they are called, in the New Testament. The book of Romans, to which we will be turning this morning, is not the earliest of Paul’s books. We believe I Thessalonians may be the first one, yet the Holy Spirit has had a hand in the arranging and writing of the books of the New Testament. The book of Romans is a very basic and foundational book. I have heard from it many times and no doubt you have if you are a Christian and a church going person. If you get the message of Romans, God gets you. In other words, it is saying to us: If I will believe what Romans is teaching and respond to it in faith, then, indeed, we will be able to receive the blessing that God promises.

Let me give you a brief outline. The first eight chapters of the book of Romans are doctrinal in nature. They teach about sin and condemnation and justification and sanctification, some of those big theological terms that we use, the first eight chapters. And then interesting that there are three chapters that deal with dispensations of the age, chapters 9, 10 and 11. They deal with history and deal with the present time as well as the future of what we know as the nation of Israel. Chapter nine tells us about Israel’s past selection when God chose them, how they were chosen and why. Chapter 10 reminds us of their present suspension, that God has set them aside for a time and he now works through the Church. The Church and Israel are not the same. And then chapter 11 promises Israel the prospect of salvation. So we have eight chapters of doctrine. We have three chapters that deal with Israel. And then chapters 12 through 16 deal with behavior, the old word used by many of the old time teachers was deportment, the way you act, the way you behave.

I would remind you. Doctrine precedes deportment. Belief precedes behavior. The creed we follow precedes our conduct. Why? We must believe rightly in order to behave rightly. We must believe better than we behave.

And so Paul has spent eight chapters to tell us what we ought to believe. And he is now trying to get us to practice those things that we know.

The text with which we will deal this morning is a very, very familiar one and I think it has a great, great encouragement and blessing for us. If you are where you can open your Bible and turn to it, we are going to be in the eighth chapter of this great book of Romans and I would like to read verses 28 and 29. “And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good even to them who are called according to his purpose. For whom he foreknew, he foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son that he might be the first born among many brethren.”

This is such a familiar passage of Scripture. The first part of this great book of Romans the Holy Spirit is not in the picture in the writings of Paul. It is a time of a somewhat morbid inspection of the sinfulness of mankind. It tells us we have a problem. We have a battle with our lives and our personality and our conduct. But chapter eight changes all of that. And it becomes a chapter of great conquest. The ‘I’ is removed, that is, the personal power of man, and the Holy Spirit is pictured in chapter eight, verse two and verse four and verse nine. Here he begins to exhibit his power. Here is the one promised and sent to every believer. He is the one the Christian has indwelling in him to trust him for guidance, for power. He empowers us to live a life of victory and conquest over our selfishness, over our sinful nature, over the sins of the world and over Satan himself. It is this Spirit that I receive when I become a Christian.

The promise in Acts 2:38 that if I will repent, having confessed the Lord Jesus, and be baptized in the name of Jesus for the remission of my sin, I will receive as a gift, the Holy Spirit. I get him then. Not some time later in that experience, but right then. And we are told pretty explicitly: ‘If I have not the Spirit, then I am none of his. I don’t belong to God. It is by that one spirit we are all baptized into the one body’.

 

So here is the secret of victory in the life of the child of God. This chapter, as you read through it—and I hope you will do it—maybe when the broadcast is over and you can get alone with God you will read this chapter. You will speak of suffering and trouble. Those things are present here. You probably are having some of those difficulties today, even as I am.

It speaks in verse 22 of how the creation groans. Verse 23 speaks of the Christian groaning. Verse 26 even the Comforter, the Holy Spirit is groaning. He shares in all the suffering, the groaning that is going on in our world. Oh, the horrors, the terrible bombings and murders and killings and we will not even need to go there. Here in the midst of victory and conquest is all of the suffering, all of the pains, all of the groans. Christians and unbelievers alike have these things.

Somebody put it this way. Sometimes God calms the storm and sometimes he lets the storm rage and calms his child.

I would say to you, if you have not yet had a serious difficulty, a loss, a horror, a sadness, just hang on, it is almost sure to come. That is part of our living in a world that lives under the curse of sin. And so we need what these two verses give us. Think about what we have read in these verses. “And we know to them that love God all things work together for good, to those that are the called according to his purpose.”

Now let’s break that down just a little bit. First of all, there is a positiveness in this verse. Believe it. We should know from experience what this verse is telling us. There are some things we don’t know. Even verse 26 says we don’t know what to pray for. We don’t know when the Lord is going to return. We don’t know if we will be alive tomorrow. Many other things we do not know. But here is something we can know. We know that God has to control tomorrow. Somebody said today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday. If we know, we can rest and trust in that, can’t we? If the Lord never slumbers or sleeps then I don’t need to stay awake and worry about it. I will leave it in his hands and let him deal with it. We can deal with our present problems. We can commit them and our future to the Lord. We can plan in accordance to his will. He has a better plan for my life and yours even if I don’t today understand it fully, I don’t know exactly all the details of it, I want a day by day, moment by moment, trust in the Lord. Any Christian who has lived long with God, especially for many long years, has this positiveness. We know things work together for good, the positiveness of this experience.

Who are the people then, the people – what does it say? Those who love God. My friends, it is very important to note that truth. Unfortunately, this is not a promise for you if you are not a Christian. You don’t want God to work in your life. You don’t want God to have his place in your life, in your existence, in your home, in your job, in your decisions. Oh, we have decided in too many places we don’t want God, in our schools or in our homes or in our government. We want to take the words ‘In God We Trust’ off of our money. Ok. Then we don’t want to be God’s. We don’t want to be people that are known as Christians.

So this promise is not for those who are having that attitude. Jesus put it simply. If you love me, you will keep my commandments. Do we love the Lord? Love is shown by obedience. Christians often sing a song: Oh, how I love Jesus. Maybe we ought to sing: Oh, how I ought to love Jesus, for too many do not love him like they should.

Up to here in this passage of Scripture and in this book of Romans there has not been any mention of the love of God. But now here are these who love him. And they have a positiveness. There is something that they can know and this is a principle that cannot be applied to those who are unbelievers.

We wonder about cold, uncommitted Christians, how much this promise is even able to be claimed by them. We know there are people who have this promise and this experience and this blessing. They are the called of God. And they love God. And so the positiveness we know, the people, those who love God, we know that it is in all things, all things? What kind of statement is this? Is Paul out of his mind? All things? Good things and bad, little things and big things, important things and unimportant things?

I ran across this verse of a well known him.

Thanks for thorns as well as roses. Thanks for weakness as well as health, For clouds and sunshine.

Thanks for poverty as well as wealth, For pain and pleasure.

I would like to know who that song writer was. I would like to know what experience he had that could cause him to write such a verse that certainly chimes in and agrees with this passage in the book of Romans.

Can I say that things such as sickness, sorrow, death, abuse, can be among the ‘all’ things? 1 Thessalonians 5:18 asks us to give thanks in everything. Now we can do that. Listen very carefully to what I am saying this morning. In everything give thanks. We can do that only if we are those who have the positiveness, we know what we are going to conclude this message with today. We are the people who love God. We are aware that all things, then, even those that appear to be horrible and bad and evil, that they are part of a process. These things, these particulars, these many varied things, what does it say? They work together for good.

Notice the process. It does not say all things are good. Is death good? Well, I went to the funeral home just yesterday for a lovely Christian lady who was 90 years of age who had lived a good life up until about six months ago and then her health began to fail and she was bed fast. Well, is death good? It became good for her. She has been delivered out of that old body that had grown weak and ill and now she has the blessings of the presence of God. We don’t think of death as good, certainly for those who are left.

Many things we can think of that in and of themselves are not good. It seems there is a verse of Scripture that says behind the scenes, behind the clouds there is a shining providence. The darkness, the clouds that come into our life, behind those there is the divine God of heaven and he has a process that is at work in our lives.

Think of it this way. I have a sweet tooth and I sure like a good piece of cake, lots of good icing on it. And I have learned that in that cake there is some stuff called shortening or lard we called it down in the South when I was growing up, flour, sugar, eggs, vanilla, baking powder. Have you ever taken a spoon full of baking powder by itself? Ever tried just grabbing up a little flour and stuffing it in your mouth? How about a little spoonful of that greasy stuff that goes in a cake? Not one of these is good by itself and not one of these is a cake. But a craftsman, a baker takes the right amount of each one of those and puts them together and there is a process of the mixing and those things take a beating with that mixer, that spoon or that mixer. And what comes out and then is baked in that oven at somewhat a high heat and it comes out a delicious, enjoyable cake.

Do you begin to see the picture? In our lives, then, all of these things, the good, the bad, the important, the unimportant, the little, the big, they work together. God knows how much of the good, how much of the pressure, how much of the other stuff needs to be brought into my life or yours and he mixes all of those together for my good. Tragedy in and of itself is not good. But God works them together.

In hindsight, as we look back at things that have happened, we may see that often when things don’t go well it may drive folks to God. I have seen families restored when tragedy enters. There is an opportunity for the testimony of the sufficiency of God and his ability to combine all of the ingredients of my life in order that people may see the power of God working in me.

Someone has illustrated it this way. If you know about this thing called needlepoint, you have seen ladies do that. They will take a piece of cloth that is going to be able to cover the bottom of a chair where you sit and they are running that needle through and punching holes through that cloth and you look at the back side of that cloth and it looks like a jumble of knots and threads and various colors. But when the person gets through and you turn it over and you look at the front side, it is a beautiful pattern, beautiful colors of a flower or a group of flowers or whatever it might be. So it is, my friend, with life. We are looking at the back side. We are seeing the knots and the stresses and the darkness and the difficulty, the pressure. Oh, but God is working. There is a process going on and he is going to turn it over. And when we step out into eternity with him, we are going to see the bright side, the beauty of it all.

You might remember the example of a man we call Joseph, sold by his brothers into slavery, taken down into Egypt, sorely, sorely abused there, put in jail unworthily, accused of something for which he was not guilty. I would say that in spite of his great faith he worried a little bit, wouldn’t you? I would say he got angry at his brothers. I am sure he had a little fear. Yet you will remember what he said when he saw the front side of God’s working? “You intended it for evil, but God meant it for good.” Later, when his brothers came to get food, he had been raised to second in the great nation of Egypt. And he had spared the land from starvation and not only the land of Egypt, but those around. So his hungry brothers who came to get food, and he fed the very ones who had hated him and sold him into slavery, the process was at work and in the end God overruled the evil intent of those brothers.

Now we have to bring this to its conclusion, don’t we? We have a positiveness, we know. Who has that? The people who love God. And in the lives of those people are the particulars, all things, and there is the process. They are working together for good. And what is the good? Notice what it says. According to his purpose. That is, God’s purpose. What is his purpose for every one of us?

C. S. Lewis, a man who for many years was an unbeliever, an Agnostic, looked at the facts of the Word of God and the history of the life of Jesus, converted his life to become a well known Christian scholar. He said this, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Is God speaking to you today in some difficult, stressful situation, a sickness, a tragedy, a loss, yours or that of one precious to you? What is his purpose? Did you notice it there clearly stated in verse 29? He has ordained us to be conformed to the image of his Son. This process of God working all kinds of things together is to make us more like Jesus. And it takes all the ingredients of life to do that. The Spirit filled life is a life of Christ likeness. Oh, I love what John says in 1 John three and verse two, “Beloved, now are we children of God. And it has not yet been made manifest what we shall be.”

Here is something else that the Christian knows. We know if we shall be manifest when Jesus comes, we shall be like him. For we shall see him as he is.

Oh, God is not finished with us yet. He is still working on us. He is going to make us more and more like Jesus and one day it will all come to pass.

My friends, there is nothing like being a Christian, trusting and walking with God by his Spirit’s power. Oh, my life will have heartache and trial and trouble and sorrow. Yet, I know I can state positively that people who love the Lord can take the particulars of life, whatever they might be, put them in the blender of the process and let the purpose of God be lived in their life. If you are not a Christian, would you consider giving your life to Jesus today in obedience to the call of the gospel?

Thank you for joining us today and God bless you and yours.

Julius Hovan preaches for the Bohon Church of Christ near Harrodsburg, KY

 




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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33