If you’re already familiar with Romans 8:28, read it again anyway, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (ESV). It’s a Scripture commonly quoted in Christian circles. But what does it mean? Until recently, I thought I understood it well.
But I was reading Romans 8 from the New English Bible (NEB) this morning and had to read verse 28 a couple of times. The translation quoted it differently from translations I’m most familiar with. I was a Biblical Languages major in college, so I love to go to the original texts myself. I did and was surprised to see that the way the NEB translated that passage was accurate. I pulled up a couple of technical commentaries (those that focus on linguistics and historical influence) and found that the NEB translation was the accepted understanding of the ancient church fathers. But it reads differently from most of our modern English bibles.
Here’s the NEB translation of Romans 8:28, “…and in everything, as we know, he cooperates for good with those who love God and are called according to his purpose.”
Do you see the difference? Instead of that verse teaching that God makes all things, including bad things, good in the end for us, it is saying that in everything that happens, including bad things, God works with us (those who love him) to produce good.
In other words, whatever it is that you are going through, God wants to work in your life and with you to produce good. Whatever bad you may be facing, if you give the situation to him, and walk with him faithfully in the middle of it, he cooperates with you to make good come out of it. So you get to be part of making good things come from bad.
But there’s an “if” in that interpretation (and I believe it’s accurate). Here’s the if: You have to cooperate with God! You have to let him work. You have to be obedient to him in the middle of it, remain faithful to him, and together with him produce whatever good he wants to produce from that situation.
That “good” that will come may or may not be related to you. It may be good that will come to others and not necessarily so much for us. But ultimately, if you love God and belong to him, it will produce good, and thereby, be a blessing to you, the fact that you get to be part of producing good from bad.
I think of Jessica Jacobsen. You all know her because she sings here at The Bridge most weeks. But few of you have any idea the trials she has been through, particularly in her middle school and high school years. But in those dark days, God revealed himself to her, and she gave her life, including all the bad, to Jesus. No matter how bad things became, she remained faithful and obedient to God, and he cooperated with her to produce a lot of good for the rest of us. We are now enjoying blessings that God has produced through Jessica, turning the bad in her life into good for us (and she is blessed by that).
He wants to do the same through the bad that you are facing today. Are you remaining faithful to him despite your trial, and obedient to him in your response? You can get good from bad!