All Things Work Together For Good
May 9, 2010
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Everything Works Together For Good
1. In the passage read for today is one of the well-known words from scripture, Romans chapter eight and verse twenty-eight. "We know that to all who love God, that is, to those who are called according to his plan, everything works together for good." That's what the scripture has written in it.
2. [That text] has "Everything works together for good," but we are more familiar with the Japanese "literary" version of the Bible, the Bungo-yaku Seisho. "As all [actions] work on each other, they turn into good." As you can tell, I am not from the generation that grew up reading the Bungo version of the Bible. I am of the generation of the "colloquial" version, [that is, The New Interconfessional Version]. But, even though I didn't read it, I grew up hearing the words, "As all [actions] work on each other, they turn into good." [I heard them so much] because they are perhaps the most frequently spoken words from the scriptures, that the elderly in [my] church, including my grandmother would say. "As all [actions] work on each other, they turn into good." That was the true sentiments of the people who for a long time had lived believing in God and following Christ. The lives of those who had gone through times of war must have had a lot of hardships that I and others cannot even imagine. They must have shed many a tear. There must have been things that happened in their time that would make you wonder, "What on earth!?," and that would make you unable to believe God's love. Yet, in going through all this, the elderly are still singing God's praises today. They are worshipping [God]. They are offering up prayers of thanksgiving. They look up to the heavens with hope. When they look back over their past days ever embracing such joy, as is no big surprise, [our] senior citizens in the church can't help but declare it, that "As all [actions] work on each other, they turn into good."
3. "As all [actions] work on each other, they turn into good." In the [Japanese] New Interconfessional Version, "Everything works together for good." It says, it "works together." It doesn't just "work," rather, the words, "work together" are used deliberately. When you look at each thing separately, you cannot possibly see how it turns into "a good thing, an advantage, a benefit, a profit, a blessing from God." That [happens] a bunch. However, when they work together, it does lead to some "good," some "purpose." It's like cooking something. The cooking makes whatever the ingredients are become one, and as [it all] "works together" it turns into something "delicious" for the first time. We know that. Therefore, we never want to eat them separately saying, "Since it's gonna get mixed up in our stomachs, it's really the same thing after all." But when it comes to each thing that happens in our lives, we're always seeing them separately and end up all too quick to taste or experience each incident by itself. And then we complain about the bitter [taste or the difficult experience], the salty [taste or the wearisome experience], the unappetizing [taste or the unfavorable experience] and about why such a thing was ever necessary. Yet, using cooking terminology, perhaps these things are salt, sesame oil, or spices. After they are all put together and until the very delicious cuisine is ready, it is important that you can get a picture of it somehow in your mind.
4. As you might expect, in order to imagine it till it's "a delicious cuisine," you must think about the chief. You go to a restaurant, and if you hear the chief is incredibly good, and you believe it, then you will think the cuisine the chief puts out will have to be delicious, with your heart beating for it you will have high expectations. The text had "Everything works together for good," but you mustn't think only about the "everything" [side]. You must think of God who is behind it all. We must turn our hearts to the ultimate Chef, the One who uses all things and is able to make for us the best finish out of it all. "Everything works together for good" doesn't mean mere positive thinking. It is a statement of faith. Therefore, someone from long ago felt like he or she had to give further definition to it. According to [some ancient Greek] manuscripts, the word "God" fits right in. So, there are also translations, like an English one has, that say, "God causes all things to work for good."
To Those Who Are The Called According To God's Plan
5. So, regardless of the translation, God is the one who causes all things to turn out for the good. The protagonist is God. Since that is the case, then it matters what kind of relationship we have with God. So, not just "All things work together for good," but Paul also puts the words "To those who love God, that is, to those who are called according to God's plan" before it, (in the original Greek [one part is] before and [the other] after).
6. When [we] have no relationship with God, then [we] have no real basis to expect that "All things work together for good." However, the Bible says, "You are not without connection to Him." We are named with the words "the called." We need to see our being here now [in this place at this time], our being here as persons who love, honor, and worship God as something marvelous. Did we plan that? No, we didn't. What we have decided or done up to this very moment is no more than a mere fraction. Almost all of it moves unrelated to our own will. That is, we are here now because we are being guided by a power that goes beyond our knowing. Having been invited and called, here we are. Since the text says of us that we are "the called according to His plan," wouldn't you agree with that point? The very fact of our being here in this place [means] we are already within God's gracious plan and in rapport with the grace-filled God.
7. For that very reason then, on our part, it is imperative that we live as the called. As the called we live with the One who has called us. It means that we live loving and believing in the God who has called us. It's a small detail, but in regard to the part that has "All things work together for good," there is actually another interpretation. We can also interpret it as "God works together with those who love God." You can take it either way on [who] or [what] is working with [whom]. The Bible Society Translation of the Bible translates it as follows. "We know that God is working with those who love God, that is, with those who are the called according to his plan, and he makes all things turn out for the good," (Romans 8:28 The Bible Society Version [as translated from the Japanese into the English]). It says God "is working with believers."
8. I don't think it is necessary for us to restrict ourselves to one interpretation. He is a God who causes everything to work together and make it good. He is the ultimate chef, "the iron chef." Yet, God has no desire to bring all this to pass apart from a relationship with us. God wants to make it come true with us [working with him]. God is ready to work with those who love God. Since God is ready to co-work with [us], it is imperative then that we be with God as persons who love God and as persons who believe in God. Even though the ingredients are in place after much waiting, if we don't trust in the chef and are not willing to work with him, but we throw the ingredients all around and say, "Oh well! It won't taste good anyway," what do you think [would come of it]? The long awaited cuisine would be spoiled. Even though you should expect to enjoy even the process of cooking it up, even that happy time ends up spoiled, and not only the delicious cuisine.
9. Since God is willing to work with us, we ought to collaborate with God. We shouldn't throw cold water on it with our complaining. Paul calls them "co-laborers with God," (Second Corinthians 6:1). I will go so far as to say it, though it is quite a dreadful statement, but we do need to have it in our awareness. We have not worked at all as a missionary like Paul. In some cases, our co-laboring with God may mean we are being steadily patient without murmuring and doubting. In any event, knowing the fact that we are here in this place as called persons and that we are already in God's plan, we are to live by offering ourselves up to God by believing that there is a good [work] which God is [more than] willing to do.
That We Be Like God's Son
10. Finally, let's have a look at what it means, to begin with, this "good", which is in the statement, "All things work together for good." The plain fact is we live always in pursuit of goods or blessings. In many of the different ways we judge things, the actual basis for our decisions is whether or not it will result in a blessing or a profit for us. We do this because even in times when we are purely trying to live for someone else's benefit, for some other person's profit and behalf, there is "a blessing, a profit" of some satisfaction or joy in us according to what we do. Or we do this because it is possible for us to obtain "the blessing or the profit" of receiving thanks or admiration from others. But on the other hand, the fact is we really don't know what a true blessing is for us. It often happens that in the pursuit of goods and blessings, we are really pursuing something that is harmful to us. "What is really blessed or profitable for us?; what's more, what is not temporarily good but permanently good for us?" The one who knows [the answers to these questions] is God. And God is trying to give us those permanent blessings. "All things work together for good" means that very thing. In that sense, we can say that Christianity is the ultimate "Blessing From God Faith, [The Faith In Ultimate Goodness]."
11. So, ultimately speaking, how can we define this blessing that God is trying to give us? The Bible says the following. "God has predetermined that he will make those whom he foreknew to be like the figure of his son. [He is doing this] so that his son will be the eldest son among many brothers. God has called out those who are the predetermined ones, he has justified those he has called out, he has given glory to those who have been justified," (verses twenty-nine and thirty).
12. God intends to make us like his son. He intends to make [us] like Jesus. -- Jesus the Son, who showed us the vibrant relationship with God the Father. -- Jesus, who showed us that we are to live trusting in God the Father. -- Jesus, who cared enough for people to carry the love of God the Father in his hands. -- Jesus, who showed us we are to live loving God and loving people. -- Jesus, who showed us through the resurrection the glory of the son -- inseparable even by death. He says that he is making us to be like that same Jesus. Thus, we should be getting to the point where we are able to live loving the heavenly father and loving one another. We should perfect this fellowship of love. We should perfectly bring it into reality. It is true when he says there is no permanent blessing superior to this.
13. Everything is heading into that direction. You could say, it is [all] moving to the ultimate perfection of a [great divine] cuisine. God is ready to perform this productive work with us. We can take pleasure in this process along with God. And along the way, each time we see the amazing workmanship of God we will lift up voices of wonder, saying, "As all [actions] work on each other, it turns into good." And, at that time when everything is perfected, ultimately in the kingdom of God, we will have to shout from our hearts: "As all [actions] work on each other, they turn into good. [Everything works together for good.] Yes, it does! It is truly just like [God] said it would be!"