Romans 8:28 is one of the most memorized and quoted verses in the New Testament: “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.”
This Scripture brings comfort, direction, and hope to Christians every day. Sadly, it’s also one of the most misquoted and misunderstood verses in the Bible.
I’d like to share three things about this popular verse you may never have noticed.
First, Romans 8:28 doesn’t mean we can live any way we choose, and God will fix our messes.
To understand the truth of Romans 8:28, we can’t just quote the part of the verse we like: “And we know that in all things God works for the good...” and skip the rest, “of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8:28 is a promise for believers. Real believers. Those who are living for Christ. Not those who claim to believe in God but are living like the devil.
This verse says to those who love God and are doing their best to obey his commands, “Even though bad/sad/evil/wicked things will touch your life, I (God) will use them to ultimately bring about good, both in your life and in the world.”
Joni Eareckson Tada, an inspirational speaker, author, and singer, is a quadriplegic who has been confined to a wheelchair for more than 40 years. When people ask her why God allows suffering, she often says, “God allows what he hates to accomplish what he loves.” And what does God love? For people to enter into relationship with himself and become more like him. Joni’s life and ministry are a stunning testimony of how God can use a tragedy like a paralyzing diving accident to impact the lives of millions.
Second, Romans 8:28 tells us God can use all things together for good. He doesn’t say all things are good.
No matter how rose-colored our glasses are, there’s nothing good about cancer, sex trafficking, or death. Until Jesus returns and conquers Satan once and for all, sin will continue to drag its poisonous tentacles across our world, damaging and destroying everything in its wake.
The truth of Romans 8:28 reminds us that although sin and Satan are powerful, God is more powerful; He is able to redeem and restore anything for our good and his glory. All things may not be good, but God can and will use all things for good.
The final thing you may never have noticed about Romans 8:28 and its accompanying verse, Romans 8:29 is the ultimate good God wants to accomplish in the lives of his children:
“For those God foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (v. 29).
A wise Bible teacher once told me, “God allows everything into our lives for one of two purposes—either to bring us into a relationship with himself or, if we already know him, to make us more like his Son.”
My friend Billy was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 35. Billy played college baseball, married his sweetheart, and fathered two handsome sons. Convinced of the truth of Romans 8:28 and 29, he chose to believe God had a good plan for his bad cancer.
Because Billy believed God could use even something as destructive as a brain tumor, he responded in faith and trust. “Even though this is not what I planned for my life,” he told his family, “I trust God to use it for good.” His unshakeable faith and peace was so profound that church leaders asked him to share his story at a men’s event.
Billy agreed. Then he invited his younger brother, Jack, to go with him. Jack had never accepted any of Billy’s invitations to go to church, but this time, he said yes.
When Billy finished telling his story, the pastor invited attendees to come forward if they wanted to know how to have a relationship with God. Jack was the first person out of his seat.
“I’ve always thought Billy’s faith was a crutch,” Jack said, “but watching him go through three surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation made me realize what he had was real. And I wanted it.”
Billy didn’t survive his battle with cancer, but because he chose to respond in faith and trust, many people, including his younger brother, came to know Jesus Christ as their Savior. Billy’s cancer wasn’t good, but God used it for good to make him more like Christ and to draw others into a faith relationship with himself.
We find perhaps the greatest comfort of Romans 8:28 in the first three words, “And we know.” Adrian Rogers, in the Billy Graham training seminar, “Rising Above Your Circumstances,” said, “This is not conjecture, this is not happenstance, this is not perhaps, this is not maybe; this is ironclad certainty. ‘We know that all things work together for good.’”
As long as we live in this world, people will attempt to reconcile God’s sovereignty with humanity’s suffering. Verses like Romans 8:28 assure us that no suffering is wasted, and God is always at work for our good and his glory. When we cannot comprehend why trials come and struggle to imagine that anything good can come from them, we can rest in the security that God is in control.
Because of this, we can have hope.
Please pray with me:
Father, sometimes I can’t understand how you can bring beauty from the ashes of my life. I struggle to trust you with the broken pieces. You say in your Word that without faith it is impossible to please you, and I want to please you. I want to trust you. I want you to make me more like Jesus and use my trials for my good and your glory. Help me believe the promise of Romans 8:28. In the strong name of Jesus I ask, Amen.
Lori Hatcher is a blogger, women’s ministry speaker, and author of the Christian Small Publisher’s 2016 Book of the Year, Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women. A Toastmasters International contest-winning speaker, Lori’s goal is to help busy women connect with God in the craziness of everyday life. She especially loves small children, soft animals, and chocolate. You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God. . . Starving for Time. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter (@lorihatcher2) or Pinterest (Hungry for God).
This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin and history of specific verses within Scripture context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.
"Pray Without Ceasing"
"Fearfully and Wonderfully Made"
"Faith Without Works is Dead"
"Trust in the Lord with All Your Heart"
"All Things Work Together for Good"
"Be Strong and Courageous"
"Train Up a Child in the Way He Should Go"
"Love Your Neighbor as Yourself"
"Take Every Thought Captive"
"Do Not Fear"
"God is Love"
"Eye for an Eye"
"Wolf in Sheep's Clothing"
"I Can Do All Things Through Christ"
"The Lord is my Shepherd"
"Be Still and Know that I Am God"
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com