All Things Work Together...
Some of you know that I spent 20 years in the medical field doing business and marketing. One of the things I got to see first-hand was a principle called ***disruptive technology. This is when an unexpected product or service disrupts an existing market and creates a new market. I’ll give you some examples. When the CD came out, it began to phase out cassettes. Not right away, but within about 12 years, no one was creating cassettes anymore. When I was a teenager, going to Blockbuster and Hollywood Video was a way of life. That’s where we went to find movies to watch. Then Netflix showed up where they delivered to your door. And pretty soon, they could instantly stream the movie through the internet to your house. Pretty soon, those video stores disappeared. The same can be said about going from simple cell phones and pagers to smart phones. VHS tapes to DVDs and BluRays. And in the medical field, the change from open surgeries to arthroscopic surgeries where a surgeon operated through 3 small incisions. Now, did these changes happen right away? No. People are resistant to changing. We get comfortable with the way we do things. So, it takes time. But when the change happens, you get all new benefits and technology.
Sometimes in our lives, God allows disruptive moments that we almost always question or resist because they are painful, unanticipated, and often not optional. But in hindsight, we can see God blessing us through these events. In some way! Today, we’re going to look at these disruptive moments in our lives and what we need to do with them.
Psalm 119:71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes. This is a pretty strange statement. Good to be afflicted? The word good means that something is to your satisfaction. When I think of the word good, I think of a 10 day, all-expense paid vacation to Maui. When I think of good, I think of a Texas BBQ smokehouse filled with brisket and Elgin sausage. That’s good. Or a cookie pazookie loaded with ice cream. Oh, that is sooooo good. Or how about a mineral spring spa to relax in. Gooooooood.
However, what we call good and the Bible calls good are two distinct things. David says it’s good to be afflicted. Based on the list I just gave you, affliction doesn’t normally fall into the category of good. Pain and suffering don’t quite equate with a cookie pazookie. Rom 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. All things work for our good. The problem is we often equate the word good with pleasure. And that is not what good in the Biblical sense means. If you want to find out what God means by “all things work together for Good”, go to Rom 8:29 -For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. The good God is talking about is that the process of life we go through, including affliction, would make us more like Jesus. That is the good God is talking about. All things don’t work together to make you happy. All things don’t work together to make you comfortable or live even in pleasure. All things work together to make you more like Jesus!
I’ve often heard it said, "God is good all the time….and all the time, God is good. When we tell someone who’s going through a trial that God will work all things for their good, what we mean is that God is going make this better for you. Double your blessing for your pain. Why? Because we believe God is our kind of good. That’s good symantics, but that’s not good theology. Yes, God is good, in that He is making us into the image of Jesus Christ. And last time I checked, Jesus suffered. He suffered that we can find a way past temptation. He suffered that we can be healed from our sickness. He suffered so that we can be free from our sin. If God is making us into the image of Jesus, and God is always good, then the question is: Can affliction be good? Job told his wife that we accept the Blessings from the Lord. Shall we not also accept adversity?
I’m not here to tell you that God is punishing you for your sins and that’s why you have adversity. The Father punished Jesus on the cross for our sins. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have to live with the consequences of our sins and actions. But it does mean that God isn’t going to heap up more punishment for us. That said, God disciplines those He loves. The Bible says that those who God loves, he also chastens. Disciplines. Today, we have something called a Time-Out. Maybe that works for you. But let me tell you, that is not my testimony. My mother and father were Old Testament prophets. They would use methods Other than a time-out to correct my ways. And I’m glad they did. They broke a lot of bad ways in my life.
The writer of Hebrews says do not despise the chastening or correction of the Lord. This goes back to our text: It is good for me that I have been afflicted. Some people see this as one of those moments where God allows something bad so He doubles the blessing back on David. No, this wasn’t God allowing affliction. God was actually causing affliction. Psalm 119:75 - I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right, And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. David knew that it was God who afflicted him in God’s faithfulness. Faithfulness is loyalty. You see, God is loyal enough to this relationship, He is loyal to the covenant and promise He made to me to make me more like Jesus that He is willing to correct me when I go the wrong way. Had God not afflicted me, had God not disciplined me, He would have been unfaithful, disloyal, insincere, and unreliable. And I want nothing to do with someone who says He loves me but would never correct me in my wrong paths.
A little over 10 years ago, we had gone out to eat at IHOP. Now we’re talking about good things again. Pancakes, hallelujah! But after we were done, we walked out and my son who was about 4 years old took off running, racing to be first to our car. He ran down the sidewalk, and without looking, through the parking lot. We were screaming and yelling for him to stop, but he did not. He was set to get to the car first. Thankfully, there was no cars flying through the parking lot at that time. Afterwards, we did NOT put Liam in time-out. He received an earful from his mother, and much more from his father. And why did we do that? Because we don't like him. That’s the only reason we would be mean like that. NO! Because we love him and we had to correct him lest he do that again and the worst actually comes to pass. Love is not making someone happy. Love is desiring and working for the best outcome in someone’s life. Sometimes that means they won’t be happy. But it will help them to achieve the best outcome in their life. If we hadn’t disciplined him, we would be unfaithful, disloyal and even hateful to our son. But we love him. Sometimes love equals correction.
That is why God causes affliction in our lives. God is more interested in our holiness than He is our happiness. He would rather us get to Heaven because of the pressure, than for us to go to Hell because of our pleasure. God who gives us favor for salvation also gives us friction for sanctification. Why? Because all things work for good. And what is our good? Becoming more like Jesus. We all say we want to be more like Jesus. But are we willing to suffer the same way? Live the same way? Be afflicted the same way? Or do we just want to be like miracle-working, everlasting, all-powerful, Heavenly Jesus?
My favorite Bible character is Joseph. His story spans 14 chapters in Genesis. What we see is Joseph betrayed by his brothers, becoming a slave and then a prisoner. And the payoff is he becomes the prime minister of Egypt and saves his family. At the end of the story, Joseph says to his brothers who betrayed him and sold him into slavery: You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. Don’t just see it as God meant it for good. See this: God meant it. God meant for Joseph to be in Potiphar’s house, meant Joseph to be a slave, meant Joseph to be in prison 13 years and not know that there would be a happy ending. Why? God had to deliver Joseph from his pride and his self-reliance. He needed Joseph to be completely dependent on Him before God could truly use Joseph in this place of such significance. God had to change Joseph before he could use Joseph.The circumstances we ask God to change are often the circumstances God is using to change us.
I could give you about 12 reasons why afflictions come our way. But I hold it to just 3 short ones for you today. Number ONE: Afflictions are good for us because they test the strength of our faith. Anyone can worship when things are going good. But when trials and affliction come, do we know if we would still love God? Do we think of Him as Santa Claus or as a real Father? There’s nothing better than knowing how you can respond. A weightlifter will often try a heavier weight, just to see if he can handle it. Sometimes he fails, but at least he knows where he stands. Do you know where your faith in God stands when afflictions come?
Number TWO. Afflictions come to decrease your dependence on worldly things. When Jesus was about to feed the 5000, he asked Phillip how to feed the people. And Phillip answered that there isn’t enough money or bread to feed them. But Jesus was testing him. Jesus wanted Phillip to know that he was still thinking in a worldly sense. Phillip should’ve said, “Jesus I’ve seen you walk on water, heal the withered hand, turn water into wine. I KNOW you can handle this. It’s not about me, Jesus, it’s all about you!” Let me tell you from experience: God allows us to lose jobs, to lose friends, to lose economic status. That affliction comes and for this reason: to depend on Him more. God puts you through the test to give you a testimony. God puts you in this Mess – message. Misery – ministry. Yes, afflictions come so that you can get your eyes off of the world and fix your eyes on the power of Almighty God.
This next one requires we read a Bible verse together. This is when Jesus predicts Peter’s denial. Luke 22:31-32 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed,Satan has asked for you, that he maysift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me,strengthen your brethren.” Number THREE. Strengthen your brethren. Jesus said, “PETER, affliction is coming your way. A trial is coming your way. Guilt and sorrow and self-doubt are coming your way. Do you know why? Because I have prayed for you and your faith is going to stand firm. And when you do, strengthen your brethren. Peter, these other 11 can’t handle it. They would deny me and never come back. But you will come back. And when you do, go visit John who will see me die on the cross. Go talk to Thomas and assure him that I’m alive. Make sure those around you know that their failure isn’t final.” We are called to affliction to strengthen others. Don't let it go to waste! God has given you this affliction to strengthen the ones who would fail without you. Go to them and bless their faith.
My children, today, affliction has come to you. Don’t hide from it. Don’t run from it. Don’t hate it. Love it. Because whom God loves, He corrects. And all things work together for our good, to make us into the image of Jesus Christ.