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Examining God’s promise

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DSC_8921One of the best-known but least-believed prom-
ises of the Bible comes from the Apostle Paul’s letter
to the church at Rome. There, at the pinnacle of his
discourse, Paul penned the following words: “and
we know that in all things God works for the good of
those who love Him, who have been called accord-
ing to His purpose.” This idea is sometimes misrep-
resented by the meaning-
less cliché “everything
KEVIN
happens for a reason”,
SARTIN
which is not even close to
Theology
what Paul is expressing in
Columnist
His letter. Instead, what
Paul seems to be saying
is that there exists an all-
powerful, all-knowing, ever-present creator who has
committed Himself to enter in to every circumstance
in the lives of His children and to work through
those events for good. There are some important
qualifications, of course. The promise is not for ev-
eryone, just those who have been reconciled to God
through the death of His Son, and the good is not
necessarily immediate, physical good, but instead
the eternal good of the conforming of our character
to that of His Son.


But even with these qualifications firmly in place,
this assertion of Paul’s still seems wildly inconsis-
tent with reality. Can he really mean all things? All
things? What about the seemingly random tragedies
that take place all around us every day – like that
rainy morning from my childhood when a neighbor
who I barely remember was killed when a tree fell
on his truck as he drove down the road less than a
mile from his own driveway? Or even worse than
random tragedy, what about those intentional, in-
comprehensible, unspeakable acts of evil that are in-
cessantly paraded in front of our eyes by the nightly
news – like a mother who regularly abused and then
finally killed two of her own children and then kept
their bodies in a freezer for two years? How can God
bring good out of things like these?
The most honest answer to that question of
“how” is simply that we can’t know. The finite mind
of man cannot comprehend the intricacies of the
actions of an infinite God. All attempts to reason
and rationalize God’s activity and seeming inactivity
are exercises in futility, and they come off as trite
and patronizing to individuals who are hurting. I
am learning that some of the wisest words I can use
when asked “how could God allow this?” are “I don’t
know.”
But here’s the encouraging part of all of this: Even
though we may not know how God will work all
things for good in the lives of His children, we can
know that He is able to do so, and that He will. The
proof for these confidences lies in the events of the
first Good Friday some two-thousand years ago. The
public humiliation and execution of Jesus Christ
represents the worst evil in all of human history. To
reject and mock and torture and kill the innocent,
sinless, perfect Son of God is the greatest wicked-
ness that man could imagine or participate in. And
yet, God was at work in the death of His Son to bring
about the greatest possible good – the forgiveness
of sin for all who would simply believe. So, then, the
argument for the validity of God’s promise through
the pen of Paul is one from greatest to least, and it
goes something like this: If God is both willing and
able to bring the greatest possible good (eternal sal-
vation) out of the greatest evil (the death of His Son)
the world has ever known, then surely He is both
willing and able to take difficulty and hardship and
tragedy in the lives of His children and work even
those things for their good. We can trust in God’s
heart until the day we finally understand the work of
His hand, and that is enough.
“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him
up for us all–how will he not also, along with him,
graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32

Kevin Sartin is pastor of First Baptist Church on
Main St. in Nashville. Rev. Sartin holds a Master of Di-
vinity Degree from the New Orleans Baptist Theologi-
cal Seminary and has spent the last decade pastoring
churches in Louisiana and Arkansas.