Does The Good Equal The Bad?
Elder Jeff Winfrey, Pastor
Dawson Springs Primitive Baptist Church
101 East Walnut Street
Dawson Springs, KY 42408
At the time of the preaching of this sermon there is much debate among the Primitive Baptists as to the scope of Romans 8:28. It seems that many, if not most, declare that the verse is confined to eternal things alone and has no application for the life of the child of God while struggling in this present world.
The context is the most common reason given for this view. Those who say that the context demands an interpretation that is confined to the eternal go to the verses which follow Romans 8:28. It is freely admitted and obvious that these verses are referring to the glorious eternal plan of God. The assurances in these verses do give much joy and comfort. But the point can be made that context should include the verses before as well as the verses after a text. Previous to the text one finds a context of suffering, a description of a person so overwhelmed that he is groaning and cannot find words to pray. Surely this person is not a picture of the eternal glory awaiting God’s children. Instead, he depicts the earthly troubles inherent to a child of God before eternal glory is realized. Is there no assurance and comfort in this verse for this child for now?
A second reason given for a strict eternal interpretation is that the verse says that all things “work together.” The point is made that evil does not work together with good; or Satan does not work together with God. This is true, but truly the things are not working. Things are happening while great, yet unequal, forces are working. Now the greatest force at work, even God, never works evil. But He can work His good will in the midst of whatever works against Him. And the God who gave the best for His children on one occasion will surely bring some good at all occasions and in all things. The good is defined by God and man may not see the good. But man’s lack of understanding never changes God’s reality.
It is the humble opinion of the preacher of this sermon that the message of Romans 8:28 applies to the struggles of this world and the glory to come. Surely our God is a God of salvation who has worked out an eternal plan of great good, whereby He will eventually bring to His people an ultimate good. And surely our God is a God of providence who even now works out a plan of a lesser good, but still some degree of good for His struggling children in this world. God is not the cause of all things. God is not the cause of evil. But He is wise enough and loving enough to work a great good eternally and a degree of good now for His children. May God be praised for today’s good and for forever’s real good.
The Good and the Bad
Romans 8:28 Does the Good Equal the Bad?
A Sermon Preached at
The Dawson Springs Primitive Baptist Church
By Elder Jeff Winfrey
Again we consider in the book of Hebrews, in the third verse of the first chapter that Jesus upholds all things by the word of His power. The verse says, “Upholding all things by the word of his power.” And then let us go from there to Romans 8:28 again tonight. If the Lord will bless, we would like to take some thoughts again from that wonderful verse, Romans 8:28. It says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
We come together and we sing songs, and so often we sing songs about the hope that waits for us. We sing songs about Beulah Land: “I’m kind of longing for a country.” I am kind of looking for another place. We sing songs about a place “where the soul never dies.” We sing the words, “what a day that will be.” These are songs that come to my mind tonight about the ultimate good that waits for all of us as God’s children. What a hope it is, to have that assurance that there is good that waits. And that eventually all things do work together for good. Though our days are full of troubles, “man that is born of woman is of few days and full of troubles,” Job said, and surely he knew that, and sometimes through our journey here we know it, too. Maybe not as terribly do we know it as Job did, but we understand that the days are full of troubles, and we do look for the good that is to come.
But we talked about last week as we went over Romans chapter eight in some detail, we just went over the whole chapter last week, and talked about how the good is not confined, I do not believe, to just what waits for us in eternity. But our God is active in this world now, and He is upholding all things by the word of His power, and He is in the midst of all things, and He is in the midst of our lives. He tends to us, cares for us and keeps us. And we are never out from under His shadow. That though we mount up to heaven, as the psalmist said in Psalm 139, he is there. And though we make our beds in the graves of hell, he is there. And though we go to the uttermost part of the sea, he is there. He is there and he cares. And all things do work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
We see that verse. And we see teachings concerning that verse. In the account of Joseph in the long ago when his brothers sold him into bondage—that was bad. When he spent 13 years of his life either as a slave or a prisoner in a foreign country—that was bad. A period of 13 years is a long time. A period of 13 years is plenty of time to be lonely, plenty of time to ask many questions, plenty of time to wonder why, plenty of time to wonder where God is, and plenty of time for other such things that I would have pondered in those 13 years. We have no record of Joseph’s thoughts in those years, but we wonder what he might have thought. At the close of that whole account, after seeing what occurred there, our behind the scenes view from the perspective that God’s word gives us shows us how God had placed Joseph in that position, allowed him to be there for 13 years in a terrible condition and then raised him to be second in command. And all by the power of God, and according to the control of God and the mercy of God, he had Joseph in the right place to deliver a people. Not just any people, God’s chosen people, were delivered because Joseph was in the right place at the right time. A lot of turmoil and distress and grief led up to that moment, but Joseph was in the right place at the right time. Those several chapters close with these words toward the end. Joseph tells his brothers, “you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” Now we can look back there and see that it was good that God’s people had a natural deliverance from starvation, and were allowed to continue and to prosper and to reproduce and form the nation of Israel—those 70 souls that ended up down there in Egypt. And we can see that good came from the bad. God did not cause the bad, but God was able to work together and bring good from the bad so that God’s people could be delivered.
And then the ultimate example is Jesus Christ Himself. That is the ultimate bad and the ultimate good. When those wicked men acted according to their lust, according to their envy, Pilate looked at them and said in so many words, ‘you have just brought him here because of envy’. In other words, ‘you hate him because He has more understanding, he has more following, he has more of this, he has more of that, and it is for envy that you have brought him here’. And they crucified him, Pilate, and Herod, and those wicked men, the Gentiles and the Jews. But it was by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God that they would by wicked hands deliver him. The scriptures are clear on that. It was a very bad thing that occurred there, but God worked together a very good thing. For again God delivered his people. God delivered his people, Israel. God delivered his people, spiritual Israel, you and me. And the wickedness that occurred that day was instrumental in the deliverance, even in the goodness that would occur that day. We can look at those bad things and see that good came and that the people were delivered.
If we begin to look at the bad things that occur in our lives and want to see something phenomenal like that, like people delivered by what I went through, perhaps we will not see that. We probably will not see that. In Joseph’s and Jesus’ case it is not hard to see where the good outweighed the bad. The good that came from that day when Jesus went to the cross far outweighed the bad, I suppose. Maybe that is easy for me to say, I did not go through what he went through. The deliverance of a people, God’s people Israel, and bringing them to the Promised Land, and Joseph going through just 13 years for that, just 13 years, I did not go through those 13 years. But it is still easy for me to look at that situation and see that there was more good than bad. More good came than bad in that situation.
Is it always that way? I have asked myself that over the last day or two. Do we always see more good than bad? I do not think so. Sometimes the bad might end up more than the good if we were to weigh things. The verse does not promise how much good is to come. It does not say how bad the bad is, or how good the good will be. The verse just promises that there are good things that come from bad things and that we have a God of providence working behind the scenes. We do not have to see the good equal the bad for this verse to be true. The good does not have to outdo the bad ten thousand times fold over in order for this verse to be true. If there is some good that can come from a lot of bad, then the verse is still true. The verse is true if in all things (no matter how bad or no matter how extensive), there are some good things that come from those bad things. The verse is true if there is any good that can be worked out from the bad.
I think sometimes as I have weighed this verse and tried to apply it, I have tried to find as much good as bad. And I think maybe it is an error to look at the verse that way. But I do not think that it is hard to see that some good can come from bad. Sometimes a great good, such as the resurrection of God’s people and the eternal life that came from the cross, can come from the bad. And sometimes the good that comes may be just changes in our attitudes. This may be the good that comes from bad things that happen to me—a change in attitude in me. If something extremely bad happens, the verse does not say that something extremely and equally good is going to happen next. It just says that there is going to be some good that will come from the bad. It says that God can work together good from the bad that happens.
What kind of good might come from any kind of bad that happens to God’s children? It can be seen that for God’s people there is good that comes nearly every time from bad. I will tell you that when bad things happen to me, when bad things happen to you, when bad things happen to God’s children, it humbles God’s children. It gets us off our high horse. It brings us down low. It causes us to fall to our knees. Our natural tendencies say, ‘That’s not good! I do not want to be in that frame of mind’. But the Bible tells me that that is good, that it is good for a man to be humble. It is good for a person to be brought down. It is good for a person to be abased and brought down in this world. And the ones that are brought down, Jesus will lift up. He does not leave us down there. But it is good for us to be brought down there. The scriptures are clear on that. And maybe we will look at some illustrations of that in the time here tonight.
There is no doubt that it teaches us in scripture, and experience teaches us, that bad things increase our faith. They make us look to God more strongly, and more deeply, and with more commitment, and with more earnestness, with a have to, and a want to, and a desire, with a ‘Lord, here I am and I need you today’. And then when he gives us a flicker of light or a glimmer of hope or a whisper of peace, ‘Wow! You are real God!’ And we believe in him a little more after that than we ever did before. But you know that we still do not believe in him as much as we should. And we still can say. “Lord, I believe but help thou my unbelief.” And when we say help thou my unbelief, what we may be praying for is a little more tribulation, so that we can see him help us again, and trust him and love him that much more.
There is no doubt that the scriptures teach that our hope is increased by our trials and our troubles. Is hope good? Is a focus on something beyond this world good? That is what hope is—a focus on “what a day that will be.” It is a focus on Beulah Land. That is what hope is. It is looking to something beyond this old world. Hope is not to be so tied to here, but to be loosed from here and tied to yonder. It is to set our affections on things above and not on things of this world. That is what hope does for us. And troubles and trials, the scripture teaches, increase our hope—our focus and commitment to the next world.
Our troubles and trials, the scripture teaches, connect my heart with God’s heart. Is that good? Why, I reckon it would be. There is nothing wrong with that. Is that connection enough to make the troubles go away? Oh, no. It may not seem like the connection is very much. But that is not the Spirit talking to me when I say that that is not very much. Those are my natural tendencies that tell me that that does not amount to anything, because that amounts to everything. If my heart can be touched, and connected, and one with God’s heart, what does this world have to offer me that can compare to that?
The scriptures teach in more than one place that patience is a good thing to have and that tribulations work patience. Is a little more patience worth what I have to go through? Does it balance out? I do not claim that it equals. The troubles may still be far more than the little extra patience, or faith, or hope, or the other things that the scriptures teach are increased. But still those are good things and there is no doubt that those good things come from being in the midst of troubles, and trials, and tribulations, and heartaches, and despair. All things work together for good. All things work together for good. Some good comes to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Paul wrote that passage. Paul wrote it and he wrote it under inspiration of the Holy Spirit. There is no doubt about that. The words are God’s words. But was Paul qualified to write such words as that? I am no expert on it. Lots of you folks have had much more troubles in your lives than I have had. But I will tell you that from experience, Paul had a right to talk about troubles. He knew what troubles were. In 2 Corinthians 11:23 he says, “In labors more abundant,” in other words, I have worked harder, “in stripes above measure,” in other words, I have been whipped and I have lost count of the number of stripes, “in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft,” in other words, beaten, imprisoned, and near the point of death oftentimes. “Of the Jews five times I received forty stripes save one.” “Thrice,” in other words, three times, “was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep, in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the cities, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.” That is quite a list of bad things, I should think. Paul was acquainted with grief. Not like the Savior, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, but Paul was a man in a sense like the Savior. He followed in his footsteps and suffered abundantly for it.
We talked about generally there some of Paul’s sufferings and some of those we could specifically refer back to in different places, such as the time recorded in Acts where he was stoned and left for dead and other such times as that. As we look at his experiences, let us go to Acts 16. Let us look at something that happened to Paul there, where he suffered and where good came. In Acts 16:23 we find the words, “And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into the prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely. Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison and made their feet fast in the stocks.” They had been beaten with many stripes. The lash of the whip repeatedly, many times, came across Paul and Silas’ backs. I am sure they were cut to the bone. Through layers of flesh, through layers of skin and muscle, and down to the bone, the whip lashed. It lashed that back that had been lashed many times before. Here we go again. And then they were thrown into the prison and their feet put fast in the stocks. So there they were. They had been beaten. They had been put in an uncomfortable position in the stocks. And they were left in the prison. At midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God and the prisoners heard them. Again Paul leaves us a wonderful example. Beaten and left in stocks, but praying and singing praises is where we find him at midnight. “Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.” He is now a free man, but he does not run. As a matter of fact, no one leaves the prison. “The keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had fled.” He thought for sure that the prisoners had fled. For he had just been given custody of Paul and Silas, and they said, you be sure to keep them, hold them fast. He had put them in the inner prison and in the stocks and now he looks and the doors are opened and he thinks that they are all gone and he is going to commit suicide. “But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, do thyself no harm for we are all here.” Why the rest of the prisoners did not run, I do not know—the providence of God, I suppose. For Paul would not have been able to tell that jailer that we are all here if some had run. The whole night is hinged around that jailer and his family, my friends. The same man that stuck Paul’s feet in the stocks had just nearly committed suicide, and Paul says do not kill yourself. “Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, do thyself no harm for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling.” A trembling jailer, “is there here a trembling jailer?” We sing that song. “Is there, here a trembling jailer, seeking peace and filled with fear? Is there here a weeping Mary, bursting forth a flood of tears?” Here comes that trembling jailer in that song. He “fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, believe on the Lord, Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord.” They spoke unto him the word of the Lord. They preached to him that night “and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.” Immediately, that is what straightway means. “And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.”
Was that worship service worth many stripes? You would have to ask Paul that one. Would I take that whipping to baptize that family? I say I would now, but there is nobody standing here now with the whip. Peter said he would go to death with Jesus and then he did not. So I do not know whether I would or not. But I would like to think that I would. I would like to think that it would be worth that ‘bad’ to get to that ‘good’. Evidently, God thought it was that night for that man. That is one of Paul’s experiences. That is one of the times he was beaten with many stripes. And that one was not from the Jews. Five times he was beaten of the Jews and this was an extra one. I do not know how many times the Romans beat him.
The point of going to this passage is to show that Paul knew suffering. And Paul with his voice of experience, besides the teaching of the Holy Ghost and the inspiration to write those words, Paul knew by experience that good things happened in the midst of the bad. He knew that a jailer and his family had been baptized before his own wounds had had time to quit bleeding. And Paul having learned that, Paul having learned that the hard way, Paul having learned that through the teachings of experience, Paul having learned all these things sang at midnight before the good happened. That is good. That is good. Paul was not dwelling on the bad. Paul was able to praise, and pray and sing in the midst of the bad. Perhaps he was anticipating the good, I do not know. But at least he was not dwelling on the bad. In the midst of the bad, he sang to the Lord. And in the midst of the singing to the Lord, there was an earthquake. And in the midst of the earthquake, there was a jailer that was drawn to Jesus Christ. And all things work together for good, to those that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
As we think about Paul, we were just in 2 Corinthians 11, let us return to that section of scripture. We will drop down just a few verses from where we read before and begin in chapter 12. In the past readings you will remember that Paul was expounding all of the sufferings he had been through, or at least some of the sufferings he had been through. But here in 2 Corinthians 12, he talks about some of the glorious things he had seen. “It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory, I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.” He says, in other words, it is not good for me to glory, but I want to tell you about some visions and revelations of the Lord, but my purpose is not that I should glory. “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.” Paul here describes a vision, a revelation, something he had seen, and something he was somewhat unsure about. He did not know if it was himself who had gone there or if he had seen a man go there. But whether it was Paul or another who went, he had seen the third heaven. And Paul, either through his own eyes or the eyes of another, had seen these things. “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago.” Notice that he had not quit talking about it. It had been above fourteen years ago, but he still talked of it. Whether he was in the body, whether he really went there, he said he did not know. Or whether he was out of the body, he did not know. Only God would know those things. But this one, whether it was I or not I do not know, was caught up to the third heaven. “And I knew this man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth” he says again. “How that he was caught up into paradise.” Paul says either I have been there or I have watched somebody that was there. Either way it was quite an experience. “And heard unspeakable words which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” I think that that means that there are no words that can express it, that there is no way to say or to put into words what he saw. “Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.” I will glory in mine infirmities, yet this one, whoever it was, whether me or not I do not know, saw visions and revelations of a third heaven called paradise. “For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.” In other words, I do not want you to think good of me or better of me than I am. He continues, “And lest I should be exalted above measure.”
Why does Paul have this humble attitude about the revelations and the visions? Why does he continue to talk about it after fourteen years, but is very cautious not to boast about it? He continues to talk about it, but almost apologizes for telling the story. Why is he fearful lest somebody should think highly of him? The reason is that he had been brought to a level that was not a high level. And he had been brought to that level by infirmities, by some kind of an ailment that he explains as the passage continues. “Lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh.” Now that is bad. That goes under the category of bad. Thorns in the flesh, they are not pleasant. They are not good company. They are something we would like to get rid of. And the sooner it is gone, the better. Paul said, “there was given to me a thorn in the flesh.” Quite honestly, God Almighty gave it to him. Jesus Christ, the one who speaks in red here in this passage, gave it to him. “The messenger of Satan to buffet me,” in other words, the messenger of Satan was given to me to buffet me. In the scriptures oftentimes the word messenger and angel can be used interchangeably. So perhaps even literally, a messenger of Satan, even an angel of Satan, was given to Paul to buffet him. To buffet is to hit with the fist, to pound with the fist. Paul had his personal angel of Satan to beat on him continuously, if you look at these words literally. Now whether that was the literal case or not, whether God assigned an angel, whether God allowed Satan to assign an angel to stay personally on Paul and just beat him to death similar to what Satan did to Job, I do not know. I do not know exactly what happened to Paul but I assume that it was very bad. It was something described with the words the messenger of Satan or the angel of Satan. And it was given to Paul. That is the description we are given in scripture of the thorn. Whatever the thorn was, it was an undesirable thing that Paul from his own way of thinking would have rather not had. “There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.”
We spoke earlier about how it is good to be humble, about how it is good to be abased and brought down. Paul was humbled and abased and brought down. He had seen heaven. He had seen the third heaven. He had seen paradise. He probably had been there. In his humility, it seems, that he had wanted to say that it was somebody else, but I expect that Paul probably had been there. But on the return trip he was given a messenger of Satan to beat upon him, a thorn in the flesh. “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.” In other words, I begged the Lord three times that it would go away. Please let it go away, God. Please take it away, God. God, you can do all things. Make this disappear. And God said unto him, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” “My grace is sufficient for thee.”
I am sure that this is a statement that God would make to each of his children. Amazing grace is sufficient grace. Amazing grace is grace that saves eternally. Amazing grace is grace that never leaves us or forsakes us. But amazing grace is not necessarily the answer to every prayer in the way we would like to have it answered. That is not included in amazing grace. Sometimes his definition of amazing grace and our definition of amazing grace may vary as we look at our lives and think how things ought to be or how we want things to be. In so many words, God told Paul, ‘the messenger of Satan will stay with you, but my grace will stay with you, too. And my grace is sufficient to get you through from day to day. And there is a reason for it, Paul. My strength is made perfect in your weakness. If you were strong in and of yourself, you would not need my strength, my friend, my child. My strength, you will find to be a perfect strength. My grace, you will find to be a sufficient grace. My protection and my shadow, you will find to be enough as long as you are weak. But if you were strong, you would not need my shadow, or my strength, or my protection, or my company for that matter. But you are going to need me every day, Paul. You are going to need me every hour of every day. And this thing will not leave you and it will be good that it does not leave you, because it will keep you close to me’.
Why, God? Why? Is it good to be close to God? Of course, we would all certainly say that it is. Would it not be easier to be close to God on easy street than on a rough road? Well, I guess that it would by my way of thinking. But some way or another, I am not close to God on easy street. It is in my rough roads that I am close to him, and he knows that. But I want easy street and I want God, too. I do not know, my friends.
You can be assured that he will not put on us more that we will be able to bear. He will not put on you more than you are able to bear, but he will give you the strength to bear it. “There is no temptation,” in other words, there is no trouble. “There is no temptation taken you but such as is common to man. But God is faithful who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.” For years I read that verse and looked for the way of escape from the temptation. I looked for him to take it away that I might escape from it. But really that is not what the verse says. It says that he will make a way of escape where we will be able to bear the temptation. The trouble is still there. But the way of escape is a way to bear it. His grace is sufficient so that we can bear the troubles, and shoulder it up, and make it through, and yoke up with him. That is the only way we can shoulder it. That is the only way we can bear the burden. If we come unto him, and take his yoke upon us, and learn of him, then we can bear the burden together with him. Is it good to be yoked up with Jesus? Oh my goodness, there is no better yoke fellow in the world. It is just that I do not tend to want to yoke up with him, unless I have to yoke up with him.
God, knowing my nature, and knowing Paul’s nature, and knowing human nature, said to Paul, “my grace is sufficient” for my grace is made perfect in weakness. And then Paul made a profound statement himself. He understood what Jesus had just said to him, and now he says to us, and the Holy Spirit says to us through Paul’s words, “Most gladly will I rather glory in mine infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” In other words, Paul said, ‘I’ll be glad to have the troubles so that the power of God will be upon me, so that his strength will be with me, so I will know his strength, so I will be in touch with him. I will gladly go through this. I will gladly keep this thing that is beating me, if that is what keeps me with you, Jesus’. Now there is a man whose faith had increased to a level to be able to say that. There is a man who had come to a level of understanding where he could know that his own weakness was God’s strength. And if he had the strength of God, he did not need anything.
Paul knew that all things worked together for good to them that love God, to them who were called according to his purpose. That messenger of Satan was not good. And it did not begin to feel good. It was just that Paul was able to comprehend that there was good that came from it. And there was comfort and peace in that. He said, ‘Therefore will I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” He was a man who knew it by experience. He was a man who knew the troubles by experience. He was a man who knew the peace by experience. He was a man who knew the good that had come from the troubles. He was a man who knew what it was to be humbled, to be abased, to be brought down, to be brought so low that the only way up was Jesus. And that is not a bad position for one of God’s children to be in—to finally be to the point where the only place you can turn is Jesus. There is glory to Jesus in that. And there is peace to the little child of God in that, in a round about strange sort of way.
Do the troubles disappear? No. Is there some good that comes? Yes. You have to say that there is good that comes. Is the good equal to the bad? That depends on how you weigh things, I suppose. Most of the time the bad comes from natural things and the good is in spiritual things. It is hard to compare apples and oranges, as the old saying goes. But the scriptures are clear that the spiritual outweighs the natural. The troubles of today are not worthy to compare with the glory that shall be revealed in us. That is one place where a comparison is made between natural and spiritual. Another place says our ‘light afflictions’ when compared to his glory. Oh yes, the natural troubles seem heavy. But the scriptures tell us that compared to spiritual things, they are just light, they are just temporal, they are just for the moment compared to the eternal and the reality of spiritual things.
The scripture spoke of Paul’s humility and his humility was good. But the humility came from the troubles that were bad. If we go back to Romans eight we find that there is something that occurs in verses 26 and 27. It says that “the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities.” A situation is described where we do not even know how to pray, as we ought. We can come to a point where we cannot even put words into our prayers anymore. In this passage we find a description of a person that is so troubled. “But the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” At this point of extreme anguish the Spirit in our hearts talk to God. Christ in you the hope of glory talks to Christ in heaven who is glory. Spirit talks to Spirit, God talks to God, heart talks to heart. “The Spirit itself maketh intercessions for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit.” Can you think of a situation where you have been to a point where you cannot even pray anymore? When you are in that situation, Jesus is searching your heart. He is in your heart, looking at your deepest feelings, concerns and troubles. And He, through the Spirit that He is in your heart, is searching your heart. He is groaning to the Father for you in your behalf. Is that good? That is good. Do you feel good when this is happening? No, you do not. Sometimes we do not know the good that is going on, I suppose. But it is good to be brought to that level. For at that level when the flesh is the weakest, the Spirit is the strongest. We are told to crucify the flesh, to be that new creature. My friends, troubles will do that for you quicker than anything. It just comes automatic with troubles. It is God’s way of dealing with troubles. He comes in.
Just previous to those two verses in verse 24 of Romans 8, it says that we are saved by hope. Does that mean we can hope hard enough and hope ourselves into heaven? No, you cannot believe yourself into heaven, nor hope yourself into heaven. Those are distortions that people in error teach. But I tell you that you can be delivered by hope. You can be delivered by hope to a mind set of heaven right now. You can be delivered by hope to a hope of heaven. You can be lifted from the troubles of this world by being so troubled that you begin to hope in heaven. And that is good to set your affections on things above. “We are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.”
Hope. Romans chapter five speaks of hope. Romans 5:3, “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope.” There is a chain with hope at the end of the chain. The chain starts with tribulations and it ends with hope. The more tribulations or troubles that occur in your life as a child of God, the more the hope will be that develops in you. And the more tribulations in your life as a child of God, the more you will be drawn away from this world and drawn to the next—the more you will sing “What a Day That Will Be” and mean every word of it; the more you will say ‘I am longing for a country to which I have never been’. You will be detached from this world and drawn to the next.
Is that bad? Well, psychologists might tell you that it is. They might say that is a suicidal way of thinking of things. No my friends, it is not a self-destructive thing. It is a hope, a hope for eternal life. It is not a hope for destruction. It is not bad to hope. You are delivered by hope. You are saved by hope. I will tell you what hope does. 1 John 3 tells us that hope goes beyond this. The hope of something else inspires us for the here and now. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not.” In other words, the world will not understand this “because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” Now that is hope. I do not know what it is going to be like, but I know that I am going to be like him and that is going to be good enough for me. I am going to see him as he is and I am delivered by having that hope. It will lift me up above the troubles. Now listen to what comes next. “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” We are not talking about something that leads to suicidal tendencies. This hope in what is to come is a strong motivation not just to live this life, but also to live it well. This hope will purify you. It will change your walk and your lifestyle. It will cause you to be more devout and more holy. It will help you to be holy, as he is holy. Hope is a strong thing. Hope is a good thing.
But do you know when your hope is the strongest? Your hope is the strongest when this world is the blackest. When this world is just right, you may become too attached to it. You may come to the mind set that you would just as soon be here a little longer as to be in heaven. You might say, ‘Yes Lord, I want you to come, but not right now. I want to go to heaven, but not today’. Have you ever heard people say that in jest? As the old story goes, the preacher once said, ‘How many want to go to heaven?’ And everybody raised his hand but Abraham Lincoln. And the preacher said, ‘Abraham, don’t you want to go to heaven?’ Lincoln answered, ‘Yes, I want to go, but I thought you meant today’. I will tell you that a person can get to a time in life where you want to go today. You can get to a day where it would not bother you a bit just to go right on today. Oh you do not want to leave the things and the people that mean the most to you in this world, but what means the most to you in this world is not what is the most that there is. A hope—yes, hope is good. But hope is strong when life is going wrong. And all things work together for good. Can the hope that is strengthened by the troubles be equal to the troubles that are around you? Maybe it cannot, or maybe it can. It is hard to compare such things. But at the very least, an increased hope from troubles has to have some good in it.
Faith. We have talked about the mind set of the world and how we are taken from that by troubles. And we have talked about the humility that comes from troubles. And Peter tells us about faith that is increased by troubles. 1 Peter 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again to a lively hope.” There he is on the hope, right there. It is a lively hope, a living hope. “A lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ form the dead.” Jesus was resurrected from the dead and he is the first of many. So you have a living hope, a lively hope, within you. And your hope is “to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.” It talks about the hope “for you who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein you greatly rejoice,” in other words, you rejoice in this hope, and this understanding of a resurrection, and this incorruptible inheritance that waits for you and is reserved in heaven for you. And you “greatly rejoice, though now for a season if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.”
The words “if need be” are hard words. You may say that you do not think that you need all of this, but the Lord knows what we need. The Lord is still a God of providence. He is still upholding all things by the word of his power. He is still running the show. And “if need be,” sometimes you are in heaviness through manifold temptations. Again temptations are troubles. And this verse is sort of like the rain. If I were in charge we would not get near enough rain. We would have a lot more sunshiny days than what we are having. But thank goodness, I am not in charge. Because all I can see is a near-sighted view. I want today to be a pretty day, so I will choose it to be 75 degrees and sunny. And we would go through January and July, and we would go through all the year, and it would be just like a pretty day in April, now not a rainy day in April, if I were in charge. And what would this world quickly come to? “If need be,” we get some rain sometimes. And “if need be” in our lives, we get some rain sometimes. And the same one that sends the first rain sends the latter rain. And he sends it when we need it.
“And he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or even say to him, what doest thou?” We say that proudly when we think about eternal salvation, when we think about a God in charge. But sometimes we do not think that way when it is personal, when it is something that is necessary for me that he has put on me for now. But we are not even supposed to question him or say “what doest thou?” “If need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations,” and here is the reason for it: “that the trial of your faith being much more precious than gold that perisheth, though it be tried in the fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” It is so that when Jesus appears my faith will be purified, and without blemish, and perfected, and the dross boiled off, and the purity of God’s faith (that gift left in me) will be as he would have it to be in me. If need be sometimes I go through a burning, go through a fiery furnace, to get the dross off so that that faith might be precious—a precious faith, more precious than gold that is burned in the fire, at the “appearing of Jesus Christ. Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” How do we rejoice in such a way that is declared to be joy unspeakable and full of glory? We come to this through the trial of our faith. The trial may be bad, but the increased faith is good.
James says it like this, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.” Again that word temptations means troubles. When you fall into different kinds of troubles, just count it all joy. It does not say that it will be joyful. It says that you can count it, put it in the category or the column of joy. That is like the bad things. You do not count the bad things to be good things, but yet there is good that comes. And that is how we can count our troubles in the category of joy. “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations.” What is good about troubles? What is joyful and what can ever be joyful concerning troubles? Here is what you know that lets you put troubles in the column of joy. “Knowing this, that the trying or your faith worketh patience.” What kind of patience comes from troubles? It is patience that develops in the one who is troubled. It is patience to wait on God to come and help. “But let patience have her perfect work.” Remember our text, “all things work together for good.” And then listen to these words, “let patience have her perfect work.” God is working. You are his workmanship created unto good works. He is at work. So let the work, work. “Let patience have her perfect work.” Why? “That ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” As patience has her perfect work, you are perfected and brought to completion, wanting nothing—lacking in nothing, a workman that does not need to be ashamed. We are his workmanship created unto good works that he had before ordained that we should walk in. Surely some of those good works would be: to hope in him, to desire him, to look to him, to turn to him, to be perfected and to walk in him.
Do you know what troubles will do? Troubles will let the child know the Father. People who tend to deny the verse Romans 8:28 will oftentimes think of some sin and say that there is no way that good can ever come from that. So this verse cannot mean what you are declaring it to mean, preacher. I want you to think about the prodigal son. He went to his father and he demanded his inheritance, now. He said in so many words, ‘you are not dead, but I want what you have now’. That son had no idea what kind of father he had. He had no idea of the character of his father. He came to his father demanding, and his father gave it to him. He took and he wasted what his father had earned, what belonged to his father. The son seemed to be a lazy slob. I do not suppose that he had ever done anything. At least we do not have any record that he had. He took what was his father’s and he spent it sinning. He spent it in riotous living. The whole scene is bad. Surely anybody would be sure that there could be no good that could come from this sin. But in time this son was brought to the depths of despair. He was eating the food of the hogs. And he began to think about his father. He said ‘even my father’s servants have food to eat’. And he comes up with a plan. He will go back to his father with his tail between his legs, so to speak. He will crawl back to his father and he will have this little speech ready. ‘Father I do not ask to be a son anymore. I just want to be a servant. Father I am hungry’. In so many words, that was the gist of his prepared speech. When he was yet far off his father saw him. He did not let him grovel in his shame and sorrow. He did not make him eat his words. His father saw him when he was far off and his father started running toward him. And his father hugged him. And his father embraced him. And the boy is trying to get out his little rehearsed speech and he can hardly get it out because of the hugs and embraces. His father is not interested in making the boy crawl. The father gets the ring and puts it on the boy’s finger. The father gets the best robe and puts it on the boy’s shoulders. And the father gets shoes and puts them on the boy’s feet. And there is great significance in all three of those things that the father did for him. The father prepares a feast and rejoices for he that was dead is alive. He that had rebelled had come home. And through the sin that was bad, and through the hunger that was bad, came repentance that was good. Does this make the sin good? God forbid. Sin is bad always. But upon realizing that sin is bad, repentance is good. Does the act of repentance make the bad sin to be good? God forbid. Nevertheless, repentance for sin in a child of God is good.
But the best part of the story of a prodigal son is not the goodness of repentance. It is the good that comes from knowing the character of the Father. Upon his return that son for the first time knew the real character of his father. And that is good. Yes, that is very good. For the first time Job knew the real character of his Father, when he said, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.” Is it good to know God? Of course it is. To know God is to experience eternal life. “This is life eternal that ye know the Father and the Son,” said Jesus. This is life eternal that ye know the Father. How do you get to know him? Perhaps it may seem regrettable that the general way that you get to know him better is through the troubles that you have had and sometimes through the sins you have repented from. His children who have been through the most troubles know him the most. And those who have been through the least troubles know him the least. Who is better off? You answer that one. A part of me says that I am better off if I have been through very few troubles. A part of me says that I am better off if I know God. And God forbid that we sin in order to know his character, but truly who knows him better than a forgiven sinner?
Jesus said that those that were not sick did not need a physician. Who is this physician? He is talking about himself. Those who are doing very well of themselves do not need a doctor. That was the Pharisee’s case. In their deluded thinking, they did not need a Savior. They did not need a physician. They did not need anything. They needed Jesus to get away from them and leave them alone. But the publicans and the sinners came to hear Jesus, while the Pharisees and the scribes murmured against him. There were sinners that needed him. The righteous, those who were doing very well, those who were on top of the world, those who were in the clouds already, they did not need to be lifted up. They were already on cloud nine. But those at rock bottom needed a good physician. And those at rock bottom needed a good Savior. And Jesus was both. And he is both. And quite honestly, the way we see him as both is when we are at rock bottom. And there is good that comes from the bad.
The bad is bad. Sin is bad. But the humility, and the patience, and the perfection, and the knowing the Father, and the faith, and the hope, and the heart to heart relationship, and the understanding of our need for a physician, and the understanding of our need for a Savior, even all these things come from bad. All these things are good, but they are increased by bad. And God brings good from bad through his providence to his glory. And we know that all things work together for good, to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
May God bless you is my prayer.
(The text in this booklet is taken from a sermon preached at a Wednesday evening service at the Dawson Springs Primitive Baptist Church. A few grammatical changes and some minor changes in the text have been made. But for the most part the text in this booklet and the preached message are one in the same. )