Last Updated: January 28, 2002
The following sermon was preached on the first Lordís Day of the New Year, January 6, the year of our Lord 2002.
(Sermon) God Promises Us a Happy New YearRomans 8: 18-39
Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, itís an age old tradition that upon the arrival of a New Year, we greet one another, we greet our family and our friends, (even strangers we meet along the way) with the words Happy New Year!†
In doing so we are actually wishing each other well for the upcoming year.† We are saying, ďMay this year be even better for you, may this year be even more blessed for you, may this year bring you that much more joy and happiness than last yearĒ!†
Thatís a very kind, a very polite, a very thoughtful tradition.† But the fact is, no matter how much we wish each other well, we have no absolutely idea what this New Year has in store for us.† Whatís more, we have absolutely no idea what is good for us, we have no idea what is needed to make us happy in this New Year.† Just take last year, for example.†
When you look back at the events of the last 5 months, when you consider the terrors that have fallen upon our world, our nation, when you consider that weíve been in a recession since March, fighting a war for more than three months, youíd probably agree that humanly speaking 2001 was a hard year, a sad year, a tragic year for us and for millions of people!†
Surely none of us envisioned such terror, such hardship, such misery on New yearís Eve one year ago.† Surely none of us would ever wish for those terrible events to come to pass!† If we could have looked ahead, if we knew then what we know now, we wouldnít have been so eager to wish each other a Happy New Year.
Yet, as we read Romans 8: 28 this morning, we heard something truly remarkable.† We were told that despite all the anxiety, despite all the terrorism, despite the war and unrest in our world in 2001, last year was a good year for us!† And we were also told that regardless of what happens to us this year (in 2002), it will be an even better year for us.†
Such is the promise, such is the Good News of Romans 8:28.† Itís a promise, itís Good News that we all need to hear today!† That promise is this, In all things, God Works for the Good of Those Who Love Him.† This morning we are going to consider 3 comforting aspects of this promise.† First we see that,†
1) Godís Work is Purposefully Good for us (God has a plan); next we see†
2) Godís Work is Pervasively Good for us (it encompasses all of life); and finally†
3) †Godís Work is Particularly Good for us (it belongs to those who love God).†
1)† Godís Work is Purposefully Good For Us††††
††††††††††† Congregation, as Christians we enjoy many privileges, many blessing from being united with Christ unto God.† For one, God gives us His name.† He also grants us the privilege of adoption.† He also anoints us with His Holy Spirit.† However, as Christians we are still creatures.† Which means that we have more than our fair share of limitations.
††††††††††† For instance, we Christians may know a lot about God, we may know a lot about our world, we may know a lot about ourselves.† But the fact remains, we donít know everything.† And weíre deeply humbled from what we read in Romans 8:26, because weíre told that if someone were to look at us in the midst of our sufferings, if someone were to look at us in the midst of our weaknesses and woe, in the midst of our trouble and travail, we Christians donít even know how to pray, we donít even know what we should pray!† Thatís why Godís Spirit makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
So, no.† We Christians donít know everything.† However, there is one thing that Paul says that we can know and do know!† He says right at the outset of vs. 28, and we know that in all things (even amidst the uncertainties of life) God works for the good of those who love Him.† Notice, Paul doesnít say We think this is true, nor does he say, We hope this is true, or we are pretty sure this is true, or we are of the opinion that this is true.†
No.† As a child of God, heís sure!† He says, we know.† We know this beyond a shadow of a doubt.† We know this because we know God, and because He knows us!† We know this because God is our own God and we are His people.†
Yes, itís true that in the midst of trials and tribulation of life, we are often confused and we do not understand.† We say, ďI donít know which way to turn, I donít understand why these things are happening to me, and I donít even know what to ask for, what to pray for at a time like this!† But one thing I do know, in spite of my ignorance, in spite of my fear, in spite of everything that is happening to me right now, I know that this, and everything else that is happening to me right now, is working together for my goodĒ!†
You see, Romans 8:28 speaks of our comfort and consolation as Christians.† Itís a reminder of that we confess in LD 1, that we belong body and soul, in life and in death to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ who has set us free from the tyranny of the Devil.† He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven, yea all things must work together for my salvation!††††† ††††††
So, this verse promises us that God works for our goodóHe works out His special plan and purpose for our life.† He has a special plan and purpose for us in 2002.† This verse promises us that God will so arrange and organize every moment of our lives in this new year, (from the greatest to the least) in such a way that everything will work together for good.
Beloved, we know this is true!† We know it by faith!† The universe is not controlled by some impersonal force.† True, some people talk like it is† They say, ďHow has life treated youĒ?† ďWas 2001 a good year for youĒ?† And one might respond, ďWhy yes, Iíve been extremely fortunate.† Iíve been one of the lucky ones.† Iíve been dealt a great hand in lifeĒ.
But all along, we know that life and this universe does not work automatically.† We know that life, everyoneís life, is under the Divine direction of our heavenly Father.† So that whatever befalls us in life, comes from His sovereign Hand.† We know that because God, through our Jesus Christ, controls all things!†
But now beloved, we have to live up to that confession.† Now, we have to confide and trust in this most wonderful knowledge.† Thatís the hard part isnít it?† Trusting what we know!† Living out what we confess!† Itís sort of like a paratrooper who has the knowledge that his parachute has been properly packed, he has checked it and double checked it himself.† So that when heís on the ground, heís completely confident that his chute will open the way its supposed to.† Yet 15 minutes later, when the moment of truth comes, and he stands in the plane 5,000 feet in the air, heís suddenly fearful about making the jump--because now he no longer trusts what he knows.† He begins to doubt, to wonder.† What if my chute doesnít open?
Well you and I, we can be fearful like that.† Standing on the threshold of another year, we make all these bold claims, we can say all the right things, we can say we trust God for the New year.† But the moment something unexpected happens, the moment something catches us by surprise, we so quickly lose our nerve, our focus, our perspective.†
Suddenly instead of trusting in the God who has perfectly prepared our future, we shrink back in fear, in doubt and in distrust.† We get skeptical.† We wonder is this really whatís best for me?† And, so we have to learn to trust Godís plan and purpose everyday.† We have to approach this New Year with confidence, with excitement, with faith, knowing that Godís plan for our lives will unfold exactly the way He has designed it.† We have to trust and know that regardless of what happens, that God knows whatís best for us.†
Boys and girls, so often we think we know what can make us happy.† We think we know what kinds of things can make our lives good.† We would make it so that everyone would be healthy, wealthy and wise, with no problems, living a carefree fun life.† No war, no turbulence in the world, no strife, no hardship.††
Yet, we know that if we were in charge of our lives even for a moment it would be disastrous.† Weíd make a mess of things.† We know that, because thatís exactly what happens every time we sin, we choose to go our own way, to do our own thing, and we make a mess!
This is all the more reason why we have to trust Godís Word, why we have to believe His promise that comes to us in this passage.† God promises that He has another great year planned for us!† Even better year than last year!† We know this, because our God is the sovereign God who has a plan, a purpose for all things, and Who works for our good!†††††††††††††
2.† Godís Work is Pervasively Good for us †
So Godís Work is Purposefully Good for us.† But then we also learn that Godís work is Pervasively Good for us!† This is what Paul means when He says in all things God works for our good.† And, all things means exactly what it says.†
It means that God is also working for our benefit at all times and under all circumstances.† The context in chapter 8 bears this out.† Itís not a pleasant context.† Look at verse 18, Paul speaks of the sufferings of the present time.† Who better than Paul would know about human suffering?† He experienced more suffering and hardship in his life time than all of us have put together.††
And there in verses 20-21 Paul speaks of the creation itself being subjected to futility, that the entire creation is groaning in the pains of childbirth, waiting in hope and expectancy for the final day, the final redemption and deliverance of God through Christ.† What pain! What expectancy!† What travail the church and creation must endure!† Words cannot describe.† Yet Paul says, even all these things, even in these hard times work together for our good!†
For us, that means that God works for our good not only in times of prosperity, not only in times of good health, not only in times of gladness and happiness when everythingís going our way.† But it means that God is also working for our good when He brings adversity upon us.† It means God is working for our good when our business slows down, when we suffer financial loss.† Maybe 2001 was a not a good year for your business.† No, you would never choose this for yourself.† Yet, we confess that God will work this for our good.†††††
This also means that God has our good in mind when He visits us, or our loved ones, with sickness, illness, afflictions, with cancers and with diseases.† It means that God is working for our good, even when we experience adversity in our marriage, or in our families.† Who of us would ever choose that to happen to us?† To have illness, or marriage problems.† Yet, Godís promise is that if we are faithful, even our afflictions, even our marital problems can be worked out for our good.†
This promise means that God is working for our good in times of sorrow and sadness, in the passing away of a wife or a husband, a son or a daughter.† It means that even though our lives last year may have been marked by sinful actions, the consequences of which we may still be paying for todayóeven though that may be true, God still promises to turn that evil to our profit!††
Yes congregation, this is an extremely difficult pill for us to swallow.† Itís the part we donít always want to accept or understand.† We tend to think the way the world thinks.† That when things are going good, thatís when weíre being blessed, and when things are going poorly, when we encounter some rough times, thatís when the tide is turned against us.† But Godís Word teaches us that hard times, times of sufferings and loss can be just as great, if not even better for us, than times of blessing for us!
And itís true that this is a promise that some Christians, under extreme duress, have out-rightly rejected and despised.† Sometimes in cases like that, itís wiser and more loving for us to simply say nothing at all in response, but to just simply understand the difficulty.†
For far too often it happens that we (elders, ministers, brothers & sisters) in Christís church act like Jobís 3 friendsówe are miserable comforters all!† As we seek to minister to the needs of a hurting brother or sister in the Lord, we can be extremely insensitive about their sufferings and pains.†
And, we can apply the promise of Romans 8:28 to other peopleís lives and to other peopleís situation with all tenderness, with all the tactfulness, with all the love of a 2-x-4 cracked across the skull.† ďYou know this is for your own goodĒ!† ďYou must simply see this suffering, this adversity, this loved oneís death as a good thing that God has done in your life, and you must get over it, and stop your mourning and complainingĒ.
Congregation, I assure you Godís promises never come to us in so insensitive and brutal a fashion as that.† Rather, God administers His promises to us with all the love and tenderness of a compassionate Father who, for the sake of His Son Jesus Christ, knows our weakness and our frailty.† He knows our heartache.†
He knows we are prone to bend and break under pressure.† He knows we cannot always understand whatís happening to us and why.† And, God knows what weíre feelingóHe knows that there are times in life when we think everything is working against us!† God knows that events in life often seem to contradict the very promise held out in His Word.
Think of Corrie Ten Boom, or other Christians like her in the concentration camps.† How hard it must have been for them to confess that all things were working out for their good, even when everything and everyone around them seemed to be working against them.†
At times like those, we have to remember that God is weaving the tapestry of our lives.† And each of our lives is a most complex and intricate pattern.† And if at any time we stop to stare at the individual strands of this tapestry, if we isolate them from the rest, they donít appear to have any reason, or order, or any beauty to them.† They appear to be a tangled, random, disorganized array of string, detached from the rest!
But if we allow ourselves to step back, and see the strings of the tapestry from a distance, from a wider perspective, if we see the individual strands as a part of the whole, thatís when we can finally see how beautifully God has arranged everything!† Thatís when we can see how perfectly everything falls into place, how wonderfully every event, every joy, every sorrow, every trial, ever tear, every triumph is perfectly tied together in our lives.†
Thatís what it means that Godís work is pervasively good for us!† It means that in all things, all the time, for last year, for this year, for all the years to come, God works for our good.† This is His promise, and thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord, it cannot fail.
3.† ††Godís Work is Particularly Good for us††††
So Godís work is purposely good for us, it is pervasively good for us, and now lastly we notice it is particularly good for us.† In other words, the promise which God makes in this passage is not for everyone, is it?† The verse teaches us once again that when it comes to Godís promises, when it comes to God's favor and blessing, He discriminates.† He shows favoritism to His children, to those whom He loves, and to those who love Him.
Although we canít see this very well in the English translation, it is quite clear in the original language.† It literally reads, And we know that to those who love God, all things work for good!† By putting that phrase first (those who love God), there can be no doubt as to the nature of that statement.† Itís designed to catch our attention, itís there for emphasis, drawing attention to the fact that this promise holds true only for those who love God!
Now beloved, make no mistake about it, thereís a lot of false optimism in our world.† There are a lot of upbeat, positive, possibility thinkers in our world.† They are people who take this promise upon their lips, they claim it for themselves, believing that even in their life--a life that is lived for their own glory, for their own pleasure, for their own endsóthat even in their lives things always work out for the good.†
They console each other with this promiseóThere, there.† Everything will be all right.† Even some noteworthy poets have reflected this kind of optimism in their writings.† Browning writes, The hill-sideís are pearled; the larkís on the wing; the snail's on the thorn, Godís in His heavenóand allís right with the world!
That may have been the attitude of the Victorian era, but itís not true to life.† I trust you all know enough of world history and are keeping up with current events to know that all is far from right in this world!† The turbulence in Afghanistan is far from over.† Tension and fighting in Israel and the Gaza Strip is the worst itís been in decades.†
In going after Osama Bin Laden we have stirred a hornets nest of terrorists who vow to carry out even more heinous acts of terrorism against us.† Not to mention the fact that tension is mounting on the border of India and Pakistan, and Indiaís leader said earlier that if the two nations did go to war, he would not rule out the possibility of using nuclear weapons.†
Does that sound like things are all right in the world?† Hardly.† But for those who love God, we are promised that even in the event of all out world war, even in the event of Nuclear holocaust, God is working for our good.† So that throughout world history, throughout the events of today, and throughout the events of tomorrow God will do whatever is good for His church!† He will bring about all the events necessary to advance and exalt the Name and cause of Jesus Christ and His glorious Kingdom.
So for all those who donít love God, for all those in this world who are not in Christís Kingdom, this promise holds no power.† It holds no comfort.† There is no consolation, no hope, there is no rhyme or reason to life.†
So this promise is particular.† Itís particular to those who love God.† And beloved, we dare not miss the fact that this love for God is described here in the present tenseóitís a present, itís an active, itís an ongoing, enduring act of love!†
So, this text begs the question of all of us this morning, Do you love God?† Do you love God with this kind of love?† Itís the kind of covenantal love thatís we see modeled by a faithful husband who dearly loves his wife!† Sheís is his heartís desire.† This is the woman with whom he walked down the isle with.† This is the woman with whom he is glad to live and enjoy every day of the rest of his life!† This is the one of whom he says, ďI belong to you, and you belong to meĒ!†
Thatís really what it means to love God!† It means to be sincerely and entirely dedicated and devoted to God.† It means that we are glad and overjoyed to live our every waking moment with Him, and then to fall asleep at night in the peace and comfort of His protective wings!† It means that we wake the next morning, singing of His many new mercies!†
To love God is to live before Him in constant (happy) remembrance of His grace!† It is to say of God, ďBy your grace and love, I belong to you; and by the finished work of Jesus Christ, You belong to meĒ!†
Congregation, loving God for 2002, means that we will love all His ways. It means that we will trust His plans for us today and for tomorrow.† It means that we have the assurance, the promise that 2002 will be a great year for us.† Better than last year!† Better than we could ever imagine.† Better than we could ever plan for ourselves.† All those who love God can trust that He knows whatís best for us.† All those who love God, can trust that He will make 2002 a most blessed and happy New Year.† AMEN!!!