God Works for Your Good
God Works for Your Good
Lord Radstock was staying in a hotel in Norway in the mid-nineteenth century. He heard a little child playing the piano downstairs in the hallway. She was making a terrible noise: ‘Plink... plonk... plink...’. It was driving him mad! A man came and sat beside her and began playing alongside her, filling in the gaps. The result was the most beautiful music. He later discovered that the man playing alongside was the girl’s father, Alexander Borodin, composer of the opera Prince Igor.
God calls you into a relationship that involves cooperation with him. The Christian faith is primarily about what has been done for you by God in Christ. However, we are not mere spectators. You are called to respond. God involves you in his plans. God comes and sits alongside you and ‘in all things... works for the good’ (Romans 8:28). He takes our ‘plink… plonk... plink...’ and makes something beautiful out of our lives.
Walk wiselyProverbs 4:20-27
You have a part to play in responding to God’s call, staying on his paths, living wisely and thereby making something beautiful out of your life. In this passage we see four areas in particular that you need to watch if you want to enjoy victory over temptation:
What you think about
You can choose what you think about. The life you lead will flow from your heart. ‘Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life’ (v.23). You are to fill your heart with good things – especially the words of God (vv.20–21). They bring ‘life’ and ‘health’ (v.22). Think about ‘things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy’ (Philippians 4:8).
What you say
Your words are powerful. Use them carefully. ‘Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips’ (Proverbs 4:24). It is said that the words of the tongue should have three gatekeepers: ‘Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?’
What you look at
Guard your eyes. Be careful what you look at (especially in this age of TV and internet). ‘Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you’ (v.25). Jesus warned that if you look at the wrong things, your ‘whole body will be full of darkness’. But he also said, ‘If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light’ (Matthew 6:22–23).
Where you go
You will avoid a lot of temptation if you are careful about where you go. ‘Make level paths for your feet… keep your foot from evil’ (Proverbs 4:26–27). The writer of Hebrews quotes from this verse. He urges us to ‘run with perseverance the race marked out’ for you with your eyes fixed ‘on Jesus... “Make level paths for your feet”’ (Hebrews 12:1–2,12).
Lord, put a watch over my tongue and a guard over my heart. Help me to walk wisely today.
Give generouslyMatthew 27:45-66
Supremely, through the cross and resurrection of Jesus, God works for your good. Jesus experienced appalling suffering and real separation from God in order that you could enjoy the presence of God.
Jesus was abandoned by the religious leaders, by his own family, by the crowds, by his disciples and finally, ‘Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”’ (v.46, MSG).
Jesus’ words of agony express a real sense of alienation from God. He is quoting from Psalm 22:1, which is a cry of suffering, lament and alienation from God. In the book of Job, we saw how Scripture engages with the difficulties and complexities of human suffering. At the cross though, we see God’s ultimate answer to our suffering – he chooses to enter into it and take it upon himself.
John Stott reflects on suffering and the cross: ‘I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the cross… in the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?’
Yet Jesus’ embrace of our suffering on the cross goes beyond mere solidarity. His words reflect how he came ‘to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Matthew 20:28). He died so that you could go free. Jesus was abandoned so that you and I might be accepted by God.
We see the reality of this acceptance by what happens at the moment of Jesus’ death: ‘the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom’ (27:51). The symbolism of this is explained in the book of Hebrews. The curtain separated the people from the ‘Most Holy Place’ – that is the presence of God (Hebrews 9:3).
Now, through Jesus, you can experience God’s presence and an intimate friendship with him. Even the very detail that the curtain was torn from the top to the bottom reminds us that it was the work of God, and not of humans, that enabled your acceptance into God’s presence. You can know God’s acceptance and presence because of Jesus’ abandonment and suffering. God was working for your good.
Even at the moment God acted decisively in human history through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, he included human beings in his plans. He used a rich man called Joseph of Arimathea, who had become a disciple of Jesus, to buy the tomb where Jesus was to be buried and then resurrected (Matthew 27:57–60).
What matters is not so much whether you are rich or poor; but how you respond to what Jesus has done for you and what you do with what you have. Joseph gave generously and God made something beautiful out of his life that has been remembered for all time.
Lord, thank you that you went through all this for me. Thank you that not only do you forgive me, but you also allow me to be part of your plans.
Trust totallyExodus 13:1-14:31
God’s deliverance through Jesus is foreshadowed in the Old Testament. As God opened the way into his presence through the tearing of the curtain, so God opened a way through the sea by the parting of the waters.
All the way through, we see God’s initiative in delivering his people out of Egypt: ‘The Lord brought you out... Tell your children, “I do this because of what the Lord did for me”... The Lord brings you into the land... with a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery’ (13:3–16).
God led his people all the way – although, interestingly, he did not take them the shortest route (v.17). Sometimes, instead of taking us the easy way, God takes us a longer and more difficult way to prepare us for the battles ahead. Even though they were now out of Egypt they were going to have to fight one battle after another. They needed to learn to rely totally on God’s strength and guidance.
He guided them constantly – in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (v.21). This is what we need individually and as the community of the people of God – his constant guidance.
Sometimes we get into situations where there seems to be no way out. The Egyptians were behind them and the sea was in front of them, ‘they were exceedingly frightened’ (14:10, AMP). Yet Moses totally trusted in God to deliver them. He said, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today… The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still’ (vv.13–14). I often come back to these verses when I find myself in a situation where I cannot, humanly speaking, see a way out.
Moses had to play his part (‘Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea’, v.16a), God’s part was rather harder; he divided the waters. When we pray, for example, for someone to be filled with the Holy Spirit, God uses us. You have to stretch out your hands and pray. But God fills people with his Spirit – he does the hard part. Nevertheless, he involves you in his plans.
God’s part was to bring rescue and salvation: ‘The Lord saved Israel’ (v.30). Your part is to trust God: ‘the people put their trust in him and in Moses his servant’ (v.31).
God is working for your good. He wants you to cooperate with him. This is the way that he has designed his creation – whether it is the natural world (where we plant and God gives the growth) or the kingdom of God (where God brings about his kingdom, yet you have a part to play).
Lord, thank you that, in all things, you work for my good and that you give me a role to play. Please take my ‘plink... plonk... plink...’ and turn it into something beautiful.
‘The tombs broke open. The bodies of holy people who had died were raised to life... After Jesus’ resurrection [they] went into the holy city and appeared to many people.’
That must have given everybody a fright! And I’ve often wondered what happened to them then? Did they go back into the tombs?
It was a sign that something extraordinary had happened that day.
Verse of the Day
‘The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still’ (Exodus 14:14).
John Stott, The Cross of Christ, (Intervarsity Press, 2012)
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.