A Soft Pillow for a Tired Heart
|Romans 8 (NKJV™)|
|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.|
New King James Version®, Copyright © 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved.
We all remember where we were on September 11, 2001 when we heard the news of the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the downed plane near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The terrorists who crashed these aircraft brought the deaths of nearly 3,000 people. Mass confusion, anger, despair, and depression predictably followed as survivors sought to frame so devastating an event. Ten years later, we remember September 11 to honor those who died, those who have fought in the war on terror, and especially to be reminded that in the midst of a conflict-filled world, we serve a God who works His good purposes and promises to one day eradicate evil.
This collection of topical teachings from Skip Heitzig includes anniversary celebrations, messages about the vision of the church, special teachings from conferences and countries around the world, and more.
Keywords: September 11, 2001, World Trade Center, 911, terrorism
Would you stand with me please. Let's pray together. Lord it only seems fitting to stand before you and recognize that we are in the presence of the living God in the presence of royalty. We make our voices known in one accord as we are remembering those who died 10 years ago. And also remembering those who continue to wage the battle overseas to defend our freedoms we pray that you might comfort and would those who are left behind family members. We pray that you would protect those who are serving and we pray that they would be brought home safely and securely and swiftly. Lord, thank you that we not only live in the nation we live in but thank you that we are blessed because we have the truth of scripture. And we look to the sure word to help us to understand and frame that you're a God that cares about us. In Jesus' name Amen. Have a seat please.
Would you turn in your Bibles this morning to Romans Chapter 8? Do you remember exactly where you were 10 years ago? Ninety seven percent of Americans say they know exactly where they were and what they were doing on September 11th when they heard the news. It's been called the defining moment in American history. Sort of like what happened to a previous generation December 7, 1941 as the President then said it was a day that we live in infamy a defining moment because in 1941 the event of Pearl Harbor draw us into a war, the Second World War. September 11th was a defining moment because they drew us into a different kind of a battle called The War on Terror.
I remember September 11th in a number of different ways. I remember the moment the days and the few weeks afterwards I remember what it did to our country. It was like a holy hash fell upon everyone. And for that moment for those few days and few weeks for that horrible and yet wonderful moment churches were packed full of people. People were on their knees seeking God. You remember probably members of the Congress those from the house in Senate all standing on the steps together singing God Bless America.
And for that moment, nothing else was important. Politics weren't important. Entertainment wasn't important. Personal problems weren't even as important. September 11th reminded me of something I read by the Martyn Lloyd Jones. He wrote about The Span of Civil War. And that pastor being once a medical doctor said it was an interesting time in their history because during that time or before that time in Barcelona, Spain and in Madrid there were psychiatric clinics filled with patients who are getting weekly regular treatments for whatever problems, anxieties that they were facing. He said as soon as the Spanish civil war began, the most amazing thing is that all of those psychiatric clinics were emptied almost instantaneously because now there was a greater anxiety.
People really didn't care about their personal anxieties and problems as much this greater anxiety were at war. Well I still have a house to come home too well I have husband that will come home. Well I have a son that will survive this. And the point that Jones was making is that greater anxieties cure lesser anxiety.
On September 11th, America was cured of many lesser anxieties because now we had this huge anxiety called "Terror". And questions like, "Is this going to happen again and who did this and why would they do this and why is it that people hate us this much?" It was a wakeup call in a number of levels for Americans. Those of us who love God and know God it brought many questions to our minds.
People were asking why would God let this happen? Does God care what happens? I thought it would be appropriate to be reminded on the anniversary of September 11th about one of the greatest promises ever found in scripture and that is in Romans Chapter 8:28. It's a single verse but it is a monumental statement. It's a sweeping statement. It's like a Grand Canyon the vistas of which are, from eternity past to eternity future.
I stole the title for this morning's message. It was the late great Dr. R. A. Torrey who called Romans 8:28 a soft pillow for a tired heart. And I confess I have laid my heart many times on this verse. And there was nothing else to pull out there was still that net of Romans Chapter 8:28. Someone put it this way, "If the holy scripture were a feast for the soul, then Romans 8 would be the main dish." And I would add to that and say the choice on tray would be the 28th verse.
Now, we're going to go into this Verse and it's a short 25 words. But it demands our careful attention so we're going to sort of unpack and unpick it apart phrase by phrase. But if you don't mind, allow me to bring you up to speed and tell you what the Book of Romans has been about, so you get the impact. The theme of this book is the righteousness of God revealed in the Gospel of Christ, that's what Paul is writing about. The righteousness of God revealed in the Gospel of Christ. So Chapters one, two and three Paul says, "The entire world is unrighteous. And stands condemned before God Jew, gentile, moralist, non-moralist all are condemned all have sinned, all have falling short of God's glory."
Now, we have Chapter 4 and 5 and it says, "Though the world is all unrighteous, they can all be made righteous by a simple faith in Christ inactive God's grace through faith." And the example in those Chapters is Abraham who believe God was accounted to him for righteousness. Then we have Chapter 6, 7, 8 in which Paul says, "If that is true that we are not safe by anything but inactive faith by God's grace, then the law of Moses the Old Covenant can't help us at all. In fact in many ways it hinders us." Then Paul brings us up to this final combination this final mountain peak where he looks over the vista of God's providential love and care. And we begin in Verse 28 and we'll read a few more verses to get that context.
"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God to those who are to be called according to his purpose. For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son that he might be the first born among many brethren. Moreover whom he predestined those he also called whom he called this he also justified whom he justified this he also glorified." What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own son but delivered them up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? We want to confine ourselves this morning really to the 28 verse, Romans 8:28 one of your favorite one of my favorite verses in all of the Bible.
And again, we want to look at it from the perspective of God's care and it begins with the certainty of God's care. Notice that Paul says, "And we know," the Christian life is filled with certainty. There's a definiteness in that. We know not we just hope or we think we know. I like that and Paul like that 32 times in his letters Paul uses the phrase "and we know" five times in the Book of Romans. Now having said that, there's a lot of things we don't know. In fact I would say the whole Christian life is like this tension between what we know and what we don't know. And we're going through life going can I know this, I don't know that, I thought I knew this but I don't know and we're dealing with that tension.
For example, Verse 26 of Romans 8 says, "We don't always know what we should pray for like we should." I've been there. I've been in the situation I thought I don't exactly know what to say. I don't know how to pray. I don't know how to approach this. We don't always know why things happen the way they happen or why God would allow them to happen. We're puzzled. We don't know. An example came to my mind this week that's sort to fits in here. There was a profit in the Old Testament named Habakkuk. Have you ever heard of that name Habakkuk? It's a little book in the minor profits toward the end of the Old Testament.
Now Habakkuk was a righteous man. And he calls on God and he says basically, "Look God. Look at this nation your nation the people of Israel, we're a wicked nation. And how come you just let us go by and do nothing to judge us and bring righteousness?" He was living in a nation that forsaken God. And here's the kicker, a few years before that there was a big revival and now they were going back to their old ways of life and so the prophets is saying, "How long God are you going to let this go on? Do something to correct us." So God speak to Solomon as well, "Actually, I am doing something and if you knew what I was doing, your ears would tingle." I'm doing and I'm going to work and work and your days that even if I told you, you'd have a hard time with it. Well, what is it? And so God told them, "I'm going to bring a nation more wicked than you the Babylonians from Iraq and they're going to come in and destroy your nation and I'm going to spank you by using them."
Well now the prophet becomes totally unraveled. It's like I sort of take my -- the first prayer back a little bit. I mean okay we're bad but they're like really bad. So why would you somebody really bad to spank those of us who aren't as bad as them? God says, "Don't worry; I'll take care of them as well." But here's a guy going, "I don't know why God would allow that?" But listen carefully; never abandon what you know for the things you don't know. I know people are walk away from God, walk away from church because they just can't answer all the mysteries of the universe. There's so many thing I don't know. Those are the times you cling to those that you do know.
And one of the things Paul knew was that there was an all loving, caring, working God behind these things. A lot of people after 911 were fearful for their lives. I remember some still are they were asking questions like will there be another attack. When will the next attack be? Where will it come from? We were very uncertain about that. What about the future of my child? Now I can't tell a person that's not going to happen again. Because first of all when I'm dealing with the nation anymore in this world itinerary, we can't even focus our fears. We're dealing with individuals or factious little groups that organize behind the scenes and bringing people from different places and different country.
And on top of that, we're dealing with the theology that according to them would -- if they commit an active terror would catapult them directly into heaven because of it. That's very, very uncertain waters that we're navigating. But we can still rest our head on the pillow of God's care. We know save souls are confident souls persuaded souls. Look at the next little phrase. And we know that all things -- this is the comprehensive nature of it. This is how wide and how big God's care is. We know that all things work together. I can't think of a statement that brings more comfort, more joy and more insurance to the Christian than that. Now notice what it does not say. It does not say and we know that God causes all things.
God doesn't cause all things. He does permit all things. But it's a different statement to say he causes all things, no he doesn't. There's a lot of evil. The Bible says God is not the author of evil. He doesn't cause it. The reason he permits it is because he permits to choose and he honors the choice even if they're dumb choices, even if they're sinful choices.
Notice it does not say, "All things are not good in themselves." All things are not good in themselves. There's a lot of things that are wrong and evil and bad in themselves. But it doesn't say, all things are good that would be an absurd statement especially in the light of natural catastrophe and human atrocity. Notice also it does not say that God will keep us from all the bad things. Can you imagine how many false conversations there would be to Christ if that were the case? Every unbeliever would jump shift and want to become a Christian because hey, I'm going to be healthy, wealthy and live a perfect life and there's not going to be any trouble and there's always going to be help and always going to be prosperity people would follow for all the wrong reasons.
There's something else that you should notice that it doesn't say. He doesn't say and we know that some things work together for good. It will be a lot easier for us to believe it if we did and see that here written. Then it say some things, it doesn't say most things, it doesn't say all good things work together for good nor does it say all prayed about things -- it says all things.
Panta is the Greek word, Panta, all things. Do you know what it means in Greek, all things? It means all things. There's no limitation. There's no restriction. There's no confined. It means anything imaginable. In fact as I look here in just the context of what Paul is writing, I notice in verse 17 that he includes "If we suffer with Christ." That would be one of the all things. A few verses down on verse 23 of Romans 8 all says "We ourselves grown within ourselves as we wait for this final redemption."
So all the things that causes to suffer and grown because we've suffer are part of the all things. William Newell in his book on Romans said "Dark things, bright things, happy things, sad things, sweet things, bitter things, times of prosperity and times of adversity" all things. Now I should tell something right about here. There are a couple of manuscript differences. And that result is the same result. But there's another set of manuscript that's make it clearer for us so I'm going to read this you in the American standard Bible.
It says "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good." So this is what I want you to see. This is a statement of faith, not a statement of fate. It didn't say "all things for everyone will just all work out fine in the end." It didn't say that. That's Oprah Winfrey of theology. That is not biblical theology. And the Bible says "there is an all-knowing, all-powerful God who is overruling in all things to bring them together for good."
Let's look at the next little phrase. This is now the cohesiveness of all things or of God's care. All things work together. Two words, work together, one word in Greek. Now I'm going to say the word in Greek. I'm going to tell you what it means in English and you go "I hear I see it." "synergía" is the Greek word. That's where we get our word synergy from, "synergía", synergy. And synergy is the working together of various elements to produce results greater than the sum of the elements. That's very helpful to me.
God's synergizes all things, good things, bad things, neutral thing. God is able to take all of those things synergistically n and work them together so that the result is greater than all of the sum of all the parts. Here's an example of what is helpful to me. A skilled chemist can do this. A skilled chemist can take certain elements that would be poisonous or harmful. And with his skill and with the right combination can make something beneficial so a classic example.
He could take chlorine in its pure form is a poison. Sodium in its pure form is a poison. But mixed together with his skill and the right temperance he makes sodium chloride that's table salt.
He can take those poisons to make something beneficial. So picture as God as the divine chemist and he skillfully taking poisonous things that we would say our bad in life, neutral things, good things and he is synergistically mixing them all together to bring something that is good, helpful, healing.
All things work together. I was thinking of what Paul said here as opposed to what a guy in the Old Testament named Jacob once said. Things were falling apart in Jacob's life. His son, he thought had been killed by wild animals. His brothers had sold Joseph as a slave to Egypt. But he found out that he's died, this is what he said "all things are against me."
And I thought what a difference statement that is than Paul statement "all things work together for me." Two completely different views of life, I wonder what yours is. All things were against me. All thing things work together for me. And this begs the question that was asked around 9-11. I remember answering it several times at Ground Zero with families and New Yorkers and Albaquerqueans it says to afterwards. So if God is so big and so powerful and so loving, why would he allow 9/11 to happen?
There's a lot of way this -- to answer that. But let me just me sort of answer it as its basic level because all people die. Nothing happened to those people that weren't going to happen to them anyway. Nothing happened to those people that aren't going to happen to me or you. The Bible says in Hebrews Chapter 9 Verse 27 is it appointed for all men to die once and after this the judgment.
And even that, it can be one of the all things that God works together for good. I might get in the car crash. It might be my plane that eventually goes down. It might be a heart attack for me or CSF like my father when he died. It might be cancer for me. It might be some disease. It could be a tornado or hurricane or tsunami. The issue isn't about am I going to die? You are. The issue is you don't have to die and go to hell.
And the thing that takes the fear out of the future is faith in the Lord of the future. To all the apostle, I'll put it this way in First Corinthians 15: "if we have hoped in this life only, we are of all men most miserable." If these were our hope lies just here on Earth and physical health and living, we're miserable. We have hoped that goes beyond us so that anything, all things bring it on, we'll work together for good.
Let's look at those two words for good. This is the combination of God's care. All things work together for good. It doesn't save for your comfort. It doesn't save for your ease. It doesn't save your health. It doesn't save for financial prosperity. It says "for your good." And God is always working out your life for the supreme good. And here's the kicker, only God knows what that is. You know what you want. God knows what you need.
And he has a definition of good and you may not see it right now. But that don't look too good to me. But God has good in mind. You see Christians are never to be naive about this, about human suffering and pain and tragedy and calamity and choice and all the things that we see everyday multiplied in this world. Jesus said quite simply and profoundly that the sun and the rain will fall on the godly and the ungodly alike but always loved with. A red ones in Reader's Digest. It was so profound. It was so simple. It has expecting not to be treated badly just because you're a good person.
It's like expecting an angry bull not to attack you because you're a vegetarian. The angry bull doesn't care about your culinary desires at that moment. He's just doing what he does. And he will attack you.
Job put this way. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Sometimes God will calm the storm for his children. Other times God will send his children into the storm and calm his children rather than the storm.
But I looked back on every trial I've gone through. I don't always get the big picture. I've been through some pretty hefty ones. But I can see if not the whole picture at least a glimmer and say "God was there and he was working for me good." That's why James says "my brethren, count at all joy when you fall into various trials" knowing that the trial of your faith produces perseverance. Something good will come out of them.
I read a helpful illustration years ago that stock with me. If you took a $5 bar of steel so it's a just a little thing worth five bucks, if you make into horseshoes is now worth $20. If you make it into needles to sew things with is worth $350. If you take that same $5 bar of steel and make it into a scalpel blades for surgeons to operate is now worth $32,000. And if you take that $5 bar of steel and you make tiny fine springs for watches and pins, that $5 bar of steel is now worth $250,000.
Pretty obvious right, the application the more it gets beat, the more it gets hit, the more fire and tribulation and trial that $5 bar of steel goes through the more good comes out of it. God works all things together for good. Now, I'll take you to the fifth and final aspect and that is the condition of God's care and that occupies the rest of the verse. It is to those who loved God and to those who are the called according to his purpose.
Now can you see that that's a limitation, that's the condition? All is not saying. Now here is a promise that every human being was ever lived can walk away with and lived by. No it's to those who loved God and are the called according to his purpose. Now I was looking at this phrase a lot this week. And what I discovered is that is the perfect definition of a Christian. Those who loved God, they're called according to his purpose.
In fact, it's the definition of a Christian from two different directions. One is from earth and one is from heaven. From an earthly direction, from an earthly perspective, a Christian is somebody who loves God. Oh look it! He loves the Lord. That's human choice that's volition. The second phrase describes a Christian from God's perspective to those who are the called according to his purpose. That's divine election. God calls you, you respond by loving him and the proof that you're called is that you love God but it's a beautiful fall or the description of a believer in election and a volition standpoint from heaven and from earth. So here's the condition, it's not for everyone; it's for those who love God. For those who are the called, according to his purpose all things work together, forget.
Years ago there was a family living in Scotland, they love God, they believe they were called according to God's purpose to leave Scotland and go to America. They saved up money, father work hard, had large family bought tickets. One week before they were to sail, one of the kids got sick. I think bit by a dog I had killed the dog probably if I was that dad. They couldn't go to America. And father was angry as that ship set sail from Liverpool toward America. That man stood up there, crying and angry at God. "God we love you, we believe we're called by you. Why would you allow this to happen?"
Well he discovered a few days later on April 15th why. When his ship had sailed without him, the titanic sank in icy waters in that year, 1912. Then he thought very differently about how god answers his prayers and was thankful to God said "You're not getting aboard that ship." For him, all things work together for good. But what about those who are on the titanic? Certainly they were believers who loved God and were called by God on the titanic.
And yes for them, all things also work for good, because they love God and were to call according to his purpose and they entered their internal glory, not everyone who died that day did.
So here's Paul throughout the book of Romance, climbing the mountain peaks till now he's at the top and he looks over the panorama of God's sovereign providential care and says "There's something I definitely know and that is the God is actively, consistently, and purposely at work in all things in the lives of those who love him and are called according to his purpose." That's the promise. Now you know there are a lot of examples of this promise throughout the Bible, a few come to mind. The first one is Joseph; Joseph was sold because of jealousy of by his brothers to slave traitors who went to Egypt. Joseph was put in prison, it wasn't his fault, he didn't commit a crime for two years. It was an evil thing that happens to Joseph. It was the bad thing that happened to Joseph.
You know how Joseph looked at years later? After history took its course and its turns and now he's the prime minister of Egypt. He said to his brothers "As for you, you meant this for evil", but God meant for what? For good, to save many people alive as it is this day. If Joseph's brother haven't been sold as a slave on justly, he never would have gone to Egypt. If he would have gone to Egypt as a slave, he never would've gone have to prison. If he never had gone to prison, he wouldn't interpret the dreams of those who were prisoners. If he haven't interpreted the dreams of those who were prisoners, fairly wouldn't found out about it because he had a dream and Joseph was brought before and he had a plan and he was put in this glorious position. So he looked back and then go "I didn't get it then but I get it now." All things worked together for good.
Here's another example. It's a tougher one. Especially for any nation that would presume upon being God's chosen nation and would think that we're just escape free into the future. The people of Israel, God's people were attacked on their soil by Babylon of ancient Iraq. Their city was burned; people were butchered on in the streets of Jerusalem, killed senselessly and the rest taken to captivity. The people ion captivity were no doubt wondering "God doesn't love us. Does God care about us? He's left us to rod in a foreign country." So Jeremiah writes him a letter on God's behalf. It's recorded in the Jeremiah 29 and it tells those people, those captives' people, he says "This is God writing", Jeremiahs pen but God's writing. "For I know the thoughts that I've think towards you" says the lord "That's of good not of evil to give you a future and a hope." God was thinking good thoughts. God was behind the scene working good things.
The final example I think is the best of all, the cross of Christ, the crucifixion from a human perspective. That is the worst crime that could ever be committed. That was the worst blot on the human record possible to kill God. But from a divine perspective, it was the most glorious event ever. By that one death, people could have eternal life. For God so love the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever would believe would not perish but have everlasting life.
Ten years ago when I went to ground zero, on one particular day as I was going to the pile and doing my work at the Red Cross. A firefighter, with tears in his eyes big, big eye, my height but twice as whipped came up to me and he was said "Come here" oh I'm not going to argue with him. There were five of us who didn't argue with him and he took us in one of the buildings that had collapse but there was still some infrastructure around and he pointed to a cross so I put the picture that I shot that day under bulletin. The cross of ground zero, he had just found it and he wanted to show it to us and he goes "Let me tell you the story I've been working on this pile, I've been pulling out bodies and body parts all day long. My spirit is so crushed, I'm so demoralized and I was just calling out to God and as soon as I call out to God I looked up and there in the middle of this pile I haven't seen it before was this cross." And it's under bulletin.
He said "There's a cross wouldn't put there by any man, it's the result of the falling beams but it's a cross." To me he said it was a sign of hope. Tears running down aside and he said "Hold hands, let's pray. Let's pray that this cross gets preserved. And again we all gathered and we prayed for that cross of Ground Zero. But it struck me; here in the scene of the death, the senseless death of thousands of people, what still gives hope is the death of another one who by his death brings hope, the eternal life.
So the defining moment in America in our recent times maybe indeed 9-11 but it is not the defining moment in our history of planet earth. The defining moment was the day Jesus died on the cross. That death brings life, that death still brings hope.
Father we remember, even as were told to every time we share communion to remember the great sacrifice, because from heaven's perspective, it was by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God and we are recipients of salvation and as hope. In Jesus' name. Amen
Would you stand please? We want to end with a song that is familiar to us. It was written a long time ago by Julia Ward Howe, it was old campfire spiritual they called it. It was originally called Canaan's Happy Shore, we know what is the battle him of the republic that came very important in the civil war. The words are all about Christ and in his victory and his sacrifice and his coming and with that on mind we sing.