This is many people’s favorite Bible verse. It is also one of the most memorized and quoted. But a lot of people misquote and misunderstand it.
It doesn’t say, “God causes everything to work in the way I want it to.” And it doesn’t say, “God causes everything to have a happy ending on earth.”
According to Rick Warren, author of ‘The Purpose Driven Life’, we have to take the verses apart to understand their true meaning.
We know - Our hope in difficult times is not based on positive thinking or wishful thinking. It is certainty based on the truths that God is in complete control of the universe and that He loves us.
That God causes – there’s a grand designer behind everything. There is a master plan.
Everything – God’s plan for our lives involves all that happens to us: our sins, our mistakes, our hearts, our debts, divorce, disasters and deaths of loved ones. God can bring good out of the worst evil. He did it on the cross.
To work together – the events in our lives are interdependent to make us like Christ.
For the good – much of what happens in life is evil or bad, but God specializes in bringing good out of it. David was an adulterer and murderer. Rahab was a prostitute. Moses murdered a man.
Of those who love God and are called – this promise is only for God’s children. It’s not for everyone.
According to His purpose – what’s His purpose? That we become like His Son.
That’s kind of a heavy thought. Some of us have a long way to go before we can be as humble, compassionate, loving and sacrificial as Christ. How many more problems will it take for us to be like Him? What’s it going to take in our lives to cause that?
Warren says we are like jewels, shaped with the hammer and chisel of adversity. If a jeweler’s hammer isn’t strong enough to chip out rough edges, God will use a sledgehammer. If we’re really stubborn He uses a jackhammer. He’ll use whatever it takes. The more difficult the problem, the greater the potential for building muscle and moral fiber.
Paul wrote, "We know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character.” What happens outwardly in our lives isn’t as important as what happens inside us. Our circumstances are temporary, but our character will last forever.
Peter wrote, “These troubles come to prove that your faith is pure. This purity of faith is worth more than gold.” Silver is pure when you can see your reflection in it. When we’ve been refined by trials, people will be able to see Jesus’ reflection in us.
James wrote, “Under pressure, your faith life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.”
See? They all talked about it. So we’d know!
Since God intends us to be like Jesus, He’ll take us through the same experiences Jesus went through. These include: loneliness, temptation, stress, criticism, rejection and a lot more. The Bible says, Jesus learned obedience through suffering. And that He was made perfect through suffering.
Paul wrote (Romans 8:17) (from The Message) We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we're certainly going to go through the good times with him!
In order for us to come out like Christ from all these trials we have to respond as Jesus would. Some people become bitter and good doesn’t come from it. In order to respond like Jesus would we have to remember that God’s plan is good. God know what is best and He has our best interests at heart.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Joseph “got it” when he told his brothers who had sold him into slavery. (Genesis 50:20) You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Whenever God says no to us we have to remember Hebrews 12:10b (from The Message) But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God's holy best.
We must stay focused on God’s plan, not our pain. That’s how Jesus got through the cross: (Hebrews 12:2a) Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The secret to endurance is to remember our pain is temporary, but our reward will be eternal. And we don’t just get through it without becoming bitter. We give thanks in all circumstances. That’s in all circumstances, not for all circumstances.
We thank Him that He will use our problem to fulfill His purposes. And we thank Him for His love. His wisdom. His power. His faithfulness. Etc. And we know God doesn’t leave us alone in our suffering even though it may feel like it sometimes. He is with us always. He said that and He doesn’t lie. Like Jesus we must refuse to give up. We must be patient and persistent. Character building is a slow process.