“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.” Romans 8:28

Human beings are pretty poor at choosing what is good for themselves. When left with choices, we tend to choose what seems good to our own eyes. Proverbs 21:2f reads, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the hearts. To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.”

A believer may be kept busy enough merely attempting to distinguish right from wrong and between good and evil. It is also a highly deceptive challenge to discern between good, better, and best. How often have you recently heard someone say he is conflicted about something? Conflicts seem to arise when we must sacrifice our own emotional greed in favor of altruistic morality. We must recognize these conflicts for what they are. They are tests of allegiance and obedience. In all of the bedeviling choices of life where you are feeling conflicted, rest assured, the confusion is only in your human heart, never with God! God gives us the Romans 8:28 promise as food for thought so that you may not be robbed of your joy of sonship when you are under trial.

This thoroughly human tendency to misread what we think is good causes the believer to doubt God’s goodness in His dealings with His own, and to suspect that he is missing something when Romans 8:28 does not feel good to his own reckoning. Our passage has been, and continues to be, one of the great, oft-quoted promises in Scripture. Torrey said that Romans 8:28 is a “soft pillow” for the afflicted saint. It seems hardly a recounting of trial passes from the lips of one saint to the ear of another without some sort of reference like, “Well, don’t forget, Romans 8:28 is still in the Book!”

Just what is this idea of good that God promises? Is it for everyone to use indiscriminately? Is there some sort of secret key to unlock the meaning of good in this wonderful promise from our heavenly Father? Let’s review.

The book of Romans is focused on the righteousness that comes from God as He justifies undeserving sinners by the grace received through faith in Jesus Christ. Chapters 1–11 are generally filled with great theological themes while 12–16 are filled with practical truths that flow from those theological themes. As you start reading Romans 8 you are treated to solid theology that informs the saint as he processes the twists and turns of life.

Chapter 8 treats us to truths that we do not always feel. Truths like “no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,” “You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you,” and “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ….” Then we read this bombshell, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered…because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26–27)

Our imperfect, human tendencies extend to even our prayers, the highest of all holy privileges and obligations! We tend to pray for escape when God would have us endure for His name’s sake. We tend to think with our emotions when God would have our thinking construct our feelings. We tend to focus on the present distraction when God would have us remember that He is engaged in the marathon race toward bringing us into conformity “to the image of His Son,” as verse 29 reveals. The Holy Spirit aids in your praying so that all about you is brought into harmony “according to the will of God.”

Is Romans 8:28 a promise to an unsaved person? No, it is revealed only for those “who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Once again we see human responsibility paired up with Divine Sovereignty. No unsaved person has the assurance that “it will all work out in the end,” for their end is destruction. Truly, for the unsaved life is a nightmare, but for the saved life is an adventure!

Love for God— living a devoted life—is the trait visible to your fellow man. Those “called according to His purpose” are God’s work, the mystery that is being unfolded in the preceding chapters of Romans and highlighted in the words of verse 29 and 30, “For whom He foreknew [active engagement of God to bring individuals into a special relationship with Him], He also predestined [set the boundaries] to be conformed [that which strikes the vision] to the image of His Son…. Moreover, whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” God takes the undeserving saint from earth to glory! God sees this process as “good.”

God’s definition of what is good for you, believer, is being conformed to the image of His Son, whatever it takes. That is what He promises to you, that is what He will do, and that is the goal toward which the Spirit aids our prayers. For the saint, it really will work out! Trust and obey.