ALL FOR GOOD
"This is the resting place, let the weary rest; and this
is the place of repose"—
"We know that in all things God works for the good of
those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose" Romans
This verse rises like a tapering palm-tree in the midst
of its group. The precious chapter from which it is taken may itself be
likened to a grove of these—each separate frond whispering of refreshment
and rest in Jesus!
It has been thought by some, that this section of the
Apostle's inspired letter was specially designed for the encouragement and
consolation of the Christians who were then suffering under the inhuman
persecution of the Emperor Nero. We can imagine, when these martyr-spirits
were about to be cast to the lions, or when, covered with tar and pitch,
they were led forth to the gardens of the Quirinal to have the torch applied
to them in order to illuminate the city, how the solacing words of the
Divine 'keepsake' would sustain their tortured frames, "I consider that our
present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be
revealed in us" (ver. 18). Nor would any word in all the Epistle be more
comforting than our motto-verse—"We know that in all things God works for
the good of those who love Him." It is placed, so to speak, in the center of
the palm-grove—in the center of this wonderful galaxy of Divine truth and
consolation. It cheered the old Roman Christians under a great fight of
afflictions. It has proved a balm-word of comfort to millions of wounded
spirits ever since.
The Apostle here makes the glorious assertion, that
whatever befalls God's children, their joys, sorrows, comforts, crosses,
losses, all are a part of a Divine plan and arrangement, whose issue and
result is their good. There is nothing so incredible to unbelief as
this. That bitter pang which tore up my hopes by the root! that unexpected
poverty! that anguished sickbed! that crushing bereavement! how can I write
'good' upon these? How can this broken heart ever endorse such a
statement as that of the sacred writer?
Yes! but faith should do so; faith CAN do so. Paul
would have uttered what no Roman Christian, or any other Christian, would
have credited, had he said 'we see.' But observe, his language is the
utterance of believing trust—"the confidence of things not seen" (Heb.
11:1). He says, "we know." Behind that dark cloud he speaks with
assured conviction of a shining face. At that loom which the world calls
'fate,' with these tangled, confused, mazy threads, he could tell of a
Divine Designer who holds the shuttle in His hand, and who understands (what
the spectator often does not understand) that all is for good. He was
himself a living testimony to the truth of his assertion. His bonds and
imprisonment; how seemingly inappropriate! What a blow to the Church! How
fatal to the progress of the truth! Can Paul's Lord be really supervising
and controlling all? So may have reasoned some unfaithful hearts at the very
time when in his dungeon he was writing this clause in one of his letters—"I
want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served
to advance the gospel" (Phil. 1:12).
Are there not many who can tell the same? I believe few
can fail to look back on some dark passages in their history—dark at the
time—full of mystery—that led even to gloomy and unworthy thoughts regarding
God—but who can see them now to be bright with mercy—some wise reason for
mysterious dealings come to light, which at the moment was indiscernible.
And if such be, with any, a present experience—the cloud, without apparently
even the 'silver lining'—be it theirs to trust. 'The good' will yet
be unfolded. Yes! take that short comforting parenthesis, and let it fling
its ray of comfort against the gloom—"Though now for a little while (IF NEED
BE) you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials." The rainbow
will yet appear in the cloud. God will be His own Interpreter.
Again. How wide is this assertion of the Apostle!
He does not say, 'We know that some things,' or 'most things,'
or 'joyous things.' But "ALL things." From the minutest to the
most momentous; from the humblest event in daily providence to the great
crisis-hours in grace.
And all things "WORK"—they are working; not all
things have worked, or shall work, but it is a present
operation. At this very moment, when some voice may be saying, "Your
judgments are a great mystery;" the angels above, who are watching the
development of the great plan, are with folded wings exclaiming, "The Lord
is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works" (Ps.
And then all things "WORK TOGETHER." It is a beautiful
blending. Many different colors, in themselves raw and unsightly, are
required in order to weave the harmonious pattern. Many separate tones and
notes of music, even discords and dissonances, are required to make up the
harmonious anthem. Many separate wheels and joints are required to make the
piece of machinery. Take a thread separately, or a note separately,
or a wheel or a tooth of a wheel separately, and there may be no discernible
beauty or use. But complete the web, combine the notes, put
together the separate parts of steel and iron, and you see how perfect
and symmetrical is the result.
Here is the lesson for faith—"What I do," says God, "you
know not now, but you shall know hereafter." We must,
meanwhile, take the bitter with the sweet. The Great Physician knows that
all the ingredients in His dealings are for our good. HE mixes them. The cup
He gives us to drink; and "shall we not drink it?" God is said to make His
chariot—What? Is it the sunshine? Is it the clusters of gleaming stars or
radiant planets? No, it is the CLOUDS. But that cloudy chariot has an
axle of love. And though clouds and darkness are round about His throne,
mercy and truth go continually before His face. Beautifully says our
countryman, the distinguished missionary and traveler, Livingstone: "We who
see such small segments of the mighty cycles of God's providence, often
imagine some to be failures, which He does not. If we could see a larger arc
of the great providential cycle, we might sometimes rejoice when we weep.
But God gives no account of any of His matters. We must just trust to His
Let us be assured of this, He has our best interests at
heart. He has what is here called our 'GOOD' in view. It may not be, it will
not be, the world's definition of good—riches, honors, glory, worldly
prosperity. But it will be better. It is our soul's good,
ripening the immortal part of us for glory. He may cause His north
wind and His south wind to blow: we may see nothing but the hurricane
bending the palm branches and ruffling the tender flowers; but what is the
result? "The spices flow out," the fragrance of the Christian graces are
wafted around, and the Beloved comes into His garden. "Glory to God for
ALL!" were Chrysostom's last words.
"What seems so dark to thy dim sight
May be a shadow, seen aright,
Making some brightness doubly bright.
"The flash that struck thy tree—no more
To shelter thee—lets heaven's blue floor
Shine where it never shone before.
"The cry wrung from thy spirit's pain
May echo on some far-off plain,
And guide a wanderer home again."
Oh, if not now, at least in the light of eternity,
looking down from the everlasting hills on the long vista of the earthly
valley, we shall be able joyfully to attest, "He has done all things well."
"Men see not yet the bright light in the clouds," "But it shall come to pass
that at evening time it shall be light!" We may have to wait until we
obtain entrance within the Gates; but then, at least, the sentiment
will be subscribed—rather will the lips be attuned for the everlasting
song—"We have known and believed the love that God has to us!"
"Still we study, always failing!
God can read it, we must wait;
Wait, until He teach the mystery,
Then the wisdom-woven history
Faith shall read and love translate.
"Leaflets now unpaged and scattered
Time's great library receives;
When eternity shall bind them,
Golden volumes we shall find them,
God's light falling on the leaves."
"Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him."