In All Things

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I've been wrestling a lot lately with the idea of Romans 8, that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him. How can something that comes from pride or selfishness or some other sin really come out to work for the good of His children? And if something good does come from a sinful situation, would that mean that the sin/sinner is vindicated in a way? Does the end result make his/her sin right? (Of course I know the answer to this, but it was still something I was wrestling with!)

I was talking with my husband about this last night, and he reminded me of the story of Joseph. Joseph was doing everything right... he was a man after God's heart with the purest of pure intentions, and was even faithful to his earthly master, Potiphar. Genesis 39:2 says that the Lord was with Joseph and he prospered. When Potiphar wrongly accused Joseph of trying to sleep with his wife, Joseph was thrown in prison. But again, in verse 23 of Genesis 39 it says that the Lord was with Joseph and he prospered in everything he did. Joseph was in a place he did not belong and yet he was still serving the Lord. The Lord was still with him. God was not punishing Joseph for anything by 'allowing' him to be thrown into prison at the hands of Potiphar. Instead, God was using an unjust decision by a mere man to lay the ground works for something even greater in the future.

We all know the rest of the story... Joseph meets some of Pharoah's men in prison and interprets their dreams. These men had fallen out of favor with Pharoah, and were put in Joseph's care while in prison. Eventually, one was hanged, but one was restored to his position as a 'butler' for Pharoah. The butler forgot all about Joseph for two years. Two whole years! I imagine that in those years Joseph spent in the prison he may have had some moments when he wondered what in the world God had planned thru all this. Maybe he didn't wonder that at all... but I know I would have. In the end, the butler remembered Joseph and brought him before Pharoah to interpret on of Pharoah's dreams. He interpreted that a famine would come across the land, and suggested that Egypt begin to prepare for this. Joseph became second only to Pharoah himself and when the famine did come, "the whole world came to Egypt to buy corn from Joseph." What's even more is that in the end, Joseph was restored to his family.

All of that came out of the wrong/unjust decision of a man who wrongly accused Joseph of something he did not do. But Joseph didn't wallow in the fact that he had been wronged by a mere man, though I'm sure he was hurt by Potiphar's decision. Afterall, Joseph served Potiphar faithfully. I imagine that he poured his life into his work for Potiphar, and yet what thanks did he get? But you see, Joseph had it right... he knew the One whom he ultimately served. He knew the meaning of doing all things for the glory of God, not the glory of men.

As I was thinking about this, I looked up the term "in all things." WOW! I have some more studying to do on the verses that came up, but I think I am going to learn a lot. In all things really means just that.... all things. We don't get to be selective about the situations in which we are thankful to God. And likewise, God is not selective in the situations in which he works things out for HIS good... the Bible promises us that in ALL things, he will work it for the good of those who love him. How refreshing it is to know that even in circumstances that start because of an ungodly decision or act, God is the ultimate redeemer.

SO back to my initial question... can something that starts with sin really come out to glorify God? Of course, it can! But it takes a godly man or woman, who remains focused on the ultimate "in all things" and is faithful to the call to glorify Christ. Joseph was faitful when he was in prison and when he was next to Pharoah. And in the end, did it mean that because good came out of bad that Potiphar was 'right' about throwing Joseph in prison? Of course not! The fact that God can work the good out of evil is simply an illustration of HIS grace and HIS goodness. In the end, its not about me. Its not about 'man' in general. It is about God, and furthering His kingdom.

"If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen." 1 Peter 4:11

Here's just a few of the other in all things verses I'm going to study further....
Romans 8:28
2 Corinthians 9:8
Ephesians 4:15
1 Peter 4:11

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