A Gospel-Perspective on Good and 'Bad' EventsWednesday, August 17, 2005
What's your perspective on the 'bad' stuff that happens to you? In my life, as we make our transition to another city, job, and church family soon, the goodness of God has been great. He's confirmed housing, church family, and possibly a job. But when He starts mixing in the 'bad' it's another reminder of the kind of gospel-perspective we ought to have as brothers and sisters of Christ Jesus.
The last few days have been a mix of the good and bad. Starting this past Sunday I encountered my first bout with gout. For those who don't know what this is, a build up of purinic acid settles into the joints of, say, the big left toe, in my case, and it crystalizes into the shape of needles. It swells and causes a sharp burning, throbbing pain unlike any other pain I've experienced. Breaking my 'pinky' toe last year didn't feel anything like this. Much sleep is lost, and the pain is so intense at times I can't even read or concentrate. Today is round four. Who knows how much longer I have to fight with this thing.
To get more detailed, the diet my wife has put me on to help flush this stuff out of my toe has been raw fruits and vegetables, cherry juice, thousands of mgs of vitamin C, B-complex, distilled water... You get the picture. Put diarrhea alongside the gout and you've got double the pleasure!
Then yesterday, my two oldest boys and I were dumpster diving for boxes. We loaded the truck bed full to the rim. Then, just a few minutes later, a massive thunderstorm moves in and soaks it all. There's perfectly good gas and time wasted.....it seems. So not being able to see for the rain, we dip into the theatre to catch a late afternoon flick. And four times during the course of the movie, the lightening knocks the power out. A two hour movie took three hours yesterday.
So how should we look at the 'bad' stuff that happens to us? How does it plug into the gospel-perspective we ought to have?
I don't have a Bible in front of me, so I'll have to work from memory (I'm getting more rusty by the year!). Wasn't it Job who rhetorically asked his wife, "shall we receive good from the hand of God and not the bad also?" The preacher in Ecclesiastes wrote these words, "In the day of prosperity be happy; but in the day of adversity, remember that God has made one as well as the other."
So what's the grounds for believing something like this? What kind of hope does this provide us, and where does that hope come from? From the cross, of course. Romans 8 provides the bedrock of truth for believing this way, and living this way.
Here's the first gospel-perspective. Romans 8:28 teaches us that God causes all things (even the 'bad' stuff) to work together for our good because we were called in Christ Jesus. The next two verses continue the thought. We were foreknown, predestined, called, justified, and glorified by God...all in order to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. There's our first grounds for understanding that the gospel isn't a magic-carpet ride to heaven! If the gospel is about being conformed to Jesus Christ, and if His life was filled with good and 'bad' then ours must be too. What was that Jesus told His disciples in John 15? No servant is greater than His master. If the Master suffers, the servants will too.
Here's a second gospel-perspective. A few verses later in Romans 8, Paul wrote those words that have changed my outlook forever. Several years ago while expositing Romans 8 for a Bible Study class, the words hit me: "If God did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how much more then, will He not also give us all things!" God gave us Jesus! His own Son! He gave the best to us and for us! Do we think that just because we encounter some 'bad' events that this is God's deciding to somehow not keep His promise! In giving us Jesus, He has given us all 'good' things.
Do you know what that means? Even the 'bad' is actually good. Remember Joseph's words in Genesis 50:20 (I remember that reference!). "As for you, you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good." The effect of that horrible, 'bad' event (or rather string of events) was that God caused all the 'bad' events of Joseph's life to work for good, in order to save God's chosen people! And again, God is causing the 'bad' events of our lives to work for good, in order to save us, His chosen people! This has been a much treasured text for me and my family in this past year. What the opposition to our leadership has meant for evil, God will work for good.
So encountering 'bad' stuff is, for the Christian, merely a sign that he or she is being conformed to the image of Christ, and that God is causing the 'bad' to turn into the good, for our good, and for the good of His glory. Don't sweat the small stuff! Perceive it for what it really is - the fire God uses to mold and shape us into the image of His Son. And is this not a good thing?