“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8:28–29, KJV 1900)
I am reminded of the old Janis Joplin song, “Mercedes Benz,” where the lyric goes, “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?” I think our prayers are too much like this. We fail to see the greater purposes of God when we encounter various circumstances in life. When things go wrong, we usually pray just to get us out of the mess we are in. However, God has a far greater purpose in mind.
In the previous verses, Paul wrote about the work of the Holy Spirit in intercession for us. The problem is that due to our human frailties, we do not really know how to pray as we ought. The Holy Spirit thus intercedes in our prayer in the perfect will of God. This intercessory work is in context with verses 28-30 of Romans.
Years ago, I worked for a company in Zurich Switzerland. I had just designed, manufactured and shipped some major components to France for a machine they sold. I was positive that I would be leaving for France in a couple weeks to install these. Yet, the day we loaded the container for the shipment, my boss gave me the bad news. My employment was being terminated immediately. It was by God’s grace that the first words I uttered was to quote Romans 8:28. This was one of those jaw-dropping moments for him as he could not understand how I could take the news so well.
Well, the Lord had a greater plan. It took three months to find another job. I moved to Savannah Georgia, the one place that I said I would never go. There I went to work for the one company for which I said I would never work. But it was a great move. In Savannah, I received seminary training and the call to pastoral ministry.
Of course, the experience was painful. There were times of anxiety. I wasn’t sure if I would ever get a job in my field. And I prayed, Lord give me a high paying job in anyplace but Savannah Georgia. However, the Lord had a better plan. The Holy Spirit interceded in this prayer in accordance with the will of God.
What was His greater purpose? In verse 29, Paul wrote that God’s plan is to conform us into the image of His Son. This often takes us to a place where we do not want to be. But it is in these uncomfortable places that God works out His greater purposes for us. We may not like those places, but our likes do not nullify the truth of verses 28 and 29. He does work “all things together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”