What Does it Mean That 'All Things Work Together for Good'?

God lavished us with His love, even if that meant giving up His son for us to live eternally with God. Our purpose is not in this world but in God. If we remain in God, remain in His love, then we know that all things will be for our good.

all things work together for good

"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" Romans 8:28

Have you ever heard, “God is good, all the time and all the time, God is good”? It seems like the goodness of God is something that we should consider. When circumstances arise, we tend to forget that God is always good. Our thoughts begin to question whether God is truly good when we go through life’s troubles. We question our purpose in life. We question whether God has the best interest in our lives. Sometimes, this also affects our love for God. So, why does this materialize when God gave His only Son Jesus Christ so that we could live? 

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:16-17).

When we begin to look into ourselves instead of looking at God, everything is magnified. Our emotions, thoughts, and the physical aspect of our circumstances become who we are in those times. Why let that define who God created you to be? (Psalm 139). If you're wondering how we can know that all things work together for good, let's take a look at understanding who God is and what is "good".

God is Good All The Time

His love is never-ending. His grace is sufficient. His peace is all we need. God, Himself, is our life.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Therefore, how do we define “all things work together for good”? If goodness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22), then shouldn't that be a part of who God is? In the book of Psalms, the goodness of God and how good God is mentioned multiple times:

The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works (Psalm 145:9).

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude (1 Timothy 4:4).

You are good and do good; Teach me Your statutes (Psalm 119:68).

In times of trouble, we should remember that God is good no matter the outcome. Whether it is a death, sickness, natural disaster, or even an internal battle, God is still good.  How can one apply this truth? In 1 John 4, it talks about knowing God through love. 

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:7-11). 

It says, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love another.” So how does this apply to Romans 8:28

No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him (1 John 4:12-16).

God Works All This Together For Good

If we abide in God and continue to recognize His sacrificial love that Jesus, His son, poured out on us, then we can rest assured our purpose is secure in God. ALL THINGS that happen can work together for good.  Jesus gave His life for us. God lavished us with His love, even if that meant giving up His son for us to live eternally with God.

For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love, He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:4-6).

Our purpose is not in this world but in God. If we remain in God, remain in His love, then we know that all things will be for our good.

So writes John Piper in his book, Future Grace. - "Nothing can blow you over when you are inside the walls of Romans 8:28. Outside of Romans 8:28 all is confusion and anxiety and fear and uncertainty. If you live inside this massive promise, your life is more solid and stable than Mount Everest. Outside this promise of all-encompassing future grace there are straw houses of drugs and alcohol and numbing TV and dozens of futile diversions. There are slat walls and tin roofs of fragile investment strategies and fleeting insurance coverage and trivial retirement plans. There are cardboard fortifications of deadbolt locks and alarm systems and antiballistic missiles. Outside are a thousand substitutes for Romans 8:28."

"Once you walk through the door of love into the massive unshakable structure of Romans 8:28 everything changes. There come into your life stability and depth and freedom. You simply can't be blown over anymore. The confidence that a sovereign God governs for your good all the pain and all the pleasure that you will ever experience is an incomparable refuge and security and hope and power in your life."

Assurance of God's Care for Christians

The assertion of providence in Romans 8:28 is specific and directed only to Christians. God rules over everything and everyone—believers and unbelievers—but his oversight is different in the case of believers. To them—and them only—God's providence works "for good." The unwritten logical implication is that providence confirms the blessing of some and the doom of others. For those "who love God," providence is directed to achieve "good." Who are "those who love God"? They are "those who are called according to [God's] purpose." The promise is given for those who are "called" by God into fellowship with Jesus Christ. Writing to the Corinthians, Paul addresses them as "the church of God that is in Corinth, . . . those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints" (1 Corinthians 1:2). We could equally render the final phrase "called to be holy" or even "the holy called ones."

Care in "all things"

This is true for "all things," Paul writes, knowing that we will respond with questions like:

  • What about bad things that happen to me that are not my fault?
  • What about bad things that happen to me that are my fault?
  • What about bad things that happen to others, whether my fault or not?

We can imagine the apostle saying, somewhat insistently: "Read the sentence again. What does it say? Does it not say, ‘all things'? ‘All' means all."

Paul is not suggesting that bad things will not happen to us. How could he possibly say such a thing when he writes so much about trials and tribulations that Christians are to expect? In order to maintain some semblance of human liberty, some insist that God does not govern the details, merely the big picture. But Romans 8:28 insists that God's providence governs the smallest, most incidental events, such as the death of sparrows and hair loss (cf. Matthew 10:29). Everything, in all its exquisite and intricate detail—things that others may consider trivial but are important to us—is governed by the overruling hand of God.

Care For a Good End

"All things work together for good." But what exactly is the "good" that Paul has in mind? We might be tempted to think Paul is referring to philosophical discourses about the nature of "goodness," such as Plato discusses it in the Republic, where Socrates describes "the Form of the Good."63 But that is not what Paul has in mind here. The text itself provides the explanation as to the "good" Paul has in view—conformity to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29). Providence is working to make us holy. Holiness, as we have seen, is a work that begins at the moment of regeneration and ends when we are glorified in heaven. God is determined to make us like His Son, so He providentially determines that all things work toward this end. If we are to become Jesus-like, there is a great deal of work for the Holy Spirit to do.

[Editor's note: the above is an excerpt from how the gospel brings us all the way home, © Derek W.H. Thomas, Published by reformation trust, 2011. Used by permission.]

Endnotes: 59 John Piper, Future Grace (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity; Sisters, Ore.: Multnomah Publishers, 1995), 122-23.  

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Rebecca Mashburn (Gordon) has a wonderful husband named Joseph. She has a blog, Trust. Lean, Seek and is working on becoming what God is calling her to. She has a bachelor's in psychology and hopes to one day pursue a degree in biblical counseling. Rebecca loves to be in nature, especially in springtime, and she loves to travel. She has a loving family and hopes one day to have children of her own.