According to Whom?

by John Fischer

Life is hard. How often we forget that this is the way it is supposed to be. We push against the difficult circumstances in our lives instead of allowing them to work God’s character in us. We act as if the good life is what we deserve. Even the good life we will enjoy in heaven is not what we deserve, so what business do we have assuming everything will be easy down here?

Everything we are going through is for a purpose. God does not waste any experiences on us; He uses everything. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28). There are no qualifiers on this. It doesn’t say everything except the stupid things we do, or everything except when we blow it, or everything except for our sin; it just says “everything.” No exceptions.

The only reason this isn’t always tremendously good news for us is the little clause: “according to his purpose for us.” We forget that it is His purpose that is being worked out in our lives, and the only time this would be a problem is when His purpose is not necessarily ours. At issue here is who defines the success, fulfillment and purpose we are seeking – our culture or the Lord?

We get into a lot of trouble when we use our culture’s definition of fulfillment and apply it to our understanding of God’s purpose for our lives. We often assume God is blessing us when things are going great, and God is cursing us when things are going poorly when the opposite could very well be the case. God’s hand and his love are hidden in the difficult things. We should actually be wary when things are “easy,” for this world is not our home nor is it a place to seek the comforts of life. These are culturally defined, not spiritual.

The spiritual things in our lives have to do with what builds character in us, and these are most often the more difficult things. “We can rejoice, too,” says Paul in Romans 5:3&4 (NLT), “when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us” they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation.

So when things are going well for you or things are going poorly, the first things you should ask is “According to whom?”

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