“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30
Many who read the first sentence of the passage above think that the apostle was promising that each bad thing that happens will lead to a good result of some kind. For instance, when a young person tragically dies, so many hold onto this verse and look for a positive outcome. If someone loses a job, perhaps they’ll turn to this verse and look for the “good” as a better job to come.
I am a firm believer that God is an attentive Shepherd who is always working for what is best in the lives of His people, but verse 29 shows that the “good” Paul meant in verse 28 was a very particular “good”. Paul’s ultimate point in these verses is that in all things (good and bad!) God’s people are meant to become more and more like Jesus. God’s purpose for you, Disciple, is to be conformed to the image of His Son whom He loves and with whom He is perpetually well pleased (see Matthew 3:17). As God is building His eternal kingdom and preparing to bring about the completion of His new creation, He has a tremendous work to do in the citizens of that Kingdom. In order to be ready for our eternal life in the Kingdom He’s building, we must commit ourselves to the process of becoming like Jesus. His thoughts, attitudes, values, and priorities must become ours so that we will be ready to be a part of His Kingdom culture with Him.
Now, lest we decide too quickly that such a thing is impossible for us, Paul went on to write (what we know as) verse 30. Paul makes it clear that what God has begun, He is able to see through to its ultimate conclusion. Notice His progression in verse 30: Predestined, called, justified, and glorified. As Paul wrote to the Philippians: “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). It will take time and patient diligence on our part as well as His, but becoming like Jesus in character and vision is an attainable goal we can pursue in partnership with Him. To remind you again what our Master said: “The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher” (Luke 6:40).
I can’t tell you what a difference it made in my life with Jesus when I came to finally understand that my ultimate goal is not making it to Heaven but to become like Jesus. Wonderfully, as I pursue my goal of becoming like Jesus, I can have total confidence that He is indeed granting me eternal life all along the way. That’s the beauty of life following Jesus: I can trust Him to do as He promised as I obey Him.
Pursuing this greatest of goods with you,