‘You can’t see the forest for the trees.’ That familiar phrase describes getting so absorbed in the present that you lose sight of the big picture. The third-grader concentrates sketching the perfect percentage sign that she fails to learn how to convert decimals into percentages. He wants a Hawaiian vacation, but does not select trip dates because he’s too fixated on which airport to depart. The house lies in shambles during a renovation. Instead of envisioning the new cabinetry and hardware, the new hardwood and carpet, her attention is entirely consumed by a bathroom paint color. ‘You can’t see the forest for the trees.’ You are too absorbed in the present that you lose sight of a bigger picture.
In Romans chapter eight, God reveals the big picture. Actually, God steps outside the realm of time and into eternity. He unveils his eternal plan and how you fit into that plan. Do you see it? Can you see the forest for the trees?
Take a step back from the obstacles you confront today or the suffering you face tomorrow. Lay aside (for a moment) the pain you feel from loss or the sting from a relationship. Turn down the political drama ringing in your ears or the stress whispering in your mind. See the forest for the trees. See how All Things Work for Our Good! God chose us to be his. God executes his unbreakable plan.
Listen again to Romans chapter eight, verse 28. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. ‘All things,’ God says, ‘work for good’— and when God says ‘all,’ he means ‘all.’ No exceptions. No limitations. He does not say, ‘Well, dementia is too hard for me to handle’ or ‘Eh, your friend-break-up is not covered.’ No, God makes clear that the events throughout the daytime and what happens at nighttime, from the food you eat to the clothes you wear, from brushing your teeth to the next breath you take, all of it falls under his care. All things work together for good.
Do you believe that? In this life you (and I) deal with situations that are not always pleasant. Your loved one died and it still hurts. No matter how much time passes the memories just keep popping up. The gun on the wall brings you back to a hunting trip. A leaky faucet reminds you how he could fix anything. The chair sit in the living room, but he is not coming in and sitting down. The urn on the mantle proves it. The tombstone at the cemetery tells you that. It hurts! You wish they were back! You wonder, ‘Why, God? Why did you take him at such a young age? Why did she have that terrible cancer? Why couldn’t you have stopped the accident? God, do you care how this affects me?’
Surgery is scheduled. In a few days the heart specialist will replace your failing aortic valve. Afterwards you will be able to walk better and longer and farther; you will feel less tired. Still, one issue just keeps nagging you: Aortic valve replacement is a significant surgery for someone your age. What if recovery takes months, not weeks? What if you never fully recover? What if you do not survive surgery?
The coronavirus still devours the globe like a wildfire. It seems like every day spits out more negative news. Scientists reveal a new way for the virus to spread. Research suggests that once sick, you can sick again. Specialists predict more infection, a longer virus-season, and more death. Leaders debate nonstop about the benefit in reopening or restricting. In some ways it feels like you’re stuck in a nightmare or an episode of the Twilight Zone that will never end. You wonder, ‘God, can’t you stop this virus? God, can’t you calm the negativity? Can’t you just let everything to go back to normal now?’
After seven steady years, the next month will bring change. A familiar face who brought God’s Word to you at church and a classroom, your hospital bed and dining room table, the one who celebrated your wedding or comforted you at a funeral, the one who helped you through a difficult moment is leaving. Now what? Who will serve you next? Will you like the pastor who comes next? What if a new pastor never comes?
All Things Work for Our Good? If that’s the case, then why you don’t feel it (emotionally)? If that’s the case, then why doesn’t the situation prove it?
It can be difficult to see the forest for the trees. That’s why God makes it a point to tell you the things you need to know. He chose us to be his.
With one verse God yanks you (and me) out from a know-it-all self-pity. With one verse he gently redirects us in sorrow. With one verse God brings comfort to weary hearts. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. ‘All things work for good,’ but God does not address every single person in the world. He narrows down the audience to ‘those who love God.’
That’s you. Keep staring at the big picture. You did not choose to love God first. You did not try your hardest to live a good life and God now says, ‘I love you.’ Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Instead, we love because God first loved us! (1 John 4:19). Another way of saying that is: God made us lovers of God! He unloaded our short-sightedness and needless worry. He took off our sadness and mourning and saddled Jesus with it all. He watched as Jesus buried all our afflictions under his blameless life.
How do you know that what Jesus did on the cross is yours personally? Because God says this: All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Galatians 3:27). Baptism has made you a lover of God. All Things Work for Our Good because God chose us to be his.
God sees to it with his unbreakable plan. Listen to verse 29: For those God foreknew he also predestined… God knows all things and he knew you would be here, listening with a heart full of faith. In fact, God made sure of it. That word ‘predestined’ pictures putting a boundary around someone (like putting a fence in the backyard to keep your children yours). God has put a boundary around you for you to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. God has already cleansed you spiritually. Right now, he sees you in the likeness of Jesus. Innocent. Blameless. Without fault.
Some days we soil that likeness, but a gracious God washes away filth. One day, that unblemished likeness will be on full display because you will be in paradise. You will stand with Jesus, the firstborn— the One who makes heaven possible! He will stand with you, along with many other believers.
You can be absolutely certain of this— because God’s work is all interconnected. Imagine setting up a row of dominoes. Tap the first domino and it falls into another, which falls into another, and another and another, and so on. One domino causes an unstoppable reaction.
In verse 30, God knocks over the very first domino in a line of dominoes. And those he predestined, he also called… God put a boundary around you, but how did God call you to faith? A phone? A disembodied voice whispering in your ear? A warm, fuzzy feeling inside? No! The Bible spells out everything Jesus has done to save you. God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:16-17). That good news hit your ears and penetrated your heart. At God’s right time, the Holy Spirit gave you faith to believe Jesus is your Lord and Savior.
[And] those he called, he also justified… That word ‘justify’ means to ‘declare someone not guilty.’ A ‘justifiable homicide’ means that you face no charges in a self-defense shooting death. If God ‘justifies’ you, it means that he declares you innocent.
And so you are! The instant God called you to faith is the moment he dropped all charges against you personally. You can stare at death without fear; you will not go to hell. You stand innocent!
[And] those he justified, he also glorified. Did you notice that verb ‘glorified’? It is past tense meaning, this is something God has already done. Do you feel glorious? …wrapped in sheer perfection? …holding high honor as God’s child? We are not in heaven yet— but God considers it as good as done.
So, he tells you what’s coming. You will stand wrapped in the splendor of Christ, in a place without tears or sorrow or sadness or mourning or heartache or pain (Revelation 7:15-17). Make no question about it! The moment God marked you off, the dominoes fell right in line. God executes his unbreakable plan.
Take a step back from the obstacles you confront today or the suffering you face tomorrow. Lay aside (for a moment) the pain you feel from loss or the sting from a relationship. Turn down the political drama ringing in your ears or the stress whispering in your mind. Do not miss the forest for the trees.
God reveals his start and your end. What we do not know is everything in the middle—what surprises pop up and how it affects us. Yet, here is one thing we do know: All Things Work for Our Good.
God will see fit that even the challenges faced in life only increase our reliance on him. A virus? Well, has it taught you to reprioritize? Did you carry such a busy schedule that you did not always have time to be a [grand]parent? Did you think you could control every single event? When stuff leaves, it redirects you to rely on God and thank him for what you have. Surgery? What if you die? Well, where would you be? With your loving God, just as he planned. What if he dies? Well, what does God promise? That he is with God, just as planned— and you will be too at the right time. Knowing the future brings comfort to a sad heart. Change? What will church be like? It will still have God’s Word and you will still hear it. It will still remind you that the messenger is not more important than the message. You will still see Jesus the Savior.
Do not miss the forest for the trees. Instead see God’s plan unveiled for you. All Things Work for Our Good! God chose us to be his. God executes his unbreakable plan.