There’s an ancient fable about an African King who had a close friend. The friend had a habit of looking at every situation in his life, positive or negative, and saying, “This is good! God knows best!”
One day the King and his friend were out on a hunting expedition. The friend would load and prepare the guns for the King. The friend made a mistake in preparing one of the guns, so when the King fired it, the gun exploded and his thumb was blown off. Examining the situation, the friend remarked as usual, “This is good! God knows best!” That made the King furious. “No, this is not good!” He then ordered the soldiers to put his friend in jail.
About a year later, the King was hunting when some Cannibals captured him and took him to their village. They bound his hands, stacked the wood, and tied him to a stake. As they prepared to start the fire, they noticed the King’s thumb was missing. Being superstitious, they never ate anyone who was less than whole. So they untied and released the King.
As he returned home, he thought of the event that had taken his thumb and felt remorse for the treatment of his friend. Immediately the King went to the jail to speak with his friend. “You were right,” he said, “it was good that my thumb was blown off.” And then he related what had just occurred. “I’m very sorry for sending you to jail,” said the King. “It was bad for me to do this.”
“No,” his friend exclaimed. “This is good! God knows best!”
“What do you mean?” Replied the King. “How could it be good that I sent my friend to jail for a year?”
“If I had not been in jail, I would have been with you on the hunting trip!”
This story reminds me of Romans 8:28 that is often quoted when something bad happens. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
What does this mean? Is it conditional? Unconditional?
We know. What we know is what God has revealed. His love, mercy and grace are made known to us in the Bible. We know Jesus is our mediator (1 Tim. 2:5). And we know the Holy Spirit intercedes for us in prayer (Rom. 8:26-27)
Like the American humorist Josh Billings, “I’d rather know a few things for certain than to be sure of a lot of things that ain’t so.”
All Things work together for good. Often this text is misapplied. This is not a universal promise without conditions. Fool hardy rejection and rebellion against God will not work out for good! The promise is not to those who are unsaved and unregenerate, but those who are justified by faith in Christ Jesus (Rom. 5:1-2; 8:1)
To those who love God. When we obey the first and greatest commandment to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, then we can rest assured in this promise. (Matt 22:37). Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). When we love God, we respect the revelation of God. Accept the will of God. And obey the Word of God. Lovers of God desire to please Him, rather than seeking selfish pleasure.
Called according to His purpose. God’s purpose for us is wrapped up in Jesus Christ. It was planned before the creation of the world. He predestinated our adoption into His family through Christ. This plan is according to His good pleasure. And He desires that we glorify and praise Him through Jesus (Eph. 1:1-23).
Regardless of our daily cares, challenges and concerns, we know God cares. When we accept his plan for our pardon, we enjoy comfort and consolation. And even through difficulties, we can confidently know that things can work out for our ultimate good.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman