And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.
~ Zechariah 13:9
And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
~ Romans 5:5
And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:
~ Nehemiah 1:5
All Things For Good, by Thomas Watson. The following contains an excerpt from his work.
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.
~ Romans 8:28
Why all things work for good
1. The grand reason why all things work for good, is the near and dear interest which God has in His people. The Lord has made a covenant with them. “They shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Jer. 32:38). By virtue of this compact, all things do, and must work, for good to them. “I am God, even your God” (Psalm 50:7). This word, ‘Your God,’ is the sweetest word in the Bible, it implies the best relations; and it is impossible there should be these relations between God and His people, and everything not work for their good. This expression, ‘I am your God,’ implies,
(1). The relation of a physician. ‘I am your Physician.’
God is a skillful Physician. He knows what is best. God observes the different temperaments of men, and knows what will work most effectually. Some are of a more sweet disposition, and are drawn by mercy. Others are more rugged and knotty pieces; these God deals with in a more forcible way. Some things are kept in sugar, others are kept in brine. God does not deal alike with all; He has trials for the strong and cordials for the weak. God is a faithful Physician, and therefore will turn all to the best. If God does not give you that which you like—He will give you that which you need. A physician does not so much study to please the taste of the patient—as to cure his disease. We complain that very sore trials lie upon us; let us remember God is our Physician, therefore He labors rather to heal us—than humor us. God’s dealings with His children, though they are sharp—yet they are safe, and in order to cure; “that he might do you good in the latter end” (Deut. 8:16).
(2). This word, ‘your God’, implies the relation of a father.
A father loves his child; therefore whether it be a smile or a stroke, it is for the good of the child. I am your God, your Father, therefore all I do is for your good. “As a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you” (Deut. 8:5). God’s chastening is not to destroy—but to reform. God cannot hurt His children, for He is a tender hearted Father, “Like as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him” (Psalm 103. 13). Will a father seek the ruin of his child, the child that came from himself, that bears his image? All his care and skill is for his child. Whom does he settle the inheritance upon—but his child? God is the tender hearted “Father of mercies” (2 Cor. 1:3). He begets all the mercies and kindnesses in the creatures.
God is an everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6). He was our Father from eternity; before we were children, God was our Father, and He will be our Father to all eternity. A father provides for his child while he lives; but the father dies, and then the child may be exposed to injury. But God never ceases to be a Father! You who are a believer, have a Father who never dies; and if God is your father, you can never be undone. All things must needs work for your good.
(3). This word, ‘your God,’ implies the relation of a husband.
This is a near and sweet relation. The husband seeks the good of his spouse—not to destroy his wife. “No man ever yet hated his own flesh,” (Ephes. 5:29). There is a marriage relation between God and His people. “Your Maker is your Husband” (Isaiah 54:5). God entirely loves His people. He engraves them upon the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16). He sets them as a seal upon His breast (Cant. 8:6). He will give kingdoms for their ransom (Isaiah 43:3). This shows how near they lie to His heart. If He is a Husband whose heart is full of love, then He will seek the good of His spouse. Either He will shield off an injury—or will turn it to the best.
(4). This word, ‘your God,’ implies the relation of a friend.
“This is my friend” (Cant. 5:16). “A friend is,” as Augustine says, “half one’s self.” He is studious and desirous how he may do his friend good; he promotes his welfare as his own. Jonathan ventured the king’s displeasure for his friend David (1 Sam. 19:4). God is our Friend, therefore He will turn all things to our good. There are false friends; Christ was betrayed by a friend. But God is the best Friend.
He is a faithful Friend. “Know therefore that the Lord your God, he is God—the faithful God” (Deut. 7:9). He is faithful in His love. He gave His very heart to us, when He gave the Son out of His bosom. Here was a pattern of love without a parallel. He is faithful in His promises. “God, who cannot lie, has promised” (Titus 1:2). He may change His promise— but cannot break it. He is faithful in His dealings; when He is afflicting He is faithful. “In faithfulness you have afflicted me” (Psalm 119:75). He is sifting and refining us as silver (Psalm 66:10).
God is an immutable Friend. “I will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). Friends often fail at a pinch. Many deal with their friends as women do with flowers; while they are fresh—they put them in their bosoms; but when they begin to wither—they throw them away. Or as the traveler does with the sun-dial; if the sun shines upon the dial, the traveler will step out of the road, and look upon the dial. But if the sun does not shine upon it, he will ride by, and never take any notice of it. So, if prosperity shines on men, then friends will look upon them; but if there is a cloud of adversity on them, they will not come near them. But God is a Friend forever; He has said, “I will never leave you.” Though David walked in the shadow of death, he knew he had a Friend by him. “I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4). God never takes off His love wholly from His people. “He loved them unto the end” (John 13:1). God being such a Friend, will make all things work for our good. There is no friend but will seek the good of his friend.
(5). This word, ‘your God,’ implies yet a nearer relation, the relation between the Head and the members. There is a mystical union between Christ and the saints. He is called, “the Head of the church” (Eph. 5:23). Does not the head consult for the good of the body? The head guides the body, it sympathizes with it. The head is the fountain of spirits, it sends forth influence and comfort into the body. All the parts of the head are placed for the good of the body. The eye is set as it were in the watchtower, it stands sentinel to spy any danger that may come to the body, and prevent it. The tongue is both a taster and an orator. If the body be a microcosm, or little world, the head is the sun in this world, from which proceeds the light of reason. The head is placed for the good of the body. Christ and the saints make one body mystical. Our Head is in heaven, and surely He will not allow His body to be hurt—but will work for the safety of it, and make all things work for the good of the body mystical.
2. Inferences from the proposition that all things work for the good of the saints.
(1). If all things work for good, hence learn that there is a providence. Things do not work by themselves—but God sets them working for good. God is the great Disposer of all events and issues, He sets everything working. “His kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:19). It is meant of His providential kingdom. Things in the world are not governed by second causes, by the counsels of men, by the stars and planets—but by divine providence. Providence is the queen and governess of the world. There are three things in providence: God’s foreknowing, God’s determining, and God’s directing all things to their proper outcomes. Whatever things do work in the world, God sets them a working. We read in the first chapter of Ezekiel, of wheels, and eyes in the wheels, and the moving of the wheels. The wheels are the whole universe, the eyes in the wheels are God’s providence, the moving of the wheels is the hand of Providence, turning all things here below. That which is by some called chance is nothing else but the result of God’s providence.
Learn to adore providence. Providence has an influence upon all things here below. God’s providence mingles the ingredients, and makes up the whole compound.
(2). Observe the happy condition of every child of God. All things work for his good—the best and worst things. “Unto the upright arises light in darkness” (Psalm 112:4). The most dark cloudy providences of God, have some sunshine in them. What a blessed condition is a true believer in! When he dies, he goes to God; and while he lives, everything shall do him good. Affliction is for his good. What hurt does the fire to the gold? It only purifies it. What hurt does the winnowing fan do to the grain? It only separates the chaff from it. God never uses His staff—but to beat out the dust. Affliction does that which the Word many times will not, it “opens the ear to discipline” (Job 36:10). When God lays men upon their backs—then they look up to heaven! God’s smiting His people is like the musician’s striking upon the violin, which makes it put forth a melodious sound. How much good comes to the saints by affliction! Like bruised flowers—when they are pounded and broken—they send forth their sweetest smell.
Affliction is a bitter root—but it bears sweet fruit. “It yields the peaceable fruits of righteousness” (Heb. 12:11). Affliction is the highway to heaven; though it be flinty and thorny—yet it is the best way. Poverty shall starve our sins; sickness shall make grace more helpful (2 Cor. 4:16). Reproach shall cause “the Spirit of God and of glory to rest upon us” (1 Pet. 4:14). Death shall stop the bottle of tears—and open the gate of Paradise! A believer’s dying day is his ascension day to glory. Hence it is, the saints have put their afflictions, in the inventory of their riches (Heb. 11:26). A child of God say, “If I had not been afflicted, I would have been destroyed; if my health and estate had not been lost—my soul had been lost.”
(3). See then what an encouragement there is to become godly.
All things shall work for good. Oh, that this may induce men to fall in love with piety! Can there be a greater loadstone to piety? Can anything more prevail with us to be good, than this—that all things shall work for our good? Piety is the true magic stone which turns everything into gold. Take the sourest part of religion, the suffering part, and there is comfort in it. God sweetens suffering with joy; He candies our wormwood with sugar. Oh, how may this bribe us to godliness! “Acquaint now yourself with God, and be at peace; thereby good shall come unto you” (Job 22:21). No man did ever come off a loser by his acquaintance with God. By this, good shall come unto you, abundance of good, the sweet distillations of grace, the hidden manna, yes, everything shall work for good. Oh, then get acquaintance with God, espouse His interest.
(4). Notice the miserable condition of wicked men. To those who are godly—evil things work for good; to those who are evil—good things work for hurt.
(1.) Temporal good things work for hurt to the wicked. Riches and prosperity are not benefits, but snares to them. Worldly things are given to the wicked, as Michal was given to David, for a snare (1 Sam. 18:21). The vulture is said to draw sickness from a perfume; so do the wicked get hurt from the sweet perfume of prosperity. Their mercies are like poisoned bread; their tables are sumptuously spread—but there is a hook under the bait! “Let their table become a snare” (Psalm 69:22). All their enjoyments are like Israel’s quail—which were sauced with the wrath of God (Numb. 11:33). Pride and luxury are the twin offspring of prosperity. “You are waxen fat” (Deut. 32:15). Then he forsook God. Riches are not only like the spider’s web, unprofitable—but like the cockatrice’s egg, pernicious. “Riches kept for the hurt of the owner” (Eccles. 5:13). The common mercies wicked men have, are not loadstones to draw them nearer to God—but millstones to sink them deeper in hell (1 Tim. 6:9). Their delicious dainties are like Haman’s banquet; after all their lordly feasting, death will bring in the bill, and they must pay it in hell.
(2.) Spiritual good things work for hurt to the wicked. From the flower of heavenly blessings—they suck poison!
The ministers of God work for their hurt. The same wind that blows one ship to the haven, blows another ship upon a rock. The same breath in the ministry that blows a godly man to heaven, blows a profane sinner to hell. They who come with the word of life in their mouths—yet to many are a savor of death. “Make the heart of this people fat, and their ears heavy” (Isaiah 6:10). The prophet was sent upon a sad message, to preach their funeral sermon. Wicked men are worse for preaching. “They hate him who rebukes” (Amos 5:10). Sinners grow more resolved in sin; let God say what He will, they will do what they desire. “As for the word which you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord—we will not hearken unto you!” (Jer. 44:16). The word preached is not healing—but hardening. And how dreadful is this for men to be sunk to hell with sermons!
Prayer works for their hurt. “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord” (Proverbs 15:8). A wicked man is in a great strait: if he prays not—he sins; if he prays—he sins. “Let his prayer become sin” (Psalm 109:7). It were a sad judgment if all the food a man ate, should breed diseases in the body. And so it is with a wicked man. That prayer which should do him good, works for his hurt; he prays against sin, and sins against his prayer; his duties are tainted with atheism, and flyblown with hypocrisy. God abhors them! “The plowing of the wicked, is sin.” (Proverbs 21:4)
The Lord’s Supper works for their hurt. “You cannot eat of the Lord’s table—and the table of devils. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy?” (1 Cor. 10:21, 22). Some professors kept their idol-feasts—yet would come to the Lord’s table. The apostle says, “Do you provoke the Lord to wrath?” Profane people feast with their sins; yet will come to feast at the Lord’s table. This is to provoke God to wrath. To a sinner there is death in the cup, he “eats and drinks his own damnation” (1 Cor. 11:29). Thus the Lord’s Supper works for hurt to impenitent sinners. After the sop—the devil enters!
Christ Himself works for hurt to desperate sinners. He is “a stone of stumbling, and rock of offence” (1 Pet. 2:8). He is so, through the depravity of men’s hearts; for instead of believing in Him, they are offended at Him. The sun, though in its own nature pure and pleasant— yet it is hurtful to sore eyes. Jesus Christ is set for the fall, as the rising, of many (Luke 2:34). Sinners stumble at a Savior, and pluck death from the tree of life! As strong medicines recover some patients—but destroy others, so the blood of Christ, though to some it is medicine, to others it is condemnation. Here is the unparalleled misery of such as live and die in sin. The best things work for their hurt; cordials themselves, kill.