God’s Workings

Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
~ James 1:3-4

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
~ Romans 5:3-4

Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good. For I will set mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land: and I will build them, and not pull them down; and I will plant them, and not pluck them up. And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.
~ Jeremiah 24:5-7

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

(5). See here the wisdom of God, who can make the worst things imaginable, turn to the good of the saints. He can by a divine chemistry extract gold out of dross. “Oh the depth of the wisdom of God!” (Romans 11:33). It is God’s great design to set forth the wonder of His wisdom. The Lord made Joseph’s prison a step to advancement. There was no way for Jonah to be saved—but by being swallowed alive by the fish. God allowed the Egyptians to hate Israel (Psalm 106:41), and this was the means of their deliverance. Paul was bound with a chain, and that chain which did bind him was the means of enlarging the gospel (Phil. 1:12). God enriches by impoverishing; He causes the augmentation of grace by the diminution of an estate. When the creature goes further from us, it is that Christ may come nearer to us. God works strangely. He brings order out of confusion, and harmony out of discord. He frequently makes use of unjust men to do that which is just.

“He is wise in heart” (Job. 9:4). He can reap His glory out of men’s fury (Psalm 86:10). Either the wicked shall not do the hurt that they intend— or they shall do the good which they do not intend. God often helps when there is least hope, and saves His people in that way which they think will destroy. He made use of the high priest’s malice and Judas’ treason—to redeem the world. Through indiscreet passion, we are apt to find fault with things that happen: which is as if an illiterate man should censure learning, or a blind man find fault with the work in a landscape. “Vain man would be wise” (Job 11:12). Silly men will be taxing Providence, and calling the wisdom of God to the bar of human reason. God’s ways are “past finding out” (Romans 9:33). They are rather to be admired than fathomed. There is never a providence of God—but has either a mercy, or a wonder in it. How stupendous and infinite is that wisdom, that makes the most adverse dispensations work for the good of His children!

(6). Learn how little cause we have then to be discontented at outward trials and troubles! What! Discontented at that which shall do us good! All things shall work for good. There are no sins God’s people are more subject to, than unbelief and impatience. They are ready either to faint through unbelief, or to fret through impatience. When men fly out against God by discontent and impatience, it is a sign they do not believe this text. Discontent is an ungrateful sin, because we have more mercies than afflictions; and it is an irrational sin, because afflictions work for good. Discontent is a sin which puts us upon sin. “Fret not yourself to do evil” (Psalm 37:8). He who frets will be ready to do evil: fretting Jonah was sinning Jonah (Jonah 4:9). The devil blows the coals of passion and discontent, and then warms himself at the fire. Oh, let us not nourish this angry viper in our bosom! Let this text produce patience, “All things work for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28). Shall we be discontented at that which works for our good? If one friend should throw a bag of money at another, and in throwing it, should graze his head—he would not be troubled much, seeing by this means he had got a bag of money. Just so, the Lord may bruise us by afflictions—but it is to enrich us. These light afflictions work for us an eternal weight of glory— and shall we be discontented!

(7). See here that Scripture fulfilled, “God is good to Israel” (Psalm 73:1). When we look upon adverse providences, and see the Lord covering His people with ashes, and “making them drunk with wormwood” (Lam. 3:15), we may be ready to call in question the love of God, and to say that He deals harshly with His people. Yet God is good to His people, because He makes all things work for good. Is not He a good God—who turns all to good? He works out sin, and works in grace; is not this good? “We are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Cor. 11:32). The depth of affliction—is to save us from the depth of damnation! Let us always justify God; when our outward condition is ever so bad, let us say, “Yet God is good.”

(8). See what cause the saints have to be frequent in the work of thanksgiving. In this, Christians are defective, though they are much in supplication—yet little in thanksgiving. The apostle says, “In everything giving thanks” (Thess. 5:18). Why so? Because God makes everything work for our good. We thank the physician, though he gives us a bitter medicine which makes us sick, because it is to make us well. We thank any man who does us a good turn; and shall we not be thankful to God, who makes everything work for good to us? God loves a thankful Christian. Job thanked God when He took all away: “The Lord has taken away—blessed be the name of the Lord!” (Job 1:21). Many will thank God when He gives; Job thanks Him when He takes away, because he knew God would work good out of it. We read of saints with harps in their hands (Rev. 14:2), an emblem of praise. We meet many Christians who have tears in their eyes, and complaints in their mouths. But there are few with their harps in their hands, who praise God in affliction. To be thankful in affliction is a work peculiar to a saint. Every bird can sing in spring—but some birds will sing in the dead of winter. Everyone, almost, can be thankful in prosperity—but a true saint can be thankful in adversity. A godly Christian will bless God, not only at sun-rise—but at sun-set. Well may we, in the worst which befalls us, have a psalm of thankfulness, because all things work for good. Oh, be much in blessing of God. We will thank Him who befriends us—and makes all things work out to our good.

(9). Think—if the worst things work for good to a believer, what shall the best things—Christ, and heaven! How much more shall these work for good! If the cross has so much good in it—what has the crown! If such precious clusters grow in Golgotha—how delicious is that fruit which grows in Canaan! If there is any sweetness in the bitter waters of Marah— what is there in the sweet wine of Paradise! If God’s rod has honey at the end of it—what has His golden scepter! If the bread of affliction tastes so savory—then how savory is His manna! What is the heavenly ambrosia? If God’s blow and stroke work for good—what shall the smiles of His face do! If temptations and sufferings have matter of joy in them—what shall glory have! If there is so much good out of evil—how great is that good where there shall be no evil? If God’s chastening mercies are so great—what will His crowning mercies be? “Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

(10). Consider, that if God makes all things to turn to our good —how right is it that we should make all things tend to His glory! “Do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). The angels glorify God, they sing divine anthems of praise. How then ought redeemed man to glorify Him, for whom God has done more than for angels! He has dignified us above them in uniting our nature with the Godhead. Christ has died for us—and not the angels. The Lord has given us, not only out of the common stock of His bounty—but He has enriched us with covenant blessings. He has bestowed upon us His Spirit. He studies our welfare, He makes everything work for our good. Free grace has laid a plan for our salvation! If God seeks our good—shall we not seek His glory?

Question. How can we be said properly to glorify God. He is infinite in His perfections, and can receive no augmentation from us?

Answer. It is true that in a strict sense we cannot bring glory to God— but in an evangelical sense we may. When we do what in us lies to lift up God’s name in the world, and to cause others to have high reverential thoughts of God—this the Lord interprets a glorifying of Him. Likewise, a man is said to dishonor God—when he causes the name of God to be evil spoken of.

We are said to advance God’s glory in three ways:

(1.) We glorify God—when we aim at His glory—when we make Him the first in our thoughts, and the end of our life. As all the rivers run into the sea, and all the lines meet in the center—so all our actions should terminate and center in God!

(2.) We advance God’s glory—by being fruitful in grace. “Herein is my Father glorified—that you bring forth much fruit” (John 15:8). Barrenness reflects dishonor upon God. We glorify God when we grow in beauty as the lily, in tallness as the cedar, in fruitfulness as the vine.

(3.) We glorify God—when we give the praise and glory of all we do unto God. It was an excellent and humble speech of a king of Sweden; he feared lest the people’s ascribing that glory to him which was due to God, should cause him to be removed before the work was done. When the silkworm weaves her curious work, she hides herself under the silk—and is not seen. When we have done our best, we must vanish away in our own thoughts—and transfer the glory of all to God. The apostle Paul said, “I labored more abundantly than them all” (1 Cor. 15:10). One would think this speech savored of pride; but the apostle pulls off the crown from his own head, and sets it upon the head of free grace, “Yet not I—but the grace of God which was with me!” Constantine used to write the name of Christ over the door, so should we over our duties. “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

Thus let us endeavor to make the name of God glorious and renowned. If God seeks our good—let us seek His glory. If He makes all things tend to our edification—let us make all things tend to His exaltation. So much for the privilege mentioned in the text.