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Dr. James Merritt

Romans 8:28



1. I read a story once about a man that was walking along a

mountain road, and he saw an Indian lying in the middle of the road

with his ear pressed to the ground. As he got close to the Indian,

he heard this Indian talking in broken English.

2. He leaned over to hear what he was saying, and the Indian was

mumbling these words: "Truck, Chevy truck, Chevy pick-up truck,

large tires, man driving, German Shepherd in front seat, loaded

with firewood, California license plate, UBH123."

3. Well, to say the least, this man was astounded. He looked at

that Indian and said, "That is unbelievable. You mean you can tell

all of that just by listening to the ground?" The Indian said, "No,

truck ran over me thirty minutes ago."

4. Now when you think about it, life is a lot like that. We don't

always see what is coming, and when it does, sometimes it runs

right over us. What is even worse is that no matter how hard you

try, you can't keep from having a bad hair day. You can plan,

scheme, prepare, do all you know to do to keep from having those

days, but they are going to come just the same.

5. Did you hear about the train that was going through a town, but

it was not scheduled to stop? There was a very short passenger on

that train who wanted to get off, because if he did not he would

have to pay $100 for a taxi to bring him back to the town.

6. Well, the man sitting in the seat next to him had a brilliant idea.

He said, "Look, the train always slows down to pick up a mailbag.

When it slows down I'll hold you out the window. When I drop you,

you start running so you won't fall on your face; and simply run to a


7. Well, the train did slow down, and the man took his little friend,

put him out the window and dropped him. The man was running

along the platform waving at him, thanking him for his help.

8. About that time, a man seated in the next car saw the little man

running on the platform, reached out, grabbed him, pulled him in

through the window, and said, "This is your lucky day, you almost

missed the train!"

9. Face up to it. Life is filled with bad hair days, even bad hair

months, or bad hair years. But there is a truth in the Bible for God's

children that we need to remember, and it is one of the most well

known and most quoted verses in the Bible, which is the text for our

message--Romans 8:28.

10. In this verse, which is short on words but long on wisdom, God

gives us three truths to remember when you are having a bad hair

day. Now these three words are promise, providence, and


I. Remember God's Promise To You

1. Now there are three words that are extremely important in

understanding and appreciating what this verse really says. The

first word is the word "we." Paul says, "And we know that all things

work together for good." Now, who is the "we?" Well, "we" are the

ones who "love God" and who are "called."

2. There are only two types of people in this world. Those who

love God, and those who don't. Not everyone who says they love

God, truly loves God. Jesus said in Jn. 14:21, "He who has My

commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me." In other

words, people who truly love God don't just say it, they show it.

3. But the "we" are also the ones who are "called." That is, those

who love God are the ones whom God has called to be a part of his

family, and who have responded to that call by surrendering to

Jesus Christ and becoming a child of God. Never forget that God's

promises are for God's children.

4. You see, not everybody can say, "Don't worry, everything will

work out." Because everything does not work out for everybody.

Everything only works out for God's children. You may be sitting

there thinking "Well, I'm not a child of God, and everything is

working out for me." I submit to you that ultimately if you die, and

spend eternity without God, things really didn't work out for you.

5. Now the second word is "know." Paul says "and we know that

all things work together for good." There are a lot of things about

God, the Bible, and life, we don't know. Paul tells us in v.26 we

don't always know how to pray. We don't know what Jesus looks

like. We don't know exactly when He is coming back. As a matter

of fact, we don't even know what is going to happen in the next five


6. It is dishonest to claim you don't know what you do know. It is

foolish to claim that you do know what you don't know. But no one

should hesitate to claim to know what they do know, and this is one

thing you can know.

7. You may not always like what God is doing in your life, and you

may not always understand what God is doing in your life. But you

can know that God is involved in your life 24-7 making all things

work together for your good.

8. That leads to the third word "all." "We know that all things work

together for good." Now if Paul had used the word "few" or the

word "some" or the word "most" we would not have batted an eye.

But he said, "All things work together for good..."

9. Now you think about that. This verse did not say that God works

all things out for our good most of the time, nor does it say that God

works most things out for our good all of the time. It says God

works all things out together for our good all of the time.

10. It doesn't say that we "see that all things work together for

good." But you can know it whether you can see it or not. Just

because you can't see it doesn't mean he can't see it. Never doubt

in the dark what God has told you in the light. But the question

remains "How can this really be true?"

II. Remember God's Providence Over You

1. Behind every promise of God is the providence of God. Some

of the oldest and best manuscripts have the verse reading this way:

"God works all things together for good." Whether or not that

reading is accurate, it certainly is true.

2. Do you know what the word providence means? It comes from

two words: the word pro meaning "before," and the word video

meaning, "to see." Providence simply means to see beforehand

and to provide for what is seen. Do you hear that word "provide" in

the word providence? The providence of God simply means that

God sees every event before it occurs, and provides for that event

and makes sure that it fits into His plan for your life.

3. Did you know that there are no accidents in the life of a child of

God, just appointments? So often disappointments are really "His

appointments." So many times what we think is a rock of

disappointment, turns out to be a boulder of blessing.

4. I am reminded of the story of a man who was shipwrecked on an

uninhabited island. He managed to get a few meager belongings

together that had washed up on shore after the shipwreck, and built

a little hut to protect those things and himself from the sun and the

rain and the wind. For weeks the only thing he had for company

was the hot sun, the cold rain, and dark nights. He prayed every

day that a ship would come, but nothing came.

5. Then late one evening he went out to look for food, and he

noticed across the island a cloud of smoke rising from where his

hut was. He ran back terrified, to find that his little hut was going up

in flames. His campfire had caught fire to the hut and not only

burned up the hut, but what few possessions he had were all gone.

6. He went to sleep that night crying out to God, asking him "Why

has this happened to me? Why did you let the tent burn? Why did

you even cause me to lose everything that I had?"

7. Well, early the next morning he awoke to find a ship anchored

off the island, the rescue he had been praying for all the weeks

there. Still trying to believe his eyes, he heard footsteps and turned

around, and there were some men from that ship who had come to

rescue him. He said, "How in the world did you find me?" They

said, "We were just passing by and saw your smoke signal and

came to rescue you."(1)

8. God can take a fire and turn it into a light that delivers you from

darkness. He can take a flood and turn it into a river of blessing.

The Greek word for the words "work together" is the word that gives

us the English word "synergy." Synergy is what happens when the

individual parts of something come together into a whole, thereby

having a greater and a better effect than each individual part could

have on its own.

9. Think about it this way: Every moment of every day is one

individual piece of the puzzle of God's plan for your life. God can

reach into a bag of circumstances on any given day, with his eyes

shut, pull out any piece and make it fit perfectly in the puzzle of his

plan for you.

10. Now that does not mean that all things that happen to us are

good. As you well know, everything that happens to you is not

good. But everything that happens to you will ultimately work

together for your good.

11. When I was a little boy I used to watch my mother bake cakes.

Nobody in the world can make a better chocolate cake than my

mother. Now quite frankly, you take any one of those individual

ingredients and they are not really too tasty. Do you like to eat

flour? Anybody here like to make a meal of baking powder? How

about lard? How about raw eggs? Any of those things by

themselves not only do I not like them, but they are very harmful

and very dangerous.

12. But she would take those ingredients, mix them together, put

them in the oven and out would come the greatest cake in the


13. You see, it is not what goes into the bowl that matters, it is

what comes out of the oven that counts. Now you are not always

going to enjoy the ingredients that God puts into the recipe of your

life. But when He has finished baking it, you will have "Romans

8:28 cake," and the taste will be unbelievable.

14. Did you know that every day most all of us consume two

deadly poisons? By themselves they are called sodium and

chloride. Now either one taken alone can kill you, but taken

together they form sodium chloride, otherwise known as salt.

Either one without the other can poison you, but both together can

bless you.

15. If a human being can take two things that are bad and make

them into something good, surely you believe that God can take

everything that is bad and make it into good.

III. Remember God's Purpose For You

1. God's purpose for you, we are told here, is "good." God's

purpose for you is that the end result of your entire life will be to the

"good." Now that does not mean that things will turn out like you

think they should, and it may seem that certain things that are bad

at the time really are good.

2. On May 11, 1996, Demingo Pacheco had a major problem. He

was on a tight schedule to catch his plane out of Miami when the

left rear tire of his Cadillac blew out on the Palmetto Expressway.

For more than hour he sweated under that broiling Florida sun

changing that tire.

3. Just as he finished changing the tire, he got a call on his

portable phone. It was his mother. She said, "Where are you?" He

said, "I'm stuck on the freeway, having just changed a flat tire, and I

have missed my flight."

4. She shouted, "Turn on your radio and thank God. The plane

you that you were going to be on just crashed in the Everglades."

Demingo Pacheco would have been aboard ValuJet Flight 592

except for that flat tire.(2)

5. Now normally to say thank God for a flat tire would be crazy, but

now we know that we can give thanks "in all things." Now good

does not necessarily mean health, because not all Christians are

healthy. It does not necessarily mean wealth, because not all

Christians are wealthy.

6. God's purpose for you is neither to be healthy or happy, nor to

be rich or famous. His purpose for you is found in v.29, where Paul

said, we have been "predestined to be conformed to the image of

His Son. God's purpose for you is to be just like Jesus.

7. The best thing that can ever happen to you in this life is not to

make millions of dollars, not to become famous, not to live in a

mansion, not to drive a Mercedes. The best thing that can ever

happen to you in this life is to become just like Jesus.

8. Now only God knows what is good for you. What is good is not

necessarily what you think is best. But I can tell you that God's

"good" always is better than your "best."

9. You will never hear a more incredible story in your life than the

one I'm going to share with you, which illustrates the truth of this

verse. In 1971 my friend, Ravi Zacharias, was ministering in

Vietnam. His interpreter was a young man named Hein Pham, a

devoted young Christian who was a translator with the American

Military and also with missionaries. Zacharias left Vietnam after a

while, and within four years Vietnam fell and Zacharias did not hear

about Hein Pham's fate.

10. Seventeen years later in 1988, Hein Pham called Ravi

Zacharias to tell him he was in the United States, and the story of

how he had gotten there can only be explained by the promise,

providence, and purpose of God.

11. Shortly after Vietnam fell to the Communists, Hein was

arrested for aiding the American cause. He was in and out of

prison for several years. During one long jail term, the sole

purpose of his imprisonment was to turn him against Democratic

ideals and the Christian faith. He was cut off from reading anything

in English, and restricted to reading Communist propaganda in

French or Vietnamese. Every day he was forced to read Marx,

Engels, and other Communist philosophers.

12. He began to buckle under the pressure. Maybe he thought, "I

have been lied to." Maybe God does not exist. Maybe Christianity

is a farce. Finally he made up his mind; he determined that when

he awakened the next day he would never again pray or ever think

of his Christian faith.

13. The next morning he was assigned to clean the latrines of the

prison. It was the most dreaded chore that no one else wanted to

do, and so with much distress he began cleaning those toilets. As

he cleaned out a tin can, filled to overflowing with toilet paper, his

eye caught what appeared to be English printed on one piece of

paper. He hurriedly washed it off and slipped it into his hip pocket.

14. That night, under his mosquito net after his roommates had

fallen asleep, he pulled out a small flashlight and, shining it on this

damp piece of paper, he read at the top corner, "Romans chapter

8." Trembling with shock and amazement, he read these words,

"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..."

15. Hein began to weep. He knew his Bible. He knew that there

was not a more relevant passage of conviction and encouragement

and strength for someone in his position, in all of the Word of God.

He cried out to God, asking Him for forgiveness and said he would

never again turn his back on the Christian faith.

16. Well, the next day Hein asked the Camp Commander if he

could clean the latrine again? They thought that was an unusual

request, but they allowed him to do it, and every day he cleaned the

latrines. Because he discovered that some official in the camp was

using the Bible as toilet paper. Every day Hein would pick up a

portion of Scripture, clean it off, and read it that night in his nightly


17. The day came when through an unbelievable set of

circumstances, which could only be by providence, Hein was

released. He promptly began to make plans to escape from the

country. After several unsuccessful attempts he began to build a

boat in secret.

18. About fifty-three other people planned to escape with him.

Everything was going well until just before they were to depart, four

Viet Cong knocked on Hein's door. When he opened it, they said

they had heard that he was trying to escape. They said, "Is it true?"

Well, Hein immediately denied it, and made up some story about

what he was doing. Apparently convinced, they reluctantly turned

and left.

19. Well, Hein was relieved, but also very disappointed in himself.

He said, "Here I go again, Lord, trying to manipulate my own

destiny, rather than relying on you to work all things out together for

my good." He made a promise to God, that he hoped God wouldn't

ask him to keep, that if the Viet Cong were to come back, he would

tell them the truth.

20. Hours before they were to leave, there was another knock on

the door. He was thoroughly shaken when he opened it to find the

same four Viet Cong at his door. They said, "We have our sources,

and we know you were trying to escape. Is it true?" Hein took a

deep breath and said, "Yes, I am with fifty-three others.

21. Are you going to imprison me again?" There was a

pronounced pause, and then they leaned forward and said, "No, we

want to escape with you!" Then in an utterly incredible escape

plan, all fifty-eight of them found themselves on the high seas

suddenly engulfed by a violent storm.

22. Hein fell with his face in his hands, crying out to God and

saying, "Did you just bring us here to die?" Then he said, "Brother

Ravi, at that point those four Viet Cong looked at me and said, 'Did

you not know that we were sailors?'" And he said, "Brother Ravi, if

it had not been for the sailing ability of those four Viet Cong we

would never have made it."

23. Peter Marshall, who was the Chaplain of the United States

Senate, who prayed some of the greatest prayers ever recorded,

once prayed this prayer on June 6, 1947 before the United States

Senate, and I close with this prayer:

"Oh God, our Heavenly Father, restore our faith in the ultimate

triumph of Thy plan for the world Thou hast made.

In spite of represent difficulties, reassure us that Thou art still in


When we become frustrated and give up, remind us that Thou art

holding things together waiting, and working, and watching.

When we make mistakes, help us to remember that Thou dost not

give up on us.

Forbid it, Lord, that we should give up on Thee, and forget that all

things work together for them that love Thee. Through Jesus Christ

our Lord, Amen."

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