"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." (Romans 8:28 NIV) These words have been a great comfort to me when I faced difficult times, but for many years it seemed like a hollow promise. I could not see how any good could possibly come from the trials I was facing. I was stuck in a low paying job, my plans to be a missionary crumbled and I was separated from my wife. My situation was so bad that I could not believe that God could work anything good from it. I wondered if God was punishing me. I wondered if God even knew what was happening to me.
Eventually, I discovered that God knew exactly what was going on. He was not punishing me. God does not punish, he disciplines. Punishment tears down a person but discipline builds up a person. He allowed these things to happen for my good, but it was according to God's definition of good, not mine.
My definition of good was that everything happens according to my plans, with no waiting, no hassles, and no disappointments. But people I have known who always seem to get what they want are often self absorbed and lack compassion. God's definition of good is found in the next verse. "For those God foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son." (Romans 8:29a NIV) God's standard of good is that we become more like Jesus Christ. God often allows trials in order to reveal our character flaws to us. He then teaches us and refines our character into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4 NIV)
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