Article From the Magazine:

Good for Nothing or Good for Something?

By David Jeremiah

Think of a moment in your life when something happened that you didn’t understand at all. It happens to everyone at times. Often, we eventually come to see the “silver lining.” We discover that something we originally thought was “good for nothing” was actually “good for something.” Our confusion turns into an “Ah” moment: “Ah, I see now. That changes everything.” We don’t always have the “Ah” moment, but sometimes we do.

The greatest “good for nothing” quandary in history took three days to resolve—the three days Jesus spent in the tomb. His followers were confused and downcast about His death. They couldn’t understand why the One they believed to be the Messiah had died. All their hopes and dreams for freedom from Rome, the return of God’s glory to the temple, and the manifestation of His kingdom on earth were brutally nailed to a cross on a hill outside Jerusalem. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus are perfect examples of what it feels like not to understand something that has happened (Luke 24). But everything changed when Jesus revealed Himself to them and they returned to Jerusalem to agree with the others: “We see now; God is doing something new!”

It’s how Moses must have felt after leading the Hebrew slaves safely out of Egypt. He must have thought God was sending him to his death by asking him to tell Pharaoh to let God’s people go. (“I’m wanted for murder in Egypt! Why are You guaranteeing my death by sending me back there?” To demonstrate My powers to the greatest pagan king on earth.)

It’s how David must have felt when he finally became king in Israel after being stalked and attacked by King Saul. (“Why did You anoint me as king only to allow Saul to try to kill me?” So you could write psalms about My faithfulness.)

It’s how Paul must have felt when God didn’t open doors for him to evangelize Asia Minor. (“I thought You wanted me to plant churches in Asia!” For now, I want you to go to an even larger mission field: Europe.)

Not surprisingly, it was Paul who eventually wrote the Bible verse on which we have learned to depend in such circumstances: “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). It is this verse which gives us peace when there is a gap between our experience and our understanding. When we see the reason—like the disciples saw Jesus on the road to Emmaus—we trust our sight. But until we see the reason (and in case we never do), we walk by faith in promises like Romans 8:28. We trust that God has a reason for everything even if that reason remains hidden to us.

I can’t say for sure, but I have always wondered if Paul was thinking of Joseph and his brothers when he penned Romans 8:28. On two separate occasions, Joseph explained the principle of that verse to his brothers using different words.

First, when Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers, they were so terrified that he went to great pains to explain the principle of God’s sovereignty: “You sold me as a slave into Egypt; God allowed it so I could prepare a place of refuge for our family to grow into a nation” (paraphrase of Genesis 45:4-11).

Second, after their father, Jacob, died, the brothers were afraid Joseph would exact revenge upon them for their hateful and jealous actions two decades earlier. Again, Joseph assured them: “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good… to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20). Sounds like Romans 8:28, doesn’t it? Joseph wanted to convince his brothers that something they (and Joseph, initially) thought was “good for nothing” was actually “good for something.”

The brothers needed reminding of God’s purposes and His providence in their lives—and so do we! In this month’s Turning Points, we will look at three areas of our life in which we can sometimes fail to see God at work. From God’s perspective, everything in life can be “good for something”!

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This article was first published in Turning Points Magazine & Devotional.
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