Today's 'thought' comes from J. I. Packer is his book "Hot Tub Religion" which strives to show that contrary to what is said from many American pulpits in particular, God's primary purpose and aim for our lives is not to make them easy, comfortable, prosperous and painless. But rather, as the apostle Paul points out in I Thess. 4:3, "The will of God for you is this; that you should be sanctified."
Knowing that's God's goal and aim for us helps us understand how and why many things we may not ask for, enjoy or ever want, end up coming into our lives. God not only wants us to be sanctified (or holy), but works providentially to order the affairs of our lives in such a way that they work toward bringing about that ultimate goal.
God is faithful and because He is faithful He will unfailingly continue and eventually complete the work He has begun in us (Phil. 1:6). As we begin the New Year I thought it would be good for us to be reminded of that once again. I trust you will find Packer's words helpful and insightful. Enjoy.
"God is saving a great company of sinners. He has been engaged in this task since history began. He spent many centuries preparing a people, and a setting of world history, for the coming of his Son. Then he sent his Son into the world in order that there might be a gospel, and now he sends his gospel throughout the world in order that there may be a Church. He has exalted his Son to the throne of the universe, and Christ from his throne now invites sinners to himself. He keeps them, leads them, and finally brings them to be with him in his glory.
God is saving men and women through his Son. First he justifies and adopts them into his family for Christ's sake as soon as they believe, and thus restores the relationship between them and himself that sin had broken. Then within that restored relationship, God continually works in and upon them to renew them in the image of Christ, so that the family likeness (if the phrase may be allowed) shall appear in them more and more.
It is this renewal of ourselves, progressive here and to be perfected hereafter, that Paul identifies with the 'good' when he writes, 'in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose' (Romans 8:28). God's purpose, as Paul explains, is that those whom God has chosen and in love has called to himself should, 'be the firstborn among many brothers' (Romans 8:29). All God's ordering of circumstances, Paul tells us, is designed for the fulfillment of this purpose. The 'good' for which all things work is not the immediate ease and comfort of God's children (as is, one fears, too often supposed), but their ultimate holiness and conformity to the likeness of Christ.
Does this help us to understand how adverse circumstances may find a place in God's plan for his people? Certainly! It throws a flood of light upon the problem, as the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews demonstrates. To Christians who had grown disheartened and apathetic under the pressure of constant hardship and victimization, we find him writing: 'Have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons? - My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him. For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastizes every son whom he receives... He disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yeilds the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it' (Hebrews 12:5-11).
It is striking to see how this writer, like Paul, equates the Christian's 'good' not with ease and quiet, but with sanctification. The passage is so plain it needs no comment, only frequent rereading whenever we find it hard to believe that the rough handling that circumstances (or our fellow Christians) are giving us can possibly be God's will."
Dr. Jeffrey F. Evans