There are some who mistakenly understand that to mean only good things will happen to them. However, that is not what the passage is saying. In fact, later on in that very chapter the Apostle Paul speaks of “tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and sword.” Then in his other writings, Paul tells of suffering through a shipwreck, of being imprisoned, beaten, and of his pending death. These are the kinds of things that he faced as a Christian. Yet, Paul says, God makes the bad turn to our good. Notice how this works.
Before Marilyn and I moved to Janesville, we lived in and pastored in Willmar, Minnesota. We owned a nice house on a golf course in a quiet and rather new subdivision. One summer alone, I collected better than 600 golf balls that had been hit into our back yard. We felt that we needed to wear a hard hat when we ventured into that area of our property. We sold golf balls; we gave golf balls away. We ate golf balls for breakfast instead of eggs. (Not really.) You get the idea; they were everywhere!
The area around our house was growing with new houses going up from time to time. Two of those new homes stand out in my mind. One was directly across the street from where we lived while the other one was almost directly behind our house across one of the fairways. Today both houses are finished, beautiful and occupied. It is the process though, that the two houses went through, that forms the basis for this illustration.
I remember going across the street several times and looking at the large hole that was to become a basement. It was nothing more than an empty void. Frogs used it for choir practice and mosquitoes used it as a maternity ward. In time though, the hole was covered as new walls went up, floors were put in place, pieces of lumber revealed where the various rooms were to go, roof thrushes were hoisted to the top and eventually, bricks and shingles were assigned their spots. Grass was planted and scrubs were put out. Finished. Beautiful. A couple from Iran bought the house and moved in. Interestingly, they became our friends and we actually enjoyed an ethnic dinner at their table in their new home.
The other house had a more difficult time getting to the finish line. One night Marilyn and I were awakened by the sound of sirens and to flashing lights reflecting off of our ceiling. The new but yet unoccupied house was totally engulfed in flames. It could not be saved. The only things that were left were a few charred reminders of what might have been. All was lost, or so it seemed.
Almost immediately the workmen went back to work on the project. They patiently cleared away the debris, put in new floors, walls and the roof. And while late, they did finish the project.
In my years of ministry, I have known people whose lives in many ways remind me of the first house in my story.
They speak of feeling empty. Confused. Piles of meaningless "stuff" seems to clutter everything. Pieces of where? When? What? Why? and how seem to be all over the place.
John 4 captures the story of the so-called woman at the well. When Jesus encountered her, her life was a mess.
- She was the wrong race -- a Samaritan.
- She was of the wrong religion.
- She was a social outcast as evidenced by the fact that she came to draw water from the well in the middle of the day rather than early morning when the respectable ladies came to the well.
- She was morally compromised. Jesus told her, ‘The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.” She already had a ring for each finger of one hand and now she had decided to skip the ceremony and jump directly into the relationship. No commitment. No strings.
How in the world could Jesus put that jumbled mess of a life back together and make something good come out of it? And yet, Jesus did exactly that. The woman at the well was to become one of the most successful proclaimers of Jesus found anywhere in Scripture. Her mixed up life was turned completely around in an instant!
Then too, I have known those who remind me of the second house. Life is good. Everything seems to be coming together -- and then seemingly out of no-where, maybe in the middle of the night, the fire hits. That fire can be cancer. A job loss. A pandemic. A mental health crisis. Everything appears to be lost.
Take Joseph of the Old Testament as an example. He was sold into slavery by his brothers and dragged off to Egypt. Joseph gained some prominence there, but due to the unfair and false accusations of his boss’s wife, he spent years in an Egyptian prison. While in prison, a friend who had promised to help him, forgot all about the fellow.
To many, it may have appeared that God had forsaken Joseph. Rejected by family, enslaved, and imprisoned, what hope could he possibly have? To the unknowing eye, his was a useless, wasted life. Only embers of what might have been remained.
But God looked on Joseph and saw someone who stayed faithful despite the trials. And when the
time was right, God turned everything around for our friend by promoting him to the second highest office in Egypt, second in command only to Pharaoh himself.
In Genesis 50:20, Joseph testified to his brothers, “You meant to hurt me, but God turned your evil into good to save the lives of many people….”
I want you keep this important truth in mind. Jesus, the master builder, never forgets His master plan. At the same time, we must never confuse the process with the finished product. The big void in the ground of that first house was not the home, it was just a step in that direction. The fire was a sad set back, but it didn't stop the dedicated builders from reaching their goals. The piles of lumber, bricks, and soil were unsightly for a while, but today all of the parts have come together like the pieces of a giant puzzle. The beginning or even the middle of something is not the end.
Speaking of the end, I want to remind you, today those two houses in my story are houses that anyone would be proud to own. And if you were to look at the two houses now, you could not tell which one went through the fire, and which one didn't. They both look equally beautiful. The bad eventually did turn out to be good.
Ephesians 2:2 tells us that we are God’s habitation. Other passages liken the saint to a tent as well as a temple. Regardless, the master builder is at work building His habitation in each of you too. He has a master plan for your life. And, believe me when I say, all of this that you are presently going through will in time make sense and God will work it for your good and for His glory. And the end product is going to be beautiful — and good. Just wait and see.
The Redeemed Team