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All Things for Good is a book written by the Puritan Thomas Watson. In it, Watson argues that all of the events of life, both good and bad, are part of God's plan for the world. He encourages readers to trust in God and accept that all things are for good, even if they don't understand why something has happened.
Watson also encourages readers to use their suffering as an opportunity to grow closer to God and to draw on His strength and comfort. He writes that God will use all of our experiences, both good and bad, for good and for His glory. Watson also discusses what effectual calling is and outlines who the called are. Watson's book is an inspiring reminder that God is in control of our lives and that He will use all things for good.
Table of Contents
- The Best things Work for Good to the Godly
- The Worst Things Work for Good
- Why All Things Work for Good
- Of Love to God
- The Tests of Love to God
- A Call to Love God
- Effectual Calling
- Encouragement for Those Who are Called
- Regarding God's Purpose
All Things for Good
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Chapter 1: Introduction
"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
I have always found two things to be difficult: making the wicked sad and making the godly joyful. The godly often feel downcast due to either their inner peace being disrupted or their external circumstances being unfavorable. To address these issues, I have written this treatise in the hope that it will lift up their spirits and bring a smile to their faces. I suggest they take a moment to remember that "all things work together for good to those who love God." Knowing that nothing can harm them is comforting, but to be sure that all things will work together for their benefit, that their hardships will be turned into blessings, and that affliction will only make their faith stronger—this can fill them with joy.
If Scripture is a feast for the soul, as Ambrose said, then Romans 8 is like a special dish at that feast. Its variety of comforting words can lift the spirits of God's people. In the previous verses, the apostle had been exploring the difficult concepts of justification and adoption, which are so complex that without the help of the Spirit, he could have easily gone too deep. In this verse, he touches on the comforting thought that "all things work together for good, to those who love God." Every word is so meaningful that I want to make sure I don't miss any of the gold in this verse.
There are three main categories in the text:
- First, it is a great privilege to recognize that all things work together for the greater good.
- Second, Those interested in this privilege must be devoted to God and are referred to as such.
- Third, the source and impetus of this effective calling is outlined in these words, "in accordance with His plan."
I. First, let's consider the glorious privilege. There are two things to take into account.
1. We are certain of our privilege - "We know."
2. The greatness of this blessing - "All things work together for Good."
1. We can be certain of this privilege: "We know." There is no room for uncertainty or doubt. The apostle does not say, "We hope or guess." "We know that all things work for good." Therefore, it is clear that the truths of the gospel are reliable and indisputable.
A Christian can come to a certainty of what they believe, rather than just a vague opinion. Just as certain facts are evident to reason, so the truths of true religion are evident to faith. The apostle says, "We know." Though a Christian may not have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the gospel, they can still have a certain knowledge. "We see through a glass darkly" (1 Cor. 13:12), therefore we have not perfection of knowledge; but "we behold with open face" (2 Cor. 3:18), therefore we have certainty. The Spirit of God imprints heavenly truths on the heart, like a diamond. A Christian can know for certain that there is evil in sin and beauty in holiness. They can know that they are in a state of grace and that they will go to heaven. "We know that we have passed from death to life" (1 John 3:14). "We know that if our earthly tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (2 Cor. 5:1).The Lord does not leave His people in the dark when it comes to matters of salvation. The apostle says, "We know. We have a holy confidence, backed up by both the Spirit of God and our own experience."
Let us not linger in skepticism or doubts, but strive to be certain in matters of faith. As that martyr woman said, "I cannot argue for Christ, but I can die for Christ." We do not know if we will be called to bear witness to His truth, so it is important that we are firmly grounded in it. If we are doubting Christians, we will be unsteady Christians. Where does apostasy come from, if not from disbelief? People first question the truth and then abandon it. Oh, ask the Spirit of God to not only anoint you, but to seal you (2 Cor. 1:22).
2. The excellence of this privilege cannot be overstated. "All things work together for good."
Jacob's staff is a symbol of faith, which allows us to journey cheerfully to the mount of God. What else could possibly make us content if this won't? All of God's providences are divinely tempered and sanctified, and they work together for the best of the saints. Those who love God and are called according to His purpose can be sure that everything in the world will be for their good. This is a Christian's comfort, which can enlighten them, just like Jonathan when he tasted the honey at the end of the rod, "his eyes were enlightened" (1 Sam. 14:27). Why should a Christian be so hard on themselves when all things will work together for their good? The text is telling us that all of God's dealings with His children will ultimately turn to their good. "All of the Lord's paths are full of mercy and truth for those who keep His covenant" (Psalm 25:10). If every path is full of mercy, then it will work for good.
We will consider, first, what things work for good to the godly; and here we shall show that both the best things and the worst things work for their good. We begin with the best things.
Chapter 2: The Best things Work for Good to the Godly
1. God's attributes work for good to the godly.
1. God's power works for good. It is an amazing power (Col. 1:11), and it is used for the benefit of the chosen. God's power works for good, providing us with support in times of trouble. "The Lord's faithful love surrounds those who trust in him" (Deut. 33:27). What kept Daniel safe in the lion's den? What kept Jonah safe in the whale's belly? What kept the three Hebrews safe in the furnace? Only the power of God! Isn't it amazing to see a bruised reed grow and thrive? How is a weak Christian able to not only endure suffering—but to find joy in it? He is held up by the arms of the Almighty. "My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9).
The power of God works for us by providing for our needs. When our resources fail, God creates comforts. Just as He provided food for the prophet Elijah through ravens, He will provide sustenance for His people. God can preserve what little we have, just as He kept the oil in the cruse (1 Kings 17:14). Even when our outward comforts are diminishing, God can cause a revival and bring the sun many degrees backward, just as He did for Ahaz.
The power of God also subdues our corruptions. He will subdue our iniquities (Micah 7:19). No matter how strong our sin is, God is powerful enough to break it. Even if our hearts are hard, God will dissolve the stone in Christ's blood. "The Almighty makes my heart soft" (Job 23:16). When we feel overwhelmed, like Jehoshaphat, the Lord will go up with us and help us fight our battles. He will strike off the heads of those goliath lusts that are too strong for us!
The power of God will conquer our enemies. He humbles their pride and destroys their confidence. As Psalm 2:9 says, "You will shatter them with an iron rod." The enemy may be full of rage and the devil of malice, but God is all-powerful. He can easily defeat all the forces of evil. As 2 Chronicles 14:11 says, "It is nothing for you, Lord, to help." God is on the side of His church. As Deuteronomy 33:29 says, "Blessed are you, O Israel, a people saved by the Lord, who is your protector and the source of your greatness."
2. The wisdom of God works for the good. God's wisdom is our guide to instruct us, for He is the mighty God and Counselor (Isaiah 9:6). We often find ourselves in the dark, not knowing which way to take in complex and uncertain matters. That is when God comes in with light. He says, "I will guide you with my eye" (Psalm 32:8). Here, "eye" is used to represent God's wisdom. How is it that the saints can see further than the most astute politicians? They can anticipate evil and take refuge, and they can recognize Satan's deceptions. God's wisdom is like a pillar of fire to lead and guide them.
3. God's goodness works for the benefit of those who are devoted to Him. His goodness is a way to help us become better people. Romans 2:4 says, "God's goodness leads to repentance." His goodness is like a spiritual ray of sunshine that can soften our hearts and bring us to tears. We may ask ourselves, "Has God been so kind to me? Has He spared me from hell for so long, and yet I still grieve His Spirit? Shall I continue to sin against God's goodness?"
God's goodness brings us all kinds of blessings. We all receive the common blessings, regardless of whether we are good or bad. But the godly are also blessed with crowning blessings, as Psalm 103:4 says, "He crowns us with loving-kindness". So God's goodness works for good in the lives of the saints.
2. The promises of God work for good to the godly.
God's promises are like bank notes, providing us with the nourishment of the gospel. They are referred to as "precious promises" (2 Pet. 1:4) and act as a pick-me-up for a soul that is on the brink of exhaustion. The promises are full of power.
Are we under the guilt of sin? There is a promise that God is merciful and gracious (Exod. 34:6). He is encouraging us to come to Him, even though we are trembling sinners. He is more willing to pardon than to punish, and mercy is His nature. The bee naturally gives honey; it stings only when it is provoked. "But," says the guilty sinner, "I cannot deserve mercy." Yet He is gracious: He shows mercy not because we deserve it, but because He delights in it. But what does that mean for us? Perhaps our name is not in the pardon, but He still has mercy for thousands. The treasury of mercy is not exhausted, and there is a part for us to take.
Are we under the burden of sin? There is hope for us, for God has promised to heal our backslidings (Hos. 14:4). He will not only show us mercy, but grace. He has also promised to send His Spirit (Isaiah 44:3) to cleanse and consecrate our souls, making us partakers of His divine nature. This Spirit is compared in Scripture to water, which cleanses a vessel; to a fan, which winnows corn and purifies the air; and to fire, which refines metals. Thus the Spirit of God will cleanse and consecrate the soul, making it a partaker of the divine nature.
Are we in a difficult situation? There is a promise that works for our benefit, "I will be with him in trouble" (Psalm 91.15). God does not put His people in trouble and then abandon them. He will be there to support them; He will hold their heads and hearts when they are feeling overwhelmed. There is another promise, "He is their strength in the time of trouble" (Psalm 37:39). The soul may think, "I will be too weak to handle the trials." But God will be the strength of our hearts; He will join His forces with us. Either He will make His hand lighter—or our faith stronger!
Do we fear not having our needs met? We can take comfort in the promise that "those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing" (Psalm 34:10). If something is good for us, we will have it; if it is not good for us, then not having it is for our own good. God promises to "bless our bread and our water" (Exod. 33:25), sweetening whatever little we possess. Even if we lack the finer things in life, we can still have the blessing. But what if we fear not having a livelihood? We can look to Psalm 37:25, which says, "I have been young, and now am old—yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread." David speaks from his own experience, never having seen a godly person so destitute that they had nothing to eat. He never saw the righteous and their children lacking. Though the Lord may test godly parents with need, their children will be provided for. David never saw the righteous begging bread and forsaken. Though they may be in difficult circumstances, they are still heirs of heaven and God loves them.
Question: How do the promises work for good?
Answer: Promises are essential for strengthening faith and ultimately leading to good outcomes. They are like nourishment for faith, just like a child draws sustenance from its mother's breast. Jacob was filled with fear (Gen 32:7), but he was able to draw strength from the promise that the Lord would do him good (Gen. 32:12). This promise was his sustenance and it gave him the strength he needed. He vowed that he would stay in prayer all night, refusing to leave until he had received a blessing from the Lord.
The promises bring us joy. They provide us with comfort in times of difficulty; the promises are like a refreshing drink when we are feeling overwhelmed. Without them, we would be lost in our affliction, as Psalm 119:92 reminds us. The promises act as a buoy, keeping our hearts afloat in the depths of distress.
3. The mercies of God work for good to the godly
The mercies of God humble us. Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and prayed, "Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?" (2 Sam. 7:18). Lord, why have you bestowed such honor upon me, that I should be king? That I, who once tended sheep, should be king over Your people? A humble heart asks, "Lord, who am I, that it should be better with me than others? That I should drink of the fruit of the vine, when others drink, not only a cup of wormwood—but a cup of blood (or suffering to death)? Who am I, that I should have those mercies which others lack, who are better than I? Lord, why is it, that with all my unworthiness, a fresh tide of mercy comes in every day?" The mercies of God make a sinner proud—but a saint humble. The mercies of God have a powerful effect on the soul; they fill it with love for God. God's judgments make us fear Him—but His mercies make us love Him. How Saul was moved by kindness! David had him at a disadvantage, and could have taken not only the hem of his robe—but his life; yet he spared him. This kindness melted Saul's heart. "Is this your voice, my son David?" and Saul lifted up his voice and wept (1 Sam. 24:16). Such is the power of God's mercy; it brings tears of love.
God's kindness makes the heart productive. When you invest more in a field, it yields a greater harvest. A generous soul honors the Lord with their resources. They don't use God's kindness as Israel did with their jewels and earrings, to make a golden calf; but, as Solomon did with the money thrown into the treasury, to build a temple for the Lord. The generous outpouring of God's mercy brings abundance.
The mercies of God fill our hearts with thankfulness. What can I give back to the Lord for all the blessings He has bestowed upon me? I will take up the cup of salvation (Psalm 116:12, 13). David was referring to the people of Israel, who used to take a cup in their hands during peace offerings and give thanks to God for their deliverance. Every mercy is a gift of grace, and this should inspire us to be grateful. A godly Christian should not be like a grave, burying God's mercies, but rather like a temple, singing His praises. As Ambrose said, "If every bird in its kind chirps forth thankfulness to its Maker, how much more should a sincere Christian, whose life is enriched and perfumed with mercy."
The mercies of God bring life and love. They sharpen our obedience, inspiring us to walk before the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 116.9). When we take stock of our blessings, we feel a sense of duty to God. We are eager to serve Him, dedicating ourselves to Him as if we had redeemed ourselves. Christians are temporal saviors, providing for the needy, clothing the naked, and visiting the widow and orphan in their distress. We sow the seeds of charity, showing favor and lending generously, just as myrrh flows from a tree. The mercies of God are a blessing to the godly, giving them wings to soar to heaven.
Spiritual mercies also work for good.
The word preached works for good. It can transform a person's soul and bring them closer to Christ. It can give them assurance and confidence. As the Bible says, "Our gospel came to you not just with words, but with power, with the Holy Spirit, and with deep conviction" (1 Thessalonians 1:5). It is the vehicle of salvation.
Prayer is a powerful tool for good. It is like a bellows that fans the flames of our devotion and passion. Prayer has the power to move God. As Isaiah 14:11 says, "Command me." Prayer opens the door to God's mercy and keeps us from sin. Luther advised a friend to pray when temptation arose. Prayer is like a gun for the Christian, to be used against our enemies. It is the best medicine for the soul. Prayer makes God's blessings even more special (1 Tim. 4:5). It can also help us to cope with sorrow by allowing us to express our grief and lightening our hearts. Hannah prayed and was no longer sad (1 Sam. 1:18). Clearly, prayer works for good.
The Lord's Supper works for good. It is a symbol of the wedding feast of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9) and a reminder of the communion we will have with Christ in heaven. It is a feast of abundance, providing us with spiritual nourishment that preserves life and prevents death. It has a powerful effect on the hearts of the faithful. It stirs their emotions, strengthens their faith, subdues their sinful desires, revives their hope, and brings them joy. Luther said, "It is as great a work to comfort a dejected soul, as to raise the dead to life"; and this is often the result of the blessed supper for the godly.
4. The blessings of the Spirit work for good
Grace is essential to the soul, just as light is to the eye and health is to the body. Grace does for the soul what a virtuous wife does for her husband - it brings good all the days of her life (Proverbs 31:12). The graces are incredibly useful! Faith and fear go hand in hand - faith keeps the heart cheerful, while fear keeps it serious. Faith prevents the heart from sinking into despair, while fear keeps it from becoming too presumptuous. All the graces are displayed in their beauty: hope is the helmet (1 Thess.5:8), meekness is the ornament (1 Pet. 3:4), and love is the bond of perfectness (Col. 3:14). The graces of the saints are like weapons to protect them, wings to elevate them, jewels to enrich them, spices to perfume them, stars to adorn them, and cordials to refresh them. And all of this works for good! The graces are our evidence for heaven. Isn't it comforting to have our evidence at the hour of death?
5. The angels work for the good of the Saints
The good angels are ready to do all acts of kindness for the people of God. Doesn't the Bible say, "Are not all angels ministering spirits, sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" (Heb. 1:14). Some of the early church fathers believed that each believer had their own guardian angel. We don't need to get into a heated debate about this. It's enough to know that the entire angelic hierarchy is working for the benefit of the saints.
Good angels serve the saints in life. They comforted the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:28) and prevented the lions from harming Daniel (Dan. 6:22). As a Christian, you have an invisible guard of angels watching over you. Psalm 91:11 says, "He shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways." Angels are like the lifeguards of the saints, and the highest angels take care of the lowest saints.
At the time of death, the holy angels provide service. They are present at the bedsides of the saints to offer comfort. Just as God comforts us through His Spirit, He also sends His angels to comfort us. When Christ was in agony, an angel came to refresh Him (Luke 22:43). Similarly, believers in the throes of death are comforted by angels. When the saints take their last breath, their souls are taken to heaven by a group of angels (Luke 16:22).
At the day of judgment, the holy angels will provide service to the saints. They will open the graves of the righteous and lead them into the presence of Christ, so they can be transformed into His glorious body. As it is written in Matthew 26:31, "He will send his angels and they will gather his elect from the four corners of the earth, from one end of heaven to the other." On that day, the angels will rid the godly of all their enemies. As Psalm 38:20 says, "They are my adversaries because I follow what is good." The angels will soon grant God's people a reprieve and free them from all their enemies. Jesus said in Matthew 13:38-42, "The weeds are the offspring of the evil one, the harvest is the end of the world, and the reapers are the angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire." At the day of judgment, the angels of God will take the wicked, who are the weeds, bundle them up, and throw them into the fiery furnace of hell. Then the godly will no longer be troubled by enemies. This is how the good angels work for the good.
Behold the honor and respect due to a believer. They have God's name inscribed upon them (Rev. 3:12), the Holy Spirit living within them (2 Tim. 1:14), and a host of angels watching over them!
6. The Communion of Saints works for good
We can be a source of joy for each other (2 Cor. 1:24). When Christians talk to each other, it can help to strengthen their faith. Just like stones in an arch support each other, one Christian can encourage another by sharing their experiences. Let's motivate each other to love and do good works (Heb. 10:24). Conversation is a great way to spread grace and help each other's faith to grow brighter.
7. Christ's intercession works for good
Christ is in heaven, just like Aaron with his golden plate on his forehead and his precious incense. He continues to pray for all believers, just as He did for the apostles. Jesus said, "My prayer is not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me" (John 17:20). When a Christian is feeling weak and can hardly pray for themselves, Jesus is still praying for them. He prays for three things.
I pray that you will protect my followers from the wickedness that exists in this world. We are surrounded by sin and temptation, and I ask that you keep my followers safe from the corruption that is so pervasive.
Second, for His people's progress in holiness. Jesus prayed, "Set them apart for Yourself and make them holy" (John 17:17). Let them be continually filled with the Spirit and anointed with fresh oil.
Third, for their glorification, Christ prayed, "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am" (John 17:24). He is not satisfied until the saints are in His embrace. This prayer, which He made on earth, is the model for His prayer in heaven. What a comfort this is - when Satan is tempting, Christ is praying! This works for good.
It's like a child presenting their father with a bouquet of flowers. They go into the garden and pick out some flowers and some weeds. But when they present it to their mother, she takes out the weeds and binds the flowers together. Similarly, when we offer our prayers to God, Christ takes away the sin and presents only the flowers to His Father, which are a sweet-smelling savor.
8. The prayers of Saints work for good to the godly
The saints pray for all the members of the mystical body, and their prayers are powerful. They pray for healing from sickness, citing James 5:15: "Your prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up." They pray for victory over enemies, as Isaiah 37:4 says, "Lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left." That night, an angel of the Lord went to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian troops (Isaiah 37:36). They pray for deliverance from prison, as Acts 12:5-7 tells us: "While Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him. The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, chained between two soldiers, with others standing guard at the prison gate. Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel tapped him on the side to awaken him and said, 'Quick! Get up!' And the chains fell off his wrists." The angel freed Peter from prison, but it was prayer that brought the angel. They pray for forgiveness of sin, as Job 13:8 says, "My servant Job shall pray for you, and for him I will accept."
It is a great blessing for a child of God to know that their prayers are constantly being answered. Whenever they enter a new place, they can be sure that prayers are being said on their behalf, even if they are feeling down or out of sorts. This is a great comfort, knowing that others are praying for them and that the best things are working for good.
Chapter 3: The Worst Things Work for Good
Do not misunderstand me, I am not saying that the worst things are good in and of themselves; they are a result of the curse. But although they are naturally evil, God's wise and powerful hand can use them for good. It is like the elements, which have opposing qualities, but God has balanced them so that they work together for the good of the universe. Or, like the wheels of a watch, which seem to move in opposite directions, but all contribute to the watch's movement. In the same way, things that appear to be going against the godly can, through God's amazing providence, work for their good. Among these worst things, there are four sad evils which can be used for good by those who love God.
1. The evil of affliction works for good, to the godly.
It is a comforting thought that He has a special purpose for the afflictions we face. As Ruth 1:21 says, "The Almighty has afflicted me." No one can act without God's permission, just as an axe cannot cut without a hand. Job understood this, and so he did not say, "The Lord gave and the devil took away," but rather, "The Lord has taken away." Whoever brings an affliction to us, it is God who sends it.
Another comforting thought is that afflictions can work for good. As the Bible says, "I have sent them into captivity for their own good" (Jeremiah 24:6). Judah's captivity in Babylon was for their own benefit. As Psalm 119:71 says, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted." Just like Moses' tree cast into the bitter waters of affliction, it can make them sweet and wholesome. Afflictions for the godly are like medicine. Out of the most poisonous drugs, God extracts our salvation. Afflictions are just as necessary as ordinances (1 Peter 1:6). Just like gold can't be made without fire, we can't be made into vessels of honor unless we are melted and refined in the furnace of affliction. As Psalm 35:10 says, "All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth." Just like a painter mixes bright colors with dark shadows, God mixes mercy with judgment. Even those afflictive providences that seem harmful can be beneficial. We can look to Scripture for examples.
Joseph's brothers threw him into a pit and then sold him, eventually leading to his imprisonment. But it all worked out for the best in the end. His suffering paved the way for his success, and he eventually became the second most powerful person in the kingdom. As Joseph himself said, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good" (Gen. 50:20).
Jacob struggled with the angel, and his hip was dislocated. This was unfortunate, but God used it for good, for it was there that Jacob saw God's face and was blessed by the Lord. Jacob named the place Peniel, saying, "I have seen God face to face" (Gen. 32:30). Who wouldn't be willing to have a bone out of joint if it meant they could have a glimpse of God?
King Manasseh was bound in chains, a heartbreaking sight to see a crown of gold replaced with fetters. But it was for his own good, for "the Lord sent the Assyrian armies and they took Manasseh prisoner. They put a ring through his nose, bound him in bronze chains, and led him away to Babylon. But while in deep distress, Manasseh sought the Lord his God and humbly cried out to the God of his ancestors. And when he prayed, the Lord listened to him and was moved by his request for help" (2 Chron. 33:11-13). He was more indebted to his iron chain than to his golden crown; the one made him proud, the other made him humble.
Job was a pitiful sight; he had lost everything he owned. He was covered in boils and ulcers. It was heartbreaking, but it ended up being a blessing in disguise. God gave Job a sign of his faithfulness from Heaven and rewarded him with twice as much as he had before. (Job 13:10).
Paul was struck with blindness, which was certainly uncomfortable. However, it ended up being a blessing in disguise, as it allowed the light of grace to enter his soul and marked the start of his conversion (Acts 9:6). Just like the cold winter brings forth the flowers in the spring, and the night brings in the morning star, affliction can bring about good for those who love God. We may be tempted to ask, just like Mary did to the angel, "How can this be?"
Therefore, I will demonstrate to you how affliction works for Good.
1. Affliction works for good, as it can be a source of guidance and instruction - "Listen to the discipline of the Lord" (Micah 6:9). Luther once said that he could not fully comprehend some of the Psalms until he experienced affliction himself.
Affliction helps us understand the true nature of sin. The sermons we hear tell us how terrible sin is, that it is both corrupting and damning, but we don't take it seriously. So God sends affliction our way and then we experience the bitter consequences of sin. A sick bed can teach us more than a sermon ever could. Affliction is like a mirror that reflects the ugly face of sin.
Affliction helps us to understand ourselves better. In times of prosperity, we often don't know ourselves. God allows us to experience affliction so that we can gain a better understanding of ourselves. When we are in distress, we can see the corruption in our hearts that we would not have noticed before. It's like a glass of water that looks clear, but when heated, the scum rises to the surface. When we are prosperous, we may appear humble and grateful, but when we are put through the fire of affliction, our impatience and lack of faith become evident. A Christian may say, "I had no idea my heart was so bad, or that my corruptions were so strong and my virtues so weak."
2. Afflictions work for good, as they can help make the heart more devoted. In times of prosperity, the heart can become divided (Hos. 10:2). It can be pulled in two directions - towards God and towards the world. When God takes away the world, it can help the heart to be more devoted to Him. Correction can help set the heart back on the right path. It's like when we hold a crooked rod over the fire to straighten it; God holds us over the fire of affliction to make us more devoted to Him. It's a blessing when sin has caused the soul to drift away from God, and affliction can help bring it back.
3. Afflictions work for good, as they help us to become more like Christ. God's discipline is like a pencil, drawing a clearer image of Christ onto us. It is important that the Head and the members of the body of Christ are in harmony. We should strive to be like Christ, even if it means going through suffering. Jesus Christ experienced a great deal of suffering, as He was a "man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3). He wept and bled. He was crowned with thorns, and we should not expect to be crowned with roses. It is beneficial to be like Christ, even if it means enduring suffering. Jesus Christ drank a cup of bitterness, and although He drank the poison of God's wrath, there is still some bitterness left in the cup for us to drink. The difference between Christ's suffering and ours is that His was atoning, while ours is only corrective.
4. Afflictions work for good to the godly, as they are destructive to sin. Sin is the source, and affliction is the consequence; the consequence helps to eradicate the source. Sin is like a tree that breeds a worm, and affliction is like the worm that eats the tree. Even the best heart has much corruption; affliction gradually works it out, like fire purifies gold, "The Lord did this to purge away his sin" (Isaiah 37:9). We may have more of the rough file, but we have less rust! Afflictions take away nothing but the impurities of sin. If a doctor said to a patient, "Your body is unwell and full of bad humours, which must be cleared out, or you will die. But I will prescribe medicine which, though it may make you feel ill, will carry away the remnants of your illness and save your life." Wouldn't this be for the patient's benefit? Afflictions are the medicine God uses to rid us of our spiritual diseases; they cure the swelling of pride, the fever of lust, the cancer of covetousness. Don't they then work for good?
5. Afflictions work for good, as they help us to detach from worldly attachments. Just like when you dig away the earth from the root of a tree, it helps the tree to become free from the ground. Similarly, God takes away our earthly comforts to help us to detach from the world. Every flower has a thorn, and God wants us to be like a loose tooth that can be easily removed without causing us too much pain. Weaning is a natural process and even the most experienced saints need it. The Lord breaks the conduit pipe so that we can turn to Him, who is the source of all our joy.
6. Afflictions work for good, as they open the door to comfort. In the valley of Achor, which signifies trouble, there is a door of hope (Hos 2:15). God sweetens our external pain with internal peace. He can turn our sorrow into joy (John 16:20), just like He turned water into wine. After a bitter pill, God gives us something sweet. Paul had his prison songs, and God's rod has honey at the end of it. The saints in affliction have experienced such joy that they felt like they were in the borders of the heavenly Canaan.
7. Afflictions work for good, as they can help us to grow. "What are we, that you should pay attention to us, and that you should check in on us every morning?" (Job 7:17). God uses difficult times to help us grow in three ways.
First, It is an incredible honor that God would pay attention to us, mere dust and ashes. It is a great honor that God considers us worthy of being punished. If we continue to sin, we will be heading down a path that leads to hell.
Secondly, afflictions can also make us stronger, as they are symbols of glory and signs of being a child of God. As Hebrews 12:7 says, "If you endure discipline, God is treating you as his children." Every mark of the rod is a sign of honor.
Thirdly, hardships often make saints more well-known, as they bring them recognition in the world. Soldiers have never been so highly praised for their successes, as saints have been celebrated for their hardships. The fervor and steadfastness of the martyrs in their ordeals have made them renowned to future generations. How remarkable was Job for his endurance! God immortalizes his name: "You have heard of Job's perseverance" (James 5:11). Job the sufferer was more renowned than Alexander the conqueror.
8. Afflictions work for our good, as they are the means of making us happy. "Happy is the man whom God corrects" (Job 5:17). What politician or moralist has ever said that happiness can be found in afflictions? Job does. He says, "Happy is the man whom God corrects." You may ask, how can afflictions make us happy? We answer that, when they are sanctified, they bring us closer to God. When the moon is full, it is furthest away from the sun; similarly, many are further away from God in the full moon of prosperity; afflictions bring them nearer to God. The magnet of mercy does not draw us as close to God as the cords of affliction. When Absalom set Joab's corn on fire, Joab ran to Absalom (2 Sam. 16:30). When God sets our worldly comforts on fire, we run to Him and make peace with Him. When the prodigal was in need, he returned home to his father (Luke 15:13). When the dove could not find any rest for the sole of her foot, she flew to the ark. When God brings a deluge of affliction upon us, we fly to the ark, Christ. Thus, affliction makes us happy by bringing us closer to God. Faith can use the waters of affliction to swim faster to Christ.
9. Afflictions work for good, as they can silence the wicked. It's easy for them to slander and defame those who serve God out of love, not for personal gain. So God allows His people to suffer for their faith, in order to shut the lying mouths of the wicked. When the atheists of the world see that God's people serve Him out of love, not for any material reward, it silences them. The devil accused Job of being a hypocrite, claiming that his religion was only motivated by money. God challenged the devil to put Job to the test, and the devil immediately set about destroying Job's wealth. "Does Job serve God for naught? Have not you made a hedge about him?" Etc. "Well," says God, "put forth your hand, touch his estate" (Job 1:9). But Job still worshipped God (Job 1:20) and professed his faith in Him, even when faced with the prospect of death (Job 13:15). This silenced the devil himself. It's a powerful message to wicked people when they see that the godly will remain faithful to God even in the face of suffering, and that they will hold on to their integrity even when they have lost everything.
10. Afflictions work for good, as they make way for glory (2 Cor. 4:17). They don't earn us glory, but they help us prepare for it. It's like ploughing the earth to get ready for a crop - afflictions prepare us and make us ready for glory. The painter puts gold on dark colors - in the same way, God first puts the dark colors of affliction, and then He adds the golden color of glory. The vessel needs to be seasoned before wine is poured into it - the vessels of mercy are first seasoned with affliction, and then the wine of glory is poured in. So we can see that afflictions aren't always bad - they can be beneficial to the saints. We should focus on the good that comes from afflictions, not just the bad. The worst thing God does to His children is to use afflictions to help them get to heaven!
2. The temptations of evil can be used for good if one is devoted to God.
Satan's temptations are a great source of distress for believers. Mark 4:15 calls him the tempter, and he is always lurking, trying to lead people astray. He is like a prisoner on bail, allowed to roam around and tempt the faithful. When it comes to Satan's temptations, there are three things to consider:
1. His approach to tempting.
2. The extent of his influence.
3. These temptations are ultimately for the best.
1. Satan's method to temptation is twofold. He is both violent and subtle. He will try to overwhelm the heart with blasphemous thoughts and tempt one to deny God. These are the fiery darts he throws to stir up the passions. He is also very cunning, like the old serpent. There are five main tactics he uses to deceive.
1. He takes note of people's personalities and temperaments - he sets out attractive temptations that are tailored to them. It's like a farmer who knows which grain is best for the soil. Satan won't tempt someone in a way that goes against their natural disposition. That's his strategy - he makes sure the wind of temptation blows in the same direction as the natural tide of the heart. Even though the devil can't read people's minds, he can still tell what kind of person they are, and he uses that knowledge to set out his temptations. He tempts the ambitious person with a crown, and the lustful person with beauty.
2. Satan knows exactly when to tempt us - like a skilled fisherman casting his line when the fish are most likely to bite. He usually tempts us after we've been engaging in religious activities, because he believes we'll be most vulnerable then. We often become complacent after we've done something spiritual, like a soldier who takes off his armor after a battle, not expecting any more danger. Satan is always watching for his opportunity, and when we least expect it, he throws a temptation our way.
3. The devil often uses those closest to us to tempt us to sin. In Job's case, his wife was used as a proxy to tempt him to abandon his integrity. She said to him, "Curse God and die!" (Job 2:9). It's clear that she was being used as a tool of the devil to try and lead Job astray.
4. Satan tempts to evil by those who are good; then he gives poison in a golden cup. He tempted Christ through Peter, who tried to persuade Him to avoid suffering. "Lord, have mercy on Yourself!" It was unexpected to find the tempter speaking through an apostle.
5. Satan tempts us to sin under the guise of religion. He is most dangerous when he disguises himself as an angel of light. He tried to tempt Christ with Scripture, saying "It is written." The devil often uses religion to lure people into sin, such as encouraging them to be greedy or extort others in the name of providing for their family. He also tempts some to take their own lives, claiming that it will prevent them from sinning against God. These are his devious tactics in tempting us.
2. The scope of his influence; how far Satan's ability to tempt extends.
1. He can suggest the idea; as he presented a wedge of gold to Achan.
2. He can corrupt the imagination, and plant wicked ideas in the mind. Just as the Holy Spirit offers positive advice, the devil offers negative advice. He put it into Judas' mind to betray Christ (John 13:2).
3. Satan can stir up and aggravate the wickedness within us, and create a tendency in our hearts to accept temptation. It is true that he cannot force us to give our consent, but being a crafty pursuer, his persistent entreaties can lead us to do wrong. For example, he provoked David to take a census of the people (1 Chron. 21:1). The devil can use his clever arguments to try to convince us to sin.
3. These temptations are overruled for good to the children of God. A tree that is shaken by the wind is more firmly rooted. Similarly, when a temptation blows, it only serves to strengthen a Christian's faith. Temptations can be beneficial in eight ways:
1. Temptation drives the soul to prayer. The harder Satan tempts, the more fervently the saint prays. It's like a deer being shot with an arrow - it runs faster to the water. When Satan launches his fiery darts at the soul, it runs even faster to the throne of grace. Paul had a messenger of Satan to buffet him, and he said, "I asked the Lord three times for it to leave me alone" (2 Cor. 12:8). Temptation is a remedy for spiritual complacency. What makes us pray more is ultimately for our own good.
2. Temptation to sin can be a way to prevent sinning. The more a child of God is tempted, the more they resist it. When Satan tempts someone to blaspheme, a saint will be horrified and tell them to leave. Joseph's mistress tempted him, but the stronger her temptation was, the stronger his resistance was. The devil uses temptation as an incentive to sin, but God uses it as a restraint to keep a Christian from it.
3. Temptation works for good, as it helps to keep our pride in check. As the Bible says, "Lest I should be exalted above measure, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me" (2 Cor. 12:7). This thorn in the flesh was meant to keep us humble. It's better to be humbled by temptation than to be made proud by our own actions. Rather than letting us become too proud, God will sometimes allow us to fall into the devil's hands for a while, so that we can be cured of our pride.
4. Temptation works for good, as it can be a way to test what is in our hearts. The devil tempts us to deceive us, but God allows us to be tempted to test us. Temptation is a trial of our faithfulness. It shows that our hearts are devoted to Christ when we can face temptation and turn away from it. It is also a test of our courage. "Ephraim is a silly dove, without heart" (Hosea 8:11). Many people lack the heart to resist temptation, and as soon as Satan presents his bait, they give in. But the brave Christian will use the power of the Spirit to fight Satan and would rather die than give in. The courage of a saint is seen when they are fighting the devil and using faith to make him flee. The grace that can withstand the fiery trial and Satan's fiery darts is true gold.
5. Temptations work for good, as God makes those who experience them better equipped to help others who are going through the same struggles. A Christian must go through the trials of Satan before they can offer words of comfort to those who are weary. Paul was familiar with Satan's tactics, as he said, "We are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Cor. 2:11). He was able to warn others of Satan's wicked schemes (1 Cor. 10:13). Someone who has gone through a treacherous journey is the best person to guide others through it. Those who have been wounded by the roaring lion are the best to help those who are tempted. No one can better recognize Satan's tricks than those who have been through the testing ground of temptation.
6. Temptations work for good, as they evoke God's loving compassion for those who are being tested. Just like a parent would take extra care of a sick and injured child, Christ prays for those who are struggling with temptations and God the Father shows them mercy. When Satan puts a soul in a difficult situation, God comes to the rescue with a comforting remedy. This is why Luther said that temptations are Christ's embraces, because it is in these moments that He most tenderly reveals Himself to the soul.
7. Temptations work for good, as they make believers yearn for heaven. There, they will be safe from any harm; heaven is a place of peace, and no temptations can reach them. Just like an eagle that soars high in the sky and perches atop tall trees, it is not troubled by the sting of a snake. Similarly, when believers ascend to heaven, they will not be disturbed by the devil. In this life, when one temptation is gone, another appears. This makes God's people long for death, to be taken away from the battlefield where temptations come so quickly, and to receive a triumphant crown where the only sound will be the harp and violin playing forever.
8. Temptations work for good, as they allow us to rely on the strength of Christ. He is our ally, and when we are tested, He uses all of His power to help us. Hebrews 2:18 tells us that since Jesus has gone through suffering and temptation, He can assist us when we are being tempted. If we were to fight the forces of evil on our own, we would be sure to fail, but Jesus brings His own strength to the battle. Romans 8:37 reminds us that we are victorious through Him who loves us. So, even though temptation can be difficult, it can be used for good.
Question: But sometimes Satan still manages to defeat a child of God. How does this work for good?
Answer: I acknowledge that, due to the withholding of divine grace and the intensity of a temptation, even a saint can be overcome. However, this failure in the face of temptation will be used for good. Through this setback, God opens the door for an increase in grace. Peter was tempted to rely on himself, and Christ allowed him to fall. This ultimately worked out for the best, as it caused him to shed many tears. "He went out and wept bitterly" (Matt. 26:75). Now, he is less likely to trust in himself. He was not brave enough to say he loved Christ more than the other apostles. "Do you love me more than these?" (John 21:15). He was not able to say it—his sin had crushed his pride!
Being tempted can be a wake-up call for a child of God. Even if Satan has tricked them into sinning before, they will be more careful in the future. They will be extra cautious to avoid any situation that could lead to sin. They will never go anywhere without their spiritual armor, which they put on through prayer. They know they are walking on thin ice, so they watch their steps closely. They keep a close eye on their soul and when they see the devil coming, they grab their spiritual weapons and raise the shield of faith (Eph. 6:16). The only good thing that comes out of being tempted is that it makes the saint more aware of their neglect, and encourages them to watch and pray more. It's like when wild animals get over the fence and damage the grain, the farmer will make the fence stronger. Similarly, when the devil gets over the fence through temptation, a Christian will be sure to strengthen their defenses; they will be more fearful of sin and more careful in their duties. So, even though being tempted can be difficult, it can ultimately work for good.
Objection: But if having difficulties can lead to good outcomes, this may make Christians complacent about whether they are overcome by temptations or not.
Answer: There is a huge distinction between succumbing to a temptation and actively seeking it out. Giving in to temptation can work for good, but not running into it. It's like jumping into a river - you can be rescued if you fall in, but if you jump in, you're responsible for your own demise. It's foolish to run into a lion's den. Seeking out temptation is akin to King Saul, who took his own life.
From all that has been said, it's clear to see how God uses the devil's temptations to benefit His people. If the devil knew how much good comes from temptation, he would likely stop tempting us. Luther once said, "Three things make a godly man—prayer, meditation, and temptation." Paul experienced a contrary wind on his voyage to Rome (Acts 27:4). So, temptation is like a cross wind to the Spirit, but God uses it to help us reach heaven!
3. The evil of desertion works for good to the godly.
The evil of desertion works for good. The spouse laments their desertion, saying, "My beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone!" (Cant. 5:6). There are two types of withdrawing: one in terms of grace, when God stops the flow of His Spirit and halts the active presence of grace. If the Spirit is gone, grace becomes cold and inactive. The other type of withdrawing is in terms of comfort. When God withholds His favor, He no longer looks upon us with a pleasant expression, but instead veils His face and appears to be gone from the soul.
God is always fair in His decisions. We abandon Him before He abandons us. We abandon God when we stop having a close relationship with Him; when we ignore His truths and don't stand up for Him; when we don't follow the guidance of His word and instead follow our own selfish desires and emotions. We abandon God first, so we have no one to blame but ourselves.
Desertion is heartbreaking, for when God withdraws, there is darkness and sorrow in the soul. It is a deep anguish of conscience. Job 6:4 says, "The arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinks up my spirits". The Persians used to dip their arrows in the venom of snakes to make them more lethal, and this is what God did to Job with the poisoned arrow of desertion. When God's people are deserted, they often become despondent and think that God has abandoned them. So I will offer some comfort to the deserted soul.
When the mariner has no star to guide him, he still has the light of his lantern to help him see his compass. I will provide four consolations that can act like a lantern, giving some light to the soul when it is sailing in the darkness of abandonment and needs the morning star to guide it.
1. No one but the godly can experience abandonment. Wicked people don't understand what it means to be loved by God, or what it's like to be without it. They know what it's like to be without health, friends, or a job, but not what it's like to be without God's favor. If you're feeling abandoned, it's a sign that you are a child of God. How can you complain that God has turned away from you if you have experienced His love and kindness before?
2. There may be the potential for grace, even when joy is absent. The earth may lack a harvest of grain, yet still contain a wealth of gold. A Christian may have grace within, even if the sweet fruit of joy is not present. Just like a ship at sea, which is filled with jewels and spices, may be in the dark and tossed in a storm, a soul enriched with the treasures of grace may be in the dark of desertion and feel like it will be cast away in the storm. David, in a state of dejection, prayed, "Take not your Holy Spirit from me" (Psalm 51:11). Augustine commented that David did not pray, "Lord, give me your Spirit", but rather "Take not away your Spirit", indicating that he still had the Spirit of God within him.
3. Christ may temporarily leave us, but He will come back. As Isaiah 64:8 says, "In a moment of anger I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have mercy on you." When the tide is low, it will come in again. Isaiah 57:16 reminds us, "I will not always be angry." Just like a mother who sets down her child in anger, but will take them back into her arms and kiss them, God may put us away in anger, but He will take us back into His loving embrace and show us His love.
4. Desertion works for good to the godly. It can help to cure them of laziness. We can see this in the Song of Solomon, where the beloved has fallen asleep and Christ has gone away. Who can speak to someone who is drowsy? Desertion can also help to cure an excessive attachment to the world. "Love not the world" (1 John 2:15). We should not love the world too much, but rather view it as a posy in our hand, something to use but not to make our home. Sometimes, worldly things can take away the heart too much. Godly people can become weighed down by too many temporal things and become intoxicated by the pleasures of prosperity. To help them recover, God hides His face in a cloud, which darkens the glory of the world and makes it disappear.
Desertion works for good, as it helps us to appreciate God's presence even more. As the Psalmist said, "Your loving-kindness is better than life" (Psalm 63:3). However, when something is so common, we tend to take it for granted. It's like when pearls became common in Rome, they were no longer valued. God knows the best way to make us appreciate His love is to take it away for a while. If the sun only shone once a year, how much would we treasure it! When the soul has been in darkness for so long due to desertion, the return of the Sun of righteousness is so welcome.
Desertion works for good, as it can make us realize the severity of our sins. What could be worse than having God's displeasure? It's our sins that make God hide His face, and make us feel like He's gone. As John 20:13 says, "They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him". Our sins have taken away the Lord, and we don't know where He is. Having God's favor is the best thing we can have; it can make even a prison bearable and death less painful. So, it's clear how terrible sin is, as it takes away our best jewel. Sin made God leave His temple (Ezek. 8:6), and it makes Him appear as an enemy, dressed in armor. This should make us hate sin and seek to be avenged on it!
The desolate spirit gives sin a bitter and sour taste, and, with the lance of self-discipline, drains the lifeblood of it!
Desertion can be beneficial, as it encourages us to grieve for the absence of God. When the sun sets, the dew falls; and when God is gone, tears fall from our eyes. Micah was greatly distressed when he had lost his gods, crying out, "You have taken away all my gods—and I have nothing left!" (Judges 18:24). So when God is gone, what else do we have? Music cannot bring comfort when God is absent. It is sorrowful to be without God, but it is beneficial to mourn His absence.
Desertion leads the soul to seek out God. When Christ was gone, the beloved searched for Him in every corner, asking "Have you seen the one I love?" (Cant. 3:3). The deserted soul cries out in anguish, sending up a flurry of sighs and groans. It knocks on heaven's door through prayer, unable to find peace until the light of God's face shines upon them.
Desertion from God prompts us to ask why. What have we done to make God so angry? Could it be pride, laziness, or being too focused on worldly things? Isaiah 57:17 says, "I was angry and punished them for their greed. I withdrew myself from them."Maybe there is some hidden sin that we have allowed to stay. It's like a stone in a pipe, blocking the flow of water; sin in our lives blocks the flow of God's love. Our conscience, like a bloodhound, finds the sin and holds us accountable. This is why Achan was stoned to death!
Desertion works for good, as it gives us a glimpse of what Jesus Christ endured for us. If the taste of the cup is so bitter, how much more bitter was the full cup that Christ drank to the very last drop on the cross? He drank a cup of deadly poison, causing Him to cry out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matt. 22:46). Those who have been humbled by desertion and have felt the flames of hell for a time can truly appreciate Christ's sufferings and be filled with love for Him.
Desertion works for good, as it can help the faithful prepare for future joy. The cold winter months are necessary for the blooming of spring flowers. This is how God works - He brings us down before He lifts us up (2 Cor. 7:6). After Jesus had gone without food for a while, angels came to minister to Him. When the Lord has kept His people fasting for a long time, He sends the Comforter and nourishes them with hidden manna. "Light is sown for the righteous" (Psalm 97:11). The comfort of the faithful may be hidden away like a seed in the ground - but it is growing and will eventually increase and flourish into a bountiful harvest!
These desertions can be beneficial, as they will make heaven even more enjoyable for us. Here on earth, our comforts are like the moon, waxing and waning. God reveals Himself to us for a time, and then withdraws. This will make heaven even more delightful and captivating when we can experience a constant outpouring of love from God! (1 Thess. 4:17). So we can see how desertions can be beneficial. The Lord brings us into the depths of desertion so that He can keep us from the depths of damnation. He puts us in a seemingly hellish situation so that He can keep us from a real hell. God is preparing us for the time when we will be able to bask in His smiles forever, when there will be no clouds in His face or sun setting, when Christ will come and stay with His spouse, and the spouse will never again say, "My beloved has withdrawn Himself!"
4. The evil of sin works for good to the godly.
Sin is inherently condemnable, but God's infinite wisdom allows Him to use it for good. It's truly remarkable that something so destructive can be used to create something positive. We can interpret this in two ways.
1. It can be difficult for those with a kind heart to live among the wicked. As Psalm 120:5 says, "Woe is me—that I dwell in Mesech". However, even this can be turned to good by the Lord, as He overrules the sins of others for the benefit of the godly.
1. The sins of others can be a blessing in disguise for the godly, as it brings about a holy sorrow. As the Psalmist said, "Rivers of tears run down my eyes, because they keep not your law" (Psalm 119:136). David was a mourner for the sins of his time, and his sorrow was so deep that it seemed like his heart was turned into a spring and his eyes into rivers! On the other hand, wicked people take pleasure in sinning. As Jeremiah 11:15 says, "When you do evil, then you rejoice". But the godly are like mourning doves, grieving over the oaths and blasphemies of the age. The sins of others pierce their souls like spears.
It is a sign of a childlike heart to feel sorrow for the wrongs done to our heavenly Father. It is even more Christ-like, as Jesus was grieved for the hardness of people's hearts (Mark 3:5). The Lord takes special notice of these tears and is pleased when we grieve for the sins of others out of love for Him. These tears are like water from roses, sweet and fragrant, and God stores them in His bottle (Psalm 56:8).
The sins of others work for good to the godly, as they motivate them to pray against sin even more. If there wasn't so much wickedness in the world, there wouldn't be as much prayer. The more sin there is, the more people of God will pray against it, asking God to put a stop to it and make it shameful. Even if their prayers don't have the desired effect, God still takes them kindly and will reward them for it. Even if our prayers don't get answered, we won't lose them - as the Bible says, "My prayer returned into my own bosom" (Psalm 35:13).
3. The sins of others can be beneficial, as they make us fall in love with grace even more. Contrasts can be helpful in this way; ugliness can make beauty stand out even more. The sins of the wicked can be very disfiguring, such as pride, malice, and drunkenness. Seeing these sins in others can make us appreciate humility, meekness, and sobriety even more. The darkness of sin can make the beauty of holiness shine even brighter.
4. The sins of others work for good, as they can help us to strengthen our opposition against sin. As David said, "The wicked have broken your law; therefore I love your commandments" (Psalm 119:126, 127). David's love for God's law would not have been so strong if it weren't for the wicked setting themselves against it. Just like fish swim against the current, the more the tide of sin rises, the more the godly will swim against it. The impieties of the times can actually provoke strong emotions in the saints. It is not a sin to be angry against sin. The sins of others can be like a whetstone, sharpening our zeal and indignation against sin even more.
5. The sins of others work for good, as they can motivate us to work out our salvation. When we see wicked people going to such lengths to get to hell, it should encourage us to strive for heaven. Despite the fact that they have nothing to gain, they still choose to sin. They are willing to face shame and ridicule, and ignore the warnings of scripture and their conscience. Seeing how determined the wicked are to get to the forbidden fruit should embolden us to take heaven by storm. They are like camels, running after sin (Jer 2:23), so why should we be content to move slowly in our piety? Shouldn't we be doing more for Christ than the wicked are doing for the devil? Shouldn't we be just as eager to get to heaven as they are to get to hell? We have a better master than they do, and the paths of virtue are pleasant. There is joy in doing our duty, and heaven awaits us at the end. The activity of the wicked should be a reminder to us to pick up the pace and run faster towards heaven.
The sins of others work for good, as they act as mirrors that reflect our own hearts. When we see a wicked and impious person, we should remember that this is what we would be like if God had not intervened. The same sin that is present in the wicked is also present in us, although it may not be as obvious. The sin of the wicked is like a blazing fire, while the sin of the godly is like a smoldering ember. As a Christian, you should not be proud of yourself, as you still have the root of all sin within you. If it were not for God's power and grace, you would be just as sinful as any other ungodly person.
7. The sins of others work for good, as when we see someone else suffering from the plague, we should be thankful that God has kept us safe. We can use the sins of others to make us more grateful. Why did God spare us from the same wickedness that He allowed others to experience? We should reflect on this and be in awe of God's grace. As the Pharisee said, we can thank God that we are not like other people who are robbers, evildoers, or adulterers (Luke 18:11).
If we are not as wicked as others, we should be grateful for the abundance of God's free grace! Every time we see someone heading down a sinful path, we should be thankful that we are not like them. If we see someone who is mentally unstable, we should be thankful that we are not in the same situation. Even more so, when we see someone under the influence of Satan, we should be grateful that we are no longer in that condition. After all, we were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, and enslaved to our own desires and pleasures. We were living in malice and envy, hating and detesting one another. Titus 3:3.
8. The sins of others work for good, as they can help God's people to become better. Christian, God can use another's sin to benefit you. The more sinful others are, the more you should strive to be holy. The more a wicked person indulges in sin, the more a godly person should devote themselves to prayer. "But I give myself to prayer" (Psalm 109:4).
9. The sins of others work for good - they give us an opportunity to do good. Without sinners, we wouldn't be able to serve in the same capacity. The godly often have the power to convert the wicked; their wise advice and godly example can be a draw for sinners to accept the gospel. It's like a doctor and a patient--the patient's illness works for the good of the doctor, as healing the patient brings wealth to the doctor. Similarly, by converting sinners from their wrong path, our reward is increased. The Bible says, "Those who turn many to righteousness, shall shine as the stars forever and ever" (Dan. 12:31). Not like lamps or candles--but like stars, forever! So we can see that the sins of others can work for our good.
1. Sin makes them weary of this life. It is unfortunate that even the godly have sin, but it is a blessing that it is something they must bear. Paul's troubles were nothing compared to the burden of his sin, and he was actually happy in his suffering (2 Cor. 7:4). But how did this beautiful bird feel so sad and regretful for his sins! "Who can save me from this body of death?" (Romans 8:24). A believer carries their sins like a prisoner carries their shackles; how they long for the day of freedom! This feeling of guilt is a good thing.
2. This inner corruption makes the saints appreciate Christ even more. When someone feels the weight of their sin, like a sick person feels their illness, how welcome is Christ, the healer, to them! When someone is stung by sin, how precious is the image of the bronze serpent to them! When Paul lamented his body of death, how thankful was he for Christ! He exclaimed, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 8:25). Christ's blood saves us from sin and is the sacred balm that can cure this deadly disease of sin.
3. This feeling of guilt works for good, as it encourages us to take on the following responsibilities:
A. Sin encourages us to take a hard look at ourselves. When a child of God is aware of their sin, they use the light of God's Word to search their heart. They want to know the worst of themselves, just like someone who is sick wants to know the full extent of their illness. Even though it's joyful to recognize our good qualities, there is still benefit in understanding our flaws. That's why Job prayed, "Reveal to me my transgression and sin" (Job 13:23). It's important to know our sins so that we don't deceive ourselves into thinking we're better off than we really are. It's also important to uncover our sins before they uncover us!
B. Sin can be a humbling experience for a child of God. It's like a cancer in the breast or a hunch on the back, reminding us to stay humble and not be proud. It's like gravel and dirt that ballast a ship, keeping it from overturning. The sense of sin can ballast our souls, preventing us from being overturned by pride. The Bible speaks of the "spots of God's children" (Deut. 32:5). When we look into the mirror of Scripture and see our own spots of pride, lust, and hypocrisy, it can be a humbling experience. It can make us realize that our pride is misplaced. Even our sins can be used for good if they cause us to have a lower opinion of ourselves. It's better to be humbled by sin than to be made proud by our own good deeds. As Holy Bradford said, "I am but a painted hypocrite" and Hooper said, "Lord, I am hell—and You are heaven."
C. Sin can lead a child of God to self-judgment. They pass a sentence on themselves, saying, "I am more brutish than any man" (Proverbs 30:2). It is not wise to judge others, but it is beneficial to judge ourselves. If we judge ourselves, we will not be judged by God (1 Cor. 11:31). When a person has judged themselves, Satan is no longer able to accuse them. If Satan brings up a saint's sins, they can reply, "Yes, I am guilty of these sins, but I have already judged myself for them. I have condemned myself in my own conscience, so God will acquit me in the court of Heaven."
D. Sin puts believers in a difficult position, as their spiritual self is in conflict with their carnal self. As the Bible says, "the spirit lusts against the flesh" (Gal. 5:17). Our life is a journey and a battle, as we fight a daily duel between our two natures. Believers will not allow sin to take control, even if they can't keep it out completely. They will strive to keep it in check, and though they may not be able to completely overcome it, they are still making progress. As the Bible says, "to him who is overcoming" (Rev. 2:7).
E. Sin puts a child of God in a position of self-reflection. He knows that sin can be a treacherous companion, so he is careful to keep an eye on himself. A deceitful heart requires constant vigilance. The heart is like a castle that is always in danger of being attacked, so a child of God must always be on guard. A believer must be vigilant in order to avoid any sinful behavior that could lead to the loss of all their joy.
F. Sin encourages us to reform our soul. As a child of God, we not only recognize our sins, but actively work to overcome them. We put our foot down on our sins and turn to God's teachings (Psalm 119:59). In this way, even the sins of the righteous can be used for good. God uses our weaknesses as a way to make us stronger.
But don't misinterpret this doctrine. I'm not saying that sin is beneficial to an unrepentant person. No, it leads to their damnation! Sin only works for good to those who love God; and for you who are godly, I know you won't draw the wrong conclusion from this—either to take sin lightly, or to be careless with it. If you do, God will make you pay dearly! Remember David. He recklessly sinned and what happened? He lost his peace, he felt the terror of God in his soul, despite having all the things that usually bring cheerfulness.He was a king; he had a talent for music; yet nothing could bring him comfort; he complains of his "broken bones" (Psalm 51:8). And though he eventually emerged from the darkness—perhaps he never regained his joy until his dying day. If any of God's people should be toying with sin, because God can turn it to good; though the Lord doesn't condemn them—He may send them to hell in this life. He may put them in such agonizing and soul-shattering pain, that it fills them with horror and brings them close to despair. Let this be a warning to keep them away from the forbidden tree!
And so I have demonstrated that both the best and worst of things, through the powerful hand of God, work together for the benefit of the faithful.
Again, I urge you not to take sin lightly!
Chapter 4: Why All Things Work for Good
1. The great reason why all things work out for the best is because God has a special interest in His people.
He has made a covenant with them, saying, "They shall be my people, and I will be their God" (Jeremiah 32:38). Because of this agreement, everything must work out for their good. God says, "I am God, even your God" (Psalm 50:7). This is the most comforting phrase in the Bible, as it implies the best of relationships. It is impossible for God to have this kind of relationship with His people and not have everything work out for their good. This phrase, "I am your God," implies,
1. The relation of physician. "I am your Physician". God is a wise and skilled Physician who knows what is best for us. He understands the different personalities of people and knows how to help us in the most effective way. Some of us are more gentle and respond better to mercy, while others are more stubborn and require a firmer approach. God doesn't treat us all the same; He has different remedies for different people. He is a faithful Physician and will always work for our best interests. Even if we don't like the treatment He gives us, we can trust that it is what we need. A physician doesn't just try to please us, but to cure us. We may feel overwhelmed by the trials we face, but we must remember that God is our Physician and He is trying to heal us, not just make us feel better. His dealings with us may be difficult, but they are always for our own good. He does this so that we can be blessed in the end. (Deut. 8:16).