Thursday, May 12, 2016

Painfully conformed

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Romans 8:18-39

"For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren." Romans 8:29

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

It's likely you have at some time quoted the above to comfort a person who is grieving, reassure the one who is confused, or remind the one who has just suffered a seemingly senseless tragedy that God has things in hand and everything will work out okay. I know I have.

But when we say those comforting words, do we think to add on verse 29? It really is a continuation of the thought and helps to answer the question "Why are these painful things happening?"

The little word "For" at the beginning of verse 29 signals the connection between the two. The verse goes on to state that the "all things" we are experiencing (that are supposedly "working together for good" - Romans 8::28) have a purpose and that purpose is that we, whom God knew before we were ever on the scene would accept Him and be born into His family, will "be conformed" to the image of His Son (Jesus).

The idea of conformity is not an especially attractive one, at least not  to us in our individualistic culture. My Funk and Wagnalls dictionary defines conform: 1] to be or act in accordance; show identity or resemblance; correspond; to conform to a specification; 2] to adhere to conventional behavior; 3] to make the same or similar; 4] to bring into harmony or agreement.

How do we make things conform in life?
  • If the thing is made of wood, we carve, mill or sand it. 
  • If it is made of plaster or cement we pour it liquid into a mold. 
  • It it is metal we heat it until we can hammer or even pour it into the desired shape. 
  • If it is a tree or plant we prune it, that is, cut it. 
  • If it's a life that God is conforming to the image of Jesus ...?
Perhaps the list of stressors Paul names further on is something we should expect rather than be surprised by as God subjects us to His process of conforming:

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ... Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us" - Romans 8:35,37.

PRAYER: Dear God, I know the goal of my life is not my happiness, comfort, ease, prosperity, success or any number of other things I so readily go after. Rather, it is to become like Jesus. Help me to see the painful things that enter my life in the light of this. Amen.

MORE: Handel's Messiah Alert

Words from three verses of today's reading are included in Handel's Messiah. Follow along with the soprano soloist as she sings "If God Be For Us" - Chorus 52 (sung here by the Brisbane Concert Choir).

Lyrics from Romans 8:31, 33, 34:
31. If God be for us, who can be against us? 33. Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. 34. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is at the right hand of God, who makes intercession for us.


The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. - Used with permission.

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