Grace Emerges

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

God Works for Good - and So Should We

[reposting this for the Christmas season - Celebrating all the good things...]

by Brad Duncan

Here's a favorite verse of many of us, Romans 8:28

Common English Bible:
28 We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Common English Bible)

and Contemporary English Version (with footnote):
28 We know that God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him.[a] They are the ones God has chosen for his purpose,
Romans 8:28 God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him: Or “All things work for the good of everyone who loves God” or “God’s Spirit always works for the good of everyone who loves God.”
While we often use this passage to understand the role of prayer ("God please turn this bad situation around"), and God's disposition about bad vs. good things that happen in our lives ("There must be a good reason for this bad thing - God has a plan"), I find a subtly different, but stronger and more fundamental meaning to this passage, both for the nature of God and nature of God's children.

God's character is to actively create good things.  Period.  Out of any asset available.  Out of space dust.  Out of ground dust.  Out of water vapor evaporated from the oceans.  Any asset.  While we have limited understanding of our own existence, why God created us, why this Earth is here, we do know from the experience that man has had with God, recorded in the Bible, that God is resourcefully and diligently building good things.  Doesn't that explain our existence to some degree?  We are here because God makes good things out of the tiniest opportunity.  Do you believe in random chance?  Well any small random chance is enough for God to create something amazing!  What's the limit to God's creativity?

When bad things happen, as they tend to do, what is God up to?  God is mending, healing, re-fashioning, bringing things around for another go at it.  Looking for every opportunity, any asset, that can be used to create a more peaceful, a more gracious, a more healthy kingdom for his/her children to inhabit.

Whatever negative energy is wrapped up in anger, hate, discrimination, persecution, and exploitation -- if there is any asset available there, God can work to bring something good - peace, freedom, grace, forgiveness.  Isn't the Bible filled with this concept and examples of it playing out?  Sometimes the good thing comes from some kind of battle to release the enslaved.  Sometimes it comes from oppressors repenting and experiencing God in their spirits.  God is creative.  And powerful.  What a combination!  If you doubt anything about the Bible - do not doubt this fact -- God is a force of good stronger than any force imaginable.  Would you like to be the one resisting this force?  I wouldn't.

That brings me to the next point.  Us.  What is our disposition about bad vs. good things that happen?  We usually react.  Disappointment, prayer for help, elevated adrenaline level, attempt to control (through stress and worry usually!) and taking action to avert the crisis.  These are all normal reactions and can of course be healthy and legitimate, so that we correct our mistakes, avoid pain, and are alerted to danger.  God does indeed help us -- the Holy Spirit is our guide and comforter.  I've never found the Holy Spirit to steer me wrong, but rather to be active in my life helping me especially where I am clueless or powerless to help myself.

But besides reacting, there is a deeper truth.  As Christians we can seize God's character for ourselves.  We can embark on a journey to create good things out of bad, out of every asset available.  Choose the best possible way to use that negative thing to make something good:

  • Use it as a wake up call to resist evil and temptation or to fight against injustice.  Build awareness.  Create consensus.  Generate action.   E.g., we see new initiatives and organizations started by people who have experienced a disease or some injustice, to rally others to the cause.
  • Help the hurting!  What easier path could there be to the kingdom of God than to help someone that is  hurting.  Bring some measure of comfort to them in their pain. Maybe some measure of physical rescue.  Maybe be an answer to their prayers for help!  We all need help.  We all need to help each other.  Aren't you grateful for that time when someone rescued you?  Use the gratitude to help someone else.
  • Learn from it!  When the bad things are our own fault, well, the best reaction is to learn.  Pain causes memory and learning (as we well know).  Use it for that purpose!
  • Create something good out of conflict.  Good conflict resolution skills are built around the idea that relational conflict is needed and important, because of a need for the parties involved to work out their relationship.  Talk some, listen more.  Be willing to change.  Use the energy in the conflict as an opportunity to address the issue.  Make it an example of reconciliation and grace.  One for the record books of your relationship.  Avoid repeating the same story the next time.
  • Spiritually, create grace out of injury.  When we forgive someone instead of being offended by them, we create something positive out of something negative.  As Jesus taught us to love our enemies, he taught us to be creative in relationships to use even enmity as an asset for change, an opportunity for grace, a softening of our own heart, and in the end an entry point into God's kingdom.  That grace may or may not change our enemy, but it certainly changes us!
If you find yourself creating barriers, pride, or more comfort for yourself, instead of reconciliation, peace, and more comfort for others, as we are all prone to do, then you are missing an opportunity.  Create something good instead!  Seize God's character as your own.  What would Jesus do?  What would God do?  Create something positive.
The Birth of Stars -- The spectacular new camera installed on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope during Servicing Mission 4 in May has delivered the most detailed view of star birth in the graceful, curving arms of the nearby spiral galaxy M83.

Nicknamed the Southern Pinwheel, M83 is undergoing more rapid star formation than our own Milky Way galaxy, especially in its nucleus. The sharp 'eye' of the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) has captured hundreds of young star clusters, ancient swarms of globular star clusters, and hundreds of thousands of individual stars, mostly blue supergiants and red supergiants.

WFC3's broad wavelength range, from ultraviolet to near-infrared, reveals stars at different stages of evolution, allowing astronomers to dissect the galaxy's star-formation history.

The image reveals in unprecedented detail the current rapid rate of star birth in this famous "grand design" spiral galaxy. The newest generations of stars are forming largely in clusters on the edges of the dark dust lanes, the backbone of the spiral arms. These fledgling stars, only a few million years old, are bursting out of their dusty cocoons and producing bubbles of reddish glowing hydrogen gas.

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate the approach to seeing what good can come rather than the poor me, depressing approach to life.

    I also really appreciate the photo and information about M83. It is truly awesome, and it is no small wonder that we can see if while standing on our tiny speck of dust.

    Two words, universe and faith, have the common quality of not being very well defined or understood. To me, both are many orders of magnitude bigger than I can imagine. Or, is it possible that the somewhat simple elementary grade level explanations are sufficient? That faith is just believing, that it is a axiom that does not depend on explanation? And that the universe is everything, even though we have no idea what all is included?

    Thanks for all the thoughts and writing. It wakes up my brain a little bit.

    Another thought about faith and universe. Sometimes the concept of a subject with no observable boundaries is incomprehensible. Other subjects that fit the category include: infinity, and a spirit domain with no spatial or time dependent constraints.

    - Louis Duncan