By CRAIG HARRIS
Romans 8: 26-29 (NIV): 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Romans 8:28 is many people's favorite verse in the Bible. What could be more comforting and encouraging than this? But it is important to read it in context and understand what Paul means by it.
He says it in the context of us not knowing how to pray. We think we know what is best for us, but we really don't. God, however, does. So his Spirit leads us in our prayers to pray for God's will above our own. This is how Jesus taught us to pray too. And God's will for us is that we become like Christ. Nothing else is God's will for you.
Paul says God predestined us to become like Jesus. This doesn't mean he only chose a few of us to become Christians, it means he wills that every Christian become like Christ. So everything that happens to us believers, good or bad, is molding us into Christ's image. The sufferings we endure make us like Christ and that is why God allows them. Paul is talking about God's ultimate goal for us: to be glorified – to be Christ-like. To have the mind of Christ, the humility of Christ, the faith of Christ, the love of Christ.
Now it us up to us to trust God. To believe that he knows what he is doing. To have faith that he is always up to something good. To believe that he is orchestrating all things in our lives to mold us into the likeness of his son. Not everything that happens to us will be pleasant, but it is all for a purpose. And that purpose is to make us like Jesus.
Autographed copies of Craig's fiction novel The Dead Peasants File are for sale at Blaser's Books in downtown Palestine. Harris is the pastor at Brushy Creek and Mt. Vernon United Methodist Churches.