And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
I. "ALL THINGS." For there is a sense in which a human being is related to everything. He is related supremely to God, and by that relationship he touches the whole universe. But, probably, the "all things" here meant are those which more nearly and constantly affect men. Now there is a very great difference in the number, variety, and importance of these things in different individual cases. "All things" that can enter into an infant's little life are few and simple compared with those of a man. The affairs of a savage are few compared with those of a civilised man.
II. "All things WORK." "All things are full of labour." The ceaseless movement of all things, from stars to atoms, would, if we could really see it all, be perfectly appalling. On the stillest day, and in the most sequestered scene, streams of life are rushing on through their courses. Not only the earth, the waters, the air, but the very rocks are alive. What is thus true in nature is just as true in human life; not only when man's thought is busy about them, and his own hand upon them, but often almost as much when the man rests and sleeps. We speak of busy time. It is not time that is busy. 'Tis men who live, and move, and have being. 'Tis "things" that "work." Thought, and impulse, and act, and habit, and plan, and purpose — these are the great working powers. They all work: and always. We divide life into active and passive, into busy and quiet. But things are working as rapidly, and to effects as certain in the one time as the other. Things are troubled and perplexed at night: you can make nothing of them. You go to sleep, and in the morning they are clearer. It is just the same as if you had been thinking of them, and unravelling them all the night. They have been "working" while you have been sleeping. The same kind of process takes place through a series of days sometimes. Gradually a dark prospect clears, or a bright one darkens. The crooked becomes straight, or the straight becomes crooked. Nor can you tell any sufficient reason for the change.
III. "All things work TOGETHER." That explains the changes that take place, and the progress that is sometimes made very quickly. You have seen horses pulling a heavy load up a hill, and suddenly brought to a stand, and then moving on again, simply by the addition of an animal to the team. So a man is overmatched sometimes by the weight and pressure of the things he has to do, when — a new circumstance, a new "thing" is born, and as it were instantly yokes itself into harness with the rest, and the object is attained. But the working together of things is yet more than this. In some chemical experiments it happens that each separate substance becomes something else, and all a compound — a new thing, which has mysteriously composed itself out of the whole. The bosom of Providence is the great moral crucible in which things work together. The innumerable things that mingle in that crucible, if taken separately, would be seen working to diverse results; but the one master-influence now rules the whole process, and so combines the specific elements as to perpetuate and increase its own sway. "All things work together," not in an aimless and capricious manner, as though a stream should one day flow seawards, and the next back towards its fountain, but in one volume, along one channel, in one direction, towards one end. This gives life an awful character. The sum of the influences tend to good, or to evil. Life in some instances may seem an equipoise, but it is not. Only a practised eye can tell which way a sluggish stream in a meadow is flowing, yet no one who has seen the stream enter the meadow, or leave it, can doubt that it is in motion there. Not for long does any human life flow as through meadow land.
IV. Now, the greatest question is this, "Of what character is the supreme influence of all the things that work together in my life?" The question is not difficult to answer, if only the right method be taken. Must, then, a man analyse, weigh, and describe all the "things" which hake for him the one grand life-influence! Must he search the bosom of Providence? How utterly vain were the effort! But, happily, there is no need to make it. The true test is far simpler and easier. It is this, Is there love to God? All things work together for good TO THEM THAT LOVE GOD. The question is not, "Am I strong enough to vanquish the forces of life?" because no man will ever be. To all there is at last the grand defeat. Nor is it, "Am I wise and politic enough to foresee and prepare?" because every man is overmatched, at one time or other, bier, of course, "Am I good enough to change everything into good?" —for, still, alas! when He who alone is good looks down, there is but the old sad case, that "none doeth good." But the question is this and none other, "Do I love God, whose whole delight is to overcome evil with good?" What, or rather whom we love, and how much, will tell far more regarding our real character than anything else; will, therefore, also tell what moral position we occupy in relation to all outward things. If we love God, "all things work together for our good." Quite clearly, then, the one grand solicitude with us should be the cultivation of this Divine affection of love to God. If this be in perpetual action, how need we give place and time and thought to other cares? All is well. Those working "things," the strength and pressure of which we never could resist, the mystery of which we never could fathom — let them work together and enter into all possible combinations, they can produce nothing but good to us. Does the storm blow? Love Him who "maketh the storm a calm," and who, in storm and calm alike, will keep you safely within the sure haven of His care. Is it night? Love Him to whom "the darkness and the light are both alike," but who, knowing well that they are not alike to us, has promised that weeping and night shall pass away together, and that joy shall come in the morning. Are you in pain? Love Him who, although He is "the ever-blessed God," suffered once for us, and still has the touch of all our pain on the nerve of His own infinite sympathy, and who writes over the portals of the happy gates, "There shall be no more pain." Are you poor? Love Him who, to sanctify poverty, was born among the beasts, lived with the poor. Can you go up and stand beside Him, and complain that He has left you poor?
(A. Raleigh, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.