14th Sunday After Pentecost September 18, 2011
Isaiah 55:1-5; Matthew 14:13-21
465, 19(1-4), 34(1-3), 34(4)
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
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. 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. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Although our general election in America is more than a year away, already there are many candidates from various political parties who are vying for office. One thing almost all of them try to emphasize is the fact that they “care” about the average citizen. But as they carry out their campaigns, sometimes you wonder to yourself, “Do they really care about someone like me? Or are they just saying that to win an election?”
When we consider ourselves as just one of all the people who live in this country, or all the people in North America, or all the people on the earth, do we ever think, “Well, who really cares about me anyway? The universe is so big, and I am so small.”
When things go badly for us, when there is sorrow or trouble do we ask, “Who cares for me? Who is paying attention to me? Who takes an interest in my life? Who is listening to my sadness and frustration?” “Who cares?” is the cry when we feel alone and helpless.
The answer for you, dear Christians, is simple, scriptural, and powerful: God cares. That’s what these three verses from Paul’s letter to the Romans tell us in no uncertain terms. I. He has called you according to His purpose, II. His interest in your life is from beginning to end, and III. He makes all things work for your good
God cares because you are one of His spiritual children. By the power of the Word He has called you out of the darkness of your unbelief and impenitence and He has brought you to trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior. Our text says that you “are the called according to his purpose.” [v.28]
This calling was not a spur of the moment thought on the part of God, nor was it a random decision. The Bible says that God foreknew you and predestined you “to be conformed to the image (likeness) of His Son.” [v.29] Your God knew of you before you were even born, and it was His plan, His determination, His purpose from eternity to come to you with His Gospel of salvation, wrap His arms around you, bring you to faith, and lead you in a life of good works which He prepared in advance for you to do. He has called you away from the power and the grip of sin to be like His Son Jesus in kindness, love, mercy, and forgiveness. The point is: You have mattered to Him for a long time.
As people who have been called into God’s spiritual family, you are brothers and sisters of Christ, adopted by the Creator Himself—children of God by faith as God says in John 1:12: “as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God.” Now will a Father forsake the child He has brought into the world? On rare occasion a human father might, but God the Father? Never! He cannot.
Therefore does God care for you? The answer: Yes! because He has called you according to His purpose, called you into His family of believers to be like His Son in word and action! And “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him” (Psalm 103:13 NIV).
But it is not just in calling you that God has shown His care for you, it is in your whole life from beginning to end, and I mean the very end—your death and your entrance into everlasting life. There is not a moment of your life in which God does not take an interest. The Apostle goes on to say, “whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” [v.30] Notice how God’s care goes all the way to the end—all the way to our glorification in heaven.
That special Bible word “justified” is found in this sentence. To justify someone means to announce that he is not guilty. It is like the judge in the courtroom who passes judgment saying, “You are innocent,” and in the eyes of God, we are innocent. We are innocent of sins like wicked thoughts, harsh and hasty words, and disobedient actions. We are innocent in God’s eyes because our Heavenly Father looks not to our works, but He looks to Jesus Christ who made an acceptable offering for the guilt of the whole world—an offering He made at the cross, giving His perfect life in place of a world full of imperfect ones. On account of Christ we are “justified.” It means that we are free to go…to heaven. It means that even though we daily fall into the temptations and snares of the Devil, we can rejoice in the fact that in God’s sight we are declared clear of all charges because Christ has already been charged with our crimes.
When we look at ourselves and how we act from day to day, we might wonder how God can possibly care for creatures like us. We keep falling into the same sins over and over again. We have the same weaknesses, the same doubts, and the same failures that stare us in the face over and over. “Who would care about me?” But God cares enough that He has justified you in Christ Jesus. The announcement has been made. You are not guilty for your Lord has paid the price.
God has arranged all this for you. Think about how He cares for you forever! Paul wrote: “whom He justified, these He also glorified.” [v.30] He wants you to understand that in His mind, even your glorification is as good as done. He will raise your imperfect bodies from the dead and they will be changed into perfect ones. The sad and evil times in which we live will be done away with in the resurrection, and we will live in glory forever. This is the outcome for all those who are part of God’s spiritual family—He will take them to their eternal home—and that includes you and me.
What we can see in all this is the answer to the question, “Who cares?” Who cares for me? God does! He cares for me from beginning to end, throughout my entire life and even into eternity. He has predestined me, called me, justified me, and finally glorifies me as well. There isn’t a moment that escapes Him. There is not a single part of my existence of which He is not aware and concerned about.
When times are hard, we might think, “God must not be caring for me now. He is not interested in me now.” When these thoughts cross our minds we ought to rush to Romans 8:30 and read again that all-encompassing promise: “Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” Notice that there is “eternity” on both ends of that sentence. There has not been a moment in all time that God has not had you in His sight.
Since God is always interested in you and your life, He is working daily to guard and keep you, offering you real help right here and right now. In Romans 8:28, one of the most famous passages in the Bible, we hear this: “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
In the Lord's Prayer we ask, “Deliver us from evil.” Martin Luther explained that petition in this way: “We pray…that our Father in Heaven would deliver us from every evil to body and soul, property and reputation, and finally…graciously take us from this valley of sorrows to Himself in Heaven” (Small Catechism). These words from Romans are the answer to that prayer. This is your Heavenly Father telling you, “Yes, I will deliver you from evil. I will make everything work out for your good and serve my purpose for you.” For the child of God, everything—even affliction and suffering which the dear Father allows to come to us—must ultimately result in goodness and benefit.
This is illustrated in the Bible in many different places. It is in the story of Job who lost everything—his family, his wealth, his possessions, everything in this earthly life that was important to him—yet he did not lose his confidence in God. He refused to “curse God and die” (cf. Job 2:9). After a time, all was restored to Job with even more than he had before. Job was able to look back and see that God had caused even the evil that Satan brought into his life to work for his good.
The familiar lesson of Joseph in the book of Genesis provides another example. Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers and thrown into prison on false charges where he sat for several years. But due to an event that happened in that prison, Joseph came into contact with Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt. He came into favor with Pharaoh, was released from prison, and his oversight of food collection and distribution saved millions of people when famine came to that part of the world. God took the evil that Joseph’s brothers worked against him and ended up saving, not just Joseph, but many people.
I am sure all of us have stories we could tell about our own lives with similar endings—stories in which things happened to us that were terrible and hard but later the Lord used them in His own good way for His own good purposes.
The Bible says all things work together for the benefit of the believer: illness, sorrow, pain, toil…there is nothing that God cannot in some way use to serve you and be to His glory. Even death itself, which seems to us the greatest “evil,” is turned upside down by the resurrection of Jesus and the promise of our own resurrection to everlasting life.
Often when we cry, “Who cares about me?” we are forgetting this precious sentence of Scripture that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” God always cares about the members of His spiritual family. He is always looking out for them—in good times and in bad, in times of wealth and in times of poverty, in times of sorrow and in times of joy—and He is working to see that what happens to them is always for the best.
God cares. Amen!
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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