We know that in everything God words for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”

                                                                        Romans 8:28


A man is standing by the coffin of his wife of 37 years, weeping.  She was driving home from a baby shower, when a drunk driver swerved into her lane and hit her car head-on.  And now her husband is slumped over her coffin, totally lost. 


A woman slides up beside him with what she is convinced is a word of comfort---a word from God.  It has to be from God, it’s right out of the Bible.  She takes his hand and says, “All things work together for good with those who love God.”


The man withdraws his hand, steps back, and in a quivering voice says, “You call this good?  You’re telling me that I should be rejoicing?  Get out of here!”


How many times truth from scriptures has been applied in the wrong way, at the wrong time, in the wrong place.  Better this lady should have stood there and wept with her neighbor, and left in silence.


We know that in everything, God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”


----It’s an absolute truth.  But it was never meant to be offered to broken hearts as a serenity pill.


These words are the climax of three of the most profound chapters in all Paul’s letters---Romans 6, 7, and 8.  But who of us has not wondered about this promise, when we’re slogging through a valley of trouble?


The truth is, this promise only makes sense when we connect it with the part which is often left out.


We know that in everything God words for good with those who love him,


            who are called according to his purpose.


                        Who are called.


Answer your call, and you will begin to love God, and you will have the faith to believe that things are going to work out for good, even when everything’s falling apart.  Ignore the call, and this promise makes no sense.


Remember the time in Peter’s fishing boat when the net came up loaded to the breaking point with fish?  Peter knew that something holy, something supernatural was going on, and he was scared!  He fell down at Jesus’ knees in the boat and cried, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”


Did Jesus say, “Yeah, Peter, you are a mess.  And if you don’t get your act together, you’re going straight to hell!”  No, he said, “Don’t be afraid.  From now on you will be catching men.”


Why didn’t Jesus make an issue of Peter’s sin?  Peter did---“I’m a sinful man, O Lord!” 


Because the most important thing here is not Peter’s sin, but Peter’s call.  Peter is being called.  And if he answers his call, everything else, including his sin, will be taken care of.  


There may be issues in your life and mine which haven’t been resolved yet.  Weaknesses, habits, attitudes, fears, guilt, resentments, regrets---things which bind us to ourselves like prisoners.  Again and again they make a mockery of our good intentions.  “The good that I would I do not, and the evil that I would not, that I do!”  We can make resolutions until the cows come home, but still we stumble and fail….


            ….Until we pay attention to that voice which is calling us, just like it called Peter.


                        He knows we’re sinners. 

                        He knows we’re wimps.

                        He knows we’re cowards.


But the Lord Jesus doesn’t dwell on that.  He’ll take care of those things with all the power of heaven.


He says, “Don’t be afraid.  Follow me, and I’ll lead you out of this swamp.  From now on, you’ll be serving the Kingdom.”


“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give them eternal life.  And they shall never perish.  And no one shall snatch them out of my hand.”


When you pay attention to that call---and answer it---things begin to work together for your good.  All things.


“Well, that was easy enough for Peter.  Jesus was right there calling him.  He knew he was called.  And Paul had a vision on the road to Damascus.  He saw a blinding light.  He heard the voice of the Lord.  He knew he was called.  Moses heard God speak at the burning bush.  He knew he was called.  But how am I supposed to know that I’ve been called?  I’ve never heard the voice of God.  I’ve never had a vision.”


Long before Peter ever met Jesus, his heart was already hearing that inner voice, calling him.  That’s why Peter went down to the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist.  Something inside him was pulling him toward the moment when it would all become clear.  And you can be sure that even while Paul was holding the coats of the men who were stoning Stephen to death, something was already eating at his soul.  He was watching a man die for his faith in Jesus, and hearing a voice inside him calling him to change direction.


Do you think Moses never heard the voice of God until he was 80 years old, trembling at the burning bush?  From the time he was a baby in a basket, to the time, as a man of 40, he killed an Egyptian and had to flee into the Wilderness of Midian, Moses was hearing something in his soul.  He didn’t understand it all.  But something within him made him to know that he was a marked man.


Mary Magdalene was healed of seven devils.  She could have said, “Thank you, Jesus,” and returned to her old life, like so many others did.  But Mary heard the call within her, and followed Jesus for the rest of her life. 


Chances are, you have had your moments when you knew you were being pursued by the Hound of Heaven.  Maybe you kept pushing it out of your mind, like most of us do. 


            Who me?

            God can’t be calling me!

            What would he want with me, I ain’t no Mother Theresa!


So you shove that little voice off into a closet and lock the door.  But every so often you still hear it. 


A friend of mine would at one time have considered himself on a par with the tax collectors and sinners of Jesus’ day.  Shrewd.  Tough as nails.  Loose.  We were sitting in a room planning his wedding to the starry-eyed bride, when my friend, Mr. Tough Guy, said, “You know, sometimes I think I’m supposed to be an evangelist.”


Yeah, right!


Within two weeks the young bride was wondering how she ever allowed herself to get into this mess.  Mr. Tough Guy, the romantic groom had turned into a monster in her eyes. 


Eight years later, Mr. Tough Guy began to follow Jesus.  He started making big changes in his life.  Today he is indeed an evangelist.  Not the TV type.  But one-on-one I’ve seen this man deal with some hard cases in the name of the Lord, performing street-level miracles.  


Tough Guy knew he was under a call, long before he answered it.  He simply did what most of us do, when the call begins to follow us down our strange crooked paths; we run away from it.  


God tells Jonah to go east and preach to the city of Nineveh.  So what does Jonah do?  He grabs a ship going west toward Spain.  But as Jonah found out, and as Mr. Tough found out, it’s not so easy to get away, once that call starts to follow you. 


So here’s the message:  What are you afraid of?

                                      What are you running from?

                                      Are you afraid of losing control to God?


What God has in mind for you is a thousand times better than anything you have in mind for yourself.


Jesus’ first words to Peter, when Peter was finally trapped, when he could no longer pretend he was deaf:


            “Don’t be afraid.”


                        “Don’t be afraid.  From now on you will be catching men.”


Don’t be afraid to answer your call.  Because “we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”


Isn’t it weird?  Even though many of us have been “going to church” for years,

even though we pray,

even though we think of ourselves as believers,


            the issue of that personal call, coming straight from heaven to me

            has not yet been settled.


We’re still out there on the boat with Jonah. 


And we wonder why the wind keeps howling, and waves keep tossing. 


“Why is God picking on me?”


God isn’t picking on you.  He wants to talk to you.  But he can’t talk to you until you slow down, hold still and pay attention.


So what do you think will happen if today you actually do that?  If at this moment you stop and say, “Okay, I give up.  What do you want, Lord?”


Is he going to say, “Your life’s a mess.  I can’t talk to you until you clean up your act!  You need a wash job!”


No, he says, “Don’t be afraid.

                       From now on you’re going to be serving the kingdom.

                       Follow me, and I will lead you into the life you were meant to live.”


But wait a minute!  What about my sins?  What about all my hang-ups and problems?


He’ll take care of your sins, your hang-ups, your fears, your regrets.  Why do you think he went to the cross?  Why do you think he rose from the dead?


All you have to do is say, “Here I am, Lord.”

                                           Here’s my body; it’s yours.

                                           Here’s my mind; it’s yours.”


Immediately his Spirit will begin doing a work in you that will stagger your mind.


We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.


Don’t be afraid to answer your call today.

Don’t be afraid to keep answering it every day, every hour, for the rest of your life.


“Here I am, Lord.  I’m yours.  You call the shots, and by the power of the Spirit I will obey.”


You will be on a road that not only leads to life.  It is life---eternal life----from this moment and forever.


            Your heart will grow in its love for God and your neighbor.

            And all things will work together for your good.