All Things For Good

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There are two things which I have always looked upon as difficult. The one is, to make the wicked sad; the other is, to make the godly joyful.

Thomas Watson, the 17th century English minister who wrote the statement above, endeavored to help the second of these ‘difficulties’ with his book All Things for Good, which I finished reading a few days ago. This book was helpful to me in that I found nearly every page of it very easy to apply to my life.

Whether I live in the United States or Papua New Guinea, I found much refreshment for my soul here. To the end that someone else might be encouraged by this Puritan, here are six of the more impactful quotes from this book:

  1. “Are we in great trouble? There is a promise that works for our good, ‘I will be with him in trouble’ (Psalm 91.15). God does not bring His people into troubles, and leave them there. He will stand by them. He will hold their heads and hearts when they are fainting.

     

     

     

    And there is another promise, ‘He is their strength in the time of trouble’ (Psalm 37.39). ‘Oh,’ says the soul, ‘I shall faint in the day of trial.’ But God will be the strength of our hearts; He will join His forces with us. Either He will make His hand lighter, or our faith stronger.” P.16

God did not leave us when our flight was cancelled in Port Moresby our first night in Papua New Guinea. He provided a safe place to sleep, more money than we could spend to buy food, and held our flight the next morning until we could get on it.

He has not left us, in fact, during any difficulty or trial we have experienced since being here. Nor any difficulty or trial we walked through prior to our move across the world. No matter where we are, He is the strength of our hearts.

  1. “Do we fear outward wants? There is a promise. ‘They that seek the Lord shall not want (lack) any good thing’ (Psalm 34.10). If it is good for us, we shall have it; if it is not good for us, then the withholding of it is good.” P.16

There have been many times when either our health or the health of our children has been withheld from us for a time. Our shipping container was withheld from us for four months. At times, we have been without electricity or running water or internet or phone service.

In all of these circumstances, God provided for us what we needed. We have lacked no good thing since we arrived. He is good in giving good things to us and He is good when He withholds them.

  1. Discussing how the worst things work for good to the godly, Watson says:

“In the word preached, we hear what a dreadful thing sin is, that it is both defiling and damning, but we fear it no more than a painted lion…

Affliction teaches us to know ourselves. In prosperity we are for the most part strangers to ourselves. God makes us know affliction, that we may better know ourselves. We see that corruption in our hearts in the time of affliction, which we would not believe was there.” P.27

It is true that particularly when myself or someone in my family is sick, I see very clearly the things of my heart. When all is well, of course I praise God. It is an easy thing to do—when all is well.

But take away the worldly comfort of health and suddenly I am distrustful of God’s intentions and doubtful of His power. Like an addict cut off from his drug, I all of a sudden see very clearly how attached I was to the comfort of health. I am immediately in the throes of anxiety and fear because somewhere along the line, I displaced the source of true hope with that of a false one. Affliction reveals to me where my hope truly lies—either God’s promises are true or they are not. Either He gave His own Son on my behalf to set me free from sin that I might trust Him when things are difficult or He did not.

In affliction, I am awakened to my dependence on less-than-worthy things, like a sailor suddenly realizing how far off course and to what dangerous waters the sirens have led him, I am able to right my course once more according to God’s character and promises as proclaimed in His word and sail peacefully in those trustworthy waters.

  1. “The sins of others work for good, as they are glasses in which we may see our own hearts…You…would bear as hellish fruit as any, if God did not either curb you by His power, or change you by His grace…

    The sins of others work for good, as they are the means of making the people of God more thankful…When you see another infected with the plague…think with yourself, O Christian, why should God be more propitious to you than another?…Every time we see men hasting on in sin, we are to bless God we are not such…Let us not think lightly of sin.” –p.47

My husband is now and has always been the best example of thinking the best about people. When at a restaurant with my family at a time of particularly bad service and when all others at the table (myself included) were grumbling about the waitress, his response was, “Maybe she’s having a bad day.” It may have been true or it may not, but it did give each of us pause before we unleashed the wrath that is the unsatisfied American customer.

God did not save me that I might tout all of my moral accomplishments and shun the failings of others; he made me that I might see clearly the wretchedness of my own sin and what I have been saved from as well as the glory and goodness of the One I have been saved to and let that newfound sight humble me and lead me to tell others about the One who can and does save sinners like me from the just and earned consequences of their sin.

I am the chief of sinners, make no mistake. Sin is no game. Like an alcoholic wandering in and out of bars taking sips and expecting no further entanglement to come of it, it is nonsensical for me to toy with sin and think it will not eventually take hold of me again. I do not want to think lightly of sin.

  1. “What a blessed condition is the true believer in! When he dies, he goes to God; and while he lives, everything shall do him good.” –p. 56

This was particularly encouraging to me. In life or death, all must work for good to me. And who am I to be on the receiving end of such a promise as Romans 8:28 anyway? No one! Yet here I stand. Thankful and humbled and strengthened to endure whatever trials or joys God might give me until I go to be with Him.

  1. “None so deep in debt to free grace as you, and none should be so high mounted upon the pinnacle of thanksgiving.” P.119

This was one of the last pages of the book and has been the banner that has been flying over my life this past week.

I am to love God. And why?

Because God has lavished His free, unearned, undeserved grace on me! Both now and for all eternity! He has absorbed the full wrath I had actually earned on my behalf and left me with nothing but grace upon grace! I am deeply in debt to grace—every sinful thought or deed has earned me the opposite of it, but against all human logic, He has had mercy on me!

My husband always says that the best books are those that are most closely tethered to the Bible. This book met that requirement and helped me love the Lord a little bit more.

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for these encouraging words and reminders.

  2. Thank you for that challenge to think like that and believe it.

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