Whenever I’m going through a trial, I remember a folk tale that goes something like this:
Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there lived a very old but very wise farmer. He lived alone, except for his son and their old plow horse. One day his son, after he had finished his chores, forgot to lock the gate to the stable yard. That night, while they lay sleeping, the old horse ran away into the forest.
The next day the villagers, having heard what happened, came to console the old farmer.
“Oh, this is bad,” they said. “This is very bad.”
“How do you know this is bad?” the farmer said. “How do you know?”
Several days later the old plow horse returned, followed by 10 beautiful horses.
Later, while training one of the new horses, the farmer’s son fell and broke his leg. When the villagers heard this, they came running to tell the farmer:
“Oh, this is bad. This is very bad.”
“How do you know this is bad?” the farmer asked. “How do you know?”
After a few days the local warlord came to the village. He took all the young men off to war except for the old farmer’s son, left behind because of his broken leg.
Analyzing God’s promises
I like that story. It has helped me through many difficult times. A statement in the Bible is similar in sentiment to that old folk tale. I find it encouraging when times get tough. It says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good . . .” (Roman 8:28, New American Standard Bible).
We have read that scripture many times. Yet too often we think it says, “God works it out once in a while.” But it doesn’t say God works it out only sometimes; it says that all things work together for our good. We should underline that statement in our Bibles.
Continue reading that verse. Strings are attached. It says all things work together for good “to those who love God.” Here is a prerequisite for receiving God’s promise: All things work together for good to those who love God.
How do we love God? Is it only a warm, indistinct, fond feeling? No, the Bible clearly defines love of God as the keeping of His commandments (1 John 5:3 1 John 5:3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
American King James Version×). Demonstrating our love for God by keeping His commandments is a requirement for us for this statement to apply to our lives.
This verse, however, isn’t over. The verse in its entirety reads, “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
Here is a second condition. God does not promise to make all things work together for good for just anyone. This promise is for those who have been called according to His purpose.
Proving Scripture true
Let me tell you how that old story about the farmer and his son and Romans 8:28 Romans 8:28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
American King James Version×have proven true in my life. Ten years ago I owned and operated a company that enjoyed a certain measure of success. I lived the American dream. I thought I had it all: money, a big house, nice cars, a swimming pool, even a few airplanes. Life was good.
But it didn’t stay that way. My business started to go downhill. I tried everything I could think of to stop it, but the business deteriorated to the point that I finally had to sell it for a fraction of what it was worth.
I thought: This is bad. This is very bad.
But how did I know this was bad? How did I know?
The story isn’t over yet. I tried unsuccessfully to get a job. Someone offered me a job selling silk plants on the street. I smiled to myself. I didn’t want to insult him, but that was not what I had in mind. With all my business acumen, I was not going to waste my time peddling artificial plants. So I sent the man away. I was going to be a business manager.
I applied for jobs all over town. I expected the phone to ring any minute because I knew business owners throughout the valley had to be looking for managers.
I waited, but the phone didn’t ring. I ran out of money. I had to sell my expensive toys—my cars and airplanes—just to make the mortgage payments on my house. Things got so bad that my electricity was about to be shut off in the middle of a hot Arizona summer.
I had to do something. So I called the gentleman who offered me the job selling silk plants on a street corner. I asked him if the job was still available. He said it was.
Time out to think
Two days later I was sitting on a street corner in 110-degree heat with my silk plants while I watched air-conditioned cars zoom by. I sat there for three years trying to figure out why I was there.
In hindsight I see that God acted just like a parent. When a child is out of control you may tell him, “Sit here a while and think about why you’re here and why you’re not able to play with all of the other kids.”
That’s how I felt. God took me out of circulation because I was out of control. He put me on the street to sit and think about where I was going and why I was there. I was being taught a lesson.
I learned a lot sitting on that corner, and I’d like to share a few things I learned with you.
Because I was sitting on the corner for up to 10 hours a day with nothing else to do—cars stopped only occasionally—I opened my Bible and studied it deeply once again. I wasn’t as busy now as I had been when I had my own business. Now I had plenty of time to think about what I was reading.
I read the 8th chapter of Deuteronomy. God, it seemed, was describing me. He did everything but mention my name. I saw the promise that, if I would do what God tells me to do, He would bless me beyond measure. That’s where I was before my business went under. God had given me all those blessings.
But I also read a warning in Deuteronomy that I had never seen before-a warning that, after I received His blessings, I should have considered how I acquired them and remembered who gave them to me. God’s Word warned me not to think I had acquired all those blessings through my own expertise, knowledge and understanding. I was not to take the credit for them.
My struggle was with the sin of pride. I hadn’t even realized I had pride. That is the ugly secret about pride: You don’t know you have it because it’s so deceptive. You’re blinded by it. The more pride you have, the more blind you are. When you are full of pride and somebody tells you what your problems are, you don’t listen.
As I reflected on what I had been through, I realized what had happened many times while I was still operating my first business. Others told me repeatedly that things were going wrong and warned me that I had better change or I would lose my business. I was too proud to listen. I lost it all.
That’s what I learned by sitting on that street corner. Mine was a humbling experience, but it was something I had to learn. God was doing what He promised in Romans 8:28 Romans 8:28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
American King James Version×. He took a bad situation and turned it into something good. God called me for a purpose, but, because I was so blinded by pride, I was no longer useful to Him as a tool. He had to take me out, set me on the side of the road for three years and let me think about what I had been doing.
I began to feel resentment toward God. I would think to myself: I’m doing everything I’m supposed to be doing. Why isn’t God blessing me?
I would say to myself: This is bad. This is very bad.
But I should have asked myself: How do I know this is bad? How do I know?
I learned much in those three years. God provided just enough income for me not to starve. After three years the market for silk plants began to dry up, at least for me. Others who were selling the plants were still making a fair amount of money, but I wasn’t. I prayed for God to provide me with enough income so my family and I would not go hungry.
Again I reflected on what I could do to bring in income. I had some truck-driving experience. Maybe I could go back to driving a truck for a living.
I applied for a commercial driver’s license. When I went to take the test, I discovered that the driver had to supply his own truck. The license I applied for was for a tractor-trailer rig, so I had to find such equipment in which to take my test.
I looked all over town, but at first I couldn’t find anyone who would rent me a tractor-trailer. I finally found one, but it required a $7,000 cash deposit up front. I didn’t have $7, let alone $7,000. I said to myself: This is bad. This is very bad.
I had another idea. I went to the driver’s-license office and asked if it were a common problem that people wanting to take a driving test could not afford the vehicle they needed to take it in. The licensing people replied that that indeed was a frequent problem.
The wheels in my mind started turning. I asked these government employees if they would endorse me if I got a truck and insurance and rented the rig to people who needed to take the test.
“Sure,” one of them said. “You will be supplying a need.”
I approached an old friend and told him my idea. He offered to lend me a little money to get me started. I bought a 25-year-old truck and put an ad in the newspaper. The phone began ringing. I rented my truck to drivers so they could pass their test.
I soon realized that I enjoyed teaching people. When drivers rented from me, I could sense their apprehension about taking their test. I started coaching them. I told them what they needed to do and showed them how to pass the exam.
When they passed, I felt exhilarated that I had been able to help somebody do something that he otherwise might not have been able to do. It gave me a new zest for life. Finally God had given me something I could do that I enjoyed. I was excited about working again.
All went well for two years. Then one day a supervisor in the motor-vehicle department decided he would put me out of business by insisting that I become licensed to operate a truck-driving school. That was out of the question for me, because it would require millions of dollars to buy buildings and trucks.
End of the line?
My situation looked bleak. To add insult to injury, the supervisor further insisted that I go directly to the official who issued licenses to truck-driving schools. I went to his office with my heart in my throat. I remember saying to myself: This is bad. This is very bad.
But how did I know it was bad? How did I know?
The story wasn’t over yet. As I walked into the office and introduced myself, the man said he had heard a lot about me and was wondering when I would come to see him. My heart sank. Now I was certain it was all over. He asked what I wanted to do. I explained that the supervisor at the department had insisted that I be licensed to run a truck-driving school.
He assured me that he, not the supervisor, had the full responsibility for those decisions. Again he asked what I wanted to do.
I explained to him that I wanted to help drivers pass their tests. He said the industry needed someone like me, and he would help me get my license.
I was astounded. What had appeared to be a disaster was turning into one of the greatest blessings of my life. In May 1995 I was licensed by the State of Arizona to operate a truck-driving school. A dream I could never have imagined was coming true.
That old folk tale has proven real to me. Many times I have said to myself: This is bad. This is very bad. But circumstances turned out pretty well.
Romans 8:28 Romans 8:28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
American King James Version×says God will work things out for us. He will take care of things. He looks after us. God doesn’t say that bad things are not going to happen. But He does say that, when bad things happen to us, He will use them for our ultimate benefit.
Remember God’s promise. God is faithful, not just for me, but for everyone who demonstrates his love for Him by keeping His laws and who is called according to His purpose. God’s promise is for real.
The next time something happens in your life that makes you think: This is bad. This is very bad, ask yourself: How do I know this is bad? How do I know? GN