The prosperity gospel is advertised in many churches, broadcasted on your TV screens, and plastered across Christian bookstores. This so-called prosperity gospel is really no gospel at all, but rather just a monstrous combination of Christianity and the American dream. Like Frankenstein’s monster, we’ve assembled a creature out of the rotting corpses of American civil religion, idolatrous individualism, and greed. This prosperity gospel beast has become so commonplace that we’ve now considered the abomination normal.
This prosperity gospel deceives so effectively because preachers disguise it with Christian language, masking the monstrosity that lies beneath the shiny veneer. A disguise can fool from a distance, but when you inspect it up close, the illusion goes away. Camouflage only works from a distance and when a person isn’t paying all that much attention. The same is true for the prosperity gospel. It may sound good in a best-selling book or out of the mouth of a sleazy preacher, but the disguise unravels when confronted with reality, particularly suffering. A worldview or teaching that cannot account for the suffering is a sham.
The Spirit Prays for Us in Accordance to God’s Will
Romans 8 is so significant because it helps us reevaluate suffering through the lens of the true gospel. The Bible does not shy away from the truth that the Christian life is one of suffering, following the pattern of Christ. Nevertheless, though we endure suffering, glory awaits the saints. The Christian endures present sufferings with a certain hope for a future glory.
In Romans 8:26, Paul tells us, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness.” Even when we don’t know how to pray, the Spirit prays on our behalf in accordance with God’s will.
Have you ever been through such hardship that you can’t even vocalize words to pray? Has the cry of your anguish ever drowned out your voice for prayer? Has your sorrow ever left you speechless before God? Even so, the Spirit intercedes on your behalf before your Father in heaven, pleading with groans too deep for words.
In the midst of trials, the Spirit interprets our groaning and then intercedes on our behalf. The Spirit, being God, always prays for us in accordance with God’s will. In verse 27, Paul writes, “And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” God’s purpose cannot be thwarted. The future glory that awaits us is a certain promise. The Lord wills the victory of his Son and his body, the church. Even in the midst of sorrow, the Spirit intercedes for us in accordance with the will of God. In God’s complete and total sovereignty over our lives, we can rest assured knowing that his will is done on earth as it is in heaven.
But, what is the will of God for his children? Here we encounter the beautiful promise from Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” This is a beautiful verse often plastered across coffee mugs, but many fail to grab the beauty of this verse placed within its context. Within this important verse is an important qualifier. Romans 8:28 is a promise for those who love God, those who are Christian, those who have put their faith in Christ, those who are born again. However, if God has saved us and has filled our hearts with love towards him, we can know that whatever is happening in our lives, no matter how difficult it may be, God is accomplishing his good purpose. What others intend for evil, God is working for our good.
What is God’s Good Purpose for His Children?
Now, what is the definition of good? This is incredibly important, and if we misunderstand what Paul means by “good,” then we will be severely disappointed. The good that God promises his children isn’t earthly comforts but conformity to Christ. In other words, God isn’t promising a life free from suffering and pain. If he was, that would contradict everything Paul wrote earlier in Romans 8 about suffering with Christ and groaning with creation. What he is promising is that God takes every suffering and utilizes it for his own good purpose. Trials purge us from lingering sin and cause us to more fully trust in Christ. God, in his sovereignty, uses even the painful moments of life to complete his good work in you by making you more like Jesus. After all, this is the greatest good God can give us! What we most desperately need is holiness, not comfort.
God calls us out of darkness to walk in the light of his Son. God’s purpose in saving you is to love you, sanctify you, and bring you into fellowship within himself. As a Christian, you have been called according to his purpose, not your own. God’s purpose for you is to be holy as he is holy, and the crucible of suffering achieves God’s good purpose for you.
This is why it’s so important to remember the context of wonderful verses like Romans 8:28. If you take a verse like Romans 8:28 and divorce it from its context, you could easily end up with some prosperity-gospel garbage. The Frankenstein monster of the prosperity gospel is usually assembled from proof texts divorced from their context. However, Romans 8:28 is much more beautiful and powerful when we understand how it fits within the entire chapter of Romans 8. It shows us that God’s purpose is secure and his will towards his saints are good. Everything that comes into your life, as painful as it may be, God is using it to bring about your good in holiness.