‘Nothing So Ill But Christ Will Compensate’
The Christian life is lived at the intersection of the ages, this present age and the age of the world to come that has already, in Christ, punctuated this present age. In Christ, believers are a ‘new creation’ (2 Cor. 5:17). Paul does not mean here that believers are inwardly renewed men and women, but that we have been planted by God into the midst of the new creation that he has effected in Christ. This ‘intersection of the ages’ accounts, in part, for the tension that every Christian experiences as he or she labours to ‘seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness’ (Matt. 6:33). It is an inevitable tension, an unavoidable tension, but in the wisdom and mercy of God a sanctifying tension.
The words at the head of this letter were written by John Owen. They reflect his conviction that ‘for those who love God all things work together for good’ (Rom. 8:28). Paul begins that verse with, ‘And we know…’ He is not engaging in spiritual conjecture or surmise. He is not saying, ‘we know that some things, or perhaps even many things, work for the good of those who love God.’ Paul is unequivocal, ‘we know that…all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.’ These are staggering words, remarkable words, almost unimaginable words. But they are written in the Word of the One who cannot lie.
In recent months I have found myself engaged in lives that have known great sorrow, disappointment, illness, and death. John Calvin wrote for many when he wrote,
Our circumstances are all in opposition to the promises of God. He promises us immortality, yet we are surrounded by mortality and corruption. He declares that he accounts us just, yet we are covered with sins. He testifies that he is propitious and benevolent towards us, yet outward signs threaten his wrath. What then are we to do?
Indeed, what then are we to do? Too often we go into a ‘spiritual sulk’ and blame God for not ordering our life the way we think it should be ordered. But, in your saner moments, would you really want God to order your life the way YOU want it ordered? If you did, you would be a poor self-deceived, even Satan-deceived, fool. Do you know what is best for you? Do you know the end from the beginning? Are you, am I, the fount of all wisdom? At our best we ‘see through a glass darkly’. We need the loving-kindness and tender fatherly care of our heavenly King, to keep us on track, preparing us for the glory that we will one day inherit (and even now are beginning to enjoy).
Let me now give you Calvin’s own answer to the question he posed.
What then are we to do? We must close our eyes, disregard ourselves and all things connected with us, so that nothing may hinder or prevent us from believing that God is true (Commentary on Romans 4:20).
Calvin was absolutely sure – how could he be otherwise? – that there is
‘Nothing so ill but Christ will compensate’
The great issue is not, are you willing to believe what God’s Word teaches? But, are you willing to believe the goodness, grace, loving-kindness of your heavenly Father? Jesus laboured to impress on his disciples the loving Fatherhood of their God (read Matthew 6 and see how many times Jesus speaks of the ‘Father’). This is the issue we need to settle in our minds and hearts: Am I persuaded that my heavenly Father is everything he tells me he is? This is the battle of faith, a battle that will throw the concerted powers and seductions of the world, the flesh, and the devil against you.
Perhaps you have gone through or are going through dark and difficult times. Allow me to encourage you to take Owen’s words to heart. See them through the bright lens of Romans 8:28. Hide that word in your heart that you might not sin against God (Psa. 119:11). Live in the faith of this and, to quote Owen again, ‘Thou wilt die a conqueror’.
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