God’s Arithmetic

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28

If you are a math teacher or are simply good with numbers, you most likely frowned at the above equation. That’s because, in arithmetic, a positive multiplied or divided by a negative is always a negative. In a world ruled by sciences (life, physical, abstract, social, applied) it is only natural to reject any result that does not adhere to their established and proven laws. However, there do exist quite a number of phenomenons. Most of them have been accepted as unexplainable and even supernatural, but rarely as divine.

The Bible teaches us that God is spirit, all-powerful, eternal, and the creator of life and the physical universe, including time and space. Therefore, it is obvious that He operates outside of our realm and can defy the very (natural) laws He himself created. God’s word also teachers us that because He is the great “I Am,” we can never fully fathom His ways.

The Apostle Paul was no stranger to the boundless works of the incomprehensible, yet knowable God who called him to proclaim the soul-saving power of His Gospel. In addressing the challenges that believers must face in this fallen world, Paul told the church in Rome something that at first may have sounded rather abstruse. He encouraged them by saying that “ALL things work together for the good of those who love (follow, obey, honor) God.” And I am sure that when he said ALL things, he meant just that. ALL things include, “the good, the bad, and the ugly!” He was actually telling them that positives and negatives equal positives with God. Quite a mind boggling concept for many, especially mathematicians!

It is only natural to not expect a positive outcome from a negative situation. Society has conditioned many of us to respond to adversities with anger, hopelessness, and even retribution. “How can anything good come out of something this bad?” is the most common question asked by those who face a trial and are told to hang on; that everything will work out. “Look at the bright side” and “Everything is going to be OK” are other popular clichés that seldom brighten up someone’s cloudy day. The truth is that regardless of how we chose to respond to a negative situation, it will not always end up positive. At least not as far as what some of us may consider to be positive.

As children of God through faith in Christ (Gal. 3:6), we will not only experience His provision, protection, and preservation (Psalm 23), but we will also have to face a wide variety of earthly afflictions, which include heartbreak, illness, grief, and even persecution (John 16:33). However, we can “be of good cheer” in the midst of our trials because God has promised a good outcome no matter what. Even so, it will be very difficult at times to see beyond some of the challenging situations we may face. That’s because we tend to become complacent when all goes well. And because we tend to take the positive things for granted, when the negative things appear, we end up focusing more on them and feeling overwhelmed. It takes courage, perseverance, and true faith to accept and endure life’s struggles knowing that God’s faithfulness will see us through. Only those who truly love, obey, and trust Him can testify that He indeed uses all the joys and pains of life to strengthen us and help us mature spiritually. That is why Paul continued to exhort the Roman Christians by reminding them of God’s ultimate goal, which is to make us more like Jesus.

For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. – Romans 6:29

Everything we experience in life can have a positive outcome. We just need to focus more on the eternal than the temporal and on the external more than the internal. In other words, instead of asking “God, why am I going through this?” we need to say “Lord, help me endure this so that you can use it for your glory.” God can use us more effectively when we are able to empathize with those who are going through an ordeal similar to one we have experienced. Think of Jesus, who endured so much pain (physically, emotionally, spiritually) in order to relate to us and show us how to overcome the same way He did.

Let us focus our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:2,3

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.

Hebrews 4:15

…[W]e are more than victorious through Him who loved us.

Romans 8:37

We may not be able to immediately see the end result of any given trial [Read The Bigger Picture] or even get a sneak peek at it, but we can rest assure that if we persevere we will reap both earthly and divine benefits no matter what we confront in life. God can even use the mistakes we have carelessly made (and will make) to fulfill his perfect plan. We just need to surrender to the Holy Spirit and fully trust Him. Remember, God only wants us to learn to depend on Him, to make us holy, to use us, and to bring glory to His name. In Him, every positive and negative results in a positive.

I am definitely not good in either secular or spiritual math. That is why I personally rather trust God’s Arithmetic!

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

James 1:12 

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