Fear, Part Four

Romans 8:28 and 1 Corinthians 10:13

By Kersley Fitzgerald

The Series

Joshua 1:9
Isaiah 41:10 and Jeremiah 29:11
Matthew 6:34
Philippians 4:6-8
Romans 8:28; 1 Corinthians 10:13

The first two articles on fear covered Joshua 1:9, Isaiah 41:10, and Jeremiah 29:11. The Joshua and Isaiah passages are specific commands not to fear; the Jeremiah verse is a reason not to fear. Unfortunately for our purposes, they're all very specifically directed at the nation of Israel, not us in the church age. The next two articles were directed at us. Matthew 6:34 tells us not to fear for practical reasons: don't let the potential issues of tomorrow distract us from the things we need to deal with today. Philippians 4:6 gives us a command, "do not be anxious about anything," and then gives us things to do instead, including pray, give God thanks, and keep in mind what is good (Philippians 4:8). In return, God promises to give us peace (Philippians 4:7).

This final article takes a look at two verses that are often used as reassurances against fear, but not always in the way in which they were intended.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
This verse is often interpreted to mean that "everything happens for a reason," almost as if we'll be rewarded for our troubles. But that's not what it means.

Things — Again, this is the Greek pas, which just means every part of the whole.

Work togetherSunergeo means to work in union, to partner in labor.

GoodAgathos is pretty standard. It means of good nature, useful, agreeable, excellent, honorable.

Love — The Greek language has several different words for "love"; this one is agape which means a self-sacrificing, active love, not a mushy feeling.

Called — The definition of kletos doesn't just cover the invitation to salvation, but the selection for a purpose. God calls us to Himself to do His work.

Purpose — The Greek prothesis literally means to set something out for view. In fact, it is the Greek term for the showbread that was to be brought to the Temple every Sabbath (Numbers 4:7).

These are all simple words, but we don't often consider how they are put together in Romans 8:28, a verse we learn as children. All things do the work that will result in a future good. That doesn't mean that we will be able to see how those steps progress toward good. It doesn't mean that the good will benefit us in this world (health, wealth, transitory happiness). Loving God is key, because when we love God, we value what He values — if we don't the result will not look like good to us.

We are called — we are charged — to this life of God's purpose. We are called so He can put us into view, to be conformed to the image of Christ, to be justified, and to be glorified (Romans 8:29-30). On display to show all of creation God's power and sovereignty and love in choosing to redeem us. We are promised that this will be a painful process, involving suffering for us (Romans 8:17) and creation (Romans 8:19-22), and a need for a great amount of patience (Romans 8:23-25). In the end, the good doesn't mean houses and kids and wealth — we're not Job. It means being God's work, on display.
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13
Another verse that is misinterpreted, often to say, "God will not give us more than we can handle."

Temptation — The Greek peirasmos means the situation by which our character is put on trial so who we really are can be revealed.

Overtaken — "Overtaken" sounds like someone is beating you in a race. Lambano means temptation cannot grab you, throw you over a shoulder, and take you for its own.

Common to man — This is all one word, anthropinos, that characterizes humanity. It's not just that these trials come up regularly amongst people, it's that these trials are ubiquitous to the human experience.

Faithful — The Greek pistos means that metering our trials in life is part of God's official duties, and we can trust Him with those duties.

Able — There are three different ways in which we may be dunamai to resist temptation: through our own abilities or frame of mind, through the inherent nature of the conditions, or because of the law and local customs. God, of course, has sovereignty over all three.

ProvidePoieo infers that whatever the trial, God will orchestrate the situation so that we have a way out; He will actively make us an option to triumph.

Way of escape — This way of escape, or ekbasis, isn't a fudge. We won't have to rely on a technicality. It is a door marked "exit," and leads directly away from sin.

Endure — That doesn't mean it will be easy. Hupophero means to patiently carry a burden. Resisting temptation and triumphing over trials that threaten to prove us unfaithful takes patience, strength, and sometimes sacrifice.

"God doesn't give us more than we can handle": that interpretation doesn't even make sense. For one thing, the entire passage is an admonition to flee sin (here, specifically, eating meat at pagan ceremonies). For another, what does "handle" mean? That we won't get frustrated? Cry? Die? None of the above, if history is any proof. Simply stated, it means God won't put us in a situation where we have no choice but to sin. But, really, it means God won't allow us to face a trial that will inevitably lead to the revelation that our character is bad. Whether by inner strength, strength of will, circumstances, or the nature of things, He will provide a way so that we can make the right choice and show ourselves to be His followers.

Neither Romans 8:28 nor 1 Corinthians 10:13 speak directly about fear, but they're frequently used (and misused) in the face of fear. "Don't worry — everything will work out and be good again." "Don't be anxious — God won't let you break." Neither of these reassurances are accurate. The world may beat us to a pulp. The world may kill us. We may be broken, physically and emotionally. But the world will never abuse us so badly that we will be forced to sin, deny Christ, and prove to be unfaithful to God. And in the end, we may be beat up, bruised, and drug through the mud, but we can reach the finish line with our honor intact and God's glory waiting for us.

Never fear about that.

Image Credit: Steve Corey; "Mad Mud Mash Finish"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | False-Teaching  | Hardships

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Published 3-1-16