God is the wonder-worker (Psalm 136:4). He keeps a burning bush from being consumed, preserves three men in a fiery furnace so that “the hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them,” and causes a young virgin girl to conceive and give birth to a Son who “will save his people from their sin” (Exodus 3:2, Daniel 3:27, Matthew 1:21)—to mention just a few of the mighty works on his royal resume.
The wonder of wonders is that he continues working wonders. In fact, if you’re a Christian you’re experiencing God’s most counterintuitive wonder every day, all day long.
Three Ways God Works Even Our Sin For Our Good
A thing is counterintuitive when it’s the opposite of what you’d expect. A massive mechanical elephant called an airplane nimbly roams the sky’s jungle. That’s counterintuitive. Saul of Tarsus—Christianity’s worst persecutor—becomes Paul the Apostle —Christianity’s greatest preacher. That’s counterintuitive. And what God does with our sins is about as counterintuitive as it gets.
What’s he do with our sins? Romans 8:28 gives us the sweeping, all-inclusive, nothing-left-out assurance that God is working them for our good. The “all things” in this verse isn’t an exaggerated politician’s campaign promise, cotton candy sweet and junk food useless. It’s reality. By all things, God means all things. Including our sins.
Here are three ways God engages in his counterintuitive wonder of working even our sins to our good.
1. God engages in his counterintuitive wonder of working even our sins to our good by using them to humble us.
In the barracks, Peter boasts that even if the other eleven apostles go AWOL, Jesus can count on him to be Alamo brave. On the battlefield, he’s as big a coward as the others in the apostolic platoon. Later Jesus asks, “Peter, do you love me more than these?” (“these” = the other apostles). Peter doesn’t say, “Yes!” (John 21:15). What’s happened? The Great Physician used Peter’s failure as penicillin to defeat the infection of his pride.
He treats us with the same medication, doesn’t he? Nothing knocks out pride like the thought that you still sin against your gracious Father in spite of all that he does for you through Jesus.
Since “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6), nothing’s better for us than humility. So, God is working our sins to our good by using them to humble us.
2. God engages in his counterintuitive wonder of working even our sins to our good by using them to make us prize Jesus.
When I see how sin clings to everything I do more tightly than cellophane clings to a new DVD case; and when I see that in my finest moments I’m a Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde of mixed motives that keep me from doing anything solely and wholly for the glory of God; and when I see that the root of these weeds is the stubborn fact that I love myself more than I love my Lord or my neighbor—I cry “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” And I praise God—I praise God!!!—that by his grace I also cry, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25).
The Puritan John Flavel ended many a sermon with the words, “Blessed be God for Jesus Christ.” My sins make me say the same. Don’t yours? So, God is working our sins to our good by using them to make us prize Jesus.
3. God engages in the counterintuitive wonder of working even our sins to our good by using them to produce in us counterintuitive wonder of being secure in his love.
You would think that ongoing sinfulness would make you as insecure before him as a three-time loser about to be sentenced by a hanging judge. After all, each sin you commit is in and of itself a capital crime worthy of eternal death. Yet when you sin he doesn’t tighten a noose around your neck and give the command to execute. Just the opposite: again and again, he forgives you and restores you to fellowship with him and usefulness to him (1 John 1:9; John 21:16-17). These acts of continuous graciousness are his way of assuring us that through Jesus we no longer stand before him as criminals before a judge but as beloved children before a glorious Father. Through them he assures us, “When I say nothing will be able to separate you from my love for you in Jesus, I mean literally, actually nothing!” (Romans 8:37-39.) And if nothing, not even our sin, can separate us from Father’s love for us in Jesus, then we’re secure in his love.
Who but the counterintuitive God of wonders could work a wonder more counterintuitive than this wonder of graciously using our sins to make us secure in his love? So, God is working our sins to our good by using them to produce in us the assurance that we are secure in his love.
Maximize His Grace
The point of this isn’t to minimize our sin. The point is to maximize his grace. Grace is God’s determination, through Jesus, to get glory from you by being good to you all the time. His determination to be good to you all the time includes your sins. This is God’s counterintuitive wonder. And it gives you reason to live as one of God’s flesh and blood counterintuitive wonders called a Grace-Focused Optimist.