Text: Romans 8
You can have victory over sin, victory over self and victory over Satan, but there is another area in which we must have victory if we are going to live a consistent Christian life. Unless we come to experience victory in this area, then in all of the other areas (sin, self, Satan) we will not accomplish the life of overcoming that God has intended all of us to experience. I want to speak to you today on victory over situations, or victory over circumstances. I want you to remember that phrase victory over circumstances because in a moment I am going to change the wording of this phrase, and it is going to be an essential change. In the changing of that wording you are going to find the key to being victorious over every circumstance.
There are two kinds of circumstances. 1) There are those circumstances that we can control and they pose little or no problem. If there is a circumstance we are not particularly fond of and we can change it, then we change it. But there are other circumstances that present problems in living in victory. 2) These are circumstances we cannot control. So there are circumstances we can control, and there are circumstances we cannot control. There are circumstances we can change, and then there are circumstances that we cannot change—even though we wish we could.
I have an idea there are some of us here today that are dreading to see this conference conclude because we are going to have to return to a situation that we wish we could change but know we are powerless to do so.. This is the circumstance over which we need to have victory. Unless you and I leave this conference knowing how to experience victory over uncontrollable and unchangeable circumstances, we are not going to live a consistent Christian life. You see, everywhere you go you are in the midst of circumstances.
Now, I want to change that phrase: victory over circumstances. Here was an adverse, contrary circumstance I didn’t like. I viewed that circumstance as an Amalek standing in my way before the Promised Land saying, you will not go in. I would say, Lord, if I am ever to enter into the Promised Land, I must overcome this circumstance. Somehow I must change it, go around it or tunnel under it. Lord, help me to get victory over this circumstance. I have viewed my contrary, adverse circumstances as obstacles in my path, presenting a barrier to my progress in the Christian life.
The word I want to change is the word over. I want to change it to the word through. It is not victory over your circumstances; it is victory through your circumstances. If you ever change your viewpoint about adverse circumstances from trying to get victory over or around them, to not viewing them as an obstacle standing in your path or blocking your progress, that is the key to victory: they are the MEANS by which you enter into victory. That is the key. Victory through the circumstances gives you victory over the circumstances. I am really not going to speak to you about victory over your circumstances, I am going to speak to you about victory through your circumstances.
There is a verse I discovered sometime ago. Well, I didn’t really discover it; that’s like saying I discovered America! But I ran across it. In Isaiah, chapter 49, God is dealing with the people’s exodus from captivity and how they are going to get back to the Promised Land. Along the way, they are going to meet some obstacles. It is going to be rough terrain as they make their journey from Babylon back to the Promised Land. They are going to have to go through mountainous terrain.
Notice what he says in verse 11: And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted. Look at that first phrase: And I will make all my mountains a way. The New American Standard reads like this: And I will make all my mountains a road. The New English Bible reads: I will make every hill a path. Notice he does not say that he will make a way over the mountains.
He doesn’t say I will make a way through the mountains. He doesn’t say I will make a way around the mountains. He says the mountains will be the ROAD by which you get back into your land. The mountains actually become the road. In other words, he is saying obstacles, circumstances and mountains that stand in your way are not that which block you from entering into victory; they are the means of your entering into victory. My mountains will be the way. If the mountains are not there, you can’t get there. If it were not for the mountains, you could not enter in. It is not victory over your circumstances that you need, it is victory through your circumstances. That adverse, contrary circumstance is not a barrier or an obstacle; it is the means that God has divinely appointed by which you will pass into victory. It is the door, or the road.
Now we are ready to read our text in Romans 8, verses 28, 29 and 30:
28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 29For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
I want you to imagine with me this morning the three points of a triangle. We are going to start with the apex of the triangle. The first point, the top of the triangle, we are going to label The Purpose of God. If I am to have victory in every situation of my life, then I must first of all understand the eternal purpose of God. He says we know that all things right now are working together for good (and that good is not the good of ease and comfort but the good of God’s purpose), and all things are working together to accomplish that purpose–to those who are called according to his purpose. Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to become conformed to the image of his Son. There is the eternal purpose of God. What is it that God is trying to accomplish in my life? What is that good that all things are working together to accomplish? It is this: that I might be conformed to the image of his Son. Williams Translation reads like this: He marked us off to become like His Son. The word conformed means that my inner being, my essence and actuality, will become like the Lord Jesus. It does not refer to my appearing like the Lord Jesus by my actions only. It means that there is that divine plan and purpose that I will actually in essence become like the Lord Jesus. That is the eternal purpose of God for every believer.
Salvation is simply God restoring the image that man lost in the fall. The Bible says that we were created in the image of God. The image of God is man’s capacity to know God, to worship God, and to fellowship with God, and do all three perfectly. Only man is made in the image of God. Only man has the capacity to know God, to worship God, and to fellowship with God. You never saw a dog bowing his head and thanking God for his dog food. You never saw a cow worshipping. Only man has a thirst after God. There is born within every man an insatiable desire for God because man was made in the image of God. That image was not destroyed by the fall; it was marred by the fall. It’s like a bombed out building. The shell still stands. The semblance is still there, but it has been marred and perverted. There is still in man a semblance of the image of God but it is not as it was originally. That image, our ability to worship God, our capacity to know God and the fellowship of God has been marred, crippled, almost atrophied. God is seeking in salvation to restore the image of God to us.
He says that you and I have been predestinated to be conformed to the image of God’s son. That is God’s purpose for every person. The word purpose means to design beforehand. He is working this out on two levels. First of all, he is working it out in the future. You mark it down; there is going to be a day when every person who has ever been saved will be exactly like Jesus. This is a promise for the future. That is one level upon which God is working out his purpose. Someday in the future when Jesus comes, and we see him, we shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye. This corruptible will put on incorruptible; this mortal will put on immortality, and we will all be changed into his glorious likeness.
But God is working on another level. He is also working on the level of the present tense. In other words, right now, today, God is conforming us to his image. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says that we, as we behold the glory of the Lord, are being changed from glory unto glory into the same image by the Holy Spirit. When I was saved, the Holy Spirit took up residence within me. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to reveal Jesus to me through the Word and other means to open my eyes to see Jesus. As I am beholding the Lord Jesus Christ through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, I am being changed into the likeness of Jesus. How? From glory unto glory. That means from one degree to another degree, changing us bit by bit, gradually into the likeness of Jesus.
You are not changed in this life into the likeness of Jesus by one cataclysmic, ecstatic experience. It happens bit by bit. One of the greatest disappointments was in believing that one of these days I would turn the corner and God would put a holy zap on me. He would say, poof, you’re just like Jesus. That’s not the way it happens. Sometimes people have offered us experiences in which we would be changed into the likeness of Jesus, the old sin nature would be eradicated, and everything would be just as it ought to be. It never happens that way. He is changing us bit by bit by bit. Why? Because he doesn’t want that final change when Jesus comes to be so traumatic. The goal that I have is that when he comes to finally finish off the job, there won’t be that much to do. The tragedy is that for a great many people the coming of the Lord will not be a rapture; it will be a rupture because the change will be so drastic. What God is seeking to do in my everyday life is to make me like Jesus. This is essential in understanding if I am to get the best out of the worst and if I am to have victory through my circumstances. I must understand what the purpose of God is. God is working even today to make me like Jesus. That’s the apex of the triangle.
The two bottom points of the triangle support the purpose of God. I want you to label ths point on the right The Predestination of God. The predestination of God assures us of the purpose of God. The purpose of God is that I am to be like Jesus. The predestination of God guarantees that will happen. Let’s look at verse 29: For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son. Now, I am not going to try to explain the mystery of predestination. The reason is that I do not know the explanation for it. This is one of those areas where you must know without understanding. I do not understand predestination but I know it is a fact because the Bible teaches it. The word predestinate means to mark (choose) beforehand.
In eternity God designed me before I was ever born. That design was to be like Jesus. God is not going to leave it up to me to become like Jesus because he knows I’ll never make it. So God guarantees that his purpose will be fulfilled. He guarantees it like this: in eternity past before any of us were even born, God knew us and he drew a circle around us and said I am going to guarantee you are going to be like Jesus. The predestination of God guarantees the purpose of God. That purpose of God is supported by the predestination of God. Friends, if you have been saved–like it or not–someday you are going to be like Jesus. There is no power in heaven or earth or hell that can ever prevent you from being like Jesus. You mark it down. Regardless of how discouraged you may be today, one of these days you are going to be exactly like Jesus. Why? In eternity past before you were ever born, God drew a circle around you and said you are mine.
Paul writing to the Philippians in chapter 1, verse 6, says: I am confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will complete it in the day of Jesus Christ. Friend, God never leaves any work undone. What God starts, he always finishes. One of my favorite passages is the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John. In verse 37 Jesus said: All that the Father giveth me (there’s predestination) shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. Verse 39: And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
Jesus said the Father has given me some people. Everybody that he gave me is going to come to me. You say if I believe in predestination, that discourages evangelism. Oh no, that encourages it. Everyone that the Father has given the Son are going to come to him. If they don’t come to him, they have not been given. They cannot come until they have been given to Son of the Father. He says that he that comes to me I will in no wise cast out. You say, what if we sin? He will in no wise cast you out because the Father gave you to him. I will raise him up at the last day. Upon that last day, Jesus is going to stand before the Father and say, Father, everyone you gave me is here and accounted for. Not one is lost and not one is missing. The predestination of God is God’s guarantee that someday you and I will be exactly like Jesus. Beloved, now we are the sons of God. It doth not yet appear what we shall be (don’t have any idea what we are going to be). It’s incomprehensible to see what we will be like in heaven. I do know this. We shall be like him for we shall see him as he is. Every man that has this hope in his heart is purifying himself just like Jesus is pure. The purpose of God is to be like Jesus. The predestination of God guarantees it.
I’m glad that I have a Lord like this. I am guaranteed. It says in verse 30: Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. That’s past tense. Have you ever noticed how much of the book of Revelation is written in the past tense even though it is in the future? Have you ever noticed that Isaiah 53 is written in past tense even though it is prophesying an event that wouldn’t happen until 700 years later? Do you ever wonder why God wrote prophecy in the past tense? Even God himself can’t change it once it is history. You and I understand that God can do anything, but I am speaking after the infirmity of your flesh. He writes in the prophetic past.
George Washington was the first president of the United States. There’s not anything you can do about that. You can’t change that. There’s not a thing you can do about it. God is saying that it is so certain and so secure that you are already glorified. It has already happened. It’s in the past tense. God guarantees it. Right now I’m glorified. I don’t look much like I’m glorified. Sometimes I don’t sound too glorified. But friend, when God looks at me, he says I’m glorified. How can I lose my salvation if I’m already in heaven—glorified?
God is a present tense God. There is no past and no future with God. Let’s suppose that I’m standing on top of a building. I remember years ago hearing Dr. J. P. McBeth use this illustration. It made such an impression on me. On top of the building, I am watching people walk. I am watching a fellow. I saw where he started. I see where he is going. I see where he is. Right now, that fellow is right below me. Now, where he was is his past; where he is going is his future. But from my vantage point where he was is my present; where he is going is my present; and where he is is my present. From my viewpoint, it’s all now. From God’s viewpoint my whole life is all now. I look back to where I was ten years ago, and that is my past. But that is God’s now. I wonder where I’m going to be ten years from now. That’s my future but it is God’s now. You see, God is the eternal now; there is no past or future. It is all present. God can say you are already glorified. The purpose of God is to be like Jesus. The predestination of God assures the purpose of God.
Let’s come to the third point of the triangle. Remember that these two bottom points support the purpose of God. The third point of the triangle is the providence of God. The purpose of God is to be like Jesus. The predestination of God assures that purpose. The providence of God accomplishes that purpose. The purpose of God , which has been guaranteed by predestination, is in the present life being accomplished by God’s providence. What is providence? Purpose is to design beforehand. Predestination is to choose beforehand. Providence is to provide beforehand. Providence is made up of two words: pro (before) and video (to see). It means to see beforehand and to plan accordingly. The providence of God is this: God saw every situation I would be in before I was ever in it, every circumstance I would ever encounter before I ever encountered it, he saw beforehand everything that would happen to me and he planned accordingly. If I know what is going to happen, I can make provision before it happens. That’s why you buy a burial plot, isn’t it? You know if the Lord tarries, you are going to die. Knowing therefore what is going to happen, you can provide for it. God knows everything that is going to happen—every detail, every turn in the corner, every rut in the road. In eternity past he looked down, saw everything that was going to happen to us, and made provision for it. I may be surprised at what happens to me tomorrow but God isn’t. He has already made provision..
Verse 28: And we know that all things are working together for good. That’s the providence of God. The purpose of God is to be conformed to the image of God. The predestination of God guarantees it. The providence of God is God right now, today, working all things together to accomplish that good. Notice that he says ALL things are working together. Working together has the idea of all things fitting together like pieces in a puzzle, meshing together like gears. When you work a big jigsaw puzzle, you dump it all out on the table, and it looks like you will never be able to work that thing.
For Christmas we got some big jigsaw puzzles. There was one that looked absolutely beautiful on the cover of the box. We bought some of this stuff you spray on it to make it stick so you can keep it and put it in a frame. We worked for days and days and days and got it all finished but there was one piece lost. It ruined the whole puzzle. We looked under rugs, in pants pockets, in closets, everywhere for that one missing piece. Now, every time we start working a jigsaw puzzle, I have a fear the last piece may be missing. I know a lot of Christians who go through life worrying that the last piece may be missing. Friend, it won’t be because God is fitting everything together to accomplish that purpose. You put it down, and rest on it. The providence of God is him taking everything in my life and causing it to mesh together to accomplish that purpose of making me like Jesus.
I want to share with you what I consider to be the greatest illustration in the Bible of the providence of God. It is found in Genesis, chapters 45 and 50. The story is of Joseph and his brothers. They were jealous of Joseph. One day Joseph came to meet his brothers in Dothan. They said, since dad likes him best; let’s kill him. Reuben said, no, let’s don’t kill him. Let’s not shed his blood. Let’s just throw him over here in a pit. There’s no water in the pit, so if we just leave him there, he will die. They sat down to have lunch and decided there was no profit in letting him die. Some Ishmaelites came by and they decided to sell him. We’ll kill two birds with one stone. We’ll get rid of Joseph and make a little profit too. They said let’s go pull him out of the pit. Before they got there, some Midianite merchants came along and drew him out of the pit and sold him to the Ishmaelites who took him into Egypt.
Seventeen years later, you know the story. A famine has come to the land and Joseph’s brothers have come to Egypt because they have heard there is plenty of food there. Joseph meets these brothers two or three times and does not reveal himself. They do not recognize him but he knows them. In Genesis, chapter 45, he just cannot contain himself any longer. He must tell these brothers who he is. He was weeping. Notice what he says in verse 4:
Then Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. For these two hears hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God:
Three times in this passage he says to his brothers, who thought they were the ones who sent him to Egypt: it was not you, it was God. He didn’t want his brothers taking credit for something that God did. You say, that’s crazy. It was his brothers who sold him into Egypt. I will take Joseph’s word before I’ll take yours. After all, he was the one who was there. Three times he says, it was not you, it was God. That is not predestination. Predestination would mean that God made Joseph’s brothers hate Joseph and seek to kill him. That’s providence. God knew they were going to be filled with envy and try to kill him. What did he do? He made provision for it. He planned for it. God wasn’t caught off guard. He had those Ishmaelites coming because he knew Joseph was going to be in a pit.
Look over in Genesis, chapter 50, verse 20. Joseph is again speaking to his brothers: But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Friend, do you know how to have victory through every circumstance, therefore, victory over every circumstance? Would you like to know how to get the best out of the worst? You stand before every contrary, adverse circumstance and say two things to it: It’s not you; it’s God. It’s not evil; it’s good. That is what Joseph said about the worst thing that ever happened to him. It wasn’t you that did it; it was God. It wasn’t evil; it was good. You meant it unto me for evil; but God meant it unto me for good. My dear friends, God always means it for your good. All things are working together for your good, that ultimate good to make us like Jesus.
The providence of God does two things. 1) It provides for every eventuality in my life. It causes things to happen that are beyond my power to accomplish. For instance, there is no way that Joseph could have arranged for those Ishmaelites to be passing by just at that precise moment. But God provided for every event and had those Ishmaelites coming by at just the right time.
History tells us that the Egyptians hated Hebrews. They would not even eat at the same table with a Hebrew. Yet, just by coincidence, Joseph falls into the hands of Potiphar, the one man in all of Egypt who recognized in Joseph a man of worth. He sat and ate at Potiphar’s table—an unbelievable thing. He made him lord over all his house. The providence of God caused things to happen that Joseph could not accomplish. Joseph couldn’t have walked up to Potiphar one day and said, I’m a good little Hebrew boy, and I want to sit down and eat with you and be lord over your house. They would have kicked him out. They would have put him to death. Hebrews were despised by the Egyptians. Miracle of miracles, Potiphar sits him at his table and makes him lord over all his house. The providence of God causes things to happen that are beyond my power to accomplish.
Finally, he is thrown into prison by a lie of Potiphar’s wife. It just so happened that a baker and a butler were there. They had a dream, and it just so happened that Joseph was able to interpret that dream. It just so happened there was going to be a famine. There was no way that Joseph could have arranged a famine in the land. The providence of God is God causing things to happen that I could not accomplish. Why? In order to do me good. It provides for every eventuality in my life. There is a second thing that the providence of God does.
2) It protects me from every enemy in my life. It causes thing not to happen that are beyond my power to avoid. This is humorous to me. Joseph’s brothers wanted to kill him but they couldn’t. They thought they had gotten rid of him but they hadn’t. Potiphar’s wife wanted to destroy him but she didn’t. Listen carefully. The prison became the path to the palace. At every turn when his enemies tried to destroy him, God stepped in and used that mountain as a road, a freeway to accomplish his purpose.
The way you have victory through your circumstances is that God protects you from every enemy in your life. He does it by making servants out of those enemies. Would you say that Joseph’s brothers were his enemies? You would, wouldn’t you? If I had eleven brothers who wanted to kill me, it wouldn’t take long for it to dawn upon me that these fellows are my enemies. Were they his enemies? Yes. What did God do? He turned them into his servants. Joseph ended up prime minister of Egypt. Would you say that Potiphar’s wife was Joseph’s enemy. I would say that she was. But God made Potiphar’s wife Joseph’s servant.
The Apostle Paul tells us that one day he received a messenger of Satan to buffet him, a thorn in the flesh, an enemy. He sought the Lord three times to get rid of the enemy. Lord, remove the obstacle. Lord, I’ve got a circumstance I don’t like, and I want to get victory around it. I want to get victory over it. God said, I’ve got something better than getting rid of the thorn. I’ll give you grace. My grace is sufficient for you. Paul, the weaker you become, the stronger my power becomes in you. God took that enemy of the Apostle Paul and made it into his servant and served him up glorious power—so much so that the Apostle Paul was able to say he now rejoiced in his infirmities, distresses, and persecutions.
Of course, the greatest illustration of this is the cross. You would say the cross was the greatest enemy of Jesus. But it was through the cross that Jesus Christ was exalted as Lord and Savior. God took the enemy and made it into his servant.
Friend, I don’t know what in your life today is your enemy. I want you to know that God wants to take that enemy and make it into your servant, to make you lord over your Egypt.
I hesitate to make this statement because I don’t want anybody to misunderstand. Wouldn’t you say that Joseph’s brethren sinned in selling their brother into Egypt? If Joseph had not been in Egypt seventeen years later, they would have starved to death. Listen, their sin became their salvation. Wouldn’t you say it was a sin to crucify Jesus? That sin became our salvation! You say, are you encouraging us to sin? No, I am trying to get you to see a God who is so sovereign and powerful that he can take sin and turn it into salvation. The providence of God takes every enemy and makes it into your servant. God is in charge of every circumstance in your life. God uses it. Where did God want Joseph? He wanted Joseph in a position where he could save people. Joseph said, God did it that he might preserve you a posterity. God used that circumstance to accomplish his purpose.
Let’s tie it all together. God has a plan and a purpose. That purpose is to make you like Jesus. God has guaranteed that purpose is going to be fulfilled some day. But he doesn’t want to wait until someday. He wants to do it right now so that you can be a display case to the glory of God to a lost and dying world. And so that you can be a source of life to others as Joseph became a source of life to others. God is right now in this life trying to accomplish that purpose. Do you know what tools God uses for that purpose? The tool of circumstances. God will arrange for you a set of circumstances, tailor-made, that will fit you perfectly. They won’t sag or bag anywhere. The purpose of those circumstances is to accomplish God’s purpose in your life.
Most of us are praying that God will change our circumstances. Friend, God is not the least interested in changing your circumstances. He is interested in changing your character. When those circumstances have changed your character then God may change your circumstances.
To them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 29For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2005