All Things Work Together for Good?

Romans 8 28 u

Q. Do all things really work together for good? Christians are being persecuted now, what good is there?

A. That’s God’s promise according to Rom 8:28 –
• 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.

Not all things are good, but God causes all things, including the bad ones, to work together for good to those who love God.

Just this week I heard two examples illustrating this truth. The first is from Dr. Sameh Maurice, pastor of Kasr el Dobara Evangelical Church, the largest evangelical church in the Middle East. He said during the Arab Spring protests in Egypt, Islamic terrorists took advantage of the revolutionary wave of demonstrations to attack Christians. Over a hundred churches were burned, and hundreds of Christian businesses and homes were destroyed. From external observation this is not good. However, to the Christians’ credit they did not retaliate. They followed “love your enemies” (Mt 5:44) and prayed for those who persecuted them. Their neighbors took note and respected the Christians for practicing what they preached. When rioters came, the neighbors formed a human shield and surrounded the churches. The leader of the Coptic Church did not want the neighbors to get hurt, so he pleaded with them to go home. “We can rebuild churches, but we can’t bring you back if they kill you” he said. As a result thousands of Muslims turned to Christ, because they saw faith in action, God’s love showing through persecution. God causes all things, even persecution, to work together for good.

The second is from a pair of veteran Chinese missionaries with Christian and Missionary Alliance. They care for missionaries by visiting them in the Latin American field. To protect their economy,the Venezuela government devalued their currency (Bolivar) against the US$, which led to hyper-inflation and price control. Imports became very expensive and supplies were scarce. When goods arrived, the police mandated that they must be sold at the government-set price, and merchants were not allowed to hold inventories. As a result most warehouses are bare. Many Venezuelan Chinese are wholesalers. Prior to the devaluation, they were busy at their business making money, and nobody has time for church, even though they are believers. With the business downturn and no merchandise to sell by the afternoon, many close up shop early to go to church! Brothers and sister enjoy fellowship and there are meetings most week-nights, despite the fact that crime rates are high. Churches end their meetings by 9pm so that their members can go home safely. Not all things are good, but God causes even recession and hyper-inflation to work together for good!

Joseph said of his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” (Gen 50:20) What we need is to look at things from a wider perspective, and not limit ourselves to what’s in it for me. We need to have a Kingdom mentality.

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Our Belarus Trip (2 of 2)

(Continued from yesterday)

One of our Belarusian friends is a gifted singer who recorded 3 CDs, 2 in English and 1 in Russian. She has a deep devotional life and her songs reflect her faith. Here is a snipet:

We attended a baptismal service on Sunday, which is rare. Official statistics in 2011 cite 59% of Belarusians are believers, of which 82% are Orthodox, 12% Catholics, and 6% all other denominations, including Protestants, cults, Jews and Muslims. The percentage born-again is therefore small. Making a decision is easy, but public witness by baptism is hard to come by.

Protestant baptism service

Protestant baptism service

The church’s music director has a strong tenor voice and tours often to present in other churches. Here is a sample:

A challenge we faced cooking an authentic oriental mean is the lack of condiments to season the food. This is the only Vietnamese grocery store we know of in Minsk that has a supply of Chinese and SE Asian spices to prepare a decent meal. We actually saved up seasoning packets from instant noodles to bring on trips to help out in a crunch!

Vietnamese grocery store in Zhdanovichi Market

Vietnamese grocery store in Zhdanovichi Market

Of course we can always eat out, budget permitting. The best Chinese restaurant we tried in Minsk is “Chinatown”, opened just last week and where our friend is a junior partner. It is a first class diner with good food, excellent decor and service, and reasonable prices. Many of the decorations are imported from China, as is the chef who comes from Szechuan. We were the first customers on opening day, and it does not disappoint!

Ready for a hearty meal!

Ready for a hearty meal!

Among our Vietnamese merchant friends, the mood is sombre because of the poor economy. The Belarusian currency had depreciated 1/3 from US$1 = 10,000 BLR (Belarusian Ruble) to US$1 = 15,000 BLR, and sales had plummeted. Some shops have closed and the owners returned to Vietnam. Those staying open are eating into their capital in the hope that business will improve by year-end.

Many stores closed as a result of the economic downturn.

Many stores closed as a result of the economic downturn.

Despite the gloomy outlook, life goes on. Believers are helped by their faith and hope for a brighter future. Here we are in front of the white Holy Spirit Cathedral, a famous landmark in Minsk dating to nearly 400 years ago. The original building burned down about 100 years later, and the Bernadine monastery was rebuilt over 270 years ago.

Holy Spirit Cathedral (Orthodox)

Holy Spirit Cathedral (Orthodox)