Ever felt sorry for certain Scriptures? I sure have. I'm talking about passages like John 3:17, Hebrews 4:13, 1 John 1:10, and Philippians 4:14. Great verses, all . . . yet the popularity of their next-door neighbors has resulted in their being virtually ignored.
Everybody who spends even a little while in the Family can quote Proverbs 3:5–6, but unfortunately, an equally significant verse 7 goes begging. And take Galatians 2:20. It is so powerful, so magnificent, it's often viewed as the final climactic verse of the chapter, yet it's actually the next-to-last verse. But who in the world knows Galatians 2:21 by heart? The twenty-third Psalm is the most famous of all in the ancient hymnal, but it's sandwiched between two other psalms that, when studied, yield fruit that is succulent to the soul and actually far more vital, theologically, than the popular and picturesque "shepherd psalm."
Perhaps the most obvious case in point is found in one of the greatest chapters Paul ever penned, Romans 8. From our mother's knee we have been nourished by the twenty-eighth verse. It brings comfort when our world crushes in. It softens the blows of calamity. It calms us when panic would otherwise steal our peace. It reassures us when wrong temporarily triumphs . . . when the fever doesn't break . . . when the brook dries up . . . when death strikes. I hardly need to write it out.
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.
Great words! But left alone, they're incomplete. Anyone who has taken the time to look discovers that this verse starts a chain reaction that doesn't end before the magnificent statement found in the final two verses of Romans 8, which assure us of our inseparable love-relationship with the living God.
Woven into the fabric of this elegant garment of truth is an often-forgotten, easily overlooked thread that adds richness and color. Because it lacks the eloquence of verse 28, because it doesn't roll off the tongue quite as easily, it tends to get lost amidst other more obvious and more attractive phrases. I'm referring to the verse that follows verse 28, the one that explains why "all things work together for good to those who love God." Why?
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.
Put simply, we are God's personal project. He is committed to the task of working in us, developing us, rearranging, firming up, and deepening us so that the character traits of His Son—called here "the image"—begin to take shape. The emerging of the Son's image in us is of primary importance to the Father. In fact, it is impossible to thwart His commitment to the project. His work goes on even though we scream and squirm, doubt and debate, run and shun. There's no denying it, the tools He uses hurt, but it all "works together for good." It takes tension to develop the right texture. Without it, forget it. I've got a "fishy" story that'll explain what I mean. I'll tell you about it in Part Two.
The emerging of the Son's image in us is of primary importance to the Father.