Romans: Day 24

Righteousness through Faith

by

Today's Text: Romans 9:20-33, Jeremiah 18:1-6, Ephesians 1:11-14

Scripture Reading: Romans 9:20-33, Jeremiah 18:1-6, Ephesians 1:11-14

I did an internship in Washington D.C. the summer before my junior year in college. The job was good enough; I coordinated summer camp logistics for kids interested in politics. Yes, it was as nerdy as you’re imagining, and yes, I was a former attendee. But the best thing about that summer wasn’t licking envelopes and herding hormones. It was meeting a new group of friends at church.

I don’t know if you’re familiar with the town of Stars Hollow from the TV show Gilmore Girls, but those quirky, fictional characters had nothing on my new, real-life friends. Despite the fact that I was a stranger in town, and only planning to stay for eight weeks, they grafted me in, constantly hounding me to join them for weekend adventures of camping, floating down rivers, or taking long motorcycle rides through the Shenandoah Valley. It was as dreamy as it sounds, and healing for my soul in many, many ways.

We talked about the gospel, too, and one of those conversations led to the topic of the providence of God—what some call “predestination.” The candor of the conversation shocked me. Who talks about this stuff anyway? And what does the providence of God even mean?

I was kindly pointed to today’s passage in Romans, and from there one friend explained the idea that God knows, plans, and orchestrates everything. All the days ordained for me (and you, for that matter) were written in His book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). We are God’s workmanship created to do good works that He prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). Salvation itself is a righteousness that comes by faith, and even that comes from Him.

At face value, the concept that God is in control of everything might seem offensive. We humans have a cosmic authority problem. We don’t like to believe that Someone else has the final say in our lives. When Paul asks in Romans 9:20, “Will what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”, I want to scream, “Yes! That’s what my prayers to God sound like on a regular basis!” But if we are to take Romans 9 to heart, we have to concede that God is ultimately the one in control of His creation.

In the years since my dream summer in D.C., I’ve learned a lot about faith. I’ve read much more of the Bible. I’ve spent countless hours with Jesus. And despite all that, God’s providence is as mysterious to me now as it was then. But I do know this: I would rather believe in a loving God who is fulfilling His purpose for me, than a cosmic universe that is inflicting its chaos on me.

I look at the seasons, coming and going in their time. I look at the ocean waves, which know their boundaries. I look at my face in the mirror—imperfect, yes, but a masterpiece in the Master’s hands. I look at the miracles of birth and life and death. None of it is a mistake. This beauty is His creation, and He is sovereign.

If we trust Him—if we believe His love—we can put away our questions of Why did you make me like this? and put on the posture of Thy will be done.

SRT-ROMANS-instagram24

 Claire Gibson is a freelance writer and editor whose work has been featured both locally and nationally in publications including The Washington Post, and Entrepreneur Magazine. An Army kid who grew up at West Point, New York, Claire is currently growing roots in Nashville, Tennessee. She loves her husband, Patrick, and their dog, Winnie.

  • I needed this so badly. Amen and amen!!

  • Kasey Summers

    Amen and amen!!

  • Karen From Virginia

    Amen

  • This is where Man’s responsibility runs into God’s sovereignty. Real heady stuff to wrap your mind around to understand. This is where we must trust and obey remembering God works everything for our good and for His glory.

  • KN in Ks

    This. This devotional reminded me of all the silliness, and rubbing our heads in confusion my son brings to our family with his diagnosis that he is perfectly made. He is perfectly made to do the works God had laid out for him to do. Dear loving God guide us as his parents to led him to those works and for his heart to reap the precious talents and gifts you have given him. This goes for all of my children. Lead me to sow those promises of your love into their hearts that they are perfectly made to do great works.

  • jenn in GA

    God’s sovereignty is a challenge, perhaps the biggest one of my nearly 50-year faith journey. He is not asking me to not question Him, but to trust Him. He IS trustworthy.

    here’s an oldie but a goodie from Michael W Smith, taken from Ephesian 1:1-14:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Idbh7w1A3VY

  • Allison Joy

    I love this, and these are promises I have clung to. God does not make mistakes. And it’s much easier to go through the valleys when you don’t have to trust yourself to get out of it. In fact, things work much better when we DON’T trust ourselves to get out, but rather on God. There is no one better to lead us to get us out of that valley than the One who knew the map before were were even born.

  • Rom 9:20-33
    It seems that God and predestination in this case is more about God knowing the paths we will take to Him before we take them. For some it will be the obvious stone in the road. For others, they will miss it completely, trying and taking every other route around it, over, under and around, until they go through it.
    Jer 18:1-6 talks about the potter at the wheel. Isn’t it saying God can shape us and remold as many times as He likes, until He is satisfied? I believe that. Most of us are cracked pots that need repairing anyway. We are sinners.
    Eph 1:11-14 “it is in Christ, once you’ve heard the truth (of salvation) and BELIEVED IT” it may take a few times of hearing it. I think God knows we’re hard headed. I think that is WHY He sent a savior. That Savior WILL set us free WHEN we believe it.

    I love all of this affirmation and truth. I used to worry about many things. Some I have CHOSEN to no longer to worry about. In fact they are NOT mine to worry about. They are my husbands personal worries. I don’t need to take his personal hang ups personal. Those are his. It’s freeing for both of us l, I hope. It is, when I turn the tables and look at my own sin. If my husband harped I might sneak and lie. By quietly standing by, praying and waiting I am able to hear the Holy Spirit encourage me to keep my eyes open and obedience to Christ.
    God is so faithful!

    • Susan

      This is such a thoughtful and thorough comment on the readings. Thanks. I have struggled with idea of pre-destiny. Your explanation of your thinking helped me so much.

    • jenn in GA

      Rosalyn, i’d never seen the distinction between the sentences of vs. 13! having a grown son who has heard the truth and acknowledges it, but who is holding God at arm’s length right now, it gives me renewed hope to think that it may take hearing it in another context for him to believe it and embrace it and live by it. thanks for sharing.

    • Jody Heavenrich Hensley

      Love this…thank you!!!

  • Stacey Cochran

    I read the Scripture early this morning in the KJV, then again in the ESV when I was having my morning break at work. I just read it in the Message during my lunch break because I was still having trouble understanding it. While it is still a hard passage, the way it is broken down in the Message just gut punched me. I am one of the ones who didn’t seem interested in God, but through His movement in my life, I became His daughter. But I can also see what Paul is saying about Israel as pertaining to the church. We have become so involved with our projects, programs, and plans (I’m so guilty!) that we forget God. We forget where we were and what He has done for us. My prayer is that I never forget that I was once disinterested in God until He changed me and never lose sight of what He has done and continues to do in my life.

    Verses 30-32 “How can we sum this up? All those people who didn’t seem interested in what God was doing actually embraced what God was doing as he straightened out their lives. And Israel, who seemed so interested in reading and talking about God was doing, missed it. How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their “God projects” that they didn’t notice God right in front of them…”

  • Wow. This is my first time back to the site in a long time and this post is exactly what my husband and I have been recently talking about. We’re in a long season of waiting and I ask those questions of God all the time. I choose to believe in a loving God who is fulfilling His purpose for me, for us. On every hard and confusing day.

  • It seems Paul is pointing out the Gentiles inclusion in the Gospel more than anyone’s exclusion due to predestination. We apply this to our individualistic view of faith but Roman readers would’ve been more concerned with entire nations’ identifying as non-chosen. It definitely applies today, as God knows who will and who will not believe. But big picture is more helpful in understanding predestination, I think.
    Also, why did God create non-believing nations anyway? Bc no one is excluded! They still had a chance!

    • Pascale

      Thank you Kristi for this statement. I agree with you, that we tend to read Romans (and most of Scripture) with self-centric lenses that tint our understanding of what 1st century Christians were expressing/experiencing. We need to read what Paul is writing in context and appreciate the Bible as true story that finds its crux and climax in Jesus. Romans was written in those days in that way for its intended audience with a message that has application even today.

    • Kaylee

      Thank you for this explanation, Kristy! I’ve been trying to dive into this concept for some time now and it’s been quite the topic to grasp. This really opened my eyes to some truth.

  • Okay, girls. I am seriously struggling with Romans 9. Have any of you found any commentaries/ resources that have helped you unpack it a little bit more? Normally, I like to look at The Message when I’m struggling to comprehend, but even that is over my head with this chapter! So thankful that our sweet Father can handle our questions and walks in the trenches with us!! Thanks in advance xoxo

    • Pascale

      Can I suggest N.T Wright’s Paul for Everyone series? He has a knack for unpacking hard concepts that theologians and historians argue upon for readers like you and I. Have fun as you journey with God in asking questions!

    • Heather McDermott

      Check out The Believers Bible Commentary! It has helped me a lot when unpacking difficult scriptures and concepts!

    • Keri

      I’m using EnduringWord.com. It’s easily accessible since I’m already on my iPad with the SRT app, so I just bounce back and forth. Really helpful!

    • LoreneC

      I usually read the nasb. But there are tons of passages that just seem unclear to me. In the original Greek some words can have multiple meanings and translators usually only employ one. I have just started using the amplified bible though and it’s amazing! It pulls all the meanings together in a comprehendible (albeit wordy) and complete way. I love it for studying!

  • These latest devotional are well intended and try to provide perspectives on tough questions like predestination many struggle with. However, Romans is not primarily concerned with explaining how faith works (nor is it detailing a salvation gospel as we in the modern times have done) but in showing that through Christ the gentiles have been included in God’s plan and family as always intended and foretold through the Scriptures. Jews and Gentiles are called to be one: having the same condition before God, the same Lord, the same Spirit….
    Paul’s anguish is to see that reconciliation worked out and the family of believers put aside their prejudices and love be each other as Jesus loved them. That’s the beauty of Romans…a life reconciled to God and reconciled to others!

  • PronetoWander

    One thing I love about being Christian is how we can interpret things differently, but as long as we believe Jesus is the savior, we still belong to the body of Christ. No one person is fully right or fully wrong (obviously other than Jesus) with interpreting the whole bible. I think some things will just be revealed to us in heaven and we will all be like ‘oh I get it now’. Predestination is something I can’t fathom fully because it seems mean of God. It’s scary to me that he would choose for some not be saved, I.e. What if he didn’t save my brother? My cousin? Your husband? Your child? It doesn’t sound like the God I know. But I do know that just because I don’t understand something doesn’t change who God truly is. So it turns me to trust, I still struggle with that concept of predestination but I also know if it is what he was meaning, He is still God and smarter than me. But it still doesn’t make sense of why God died for us but would purposely leave people out. I think of God hardening pharaoh’s heart and it makes me a bit angry to be honest. I think God would welcome all. But again, I will trust Him and call Him Good even when I don’t understand.

    • Wildflower

      I have the same anger as you about predestination. Luckily I think he can handle our anger and questions. One thing I always remind myself though is that prayer is powerful. I have people close to me who aren’t saved and I choose to believe that God will listen to my prayers and make himself known to them.

      • Brittany lou

        Thank you sister!! This is the same way I feel on this subject! We serve a loving God who died on the cross to save all!
        It’s beautiful that we serve the God we do! So thankful.

  • As someone who had a less than ideal childhood &’struggles with depression, I have often wondering why God chose this life for me? Is it because he thinks I am strong? But now I see little bits of my story reflected back to me in Gods eyes and at my weakest moments, my faith was strongest because God was holding me through it. Thank you for this beautiful reflection on a challenge passage!

    • Karen From Virginia

      I’ve had similar challenges and have questioned if God loved others more than me. But I have seen over and over that trusting God with my weakness has made my life and walk with Jesus so much sweeter. Being real with Him and also trusting Sovereign love has been a great source of strength especially when life doesn’t go right.

  • jill-smiles

    I love the Gilmore Girl reference!! Praise God for the plans he has for us! Plans for the Good Life!!

  • This is why I believe that God sometimes permits (but never orchestrates) evil: because in every evil situation I’ve ever encountered, God has been the one behind the scenes working all things out for the good of us who love Him. He shows his sovereignty and draws us closer to His heart through the trials and the tests…. He has always been faithful to do this for me, as every trial I’ve faced has lead me closer to His heart. God’s hand is molding us day by day, taking us from selfish creatures of sinful habit, to people-loving future heaven inhabitants who can usher in the presence of that eternal place right here on earth. He could not do this if our lives were already perfect to begin with! Thank you God for seeing us and knowing exactly what we need, and for being there for us in every trial. For permitting what perpetuates your purpose for our lives, even when all we see are lumps of clay that leave us asking, “why?” You see it all. You know more than we do, even if we act like we know it all! Please help me and all of my SRT sisters seek you first and foremost, even if it means walking through fire for us to find your heart. And let us never blame you for the evil things that happen in this broken, imperfect world.

    • Christina

      Amen!!!! ❤️

    • ashley park

      Thank you so so much for this post. I needed it and i’m truly so encouraged. Amen!!!

    • Connie

      Wow! This brought me to tears! Thank you Kylee, for putting into words so beautifully what has been on my heart

  • Tricia C

    Thank you for this today.

  • Thy Will Be Done . . . .this song sums it up! I love it. <3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PAmh3yvmzXs

  • I love today’s reading! It’s so awesome that we serve a loving and sovereign God. He has His plans for me and He will see them through. I am chosen, I am loved, and I am redeemed. Praise God!

  • Kandria Johnson

    This is so beautiful. As I read each word it brought up an inner peace to know God is in control of my life. When you say, ” I look at the seasons, coming and going in their time. I look at the ocean waves, which know their boundaries. ” I to think about the obdience of nature and the beauty of its creation, and how God created us in all of our beauty and wonder. This passage brings me joy when I think about God’s love for me. He created me in his own image. He loved me before I even knew love exsisted.

  • Christina

    Beautiful! The terms of the Christian faith can be so discouraging. What I, personally, discovered is that as I grew to understand Scripture and its meaning, the different labels for the truths I was learning were much less prescriptive and much more descriptive of what I already knew to be true. Labels can wait. Lovingly guiding and participating with fellow growing believers to discuss Scripture and its meaning and allowing the Holy Spirit to establish truth within our hearts is so much more important than “forcing” someone to come down on one side or another of a label. Once we understand God’s Word, then the label gives us a capstone for our belief. The label is the smallest part and cannot support the belief. Only Scripture can do that.

    • Katie Alligood

      Love this. My experience has been the same. Semantics can be off-putting many times, but I believe the Lord is faithful and gracious to open the Scriptures to us if we ask and are diligent to read! ❤️

  • churchmouse

    Does God “orchestrate everything” ? I think I would rather say He permits everything. I am careful not to blame Him for all the bad things that occur to me or in this world. Evil is not of His doing although He permits it for His reasons and purpose. And He certainly can bring good out of it. But “orchestrate ” may go too far. A matter of semantics perhaps. Forgive me if I’m over analyzing.

    • Christina

      I guess this is where the idea of God’s permissive vs His perfect will comes in. I realize not all would subscribe to such an idea, but one passage that causes me to believe God orchestrates all things is Matthew 18:7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!” God calls evil what it is. He punishes it. But it is in the world. He will mold even that to bring Him glory.

      • churchmouse

        Oh yes, I agree God can mold all to His glory. He is sovereign! James 1:13 though reminds us He does not tempt us to evil – there is another who prowls about the earth who does that. Surely He tests our faith but does He orchestrate evil? Evil exists. He permits it. He restrains it. He provides rescue. Oh I’m hung up on that word orchestrate lol. Forgive me if I’m over complicating the point of today’s devotion: He is the Potter. We are the clay. We are to conform to His will, knowing it is always for our good and His glory. Thank you, Christina for sharing your excellent points!

    • Heidi

      Yes, churchmouse, that is how I look at it as well. If he didn’t permit it than he wouldn’t be just.

    • Kylee

      Agree that word “orchestrated” insinuates that God is somehow behind the evil in this world, which we know as believers He is NOT. He is sovereign and just, to be sure, but He never steps outside of love to accomplish anything! So we know that when God permits evil, it is to contribute to the good of those who love Him. We can’t always see the blessings of our good God when we are standing in the storm of terrible circumstances. But when we pull back or enough time passes, we can see God’s hand in our situations, not orchestrating evil but pushing through it to pursue our hearts in the downpour.

    • Gina Gomez

      But I do know this: I would rather believe in a loving God who is fulfilling His purpose for me, than a cosmic universe that is inflicting its chaos on me.

      I look at the seasons, coming and going in their time. I look at the ocean waves, which know their boundaries. I look at my face in the mirror—imperfect, yes, but a masterpiece in the Master’s hands. I look at the miracles of birth and life and death. None of it is a mistake. This beauty is His creation, and He is sovereign.

      If we trust Him—if we believe His love—we can put away our questions of Why did you make me like this? and put on the posture of Thy will be done.
      Thank you SRT! So thankful for you ladies who pour Truth into my life daily.
      CJ- Thy Will Be Done is a beautiful song and a great daily reminder.

    • Emily B.

      It might be semantics, but I get hung up on them, too. Ha. I agree with your description. It makes me think of the ongoing conversation my husband and I have about how people use the phrases “God’s Will” and “God’s plan” interchangeably, even though we don’t think they’re the same. I don’t want to “split hairs,” so to speak, but I think it’s important to not be confused by what different words mean and portray.

      • Claire

        Hey ladies :-) as a writer, word choice really is important to me. I think when I chose the word “orchestrate” I was imagining a conductor in front of an orchestra. God permits us all to play our instruments (he gives us free will to do what we want with our lives/including evil) but as the conductor, he still with his words and hands, can make the song beautiful. I do not believe that God chooses or designs evil things — but like you’ve said, I believe he permits free will and then orchestrates something beautiful, even out if our sour notes.

  • "Other" Karen

    “I would rather believe in a loving God who is fulfilling His purpose for me, than a cosmic universe that is inflicting its chaos on me.”
    Yes! Amen! Predestination is such a stumbling block for so many Christians and non-Christians alike. Love this devotional today, speaking such truth!

  • Oh and the supplemental readings were PERFECT!

  • Claire, this was absolutely wonderful. And beautifully spoken! I’ve saved it to my notes. Thank you for this lasting devotional. “None of it is a mistake”

  • Marianne

    Thanks for the reminder of God´s sovereignty. I so often tend to blame others for inconvenient circumstances or even mistakes that affect me. But after all it´s God who allows things to happen. As bad as it may outwardly seem – God´s always, always in control!

  • songbird

    What stands out for me in this oh-so-difficult concept of predestination is that at least it’s emphasised how God’s choice always becomes more inclusive, not less…

  • Christina

    I am currently thinking of my immediate future with a bit of fear. “What if this happens? What if THAT happens?” Thank you for this passage today! I do not need to fear. God already knows what is in my future, both near and far, and He has known it all since before I was born. Whatever may come, I know He will work it for my good and His glory. Thank you, God, for using your Word today to help me trust you more! I’m so grateful for “a loving God who is fulfilling His purpose for me.”

    • Emily B.

      I’ve been worrying a lot lately about a situation in my life, and your words really spoke to me. I need to remember that no matter what happens, God is in control. Nothing that occurs in my life is a surprise to Him. Thank you for this!

  • If we trust Him—if we believe His love—we can put away our questions of Why did you make me like this? and put on the posture of Thy will be done…
    Not always easy… but for sure Truth… and today and throughout the rest of the week, that is going to be my mantra, my reminder on the fridge, my note to self on my calendar, the wall paper on my phone..
    Thank you Claire Gibon for this reminder, this Truth..

    Praying God turn His face to shine shine shine on you my Sisters.. with blessings abundant…hugs..xxxx

    • Charise

      Amen Tina! i sill have to do the same this week and hopefully the weeks to come as well :)

  • Wow, wow, wow. Thy Will Be Done Father, Thy Will Be Done.

Further Reading...