God is Good (1)
Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? Romans 2.4
Good, yes, but…
“God is great, God is good. Let us thank Him for our food.”
Probably most of us learned that prayer as children, and prayed it, and have taught it to our own children. It’s a fine prayer, and it asserts a most important idea about God, an idea many people today seem to have overlooked.
God is good.
Who doesn’t want a large measure of good in his life? We rejoice at good news. We like to acquire good things, or to visit places and do things that make us feel good. We delight in a good meal, rejoice in good friends and good times, and we invoke wishes for good on all the people we know and love.
Good is, well, good, and we just can’t get enough of it.
So if God is good, why is it more people aren’t enjoying Him? There are two reasons for this
God’s good and ours
First, our understanding of good has become so skewed that we think of good primarily in self-interested terms – good for me, that is. People today reserve the right to define the terms of good, and they invariably define them to their own advantage, comfort, or wellbeing.
The problem with this, of course, is that in such a situation, competing ideas of goodness are inevitable, and that can sometimes lead to disagreement or worse. When good equates primarily to what I want, the idea of goodness becomes a miasma of mere self-aggrandizement.
Second, most people have heard that God is good. They probably learned the same prayer you and I did. But they have discovered that what God describes as good does not always or easily cohere with their own idea of good – good for me, that is.
If God, then, harbors ideas about goodness that seem to contradict my ideas about good-for-me, then God cannot be good, and therefore must be wicked, or oppressive, or unreasonable (take your pick). At any rate, He is not someone to look to when I’m pursuing my idea of what is good for me.
The apostle Paul would say of such people that they despise the goodness of God, preferring instead their own ideas concerning what is good for them. It’s no wonder fewer and fewer people are coming to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
The goodness of God
Since the goodness (Greek: χρηστότητος) of God leads to repentance, and repentance is indispensable to knowing the Lord and growing in Him, we who understand this should be more diligent to observe, remark, enjoy, and extol the goodness of God, both to ourselves and to our unbelieving neighbors.
Of course, God’s greatest expression of goodness is to have sent Jesus for our salvation. However, He surrounds and inundates us with His goodness day by day, though we take it for granted and fail to bless Him as we should. As Calvin explained, commenting on our text, “...when the Lord deals favorably with his servants and gives them earthly blessings, he makes known to them by symbols of this kind his own benevolence, and trains them up at the same time to seek the sum and substance of all good things in himself alone...” (emphasis mine).
We would be more grateful to God, and more prone to praise Him, and to repent of all that displeases Him, if we were more diligent in observing His goodness, as it comes to us at every moment.
It is easy but ungrateful to take for granted such constant blessings as breath and health, or such everywhere-present delights as color or shape or sound, or to think that our possessions or work or relationships, or even our surroundings and environment, are somehow only what we deserve, or exist simply as givens.
God upholds all things and gives us every good and perfect gift, as He works all things according to the counsel of His will. And God does this because He is good. Could we bring more of God’s goodness into our purview, we might be more constant in prayer, we might encourage our brethren to delight in His goodness, and we might help our unbelieving neighbors be more thoughtful about God, and perhaps inclined to seek Him.
So in this series we consider the goodness of God, to understand good as He is and as He intends, and to enjoy God as the greatest Good anyone can know.
1. Where do people get their ideas about good?
2. If everyone has the right to define the terms of good and goodness, then no reliable standard of good or goodness can exist. Explain. Why is this not a good situation?
3. What comes to mind when you think about the goodness of God?
Next steps – Conversation: Talk with a Christian friend about the goodness of God. How does your friend experience His goodness? What is the effect of God’s goodness on you and your friend? How can you encourage one another to observe more of God’s goodness?
T. M. Moore
What are you doing at 8:18 am? If you’re with Bruce Van Patter, you’re observing the goodness of God in your immediate surroundings. Take a look at Bruce’s column, and let your world come alive with goodness (click here).
Everything makes sense in life, and is good in its time and place. But only when we see things “under the heavens” rather than merely “under the sun.” Our book Comparatio shows you how Solomon struggled with this distinction, but ultimately returned to the place of seeing all goodness as of the Lord. To order a copy, click here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
χρηστότης (1) ητος f: an event or activity which is useful or benevolent – that which is useful, what is benevolent, benevolence…an equivalent often contains an expression meaning to help. For example, the expression what is useful is often rendered as that which helps people or that which proves good for people (Louw & Nida, emphasis added).