Ain’t God Good

At the church where I pastor, we have five core values with the first core value being “God is good, all the time.” I chose to make this our first core value because it is foundational in that it will shape how we feel about ourselves, the world around us, but most importantly, about God Himself. It is through this prism by which we perceive everything else. Society teaches that either there is no God or that He does not care about us. Religion teaches that God is looking, trying to catch us in a mistake. But God’s Word teaches something quite different (2 Chronicles 16:9). The Word teaches us that God is good. 

In Mark 10:17 we find that a young man speaking to Jesus said, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” It should be noted that this was an extraordinary title that he gave to Christ. Throughout the entire Old Testament, only God and His law were referred to as good. In the next verse, Jesus asked him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18). (As a side note here, Jesus did not tell him that He was not good, He had just given the young man an opportunity to declare Christ to be Lord.)

In a further study of the word “good” of which the young man spoke, we find that it means pleasant, valuable, benevolent, and kind. As you look at the original text, two separate ideas begin to surface as to how God’s goodness is described. One has to do with His personhood or character. The other has to do with His acts of compassion and kindness, or how His goodness is beneficial in its effect. We can see both ideas coming together in Psalm 119:68 which declares, “You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.”

As we look at these two thoughts, we must understand that the very essence of God is His goodness. Of all His attributes, both commutable and incommutable, His goodness is probably one of His most underrated attribute. One of the reasons for this may be because of the low value we place on good. Things are not good anymore; they are better, new and improved, awesome, or great. God is awesome and great, of course, but He is also good, just plain old good. There is nothing bad about him. He is good all the way through. He will always be good (Psalm 107:1).   

Some theologians think God’s goodness embraces many different attributes. This can be seen in Exodus 33 when Moses asked God to show him His glory (vs. 18). God answers Moses in the next verse by saying that His goodness would pass before him. The following morning when God did pass before him on Mount Sinai, He revealed His compassion, His graciousness, His long-suffering, His mercy, His truth, and His forgiveness (Exodus 34:6-7).

The second definition of good deals with the acts of kindness and compassion God does and how it is beneficial in its effect. His goodness can be seen throughout the Word of God. This truth is discovered in the first chapter of Genesis during creation in which each day, at the end of the day, God saw that it was good. At the end of the sixth day, He referred to it as very good.

For many Christians today God’s goodness is based exclusively on the second definition. Actually, it is more self-centered than that because it is based almost exclusively with the good things He does for them alone. They prayed that it would not rain, and it doesn’t. They prayed they would get the job or a raise, and it happens. They pray about a situation and it works out as they wanted. And because of these things, God is good. Please understand that I believe God answers prayer. But there are times He responds in a way that is different from what I expected or desired. When that happens, does God cease to be good? Of course not! Do we give our children everything they want, even if they want it badly? No. Why? Because we love them. We know that cake and ice cream is not a good dinner plan and that going to school should not be optional. How much more does our heavenly Father know what we need (Matthew 7:11). That job, that raise, that situation, may not be what is best for us, therefore God’s goodness is shown through his answer, “No,” to us at times.

The problem with this shallow, immature faith is that we will have a crisis in our faith when things don’t turn around in our lives. The truth is that sometimes the job is lost, the deal on the house falls through, the diagnosis is bad, the loved one dies. For a child of God, our faith can never be in the answer, it must be in the God of the answer. This is what allowed Job to say, “…though God slay me, yet I will trust Him” (Job 13:15), or the three Hebrew children to say “…whether God delivers us or not, we will not bow” (Daniel 3:16-18).

In her book, The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom tells about an incident that taught her the principle of giving thanks in all things. It was during World War II. Corrie and her sister, Betsie, had been harboring Jewish people in their home, so they were arrested and imprisoned at Ravensbruck Camp.

The barracks was extremely crowded and infested with fleas. One morning they read in their tattered Bible from 1 Thessalonians the reminder to rejoice in all things. Betsie said, “Corrie, we’ve got to give thanks for this barracks and even for these fleas.” Corrie replied, “No way am I going to thank God for fleas.” But Betsy was persuasive, and they did thank God, even for the fleas.

During the months that followed, they found that their barracks was left relatively free, and they could do Bible study, talk openly, and even pray in the barracks. It was their only place of refuge. Several months later they learned that the reason the guards never entered their barracks was because of those blasted fleas.

In an interview she said, “Often I have heard people say, ‘How good God is! We prayed that it would not rain for our church picnic and look at the lovely weather!’ Yes, God is good when He sends good weather. But God was also good when He allowed my sister, Betsie, to starve to death before my eyes in a German concentration camp.”

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