It’s a big day for us today because we are coming to the end of current theme which is “God is … ?” We’ve been over the few weeks and months looking at who God is, how do we fill in the gap, how do you fill in the line …. What does God mean to you? What is your understanding of God? What we have been doing is trying to learn from scripture, to enhance our understanding of who God is because I believe with all my heart that how we answer this question, how we perceive God affects every aspect of my life, every aspect of your life. Every aspect of our lives is determined by how we fill in this question. It stems from this brilliant verse in Ephesians 1 verse 16-18. This is the apostle Paul praying for the Ephesian church:
I pray for you constantly asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.Ephesians 1:16-18
That’s been my prayer for the last few months. I want to grow in the knowledge of God. That’s my prayer for you, for all of us as Festival Church, and whoever you are plugging in today, that’s my prayer for you that you would grow to know God more and more. So over the last few months we have looked at different personality traits, different characteristics, different ways of defining God, some of the big doctrinal words and thoughts but also some quite easy to understand ideas like God is personal. Today in many ways it’s one of the more easy ones as our final “God is … ?” and it’s this, God is Good. I wonder if that’s in your list of words to describe God today. God is Good.
Here’s one thing that I would love you to understand, it’s not necessarily good in terms of how you might throw a ball for a dog and the dog gets the ball and brings it back, he’s saying “good dog”. Or maybe if you’re bringing up your kids and you’re trying to teach them to eat tidily without making mess at the meal table, really small kids I’m talking about here, you might say “well done, good girl, good job there” or “well done, good boy, great job”. So often we read the word “good” and it’s performance related. You think they’re good at doing something, or we want to encourage someone with something that they’ve been doing. We don’t often use it to describe the intrinsic nature of someone or something. I did think that perhaps a better word might be the word goodness. God is goodness personified. But I couldn’t get past the fact that “goodness” sounds a bit like “goodness me”. But God is good and he does good stuff so you could equally say that all the stuff that God does, all the performance related stuff is good too. But we have to take a step further into this and it describes the very nature of God. That He is goodness. We see this in a great verse in the old testament. This is Moses having a conversation with God. Moses is getting ready to lead the children of Israel into the promised land. He says I don’t want to go any further, I don’t want to take a step further unless you God, unless your presence goes with us. And the conversation carries on, Moses responds “Then show me your glorious presence.”
Moses responded, “Then show me your glorious presence.” The LORD replied, “I will make all my goodness pass before you Exodus 33:18-19 NLT
Some translations simply say “show me your glory”. And look how God responds “The LORD replied, “I will make all my goodness pass before you…’” In other words today, the essence of who God is, his very nature, his glorious presence, what sums God up is his goodness. That’s who He is. The early church fathers in the centuries after Jesus understood this and there is this guy Athanasius of Alexandria who talks about God’s goodness too:
For God is good – or rather, of all goodness He is the Fountainhead.~ Athanasius of Alexandria
He is acknowledging that God is good but develops it further. That’s quite an old expression of saying the source, the source of the stream, God is the source of all goodness. God is good.
The word good could be seen as a bit trivial perhaps. When we say that God is good or God is goodness maybe we think of benevolent charity worker or just being kind to people. All that is good and important but God’s goodness, as we read in scripture, is revealed in two main ways.
The first way that God’s goodness is expressed is through his holiness. The apostle John says:
God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all 1 John 1:5 NLT
When we talk about holiness we are talking about being set apart. God is holy means that there is nothing evil about him at all, He is set apart from all of that. There is no darkness in him. God’s holiness is the first way that we see his goodness being demonstrated. I love the way that John captures this. If you do a search on biblegateway.com (there are other similar concordances available online) and do a search for the phrase “God is” there is over 160 of them in the bible but there are only a few that try and describe God’s being. This is one of them “God is Light” there are lots of God is helpful, or giving you things, God can do this, God is doing this for you, there are very few that describe him as a being. John captures two of them, this is the first “God is light”. Here is why God’s holiness in terms of him being is good is really important for us. It gives us a benchmark of what is good. Because he is holy, set apart from all that is wrong, we can learn from that and learn how to live rightly or righteous. It is because of God’s goodness demonstrated through his holiness. This idea that he is light. We see an example of this in one of the prophets in the book of Micah. We see God’s holiness in terms of goodness also showing us what is good, how to live.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 NIV
God has shown us humans what is good. God’s holiness is the first way that we see his goodness demonstrated.God is holy means that there is nothing evil about him at all, He is set apart from all of that. There is no darkness in him. Click To Tweet
The second way is through God’s love. Interestingly the apostle John is the one that captures this too. He says in his first epistle:
God is love 1 John 4:16 NLT
This is saying that God is self sacrificial in terms of extending his favour and grace towards us. God is Light, God is holy, so he is not evil and we can learn what it means to live a right life. But also we see in his goodness that he is full of love. He is motivated by love, always wants to do us good because of that love. We see this demonstrated best of all in the cross, in that Jesus came to die for us. That was God self sacrificially extending his favour towards us. We read this in Romans 5:8
We see in his goodness that he is full of love. He is motivated by love, always wants to do us good because of that love. Click To Tweet
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NIV
That’s the first half of my talk today on the goodness of God. I would love you to spend some time contemplating that. How is God’s goodness demonstrated through his holiness and his love. That gives us a benchmark for what it means to live and how it means to live well but also under that banner of God’s favour on our lives, always, he never changes in these things.
The second half of this talk today I wanted to reflect on a few of the ways that God’s goodness impacts on our lives. The way it can help us live. There are three things in particular that have caught my attention when it comes to God goodness. I found these three things in the psalms. What can we take from the goodness of God and apply to our lives. There’s plenty already in Holiness and Love but I wanted to give us three things that are really encouraging. To encourage you and me to lean in understanding God’s actual nature and character of goodness. As you begin to discover more about God is good, his goodness, these are some of the things that you have perhaps expect to see grow and cultivated in your life.
The first is God’s goodness that becomes the basis for a life of gratitude, a life of thankfulness.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever Psalms 136:1 NLT
His goodness is proceed by this ‘Give thanks to the lord’. I believe that developing this life of gratitude is founded in this growing knowledge and understanding of God’s goodness. A life of gratitude is so important. I was reading an article on forbes.com entitled “seven scientific benefits of gratitude that will motivate you to give thanks all year round”. And here they are:
- Gratitude opens the door to more relationships
- Gratitude improves physical health
- Gratitude improves psychological health
- Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression
- Grateful people sleep better
- Gratitude improves self-esteem
- Gratitude increases mental strength
We could do a whole series on gratitude, but the thing for us today is that gratitude is founded in God’s goodness. Learn to understand the goodness of God and apply it to your life.Gratitude is founded in God’s goodness. Learn to understand the goodness of God and apply it to your life. Click To Tweet
I believe that the goodness of God leads to living a blessed life. I don’t mean this in a superficial way either.
Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him Psalms 34:8 NIV
As you get to know God more and more, as you take refuge in him, it says blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Our God is good.
My final point is that through the goodness of God we rediscover hope in our lives. I think that we are in a season where we need to zone in, to magnify the hope that God brings to our lives. The goodness of God.
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living Psalms 27:13 NIV
I love the way the psalmist is so sure, and it is because he knows something of the goodness of God. It’s the goodness of God that I believe becomes part of that foundation of hope that we need to express and live out in our lives.It’s the goodness of God that I believe becomes part of the foundation of hope that we need to express and live out in our lives. Click To Tweet
Talking about the goodness of God can be a bit difficult sometimes especially if you don’t feel that you’re experiencing God’s goodness. Last week we spoke about the sovereignty of God which raised some questions about the bad stuff, if God is in control how can we see some bad stuff happening. And that is often a thought that arises when we talk about the goodness of God. If God is so good how come I’m experiencing this in my life or how this is happening in the world. There’s an author called Max Lucado who has a great quote in his book “Grace for the moment”, he says:
God is good, he knows what he is doing, but when you can’t trace his hand trust his heart~ Max Lucado
That’s saying trust in the essence of who God is, that he is goodness, he is the source of all goodness and when you can’t see it, when you can’t see his hand at work, which is often the case, trust in his heart, trust in what you have learnt about him, trust in how you have experienced his goodness previously. Maybe that will help when you’re struggling to see.
In the corner here I’ve put two other scripture references.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose Romans 8:28 NIV
Romans 8:28 talks about the good stuff that God does. Because he is the source of all goodness he can’t help but do good. And that’s where it talks about how God works things together in our lives for good, for the good of those that love him.
What you meant for evil against me …. God meant… for good Genesis 50:20 NIV
But Genesis 50:20 somehow also captures this quote we see from Max Lucado. It’s a story of Joseph, towards the end of the story, Joseph went through some terrible things, he was in prison, he became a slave, all his hopes and dreams at one point of his life looked shattered. It would have been really hard for him to trace the hand of God at work. But there was something about him, the story of Joseph, that shows he trusts in the heart of God, in the essence of God, the personality and character of the goodness of God. In Genesis 50:20 he’s talking to his brothers. His brothers are really worried because they had really mistreated Joseph in his life. But Joseph basically says to them “listen brothers don’t worry, all the stuff that you did to me, that you meant for harm, actually was God at work bringing me through stuff, teaching me so that I could be in the place that I am now”. Isn’t that amazing that Joseph could look back on his life – actually it is retrospect that these things just click in our heads – and was able to look at his experience of not being able to trace the hand of God but in that moment say “do you know what, all this stuff that I didn’t understand in the moment, the stuff that if anyone would’ve given me the opportunity I would have jumped out of”, Joseph was able to say that that was the good hand of the Lord at work in my life. That’s my prayer for you today.
So God is good. I hope that you have enjoyed our mini-series and I’m praying that you would continue to grow in your knowledge of God. Maybe we’ll pick up on some of this theme again in the New Year just because I think that there is so much more to unpack and I think it is so important. Thanks for being here with us today, it’s so good and I look forward to seeing you again soon. God bless.