The Goodness of God
From the series God As He Longs For You To See Him
The scripture commands us taste and see that the Lord is good. So how do you do that? What would it look like for you to taste the goodness of God? Today on Living on the Edge with Chip Ingram, Chip explores what “tasting the goodness of God” really means.
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About this series
God As He Longs For You To See Him
How would you describe God!? Awesome? All Powerful? Creator? While we cannot know Him exhaustively, we can know Him truly. And God longs for you to see Him as He truly is. This fascinating series studies seven attributes of God. As you begin to see God for who He really is and what His true desires for your life are, it will change the way you pray, the way you live, and the way you think about the world around you.More from this series
Sometimes perception is everything. Let me restate that. Sometimes it is not what is real that matters, it’s perception. If you think something or if it appears a certain way, and you believe that is true, it will color everything.
This came home to me especially in relationships. I was involved in a college ministry, I came to Christ right out of high school, and then there was a bricklayer who was trained by the Navigators and he took me under his arm and I got to see this little campus go from about three or four or five Christians to about two hundred and fifty college students in ministry by my senior year.
And in about the middle of that time, a young gal came from another college and she had a lot of spiritual background and encouragement and to compound it, she was very attractive. And so by this time, I’m helping lead a lot of the men’s side of the college ministry. And I meet her.
And I don’t know about you, if you have ever had that experience where you meet someone and you knew within three seconds you were intimidated to death. Have you had one of those? You know, like, just the air goes out of the room and you know she is spiritual and she is pretty and she has it together and you’re a moral peon, spiritual dunce, you know?
And all I knew, this is a guy that, I never was at a loss for words. And I would just forget what I was saying with this gal and I would get really nervous. And it’s one of those relationships that you talk to the person and then as you’re walking away, Why did I say that? That is so stupid. I can’t believe I said that. I sounded so dumb. Am I really this dumb? You know?
And so I did this and so that was my beginning experience with her. And so for two years she led the girls ministry and I did a little part of the guys and every time I got around her in a team meeting or a co-ed Bible study, it was like murder. And I just thought that she was way up here and I was convinced that she just thought, You know what? There are a lot of good guys on this campus but that Ingram guy, black sheep, really needs a lot of help. Wonder if he’s ever going to get with the program.
And so I just kept my distance, said stupid things, and there was this barrier. Have you ever been with someone where there is just, it’s not like an ice wall but it’s just funky and you can’t ever get through it?
And so one day toward the end of our senior year, she comes to me and she goes, “Hey, I need a ride down to Wheeling.” I went up to a little school in the mountains of West Virginia. “And I need a ride,” and it’s about nine miles, windy road, and I said, “Well, sure, I’ll give you a ride.”
And so I end up getting in my little green Volkswagen. Well, in a little green Volkswagen Bug, there is not a lot of room to hide. You know? And the roads are so windy, we are going down this road and it’s like, we go three miles, which is like fifteen minutes. And there is dead silence. And I can’t think of anything to say and when I do, it’s not good. So I’m just…you know?
And so I’m going along and then she breaks it and she goes, “Chip, could I share something with you?” And I mean, I go, Oh boy, here it is. She has been waiting two years, evaluated my life, here it comes. You know what? Go ahead. I’m just thinking, I’m sure it’s true, too.
And she says, “I feel like there has been a barrier in our relationship.” And I’m thinking, Boy, that’s an understatement. And she goes, “I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, but from the first time I met you, within the first week or two, I don’t know how to say this, but I have just felt so intimidated by you. You seem so spiritual,” and she went through the whole nine yards.
And she is looking at me like she has worked up this courage to tell me and she’s sitting, in a Volkswagen, like, this far from me. And I just busted up laughing! I mean, I just almost went off the road. I said, “Are you kidding me?” She goes, “No!” I said, “You want to hear something?”
And so the ice broke. And I said, “I felt exactly the same way!” And you know what? From that time on, about the next six or eight months, she became one of the best friends in college. In fact, even after I graduated, I would go back and just spend time, a great, great friend.
But my perception of believing that she thought I was a nobody, that she thought I didn’t measure up, that no matter what I did, it was wrong, always self-critiquing myself. Not the truth – my perception of what I thought she thought of me put a barrier in our relationship. And what she thought I thought of her put a barrier in our relationship.
And so here are two people that could have had a great, great relationship but there was a barrier, not because of anything real, but because of something perceived.
Are you starting to get the idea of where I may be going with this? See, what I am going to tell you, to some degree, every person in this room has that going on in your relationship with God.
See, God feels certain ways about you but some of you are inwardly convinced He is down on you. Some of your have little polaroid pictures in your mind, when the word God comes to your mind. And this picture and this picture and this picture comes up that is absolutely inaccurate. It is a perception.
And not only is our perception of others, but notice, how we think about God determines how we respond to God and the corollary – how we think God thinks about us determines how we respond to God.
How eager are you to pray when, in your heart of hearts, you think He’s down on you? You never measure up. Yeah, you did it again. How many times are we going to have to forgive you and pick you up over this?
A.W. Tozer writes, “What comes into our mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Ponder that one for a while. Tozer says the most important thing about your entire life is this: What comes in to your mind - what you secretly and inwardly and emotionally and consciously and subconsciously perceive God to be like – is the most important thing about you.
He goes on to explain why. “The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship,” that is your worship and my worship, “is either pure or base as the worshipper entertains either high or low views of God.” And then I love his application, “For this reason, the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself. The most portentous fact about any man is not what he at any given time may say or do, but what he or she in their heart conceives God to be like.”
I wonder if we had a spiritual MRI machine and we could take turns and we could put you in a spiritual MRI machine, and then hear all of those funny sounds, and then come up and put it on a screen and you could see, in your heart of hearts, what you really perceive God to be.
Not even what the Bible says, not even what good meaning teachers have told you, but somehow in your journey, some from family, some from traumatic experiences, some from self-image issues, some from just what you have picked up from the culture. What do you inwardly perceive God to be like? Because the next line is just an amazing, amazing truth.
He says, “We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only for the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church.” So let me ask you: What is your mental image of God? What is He really like? My confession: I did not grow up as a believer, I didn’t get my information from the Scripture, and so I believed God was like a cosmic cop.
Growing up as a kid, I just thought God was really big, had His arms crossed most of the time, was tapping His toe like this, probably had a blue suit and a badge, and a really big club. And His one goal in life was just to find out when Ingram messed up one more time. And when He did, “Ingram! Get out of here right now!” Blat! Over across the knuckles, bat! over across the head. “What is wrong with you?”
And no matter what I did, it didn’t measure up, it didn’t measure up, it didn’t measure up. For me, church was like, is this on purpose trying to feel guilty all the time? Why do I want to go to a place that I always feel like, no matter what I do, it’s not good enough? And that this God is just some cosmic killjoy. And anything that I thought I kind of liked, I found there was a commandment against it!
And then most of the people that were the most fanatical that I saw, that were the most “committed” to this God, I’m thinking, Boy, I don’t want to be like them. If that’s holy, I don’t know what holy is, it just looks weird to me.
And you know how hard it is to pray to a God like that? You know how hard it is to feel emotionally close to a God like that? You know how hard it is to trust and take steps of obedience if down deep you mentally perceive Him to be not good?
My journey changed, however, in 1977-’78, I ended up on a Christian basketball team in Hong Kong. I teamed up with a group of Australians and we were playing basketball throughout the Orient, and then at halftime we would share Christ.
And there was a missionary, I forget, one of those real high rises and a missionary there who was a very bright guy. He had the habit of reading a paperback book, a Christian paperback, every day. He was a speed-reader. A very, very bright guy.
And he saw a spiritual interest in me. And I went into his library and he had just walls filled with these paperbacks. And they were mostly classic Christian works. And he said, “Chip, do you know the best book in this whole place?” And I said, “No,” with five or six other guys. And he went over and he reached over and he pulled this book off the shelf.
And I said, “What is this?” He says, “It’s, The Knowledge of the Holy, by A.W. Tozer.” He said, “Here, you’re going to be in Hong Kong here for six or seven days. Here, go ahead and take it and read a couple of chapters. Give it back to me before you leave.”
And I didn’t, attributes of God? I didn’t know what an attribute was. Let’s see, infinitude, eternal, self-sufficiency, holiness and wisdom? I don’t know if it was college that taught me, Why start at the beginning of a book and go all the way through because the questions aren’t at the beginning anyway.
So I always go to the chapters that look the most interesting. And I remember opening and reading one day the Goodness of God by A.W. Tozer. And all I can tell you is that this isn’t the exact copy because after twenty-five years, I literally wore out the cover and my wife, for my birthday, got me this replacement copy.
But I began to read this book about what God is really like. And for twenty-eight years, it has been in my briefcase. And for probably the first fifteen, a week didn’t go by that I read part of it. And for most of the last thirty years, I have read at least some every month and often, like today, I just read three or four chapters.
It is so marked up that you’d just think, is there any white print? But over the last twenty-eight years, I have been on a journey to replace the polaroid picture in my mind of what I thought God was like, with what He is really like. And nothing has had more impact in changing everything in my life.
You know why? Because the most important thing about you and the most important thing about me is what comes to your mind when the word God comes to your lips?
And we are going to spend some time looking at the goodness of God. By way of preview, I am going to define God’s goodness because what I realized was that I had no idea what it really was. And I’m going to talk about, well, how does He reveal His goodness? And then we are going to look at how to respond to it.
So if you have a pen handy, you better pull it out. I’m going to put you to work and we are going to have a lot of fun.
Often I find in defining God’s goodness or anything else, it is often good to go where the first place that you find it pop up in Scripture. And the goodness of God pops up in Exodus chapter 33. You know the whole story of Moses and you’ve got the children of Israel and God is doing this miraculous work.
And so Moses, it’s interesting, Psalm 103, by the way, verse, about, 7. It’s right in the middle. It’s a hinge verse. It makes an interesting statement. It says, “He made known His acts to the children of Israel, His ways to Moses.”
It’s very interesting, a lot of people have seen great acts of God and yet, like the children of Israel, when pressure and stress and hard times come, they abandon. But, see, Moses wasn’t satisfied with, God, what can You give me? God, how can You take care of me? God, I want to see the next big miracle.
Moses said, “I want to see Your ways. God, I want to know Your heart. I want to be connected to You. I want to see You as you are.” And in Exodus 33, do you remember his prayer? This outrageous prayer. He prays, “Lord, show me Your glory.” What he was really saying was, “I want to see all of who You really are.” It’s kind of like the Wizard of Oz. “Pull back the curtain and I want to see, behind this Shekinah glory, behind this voice that is coming out of the clouds. I want to see You for who You are.”
He had no idea what he was asking. And God says to him, “Moses, no one can see Me and live. If you would get a glimpse of Me as I really am, you would be toast, immediately.”
But Moses is one of those people that is called the friend of God and God says, “Here’s what I’ll do. I’m going to put you in the rock and My presence is going to pass by and I will put My hand over you and I will let you gaze quickly at My back.”
And it’s interesting, as He goes by and He is going to give a flash, a revelation of who He really is and notice the phrase He uses. [Moses] prays, “Show me Your glory,” and God’s promise is that, “All My goodness will pass before you.” Of all the words He could choose. One word to summarize, to say, “What am I really like?” He says, “All My goodness will pass before you.”
The Hebrew word for goodness here has multiple forms. And here it is used as the idea as an extensive sense of good, agreeableness, pleasantness, desirability, that which is beautiful, that which is fair. It is the idea of beauty, glory, joyfulness, prosperity, all that is good, all that is pleasant, all that is the most desirable. He says, “I am going to let you see My goodness.”
And then notice we pick it up in Exodus 34, “And the Lord came down in the cloud and He stood there with [Moses] as he proclaimed the name of the Lord. And as He passed in front of Moses, said, ‘The Lord, the Lord, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in goodness and truth, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished.”
J.I. Packer has a very interesting comment in his book, Knowing God. He says, “Within the cluster of God’s moral perfections there is one particular in which the term goodness points. It is the quality which God especially singles out for the whole, when proclaiming ‘all His goodness’ to Moses, he spoke of Himself as ‘abundant in goodness and in truth.’ …This is the quality of generosity.”
Now, did you ever think of God as being generous? One snapshot, one picture, when he wants to talk about all of the attributes and what God is really like, Packer says He chooses this word of goodness and the root of it has the idea of generosity. He goes on to say, “Generosity means a disposition to give to others in a way that has no mercenary motive.” In other words, God never gives to get.
“It is not limited by what the recipients deserve.” He is not good because you did something. His goodness isn’t, If you do that or because you’ve done that. “But it consistently goes beyond it. Generosity expresses the simple wish that others should have what they need to make them happy.”
That’s how you think of God, isn’t it? Down deep in your heart you just think, every day He looks over your bed and you are still asleep and He is thinking, in His eternal heart, I wonder what would make you happy? Is that how you think of Him?
Or do you think of Him as one more thing I need to do? If I don’t read my Bible this morning, I’ll tell you what, He may not bless me today. I didn’t have a very good prayer time. I bet He is kind of down on me. You know something? My finances are really out of order and I don’t know what I am going to do. In fact, I am having a little trouble with that new employee. Well, you know, I don’t have really the right attitude and I know…
God is generous. Generosity, so to speak, is the focal point of His moral perfection. It is the quality, which determines how all His other excellences are to be displayed. In other words, He is infinite in His goodness. He is eternal in His goodness. His goodness is always measured in His holiness. His goodness is poured out through His justice and always what is fair and what is right.
You are the object of His affection. God is good, not because you are good. God is good because intrinsically in the Godhead, in the triunity of God, there is something in God that He wants to be kind. He wants to bless. He wants to care. He wants, as Tozer will say later, “He finds holy pleasure in the happiness of His children.” Have you ever thought of God thinking of you that way?
There is a passage in Zephaniah 3:17 where it talks about God and His heart. “He is the Lord your God. He is mighty to save. He will quiet you with His love and He will sing over you with rejoicing.”
You know, if that would ever move from your head and my head down into our heart and down into our emotions, where we could grasp, God, though exalted in majesty and power, is eager to be friends with us. He is not hard to please! He is not down on you. In fact, the last quote, let me read this, it’s my favorite from Tozer. “The goodness of God is that which disposes Him to be kind.” In other words, that’s His disposition.
Some people, they have a disposition and we usually mean, She’s got a rotten disposition. God’s disposition is, “He is kind, He is cordial, He is benevolent, He is full of good will toward men. He is tenderhearted and quick of sympathy.” Is that how you think of God?
Tenderhearted, when you hurt, He hurts. Quick of sympathy. When you are wounded, He rushes there and He is open and available and He hurts with you and longs for your happiness and understands your pain. “He is quick of sympathy, tenderhearted, and His unfailing attitude toward all moral beings,” saved or unsaved, “is open, frank, and friendly. By His nature,” not by your behavior, “by His nature He is inclined to bestow blessedness and He takes holy pleasure in the happiness of His people.”
God’s goodness isn’t based on something in us that deserves His goodness. God is sovereign, He is wise, He is just, He is fair, He sees the end from the beginning. And every act of God, every situation allowed, every event, every relationship, every circumstance that you will ever face will always be filtered through the loving, good hand of an all-knowing, wise God who is completely sovereign.
And from His vantage point and love for you, has allowed this to occur. And at some times it means He takes people home, in our mind, prematurely. And sometimes He delivers them for His glory so they learn about His goodness.
But His buddy really had a point. And, see, when you begin to believe that God has put creation all around you, like neon signs, for you to begin to worship Him in His goodness, and He brings difficulties and disturbances and things that are so hard so He can deliver you, so you can again see His goodness.
Then you will begin to transform that polaroid picture in your mind that is warped, into the one that comes from Scripture. And when you begin to see God accurately, consistently, as good, it will change everything. God shows us His goodness through creation, He shows us His goodness through specific deliverances.
And then the supreme way He shows His goodness is through His Son, Jesus. Mark 10:18, we hear a story of the, remember the rich, young ruler? And remember his request? “Good teacher,” and “Why do you call Me good?”
And you study that very carefully, you find that the core of the rich man’s life was his unbelief in the goodness of God. He kept all the commandments, He was squeaky clean, “I’m doing the right thing, I’m doing this, I have obeyed, I have obeyed, I have obeyed.” And Jesus looked into his heart and He said, “Okay, give all that you have to the poor and come follow Me.”
And do you remember the story? And he withdrew and it says, “Jesus loved him and Jesus hurt because he turned away.” But, see, he had a single pie mentality, didn’t he?
“If I give away my stuff, there won’t be for me. And I have to have for me because I have to take care of me because happiness is found in material things. And my significance and my security is what I have and how much I have and what people think and how I dress and all that stuff. That’s really important. And I know You’re the God of the universe and I have seen some miracles and You fed five thousand people and I’m not sure if I believe that story about Jarius’ daughter because I wasn’t there. The little girl came back to life. But You think I’m going to trust the entire God of the universe instead of my money?”
What polaroid picture is in this guy’s head? And he is as moral as the day is long. We have Christians all over America keeping lots of rules, don’t believe God is good. And they can’t part with their time, they can’t part with their money. And you know what they are missing? They are missing the joy of Jesus. They are missing the intimacy.
When you believe God is good, you can take a risk because He has unlimited flow! He is eager to be generous! Remember? Goodness is generosity.
God is looking for ways to bless you. God is looking, He finds holy delight in the happiness of His people.
But so many people are holding on to these fake, little plastic pearls. God has got real ones He wants to give you in life! Just the real pearls of real friendship and real life and real adventure and real meaning and real joy and real peace and we are hanging on to these plastic ones. Here’s my 401k and if I do this, I don’t know what is going to happen. This is this job and I couldn’t move! That would mean leaving these seven people that I know and love!
And we hang on to our little plastic pearls of life, and then we look up at God and whine and complain and tell Him, Why aren’t You coming through for me?
The supreme evidence of God’s goodness, and this is so powerful because it is so completely apart from our performance, is undeserved goodness. Romans 5:8. I put it there, I hope you have it memorized. But, “God demonstrates His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
When did He die for you? When did He die for me? When we were good? When we got our life in order? When we promised to never cuss anymore? When we promised to try and clean up our act? No, no, no. God demonstrates His love toward you and toward me and toward all people that while we were hostile, while were enemies, while we were against Him, He died for us.
It’s what the cross is all about. It’s the supreme picture of God’s goodness. He loved you and took care of your biggest problem, that which separated you from a holy God. Not when you got good, not when you deserved it, not when you cleaned up your act, but while you were yet a sinner, while I was yet a sinner.
I didn’t want to obey God. I had no desire for the Scriptures. I had no desire for God. I was doing my own thing, my own way, stiff-arming God, and He died for me. That’s how good He is.
See, God is good not because of something in you or something in me, He is good because of something in Him.
The second evidence of goodness on the part of the Son of God is Romans 8:32, the promise of future goodness. It says, “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not with Him, freely give us all things?” Paul has made this tremendous theological argument in chapter 6. We have died with Him, and there is this spiritual battle with the flesh and the spirit in chapter 7. And then we have this breakthrough in chapter 8 in how we can live this new life by the power of the Spirit of God.
And He is beginning to make His argument and right after this he is going to, you know what? Verse 38 to about the end of the chapter he is going to go and talk about, “Nothing can separate us from His love.” And he is making this logical argument to the Roman Christians. “He that spared not His own Son.” In other words, if God loved you enough that He was willing to die for you, how then, wouldn’t He freely give you all things?
In other words, there is so much more. He has already demonstrated that He is trustworthy. He has demonstrated that He is good. He has demonstrated that anytime He would ever ask you to take a risk, to take a step of faith, to take a step of obedience that makes you afraid or threatens your security or your significance, “He that spared not His own Son, will He not with Him freely give you all things?”
I remember when this verse came home to me. I was with a group that did a lot of Scripture memory and I was in the process of memorizing this. And I was in college at the time and a young family, they couldn’t have been thirty-one, thirty-two, brand new Christians, a couple of years old.
And I went to this little school. And the town of the little school had two bars, a post office, and two churches. And we called it, “The White Church,” and, “The Red Church.” And so you went to one of the two if you were a Christian.
And at the White Church, where I went, there was this young couple and they met me afterwards and they lived out on these windy roads on a little farm, small little barn. When you pulled up, it was like Norman Rockwell revisited.
And they said, “Would you like to come over for dinner?” Well, you’re a college student, you’re not getting many good meals, “Yes!” And so I go over to dinner and I still remember, you know the pictures you have in your mind and they are really cool and retro and “in” now. But you remember the tables that had the plastic tops and had the curved aluminum legs on them? And when you sat down, if you had shorts, where the plastic sticks on your legs? That was being poor back then. It’s really cool and “in” now.
And we sat down at a table like that and then I don’t know what the problem was but they just had a sheet that covered a few of the doors because they didn’t have any doors, so they didn’t have much. We had a home cooked meal and green beans out of the garden and some meat that he had butchered a year ago.
And then he had these two small, little kids. And I’m going through the normal single issues of life. There are four girls for every guy on our campus. I have grown and matured to the point where I have made a commitment and this is in the middle seventies, early seventies. And I have made a commitment to be sexually pure. And I think I’m the only guy on the entire campus, that I am aware of, that is trying to do that.
Hey, four girls to every guy, you didn’t even have to be good looking. You know? And I’m feeling like, God, I’m trying to do it Your way and life is so hard. And so I end up with this little couple and I am watching the electricity. And somehow, I always felt like God was always keeping good things from me because He was a cosmic cop anyway and He made up all these rules that were really hard.
And back then, no one knew about AIDS and a few people knew about genital herpes and all the other things why God says sexual purity is important. It’s out of His goodness. It’s never prohibitive. It’s because He loves us so much.
And so I’m watching this little couple and then we get done and I just watched the dynamic and these two little kids and, I don’t know, I just thought to myself, Someday, someway, God, if You would ever choose to be kind to me, I think this is the real deal. Man, there is something special here. I’ve never seen this before.
And then they said, “Excuse me, we are going to have some apple pie.” She made some homemade apple pie with a scoop of ice cream, the whole nine yards. And then I could see through the little, she had taken a sheet and put a hole in it, or you know how they do, and made a little curtain.
And then one, two, three, four, and they all got down. And with the two, tiny little kids, one four and one about three, and they folded their hands and then I heard those little kids pray. And I heard this brand new Christian dad with his arm around his wife, talk to God.
And all I can tell you is, it melted my heart. I remember leaving and driving in that dark night, it was really starry, thinking, Man, this is life. Man, I just, I am so seduced and bombarded by a bunch of cheap stuff. God, this is the kind of thing I would like someday, someway, you know?
And then that little small voice, because I was dealing with the lordship issue, if you know what I mean? You know the lordship issue?
Like, “Chip, you can’t go to Bible study on Thursday and hit every bar on Friday night with the basketball team like you’re doing right now. Chip, lip service here and this deal, what you have, where you think eight out of the Ten Commandments is pretty good but, you know, I don’t grade on the curve!”
And so God, I was in the Bible now and I was starting to grow and God kept bringing me to this, “Chip, I want your heart. I want you as a living sacrifice. I want you to be Mine. No holds barred. I want you to repent. And you need to come clean and really by Mine. I’m a good God. This is what I give, this is what I want to help you with.”
And I’m thinking, I can’t do that. I can’t do that. Because if I get totally committed to You, I’ll be single the rest of my life, I’ll end up in Africa, in Africa there will be snakes going around the bottom of my hut, and after the snakes go around the bottom of my hut, at night, they will come and they will attach themselves to my neck and I’m going to die! And I don’t want to do that!
“But, Chip, I am the God of the universe. I have to have the same place in your heart and in your priorities that I have in all the universe, or I’m not the Lord of your life.” And I got it, but I said, God, I don’t want to go there. And we had a thing called Bartell Hill and it was a really steep hill and at the bottom was Bartell, which was the dorm I was in.
And I can still vividly remember getting halfway down Bartell Hill and I’m having this argument with God and He is asking me to surrender to His lordship. And I’m telling Him no!
And, bang, into my mind, “He that spared not His own Son, how will He not with Him, freely give us all things?” Chip, if I loved you enough to give My Son, do you think I am going to do something that is going to be the most unpleasant, difficult, painful thing for your future?
See, I was the rich young ruler. See, I had such a warped view of God, I couldn’t let go because I couldn’t trust that I was going to entrust it to a good God. How about you? Anything you can’t let go of? Any security? Any person? Any money? Any priority? Any issue that you just feel like, Oooh, I can’t let go because if I do, God will do something terrible with me.
Could I suggest that your problem is not about you and your decision? Your problem is you have a warped view of God. He is not like that. He finds holy pleasure in the happiness of His people. He is the God who causes it to rain on the just and on the unjust. He is the God whose heart is generous and wants to lavishly bless and endear, He is kind and cordial, He is for you, He is not down on you, and He is not waiting to do a bait and switch where once you get really committed, He is going to give you all the worst.
In fact, James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” And then the proof is, “He chose to give us the birth through the Word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all that He has created.
And for me, what I have tried to do, I have literally written this down on a little 3x5 card, “Every good and perfect gift, everything good comes from God.” And what I’ve tried to do, I have a little 3x5 card and on it I have said, “Lord, I would like,” or desire is how I actually say it, “I desire to develop an attitude of habitual, unconscious gratitude in any and all circumstances and relationships, in light of Your sovereignty and goodness.”
I am dreaming for the day, that no matter what happens, what circumstance, what situation, what disappointment – if God is good, if every good and perfect gift comes from Him, if God is sovereign and in control, if He is absolutely all-wise, that means He brings the best possible ends by the best possible means for the most possible people for the longest possible time – if there was an easier, better, kinder way of doing this, for my good, I would have gotten that. I want to get to where I habitually say, “Thank You, Lord. I don’t understand it and I’m going to share my pain and I’m going to tell You I don’t like it and I’m going to be honest with You.”
But I want to get where I say “thank You” for anything and everything. For this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Isn’t that what He says?
Well, how do you respond to God’s goodness? Let me give you three specific ways that have been so encouraging for me.
Number one, you can write the word in, repent. Repent of our unbelief and ingratitude. Our unbelief and ingratitude. Romans 2:4 says, “It is the goodness of God that is meant to lead us to repentance.”
Why do you think we come to Christ? Is it because He just looked around the earth and He goes, “Whoa! Boy, man, there’s a good one over there. Hey, Gabriel! Michael! Look, man, she, whooo! Man alive! Let’s see if we can get the gospel to that person!”
It isn’t your goodness that draws you. We were yet enemies. He just keeps providential, look back on your life. Some of you grew up and came to Christ early. But those of you that maybe didn’t come to Christ until a little bit later, just look back on your life before you knew Jesus, and look at the stack of goodness that He implanted in your life and your relationships. And I know some of you had some really hard things.
I’ll tell you what, I was in India six days after the tsunami. That is a really hard thing. You are in America. You are free. There is food. There is opportunity. God is so good. God has placed goodness all around us, and instead of, “Thank You, thank You, thank You, thank You, thank You,” we whine, whine, whine, whine, complain, complain, complain, complain. Hey, God, I’m doing the evangelical deal. I’m praying, I’m reading, I’m giving, I even went on a missions trip. I’m involved in ministry in my church. And I want to be married and I’m not married. What’s the deal?
You are the cosmic vending machine, I have pushed buttons one, three, five, seven, and nine and, poof! this is supposed to come out.
And for some it is singleness, for others it is their health, for others it is money, for others it is a job. And we have built an entire culture of people that we think, if we push the right buttons, we deserve and we demand for God to make our lives work out our way.
And instead of Him being the Creator and us the creature, and we are swallowed up in gratitude for His goodness, we think He is the self-help genie who is going to now come and be our little servant to make our lives work out our way. And that is not the God of the Bible.
The second response to God’s goodness is to rest in His goodness when encountering adversity. Rest! You’ll forgive me, I memorized this many years ago and I can’t say it in any version but this, but, “How great is Thy goodness, which Thou has stored up for those who fear Thee, which Thou has wrought for those who take refuge in Thee before the sons of men.”
What a picture. “How great is Thy goodness that You, O God, have stored up.” He’s got barrels of goodness stored up in heaven, ready to tilt and pour your way! For those who do what? For those who fear Him! For those who say, “I want to do life Your way. God, I don’t want to compromise. I want to be Your man, Your woman, at this time, in my life. I am not going to wait until this happens or this happens or I live here or this happens. I fear You. I just want to be all that You want me to be.”
And He says, “How great is His goodness – it is stored up for those that fear Him. That those who take refuge in Him,” – where? before the sons of men. Thou dost hide them in the secret place of His presence from the conspiracies of man and keep them secretly in His shelter from the strife of tongues.”
I have been through a very, very difficult last two years in my life. And it has just been times where you’re supposed to cry out to God. I have just had times the last couple of years, I didn’t get to the crying out. I just cried.
Situations so impossible that were following what I had believed, “God, I did exactly what You said. I didn’t want to do it, and I did it. And I obeyed You and I obeyed You.” And I have been down in my office early in the morning and just cried. And now I have seen that God saw my tears. And He has stored up for me goodness.
And the goodness doesn’t always come in the way or the time or in the pattern or according to expectations. He is a good God and you can rest. You don’t have to work it all out. You don’t have to make everything happen in your time, your way.
The picture in your mind of what will make you happy might be a lie. He might have something way, way better – way, way different. Rest.
The third response to God’s goodness is risk. Risk stepping out in faith like never before. Risk! What I found early in my Christian life is I could never take any steps of faith because I thought I was going to get clobbered! I could never be totally committed. Who wants to be committed and end up in Africa with snakes and single and all that stuff?
And this is my life verse for God’s goodness. I have this written on a 3x5 card and at the top of the card it says, “God’s Goodness: Psalm 84:11.” For the Lord God, the I AM THAT I AM, Yahweh, the Lord God is a sun and a shield; the Lord gives grace and glory. No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly. Is that awesome?
The Lord, His covenant name, the I AM, the Ever Existent One who is God, who will have no equals, who will share His glory with no other is two things. He is a sun. What is that? That’s a source, isn’t it? And He is a shield. That’s protection.
God says to you, as you walk with Him, “I will be an unlimited resource and I will be an unlimited power of protection.” He is a sun and a shield. Why? He gives grace. What is grace? What you don’t deserve! He gives glory. It means the deepest sense of satisfaction and fulfillment and exaltation you could ever have.
He is a sun and shield. He has unlimited resources. He provides unlimited protection. And He wants to give grace and give glory and you can put this and mark it down. He will never withhold any good thing from a man or a woman who walks uprightly.
That fear that you’ll miss out if you do it God’s way is a lie from the pit of hell. You want a great job? You want a great wife? You have a desire for ministry? You have a dream on your heart? And God says, “Take a step of risk and faith,” and you say, “Oh, I can’t because this might happen.” He is a sun and a shield. He gives grace and glory. No good thing, no good thing will He withhold.