Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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-- Proclaiming His Gospel

 

The Goodness of God

lamb

by Dennis Pollock

One of the most fundamental keys to receiving from the giving hand of God is an understanding of His goodness. In the Psalms we read, "Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!" We receive heaven's blessings through faith in God and His Son Jesus Christ, but if we are unconvinced of His great goodness and generosity, a lively faith that embraces God's best is impossible. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that true worshipers must worship the Father in Spirit and truth – we must see God as He truly is. But with so many versions of God on the world market, how are we to get a precise perspective of this mysterious, immutable, and invisible Creator?

The one thing that sets evangelicals apart from all other religious groups is our belief in the God of the Bible – the One revealed in Genesis, Psalms, and Isaiah, and further revealed in Matthew, Romans, and Revelation. As we open our Bibles and read them with open heart and mind, we discover the nature of our great triune Creator. And one of the most wonderful discoveries we quickly make is that God is a good, kind, and generous God. Indeed the term Jesus used so often for Him (a term the Jews rarely used) was Father. We are to pray to "our Father which art in heaven." He could have called Him our General which art in heaven, or our Big Boss which art in heaven, but He didn't. God is our heavenly Father. (Aren't you glad you don't have to begin your prayers like this, "Dear Big Boss, thank you for this day you have given us…")

Abba, Father

 The God of the Bible is portrayed as One who takes pleasure in the well-being of His children. Jesus asks, "What man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a snake? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!" (Matthew 7:9-10). Can you imagine a man, who when his son comes to him complaining of being hungry, will take two slices of bread from the refrigerator, place a small rattlesnake between the bread, and hand it gleefully to his son? No, we would never give our children rattlesnake sandwiches; we give them good things. Jesus tells us that the Heavenly Father is a whole lot kinder than we are, and delights to give good things to those who ask Him!

Almost all earthly fathers instinctively provide for their children. They need no seminars or parenting books to do this. They are hard-wired to see to it that their children have what they need. They feel affection for their children. They are not coolly dispassionate when it comes to their kids. They have feelings – strong feelings that would cause them to give their lives for their children if it were necessary. And earthly fathers do what they can to keep their children from unnecessary pain. Some pain in life is inevitable, but if there is something they can do to keep little Bobby or Suzie from suffering unnecessarily, they will surely do it. They take no pleasure in the misery of their offspring. These are the characteristics of the average father. Magnify these attributes a zillion times and you get an idea of how God feels toward His children in Christ Jesus.

Receivers, not Takers

The knowledge of God's kindness and goodness must affect our approach to prayer as we seek good things from the throne of grace. Too often Christians see prayer as a great wrestling match in which their job is to somehow overcome God's reluctance to bless. They roll up their sleeves, grit their teeth, and do some stretching exercises before they enter the arena of prayer, determined to convince a begrudging Creator that they really must have this particular blessing. Their thought is, "If I beg long enough, if I cry loud enough, if I whine in such an annoying fashion that God gets sick of hearing me, I may be able to squeeze out of Him that which I desire." Such thinking is an insult to the goodness of God, and completely undermines the great key God has provided us in getting our prayers answered: faith in God's goodness given us through Jesus Christ. The truth is, you are never going to be able to twist God's arm forcefully enough to get what you want. His arms are way too big for you, little man. And besides, that is not the prescribed way to receive from God. We are receivers from God, not takers. Our job is not to pry blessings out of His reluctant hands, but to open our hands and mouths wide, so that He can fill our lives with good things. "Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it" (Psalm 81:10).

In Luke 12 we read a lengthy teaching by the Lord Jesus concerning worry. He tells us not to worry either about food to eat or clothing to wear. He then asks us to consider the ravens which neither plant nor harvest, and have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet are well fed by God. He speaks of the beautiful lilies which neither labor nor spin, and yet are decked out far more beautifully than rich king Solomon ever was. He then makes His point: "And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you."

Can You Believe It?

The question we must answer is: "Is this just 'preacher language', or is it literally and completely true?" Can we really forego worry, and go about our lives convinced that this invisible Creator will watch out for us, provide all we need, and see to it that we are clothed and fed? Does seeking God's kingdom absolutely guarantee our physical necessities? The answer must be a resounding yes! Jesus does not lie nor does He exaggerate.  He tells us that the Heavenly Father knows our needs. Have you ever began a prayer like this: "Heavenly Father, You probably haven't noticed, but…" I hope you haven't! The Father has noticed everything about your life, your joys and sorrows, your pressures and pleasures, your bank account, the number of tomatoes in your garden, and yes all 110,000 strands of hair on your head (less for you older guys!).  Our Father is both aware and concerned about every one of us. And He is good!

The Scriptures reveal that our Father not only provides for us, but that He is very generous in His provision. James tells us that if we lack wisdom we should ask it of God, "who gives to all liberally." In 2nd Timothy we are told that God "gives us richly all things to enjoy." In perhaps the most famous chapter of the Old Testament we are told that the Lord is our Shepherd, and we will not lack. He anoints our head with oil (speaking of the anointing of the Holy Spirit) and makes our cups to run over. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God becomes to us the God of the running over cup!

Taught with Bananas

bananas

Darlene Rose was a missionary who became a prisoner of the Japanese during most of World War II. At one point she was taken to an interrogation unit where she was questioned endlessly. As the ordeal drug on for weeks, she almost lost heart. As she looked out of the window in her tiny cell, she saw a woman prisoner in the outer courtyard of the camp receiving a bunch of smuggled bananas. She developed an intense desire for bananas, as she was only eating thin rice porridge and was very weak and nearly dying. She prayed, saying, "I don't ask for a bunch like that lady had, but if you could just get me one banana… But then she prayed, "Forgive me Lord, if I am asking You to do something you couldn't do, in getting bananas in here to me." The idea of a sweet banana somehow reaching her grimy interior cell seemed utterly laughable. She didn't have the faith for even one banana.

Later her commanding officer, from her previous place of imprisonment, came to visit her. He had liked her, and was concerned about her health. They chatted a while, and then he left. Immediately afterwards a guard came to her small cell and dumped a huge batch of bananas onto the floor of her cell, apparently under orders from her previous camp commandant. She counted them and there were 92 bananas. She was astounded and then suddenly deeply ashamed, when she thought how she had thought it impossible for even God to somehow get a single banana into her cell. As she sat with her 92 bananas, she poured out an apology to the Lord for not having the faith to believe He could give her even one banana. In her heart she heard Him reply, "But that's what I delight to do – to give exceedingly abundantly above all that you ask or think."

Our Response

So what should our response be to the revelation of God's goodness? It should be, as we read in Hebrews, "the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name." Thankfulness is both our response to the goodness of God, and a foundation for the reception of more of His goodness. When I was a boy my dad used to have a saying he would employ when I was whining and crying around. I don't think this saying was original with my dad, in fact probably most of the World War II generation used it. (They hadn't yet been brainwashed to believe that spankings and discipline would crush a child's self-esteem!) The saying was this: "If you don't stop crying, I'll give you something to really cry about!" I used to hate to hear that, but it was effective. I would either stop crying or else turn down the volume considerably. I believe our Heavenly Father sometimes uses the exact opposite of that expression with us. When He sees His children, bruised and hurting, and in a place of great need still praising Him and thanking Him for His goodness, He says to us, "If you don't stop praising and thanking Me, I will give you something to really praise me about!" "God is good – all the time" is more than just a catchy slogan – it happens to be literally true.

The Psalmist exults, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits…" It is healthy for us to recount the benefits and blessings with which the Lord has graced our lives. In a past generation the church used to sing a song that would be considered pretty corny by today's standards. No self-respecting worship leader of a church that practices contemporary worship would dare sing it. The chorus' lyrics state, "Count your many blessings, name them one by one…" The song may seem a little corny, but there is nothing at all corny about stopping to recognize the goodness of God in our lives. It is in fact one of the most powerful things a person can do.

The more desperate the need, the greater should be the thankfulness when the need is met. Man has many needs, but the most desperate of all his needs is the need for righteousness. God is holy, and no unrighteous men or women will ever enter His dwelling place. In our sins and selfishness, we have offended our holy Creator. Without forgiveness and reconciliation we would all be doomed to eternal punishment. And so God, always the great Provider for His creation, has provided us a Savior, His only begotten Son Jesus Christ. Our Lord came to earth, lived a spotless, life, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again on the third day. Through faith in Jesus our greatest need is eternally provided and we are given the gift of all gifts, the gift of righteousness. And for this we shall be forever grateful. "Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men" (Psalm 107:15).

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