“You are good, and what You do is good” (Psalm 119:68)!
This verse is one of the fundamental verses on which we build our theology. It gives us a fantastic vantage point so we can begin to see God clearly. He is good, and what He does is good.
We love to shout this in church, and we desperately want to believe this… but I have interacted with so many who, while they toot that “God is good all the time, brother,” don’t seem to in actuality believe it. At least, they live in such a way that it appears they don’t believe it. Which may be the same thing.
Indeed, the very same Christians who sing songs about the goodness of God and teach their children to count their blessings have perhaps built a mere God-lookalike who is vindictive and cynical, not to mention unbiblical. And while no one would be so quick to admit to this (to themselves even), you can usually quickly tell what a person believes about God’s goodness based on their general perspective of life.
Recently I bumped into an old acquaintance on the street and I noticed she had her arm in a cast. I asked her what had happened, and she said, “Well, God blessed me with something but I guess I wasn’t thankful enough. He decided to teach me a lesson. I know I’ll be more thankful next time if He decides to bless me again.” And that was that.
I’m sorry, were we both talking about the same God?
It was as if I were listening to someone describe my friend Josiah Smith as having frizzy red hair and being overweight, when Josiah actually has light brown hair and is pretty fit.
Friends — I can’t even begin to describe how appalled I was (am) at such an unhealthy, works-based, rules-heavy, fear-founded approach to this tit-for-tat version of God! Her statement was completely, completely wrong regarding the nature of the God of the Bible, and I’m certain many of you readers would agree. (Ah, you’ll have to forgive my passionate writing here! As you might be able to tell, it is very important to me that people understand the nature of God, the Just and Kind. What we think about God is everything!!)
Well… unfortunately many of us may have a similar viewpoint, even if we wouldn’t phrase it the same way my old acquaintance did. Or maybe you don’t notice anything all too wrong about her statement. Indeed, it is frightfully easy to have a theology that is riddled with fear and shaped by bad experiences and broken by bad earthly fathers. Thankfully, there is a truer reality than our opinions or superstitions or bad earthly fathers or tragic experiences. What does the Bible say?
1. God is kind even to His enemies.
In His sagacious and paradigm-shifting “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5, Jesus instructs His followers to actually love their enemies — not practice avoidance or hatred. And in so doing, we are actually doing what God the Father does… He loves His enemies! In verse 45, Jesus comments of His Father, “He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” Jesus is blatantly explaining that God shows kindness to all, regardless of if a person is ‘good’ or ‘bad.’
So let me suggest that if God is kind even to His enemies, how much more will He lavish kindness on His own children?
2. God delights to show mercy instead of passing judgment.
Jesus’ earthly brother James makes a beautiful statement about the nature of God: “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (2:13). The Message translation renders it as “Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time” and the King James Version announces, “Mercy rejoiceth against judgment!” C’mon, how stunning is that! Let me explain to you what it means.
In the context of the larger passage, James 2:13 lets us know that God will extend generous mercy to the man who is himself merciful. Mercy is ‘compassionate forgiveness against an offender,’ meaning that God is thrilled — yes, thrilled — to compassionately forgive your offenses. He doesn’t hold grudges or haunt you with the memory of past wrongs; He has completely separated you from your sins, as far as He has separated the east from the west — never to touch again. And He has taken joy in releasing you from your offenses. Let that set you free!
3. God’s heart is to bless you.
It’s true! God isn’t poised on the edge of a cloud with a sack full of lightning bolts with your name on it — one mistake and boom! cancer. Theologian and pastor John Piper says if “His anger must be released by a stiff safety lock, [then] His mercy has a hair trigger.” While we may quickly move from gladness to disappointment to fear, swinging up and down again in our enjoyment of life, sputtering erratically in bursts of quick laughter and then suddenly bursts of irritation, God is not like that at all. He does not bless us begrudgingly; He is brimming over with enthusiastic eagerness to bless us with generous, personalized gifts. He’s not merely waiting for us to come wandering around either — He’s actively pursuing us with love in His smile, joy in His eyes, and blessings in His arms to lavish on us. The good King, our Papa God, is perpetually in a good mood!
Author of The Ragamuffin Gospel Brennan Manning puts it beautifully: “I could more easily contain Niagara Falls in a tea cup than I can comprehend the wild, uncontainable love of God.”
And of course, God Himself whispers in Jeremiah 31:20, “Oh! Ephraim [but I like to fill in my own name here] is My dear, dear son, My child in whom I take pleasure! Every time I mention his name, My heart bursts with longing for him! Everything in Me cries out for him. Softly and tenderly I wait for him.”
All the rumors You’ve heard of the goodness of God are better than you’ve imagined. God really is good, and He does good things.
From my heart to yours,