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The Goodness of God
As I was thinking about the God’s overriding goodness, my mind went to the story of Jonah, and that’s because God’s goodness is the central theme of the story, not Jonah’s disobedience, nor the Ninevite’s repentance. In fact, it’s also not about the really big fish that swallowed him. Rather, it’s about God’s overall goodness, which really isn’t given a thought with all this other stuff going on.
It’s when we take our eyes off this central theme and on all the other stuff that’s going, that is when we’ll miss it, that is, God’s goodness.
You see, it was in God’s goodness that turned Jonah around to fulfill the calling God had placed upon His life, even in having a really big fish swallow him in order to get him where God wanted him to go. And it was in God’s goodness that he allowed the Ninevites to repent and not get wiped off the face of the earth.
And it is the same with our lives. In God’s goodness He doesn’t let us go our own way, but He will pursue us in order to get us going in the right direction. It is also in His goodness that He brings to our remembrance His truths in our darkest hours.
When everything was taken from me, I found myself in the dark belly of depression. And it was while I was there that God brought several scriptures to remembrance, putting them together for me to see more of God’s overall plan.
First was when Jesus was hanging on the cross and He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46) You see, that is exactly how I felt.
But with that God brought to my mind Isaiah 53:5, which is where God tells us why Jesus hung upon that cross when it says, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”
So, the Lord was saying that He wasn’t finished with me, although I saw only the darkness of my problems. But then He then gave me one more Scripture, Genesis 50:20, where Joseph told to his brothers that what they meant for evil, that is their betrayal in selling him into slavery, God meant it for good, to bring about the salvation of many.
Now, the Apostle Paul had this overarching and unwavering confidence that the goodness of God would override everything that occurs in life. And he proclaimed this belief in his letter to the Roman church, and remember, He was in prison at the time he wrote it.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NKKV)
Paul believed that God makes everything turn out for the best, which then renders complaining and unthinkable occurrence, since everything in life was either planned or permitted by God.
Now, I struggled with this wording “best,” or “good,” because it is not in accordance with what we would consider to be best or good, but rather it is what God knows is best or good given the situation or circumstances that we are facing.
Oswald Sanders said, “With God accidents are not accidental and adversity is not adverse.”
It is this unwavering belief that allowed Paul and Silas to sing praises even while in prison with the backs bleeding from the whip, and their feet in stocks. You see, as long as they knew and loved God, and were called according to His purpose, living out His calling for their lives, then even this terrible injustice would turn to good. And what we see is that both the jailer and his entire family were saved, and the church strengthened.
And so, the question becomes, “Can this joyous assurance that Paul experienced be our experience as well?”
To answer that question in the positive, two conditions from our verse must be met.
To Love God
“Those who love God”
Listen to what Jesus said was the greatest commandment.
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39 NKJV)
To Live in Partnership with God
“Those who are called according to His purpose.”
In His parable of a house that is built on a rock as compared to sand, Jesus said, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25 NKJV)
King David, in Psalm 1, also talked about what that partnership looks like and the blessings that come from it.
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:1-3 NKJV)
And so, it is only when we are in this loving relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, and fulfilling His purpose and call upon our lives, that the promise of God’s goodness can be achieved.
Now, for the remainder of our time together, I’d like to look at what I see are four truths that are brought in our text where it says, “All things work together for good.”
God’s Plan is Beneficial
“All things work together ‘for good.’”
The problem is that God’s promised good doesn’t’ look like it is either good or beneficial in our present situation. But what we have to remember is that God not only has a better view of our situation, but a longer view in mind.
He sees our future, therefore He said, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV)
Far too often we see our present as disastrous, especially in our present world that is filled with disease, illness, violence, and rebellion. But God has something special being worked out through it and in accordance with His will for not only our lives and this world, but for His return.
Consider Job, he was afflicted, and the prognosis wasn’t good, and in fact, nothing good could even be seen coming out of it. But in the end, Job was vindicated and restored, physically, relationally, and spiritually.
Further, Job understood this truth of it all working out, maybe not in the way or manner that he would have wanted, but for the good of God’s kingdom. And we see this in his statement that while his afflictions were severe, he never blamed God. Look at this remarkable statement of faith.
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21 NKJV)
Also, when his wife asked why he still held onto his integrity in the face of this adversity, Job said, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10 NKJV)
In the end, Job emerged enriched by God. God took the evil acts that Satan poured out upon Job and made them work out for Job’s good, as he was given far greater in the end than he had prior to it, and we have this as a great lesson at our disposal as we go through the adversity that comes our way.
Our problem is how we interpret “good.” Our interpretation equates good with comfort, success, and pleasure. And any absence of these we look upon as evil.
But, consider William Cary, who is known as the father of modern missions. He finally finished his translation of the Bible and was printing bibles and other materials on a press he had set up. But then a fire destroyed the press, along with all that had been accomplished over the years. To say he was depressed and feeling helpless is an understatement.
But then the staff gathered that night and recounted what God had done over the past 12 years with 11 new churches planted, 20 evangelists sent out, and the gospel spreading throughout the country, not to mention 350 children who were being educated for free in the schools they set up.
That Sunday, Cary taught from Psalm 46:10 where it says, “Be still and know that I am God.” And his two points were “God’s right to dispose of us as He pleases,” and “Man’s duty to acquiesce in God’s will.”
Within the next 6 months they were able to restore the printing press and begin getting material out. And before his death it is said that he had duplicated and even improved on his earlier achievements.
God’s Plan is Active
“All things ‘work’ together for good.”
The reason we can say that all things turn out for the best is because God is there working it all out, turning heartaches into blessings, and tragedies into triumphs.
Our problem is that we don’t see it. To us God seems to be doing nothing about the situation that we are in. But the truth is that good is active, and when we are still, then we will see His hand in our circumstances.
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10 NKJV)
Elijah learned this lesson as he perceived God as not working good out of his bad situation. He had been powerfully used by God as he prayed and not only did fire fall from heaven upon the sacrifice, but then rain came to end a three-year drought.
But Queen Jezebel was looking to have him killed because he had all her false prophets put to death. So off Elijah went into the wilderness to sulk wishing that he could just die. But God met him there, provided heavenly food where he was then able to travel for forty days to Mount Horeb, where he heard God still small voice that changed the direction of his life.
In the end, we really shouldn’t be impatient when we don’t see anything happening. Instead, we should be looking through the eyes of faith seeing God working it out for our good, despite His seeming inactively.
The Apostle Paul knew this truth for his life as well in what he told the church of Philippi.
“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6 NKJV)
God’s Plan Includes Everything
“’All things’ work together for good.”
“All” in the Greek language means exactly that, “all.” It encompasses everything, and this should literally take our breath away. It covers our losses, illnesses, frustrations, disappointments, shattered hopes, physical disorders, and the list goes on from there. No matter how large or small the problem, God is working in and through it all.
Now, while we could easily say that God is in control of all these life changing circumstances, we think that what we’re going through doesn’t add up the big stuff that God gets involved in. But what we need to understand is that God is involved in even the smallest details of our lives.
Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31 NKJV)
Nothing is by chance in God’s economy. God is interested in every detail in our lives, both the big and the small.
God’s Plan is Harmonious
“All things ‘work together’ for good.”
The things that happen in our lives may look random, but when added together they produce a picture where we come out looking more like Christ.
The experiences of life when taken in isolation of each other may not look like anything good, but when God blends them together, a beautiful portrait of Jesus is being painted within us.
Like a tapestry, all the various colors must be woven together. The bright and beautiful colors are magnified when they are interwoven with the more dark and somber colors. It’s like looking at diamonds at a jewelry store. They are displayed on a black cloth so that the brilliance contained within the diamond can shine.
Consider Joseph and the overwhelming tragedies that happened in his life. Each were woven together along with bright spots so that he could see that God was working something greater in the end.
As each tragedy seemed overwhelming, from being betrayed by his brothers and eventually sold into slavery in Egypt, and then being falsely accused and imprisoned, God was working out His kingdom program.
Now, most know the story that while in prison he correctly interpreted the dreams of two of Pharaoh’s top officials. Afterwards, Pharaoh called him, and Joseph was able to interpret his dream, when no one else could.
From this, Joseph rose from being an imprisoned slave, it doesn’t get much worse or lower than that, to the 2nd highest official in the world. He was then able to save his family from a 7-year drought and famine.
And so, Joseph was able to look back and see God’s hand through it all, which then allowed him to tell his brothers, you know, the ones that betrayed him in the beginning, that it was God and His goodness that allowed this whole thing to play itself out as it had.
“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” (Genesis 50:20 NKJV)
And so, when we look at God’s overriding and overarching goodness towards us, what we realize is that God has the end in view, while we only have the present. Therefore, we can trust God with our lives, because only He knows our ending from our beginning, and in the end, He’ll work it all out for our good, when we love Him, are are in partnership with His plans and purposes.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study