“So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of His call. May He give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.” (2 Thessalonians 1:11 NLT)
What comes first to your mind when you think of “goodness?” Goodness is a quality that is becoming rarer in the times in which we live. To me goodness speaks of a quality of life that is uncompromising, yet kind; exemplary, yet humble; deeply spiritual, yet inviting. It’s the kind of life Jesus illustrated and to which I, and I suspect you, aspire.
The fruit of goodness is a matter of the heart, yet, ironically, it’s not something that’s innate. It’ a gift that can only be given by God. God IS good. He is the embodiment of perfection, thus, the sum total of all that’s good, right, pleasant, admirable, holy, and complete. Good isn’t simply the absence of bad, it’s the opposite of evil.
On some levels “good” is a relative term. For example, my son-in-law can eat raw fish and say, “Oh, that is sooooooo good!” But for me it’s all I can do to gag it down. But the plot thickens when we call something good that God clearly says is not good. For example, the misuse of sex.
God designed sex to be enjoyed between a man and a woman who are fully committed to one another in a marriage relationship. In that context sex is good. Very good. But outside the boundaries of a marriage covenant, sex becomes destructive. Am I implying that it isn’t pleasurable outside marriage. Of course not. But like so many other avenues of pleasure we seek, they lead to something artificial and short lived.
Virtually anything God intends for good can be abused, distorted, violated, and made to be the very opposite of what God desires. Even the Gospel – God’s Good News – when used as a tool to shame others or to give expression to one’s spiritual superiority, is evil and dishonoring to God.
Anything good in our lives and in our world is because of God’s presence. Evil is the absence of God’s presence, thus devoid of God. But the irony of the Gospel is that God can take what was evil and/or intended for evil purposes and transform them into something good.
Isn’t that the promise given in Romans 8:28? “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”
Two observations in passing. First, God doesn’t “cause” everything – i.e. He doesn’t cause evil. And secondly, everything we experience isn’t in and of itself “good.” Because of His great love and desire to express His love for us in personal and unmistakable ways, He CAN and WILL cause the circumstances of our life to work together for our good, but that’s His doing. It’s not a natural cause and effect.
Any goodness in us is from God. Any kindness, act of generosity, humility, selflessness, and the like, are ALL AND ONLY because of God. Even unbelievers can do “good” things because of the presence of God’s influence in and on their lives. But hell will be the complete absence of anything good because God’s holy and righteous presence will be absent.
In some ways God’s goodness revealed in and through us is a very powerful draw for people who don’t yet know Jesus. To open a door for someone, greet them warmly, smile genuinely, and deliberately get ourselves out of the way in preference to a fellow human being can be huge when done with the right spirit. God can be exalted, honored, and glorified through His goodness working in and through us if we’ll let Him. Let’s let Him!
Blessings, Ed 😊