ALL THINGS WORK FOR GOOD

Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:5, 11

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.

(Romans 8:28 KJV)

The common denominator between these passages is:  We were predestined to do good works according to God’s will and purpose for us, which is to be conformed to the likeness of Christ.

This does not mean all that happens to us is good or that God is always working to make us happy.  Although the gripping reality is that evil prevails in our fallen world, He is able to use every circumstance to bring about our ultimate benefit and to fulfill His purposes. 

Yet, this promise is not for everyone—only those who love God and are “called” by the Holy Spirit to receive Christ.  We learn to accept—not resent—adversity, heartaches, and pain, knowing they are intended to make us more like Christ and reflect His goodness.    “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord”  (2 Corinthians 3:18).

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).  He works in “all things”—not just isolated incidents—for our benefit. 

As an expression of His goodness and love, God’s divine discipline is essential for maturing His children.   The outcome is determined by our attitude and response.  We CAN choose to submit and be trained by it; on the other hand, we reject His best for us and grieve His heart if we go our own way.

It is helpful to remember that Abraham obeyed God by offering Isaac as a sacrifice BEFORE he experienced His goodness.  He was confident that his God would always be faithful to His promises (Hebrews 11:17-18).  It was his experiences of waiting and submission that prepared him for this supreme test. 

When we are obedient in little things, our faith increases.   If it is difficult to trust God for something big, perhaps we have ignored those small and seemingly insignificant promptings of the Holy Spirit. 

In ways we may not fully understand, God can take even the most difficult things in our lives and use them for good, as we trust Him to fulfill His purposes in and through us.

Lord, help us trust You all the time

Regardless of what comes our way,

Accepting from Your goodness that

You always have the final say. –Sper

GOD’S GOODNESS IN PAIN AND ADVERSITY (2)

Psalm 31:19-24

The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (Job 1:21).

We see calamity and suffering in the book of Job, but Job’s saga does not end in despair.  Through his life, we see that faith in God is substantiated even when our situation looks dismal.  Unshakable faith must be built on the confidence that God’s excellent purpose will prevail.

When life is pleasant, praising God is easy because His kindness and goodness are abundantly evident.  However, we may have difficulty recognizing pain and adversity as an expression of His loving care.

If we believe God is good only when things go well and are enjoyable, we misunderstand His nature and become numb to His benevolence toward us.  When we know His character and trust His ways, we’re able to affirm His goodness at all times.  Even when our situation and feelings tell us otherwise, we rely on what we know, always looking for signs of His loving care, under His umbrella of goodness.

God’s ability to do good is not limited to our understanding, however.  We see this as Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus grew frightfully sick; they turned to Jesus for help yet He let their brother die (John 11:21,32).  God has a greater purpose for everything He allows or orchestrates.

Jacob regained his son Joseph.   Job acquired a new family (Job 42:10-17).  Mary and Martha’s brother was raised.  Circumstances are never so intense that they are beyond God’s reach.  We need never despair because we belong to our loving God.     

Pressure has a way of turning rough stones into diamonds:

  • Although Stephen was martyred, the persecuted Christians scattered, thus spreading the gospel (Acts 8:1-4).
  • When Jews were opposing Paul, he turned to the Gentiles with the gospel (Acts 18:5-6).
  • Paul’s “thorn” in his flesh was given to keep him from becoming arrogant and conceited concerning the inexpressible revelations he had seen.  He became a dynamic powerhouse for God (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

Circumstances are not the barometer of God’s love and goodness—the Cross is.  No matter what darkness we may be going through, or how deep the valley, we are assured that God has not abandoned us.  His goodness will follow us all the days of our life and will prevail in the end (Psalm 23: 6). 

When difficulties come our way,

God uses them to show

That when we put our trust in Him

His goodness we will know. –Sper

GOD’S GOODNESS IN PAIN AND ADVERSITY (1)

Genesis 50:15-21

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done

 (Genesis 50:20).

 Have you ever wondered if there is a good end to all that is wrong in the world anymore?

 In spite of the evil deeds of his brothers, Mrs. Potiphar’s false accusations (Genesis 39), the cupbearer’s forgetfulness, and other adversities in Joseph’s young life, God was working out His good purposes. 

When Joseph became a slave, Jacob had thought he was dead and mourned for his son many days (Genesis 37:34).  Yet eventually in God’s sovereign plan, Jacob regained not only his son, but his grandchildren, as well.  We never know what marvelous things God will bring out of a seemingly hopeless situation.

We can trust God and wait patiently for Him to bring good out of our circumstances, because, as Joseph learned, God can overrule people’s evil intentions to bring about His intended results.

After years of unfairness, hardships, and isolation, Joseph was able to say, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (v. 20).

 Clearly, Joseph understood the purpose and kindness of God fulfilled through all he experienced.  His good purpose was much greater than Joseph’s life; it was planned specifically to save the lives of the children of Israel, as well as the lives of the Egyptians, in whose land they had come to dwell and multiply into a great nation.

Any trial we, as believers, face can ultimately bring glory to God because He commits Himself to bringing  good out of ALL THINGS (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28).

When adversities come, do we grumble, complain, blame God and others, or do you see them as opportunities to honor Him and help those He places in our path?

Life is not only about God’s being gracious to us, but also about His using us to extend His goodness to others.

The Lord extends His gracious hand

To those in desperate need,

He lifts them up, He helps them stand

Through caring saints and loving deed. –D. De Haan

CREATED TO DO GOOD WORKS (3)

 “Do not withhold good  . . . when it is in your power to act” (Proverbs 3:27).

From a devotional, “The Word for Today” (September 22, 2009), we read:

Dan Clark recalls when he was a teenager, he and his father once stood in line to buy tickets for the circus.  They noticed a poor family immediately in front of them.  The parents were holding hands.  They had eight children, all probably under the age of twelve.  He could tell that the circus was going to be a new adventure for them.  The attendant asked how many tickets they wanted.  The man proudly responded, “I’d like to buy eight children’s tickets and two adult tickets.”  When the attendant quoted the price, the man’s wife let go of his hand and her head drooped.  The man leaned closer and asked, “How much did you say?”  The attendant quoted the price again.  The man obviously didn’t have the money.  He looked crushed. 

Clark says his father watched all this, put his hand in his pocket, pulled out a twenty dollar bill and dropped it on the ground.  His father then reached down, picked up the bill, tapped the man on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me, I think this must be yours.”  The man knew exactly what was going on.  He looked straight into Clark’s father’s eyes, took his hand, shook it, and with a tear streaming down his cheek, replied, “Thank you, thank you, sir.  This really means a lot to me and my family.” 

Clark and his father went back to their car and drove home.  They didn’t have enough money to go to the circus that night, but it didn’t matter.  They’d blessed a whole family, and it was something neither family would ever forget.  That’s called “doing good.”

We’ve been predestined to do good works according to God’s will and purpose for us (Romans 8:29; Ephesians 2:10).  Not only have we been called to the attitude of kindness, but also to energize that character into acts of goodness.

Goodness involves deliberate deeds that are beneficial to others.  Jesus “went around doing good” (Acts 10:38).  To be like Christ, we must be sensitive to how we can meet the needs of those around us.  “God is able to make all grace abound” toward us, that we will have all sufficiency, and “abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). 

Goodness is simple: always live for others and do not seek our own advantage.  The time to begin is now.  No one gets dizzy from doing good turns.

We’ve been called to goodness.  Our obedience to God’s Word determines how much we accomplish.

From the example of Jesus,

Who went about doing good,

We are to honor our Savior

By helping wherever He would. –Hess

CREATED TO DO GOOD WORKS (2)

 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). 

True goodness is untiring—not only in a few isolated instances, but cheerfully doing a good deed day after day for an undetermined period, especially if those deeds are taken for granted by the recipients.  During those times, we need to keep our focus on God for the needed strength to persevere (James 1:12).

True goodness is sacrificing our time and money—giving financially even beyond our ability, like the Macedonian Christians (2 Corinthians 8:3); it is also an act of faith when we give time we do not have.  We’ll always be too busy to help others unless we truly understand God’s importance of continuing to do good deeds.

A less obvious, but crucial, need which many people have is a good listener—our attention more than our advice.  Many are so starved for the genuine interest of another person that even a little concern from someone who cares goes a long way. 

In Galatians 6:10, Paul writes, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”  Our responsibility is to our fellow believers first, then unbelievers.  For some time, I must admit, I thought doing good deeds for the unbeliever would show the love of Christ, and was, therefore, paramount.  Then the Lord showed me, while that is important, it is when the unsaved see us loving each other in the body of Christ that they are won and desire this fellowship also.

Good deeds need to begin at home.  Paul also says in 1Timothy 5:8 “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”  If we do righteous deeds for others but neglect the needs of our spouse, parents, or our children, we are not exercising goodness.

Our good deeds such as feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, clothing the needy, showing hospitality to strangers, attending the sick, and visiting those in prison—do not earn our admission to heaven but are necessary and compelling evidence that we are, in fact, bound for heaven. 

Opportunities for doing good are not interruptions in God’s plan for us, but part of that plan.  By showing grace to others, we demonstrate the character of our Father and prove ourselves to be His children.

Show me the way, Lord, let my light shine

As an example of good to mankind.

Help them to see the patterns of Thee,

Shining in beauty, lived out in me. –Neuer

CREATED TO DO GOOD WORKS (1)

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

We were dead in our “transgressions and sins” but through God’s grace, we have been made alive in Christ “because of His great love for us” (v. 4-5).  He has chosen and accepted us in the beloved (v. 6). 

God showed “the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (v.7). 

“For it is by grace [we] have been saved, through faith—and this not from [y]ourselves, it is the gift of God—not of works, so that no one can boast” (v. 8-9).  There is no need to worry about being good enough for God.  We have not been saved by our works—but FOR HIS GOOD WORKS (v. 10).  Filling our hands with good works is not the answer.  We lift up our empty hands to Him and ask Him to fill them with His grace.  We’ve been saved to fulfill an assignment God has “prepared in advance for us to do.”

We’re here to do good—kingdom good.  But we cannot do good works until the Word of God does its good work in us.  We need to accept the teaching, rebuking, correcting, encouragement, and training of His Word in our lives, in order to be vessels of these same virtues for others.

Beth Moore helps us in distinguishing the characteristics of kindness and goodness:   

Goodness is best understood when considered, compared, and contrasted with the quality of kindness.  The Greek word for goodness is agathosune.  It means benevolent and “active goodness.” Agathosune is more than chrestotes, [which is] gentleness, kindness . . . [Goodness] does not spare sharpness and rebuke to cause good to others.  A person may display his  . . . zeal for goodness and truth, in rebuking, correcting, or chastening . . .

In Matthew 10:16, Jesus told the disciples: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”  Where kindness has the “harmlessness of the dove,” we’ll see that a large part of goodness is being “shrewd as snakes.”

Because God is good and He loves us, He disciplines, corrects, and trains us “for our good that we may share in His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10).  Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 4:2 to correct, rebuke, and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.

Fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness—precede goodness (Galatians 5:22-23).  God often couples kindness and goodness in His Word.  Kindness provides protection for misguided “goodness.”  He wants us to have a tenderhearted disposition and a spirit eager to nurture others.

Let us be Christ’s true disciples

Looking to another’s need;

Making stony pathways smoother

By a gentle word or deed. –Thorson

THE POWER AND PURPOSE OF GOD’S GOODNESS

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3).

Do you ever wonder why God is so good?  It’s certainly not because we deserve it or that He feels a need to buy our love and allegiance with His benefits.  God is good and He delights in doing good things for us.  That’s who He is!  That’s His character.  He cannot be or do anything but good.

His signature is seen on His creation—evidence of His power and reflective of His glory.  “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” (Psalm 19:1). It also reveals His goodness—“God saw all that He had made it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).

 CONSTANT REMINDERS

The sky and the stars, the waves and the sea,

The dew on the grass, the leaves on a tree

Are constant reminders of God and His nearness,

Proclaiming His presence with crystal-like clearness.—Helen Steiner Rice

He is exalted high above all (Psalm 57:5, 11).  He is the blessed Sovereign Ruler over everyone and everything (1 Timothy 6:15, Philips).  What a terrifying thought if He were evil; but how exhilarating to know that He is altogether righteous, loving, and good—an all-wise God who knows all things and always desires His best for us.

Our Creator God has initiated a relationship with us through His Son Jesus Christ.  His indwelling Spirit enables us to walk with Him every moment of the day!  We can pray for God’s blessings and favor—that we may know His ways and make known His marvelous salvation (Psalm 67:1-2).  His daily blessings prove that He is good indeed.  But how will the world know these things about Him if we don’t praise Him for His goodness to us? (Psalm 67:2-3).  Joe Stowell says, “Consuming His blessings without communicating His goodness shortchanges the very purpose of His gifts of grace in our lives.”

Why not share with a loved one soon the exhilaration of a glorious sunrise, a dazzling sunset, or a spectacular starry sky?  And the most precious gift of all—the free gift of salvation! (Romans 1:16). Charles Spurgeon said, “I have a great need for Christ; I have a great Christ for my need. “

As endless as God’s blessings are,

So should my praises be

For all His daily goodnesses

That flow unceasingly! –Adams

THE CROSS: GOODNESS OF JUSTICE AND MERCY (2)

  “Let them give thanks to the LORD for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men

(Psalm 107:8).

Dr. David Jeremiah writes in a recent devotional (8-3-11):

When a gunman shot ten Amish children at their school, the world watched to see the reaction of the Amish community. With exemplary forgiveness, the Amish extended mercy to the man’s family and pledged to heal the community. But the clarifying moment happened before the girls were shot. Details emerged that the killer asked the girls to pray for him. That’s when God’s grace illuminated the horrifying scene. The girls prayed for their killer, giving him what he didn’t deserve, extending love to the unlovely.

No one deserves grace, yet we all hope for mercy.  He saves us “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy” (Titus 3:5, KJV).  To grasp the full extent of God’s love for us, it is important to understand that mercy is God’s withholding the punishment we rightfully deserve (Romans 5:8; 6:23).  Grace is God’s not only withholding that punishment but also giving us what we do not deserve—His most precious gift—His Son Jesus Christ (John 1:1, 14).

Satan planted doubt of God’s goodness in Eve’s mind by convincing her that God was holding out on her and not giving her something really good—knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:5).  Why would He deprive her of knowledge and enjoyment that looked so appealing?

Our thoughts are similar to Eve’s when we do not agree with, or understand, what our Father God thinks is best for us.  From our perspective, “good” is that which is comfortable, enjoyable, delightful, or profitable.  Therefore, we sometimes doubt God’s goodness—especially when it feels as though He is not hearing or answering our prayers to our liking.

It is essential to remember that the Cross, not our circumstances, is the barometer of God’s love and goodness.   Instead of relying on our feelings, which are ever-changing, we can choose to trust Him more and believe with confidence that He is good.  His goal always is to develop Christ-like character in us.

Dr. Jeremiah concludes: “Are you facing a personal crisis?  Your heart aches, your world has shattered. Like the Amish with their astonishing healing response—look for ways to extend mercy.  Step outside of your own pain and extend God’s love and grace to someone who doesn’t deserve it.”

When we’re tempted to deny

God’s goodness, love, and grace,

Look to the cross of Calvary,

Where Jesus took your place. –Sper

THE CROSS: GOODNESS OF JUSTICE AND MERCY (1)

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus

 (Romans 3:23-24).

“God is good, all the time; all the time, God is good.”

 In his “In Touch” devotional (8-1-11), Dr. Charles Stanley explains simply the goodness of God as shown through His attributes of justice, righteousness, and mercy:

The cross of Jesus Christ presents us with a dilemma. If the heavenly Father is good and loving, why would He allow His Son to endure the agony of crucifixion?  From our human perspective, there is nothing loving in this scene. But by looking beyond the visible, we’ll see an awesome demonstration of love.

To grasp what was going on at the cross, we need to first understand that the Lord is absolutely righteous and just. He always does what is right and never acts contrary to His nature or His Word. On the other hand, mankind is sinful and deserving of eternal punishment.  God couldn’t simply decide to forgive us, because He would then cease to be just—justice that requires a penalty be paid for sin. Either the Lord had to condemn us all to suffer His wrath, or He needed to devise a p1an that would satisfy His justice, yet allow Him to show mercy.

Praise God that even before the foundation of the world, He already had such a plan in place (Rev. 13:8). The sinless Son of God came to earth in human flesh to be our sin bearer. The Father placed upon Him all our guilt and punishment. Because the Savior’s payment fully satisfied divine justice, sinful man could be declared rlghteous.  Justice punished sin, and mercy rescued sinners.

Now anyone who accepts Christ’s payment on his behalf can be saved.  God’s goodness and love were proved by the very act that looked cruel and hateful. This was the sole plan that could save us, and God’s perfect Son was the only one qualified to be our substitute. And Jesus did it all willingly.

In Him we have the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

 

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,

Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!

Yonder on Calvary’s mount was poured—

There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.

 

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that will pardon and cleanse within,

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that is greater than all our sin. –Julia H. Johnson

SURELY, SURELY, IT’S A SURE THING

     Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life . . . “

      (Psalm 23:6).

People may disappoint us, but God’s goodness and mercy are always sure.   He “does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).   Our devotion to Him may falter, but His devotion to us never does and never will.  Although we are unfaithful, He remains faithful for He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13).

David did not say, “maybe, possibly, or hopefully,” but “Surely”—and that is a promise we can count on, a certainty!  We cannot get away from His promises!   They are sure to follow us wherever we go.

God’s goodness and mercy followed Jonah inside a great fish, Daniel into the lions’ den, his friends into a fiery furnace, and they also followed Jesus to the Cross of Calvary.  Think of the storms, the messes, the “impossible” situations God has brought you through, the doors He has opened—and closed, the heavy burdens He has lifted.  Blessings we don’t deserve are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23).  With God, it’s a sure thing!

All the days of my life”—what do you see in the days ahead?  Days at home raising a family?  Days  struggling on the job? Days of loneliness and poor health?  Days of caring for a sick loved one?  Days in prison isolated from family and friends?  Days of battling disappointment and depression?  Days of uncertainty and unrest?  “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”

Anne Cetas shares the following story in an “Our Daily Bread” devotional (1-23-11):

Jack and Trisha were driving to the hospital late one night for the birth of their second child when the unexpected happened. Trisha began to deliver the baby!  Jack called 911 and Cherie White, an emergency dispatcher was able to talk Jack through the delivery, but the baby wouldn’t breathe. So Cherie then instructed Jack how to give emergency breathing, which he had to do for 6 anxious minutes. Finally the newborn took a breath and cried. When asked later how they all got through the ordeal and remained calm, Cherie responded, “I’m glad God works midnights!”

When something good happens, the Lord deserves the credit, for He is the source of all that is good.   Whenever something bad happens, He is good for He works all things together for our good and His glory.   Goodness to provide, and mercy to pardon—we’ll never have a day without them!

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,

When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,

By the living Word of God I shall prevail,

Standing on the promises of God. –R. Kelso Carter