David Jeremiah - Knowing a Good God
God could have easily created the earth devoid of the vast and distinct beauty we observe in the mountains, in the valleys, and in the sea. What if our landscape was always the same, bleak, unchanging, desolate? But God packed the world with seemingly limitless panoramas of beauty. Why? Because he is so good. And because God is good we can wake up every morning, look out at the beautiful new day God has made and declare, "Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life". In today's message which I call, "Knowing a Good God," we're going to look at four ways God's goodness is revealed to us, the actual evidence that God is good. So stay tuned for today's edition of "Turning Point".
Our world has a hard time distinguishing between good and bad. Our cultural values are changing so quickly that virtues once prized are now scorned and behavior once condemned is now celebrated. The prophet Isaiah anticipated this when he wrote, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; and put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter"! Even non-religious people instinctively know there is a moral standard somewhere in the universe, and that good and bad are objective realities. Even amid shifting morals and manners, we want to be good people, better people. In fact, over the last two years, the Marist poll that chronicles our New Year's resolution reports that being a better person has now topped the perennial favorite of losing weight.
Everybody wants to be a better person, even more than they want to lose weight. But goodness is so much more than the secular writers can convey. Goodness is an attribute of God himself and, until we see goodness as God is good, we really don't understand it at all. Exodus 34:6 says: "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness". 1 Chronicles 16:34 says: "Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good"! Psalm 34:8 says: "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good". When I say, "God is good," I mean he is gracious. I mean he is merciful. When I say that God is good I'm talking about his perfection and his excellence but the more I study this word in the Bible, the more one central concept seems to jump out at me. It seems to me that God's goodness is conveyed mostly in his generosity. Perhaps God's quality of goodness means far more than his generosity but it certainly includes his infinitely generous attitude toward you and me. As we consider his goodness, here is how it affects us.
Here are some derivatives from the goodness of God for us to use in our lives every day. First of all, God is good. He provides for us. We experience God's generous goodness by the way he takes care of us. The Psalmist said, "I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living". I'm here to tell you today that no matter what the circumstances look like, behind all of the mist of the unknown is this truth: We have a God who is good. It's remarkable to think about that but when we're in the will of God through Jesus Christ, we will never face a genuine need for which God doesn't give us a genuine provision. Think about this. The one who gave us lungs, created air. The one who gave us stomachs, supplies food and water. He who made us in his image provided companionship, and he who made us with eyes created spellbinding vistas for us to enjoy. He who made us with eternal souls, provided a pathway to heaven through our Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever our need, the goodness of God provides the answer.
Psalm 33:5 says: "The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord". At the beginning of this message I quoted Psalm 34:8: "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good," and we tend to interpret that verse metaphorically and spiritually but there's a literal truth to this. Sometimes, we need to taste something desirable and say, "This is from God and this is good". Sometimes, we need to behold a gorgeous vista and remember God is good. Sometimes, we need to smell a pleasing aroma and remember that God is good. He gave us five senses and his provisions come to us through all five of those senses to remind us of his goodness. God is good, he provides for us. Can we say an amen to that? Is God our provider? Amen. Number two, God is good and he's patient with us. We see God's goodness and generosity in his incredible patience with us.
In fact, in the Bible the idea of God's patience is frequently linked to the idea of his goodness. Psalm 100, verses 4 and 5 says: "Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good and His mercy is everlasting". God never runs out of mercy. He's a good God. The mercy of God represents his patience. All the blessings of God can be organized, men and women, under two headings: the grace of God and the mercy of God. The grace of God is everything God gives you that you don't deserve, and the mercy of God is everything God withholds from you that you do deserve. How many can give a happy "Amen" that God is both gracious and merciful? His patience, his mercy, never runs out. His mercy endures throughout all generations.
I don't know about you but I don't know how God puts up with us. Have you ever prayed this prayer: "Lord, it's me again and it's the same thing again and it's no better again than it was last time I was here". And God says, "Okay, tell me about it," you know? It's like your child coming up to you after you've told them a hundred million times not to do it, and they keep doing it. God never gives up on us. The Bible says when we need his wisdom, all we have to do is ask and he gives to all who ask without abrading them or without scolding them. God never scolds us for coming to him with our need. He's a patient God. The mercy of God is endless, infinite, and it's an outgrowth of God's goodness. "Oh, give thanks to the Lord for he is merciful".
If you think about it carefully, wouldn't you say in your life and in the lives of the people you know that there is more goodness than there is misery in the world? Of course, there's exceptions. There's deep suffering in some parts of the world, some regions are racked with all kinds of pain but where most of us live, would you not say, "My life has more goodness than misery"? Isn't it interesting how we fixate on the negative and forget the positive? When Donna and I started a church back in Fort Wayne, Indiana, we had some wonderful experiences there but we had a few challenging ones too and there was a guy in this church who, I don't know how to say this any other way. He was after my head. He didn't like me, he got to the place where he was resistant to what we were doing, I heard things that he was saying.
Now, this guy was impressive because he was 6'6" and he had white hair just like mine and whenever he walked into a crowd you could see him. Well, what I found out I was doing is I was walking out on the platform to preach and before I even prayed I was looking to find out where this dude was, "Is he here," you know? And I got so convicted about that. One day I was in my study and I looked over on the desk in my study and we had just produced a picture book of all the people in the church. It was really a nice thing 'cause you could put faces with names and all the rest. And I looked at that book and all of a sudden it hit me. I was fixating on one man and here is a book full of the pictures of all the faithful people of God in our church. I had the choice, either to rejoice that God had blessed us with so many wonderful supportive people or to fix my attention on one guy who was causing me grief and all of us have that choice, do we not? We can either talk about the goodness of God, or we can commiserate, which means, share our misery with each other.
The Bible says: "As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. He knows our frame, and He remembers that we are dust". In other words, God is not expecting perfection from us. God is even good to those who don't know him. Did you know that? He's good to those who don't fear him. He's good to those who curse him. He fills the world with common blessings. We call it in theology the common grace of God. It's available to the saved and to the unsaved. It's available to the good and the bad, to the righteous and the unrighteous. You don't have to be a Christian to know that God is good. The Bible says he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good. He sends rain on the just and on the unjust. God gives some of his goodness to all of his people and all of his goodness to some of his people and none of us deserve any of it, no matter what group we're in.
Bottom line is none of God's people deserve his goodness, yet he has overwhelmed me with his goodness and he's done the same for you. He's a good God. His goodness comes to us in the form of divine patience. "Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men"! This Psalm is like a song that has a number of stanzas and the chorus keeps repeating itself. And the Psalmist writes this and he talks about the struggles of his life. When he gets done talking about it, here comes the chorus: "Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, for His wonderful works to the children of men"! And then he goes on and tells another story and he gets done with the little story and he comes back, "Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men"! Four different times, he says that same thing. Look it up, it's in verse 8, 15, 21, and 31 in Psalm 107, the same words: "Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men"!
And what that says to me is that no matter what's going on in our life, no matter how hard it may seem to us right now, maybe you're going through a difficult place, maybe you've never been in a place like this before, but if you look, you will see the goodness of God, for it's everywhere. It's only when we block it out because we put our problems in the front of our mind and we forget how good God is. "Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men"! God is good; he provides for us. And God is good; he's patient with us. And God is good; he protects us. God is our protector. God's goodness is seen in the way he cares for us. "The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good".
If you don't believe in the goodness of God, let me tell you something. The reason you don't believe in the goodness of God is because you do not know what you do not know. If you knew what you don't know, you would see many places along the way where God, by his goodness, has reached out and kept you. His goodness protects his people and only when we get to heaven will we be able to look back over our shoulders if we're allowed to do this and see all of the places where God's goodness rescued us and we will praise him because his goodness protects us. And then God is good; he guides our pathways. The goodness of God guides us in life. Psalm 143, verse 10 says: "Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness".
Here, the Psalmist connects God's goodness with his leadership in our lives. And we can connect this with a passage in the New Testament. The Lord Jesus had something important to say about this in the Sermon on the Mount. His words are worth pondering right here because they sort of provide a commentary. God's commands are a part of his goodness. We have misconceptions about God. Because sometimes we read in the Scripture that there are prohibitions to our faith. And because people today don't like anything that conflicts with their idea of personal freedom, sometimes the rules they read about in the Bible are at odds with what they think God should be, his goodness. But the goodness of God is always demonstrated for us in the path he chooses for us in life. And by the guidelines he provides for our belief.
Listen carefully. Jesus said, "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it". If you read through that paragraph, you'll discover there are two gates: a wide one and a narrow one. There are two roads: a broad one and a difficult one. There are two groups of people: the many and the few. And there are two destinations: destruction and life. Imagine you were untouched and untaught by the gospel and you're trying to start out and find out which way you should take. You're standing at the crossroads. The broad way goes this way; the narrow way goes that way. You have no instruction from God. Which road would you choose?
Most of us would look over on the broad way and see there are so many people going down that road, this must be the right way. But we know that we would be wrong because that way, while it is broad, the Bible says it leads to destruction. The broad way, where everybody wants to get on the road and go there, leads to death. Only the narrow gate, the difficult road, the small crowd, lead to eternal life. And that's the road God chooses for us. If you're a Christian today, God put you on that road by his goodness and grace. He says to us, "I choose for you today this pathway. I choose the narrow gate. I choose the difficult way. I choose the few companions because I understand what's at the end of the road".
There has never been a time in history where narrow gate theology, as one person put it, is more out of vogue than it is today. And yet, as we walk with God, does not life itself teach us that God is good and that his way is best? The broad way, as we observe it today, is a lifestyle unencumbered by any moral guidelines. It is free from spiritual stop signs and ethical speed limits. You can sample the pleasures of life, you can live as you please. You can do things simply because they feel good. This is the life of saying, "Let's eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we shall die". The narrow way has speed limits and has guard rails and those traveling the broad way look at over us and they say, "C'mon, man, get a life. Loosen up. Color outside the lines once in a while".
They think those of us on the narrow road, we're the weird ones. We're husbands and wives who decide to bond together for a lifetime for better or for worse. We're parents who give ourselves to our kids and we're not just chasing dollars. We're children who are respectful of our mothers and fathers. We are families going to church trying to serve the Lord God and doing what's right even when it's hard. It is difficult sometimes to be on the narrow road but not to be on the narrow road is to be headed toward destruction. The broad way is the road to death. People on this road tend to become bitter or disillusioned as they age. Have you noticed? They lose the vigor of youth. They lose the passion of life, as they face the prospects of the cemetery.
Anthony Bourdain, a 61-year-old iconic figure and famous chef, hanged himself in his hotel room in France. And famous designer, Kate Spade, chose the same method to end her life in New York City at the age of 55. Two people at the top of their game. Of his death, Bourdain's mother said she had no idea why he decided to kill himself. He had everything: success beyond his wildest dreams and money beyond his wildest dreams". In one article that followed up on both of these suicides, I read the following: "How powerfully it speaks to the discrepancy between what we see of people on the outside and what they're experiencing on the inside, between their public faces and their private realities, between their visible swagger and their invisible pain. All is not well on the broad road. And so many who get on that road with all of their vision of what's it gonna be like when they get to their goal, they get to their goal and it seems empty. It's not what they thought. Because you see, God has created us not ever to be satisfied with anything or anyone but him.
And when we get on the narrow road, sometimes it's difficult but behind it all is this vision of knowing God and being known by God and realizing that no matter what happens, God is there and God is good and all is well. People who are on the narrow way, as they mature, get closer to God as they come to the end of their lives. You see their relationship deepen. You see the confidence in their understanding of God grow. They still bear fruit in old age and they stay fresh and green and proclaiming. So God said, "My friends, I've chosen this road for you. It's through a narrow gate and it's a difficult way and there aren't as many people going that way but, at the end of the road, that makes it all right. This is the road that leads to life and the peace.
Today, if you're here and you don't understand all of this completely, maybe it's because you're on the wrong road. There's a kind of language you learn when you get on the narrow road, it's not understood by those on the broad way. I wanna tell you something. I invite you today to make the transfer. There's still time for you to get on the narrow road. You can still make it. God loves you and he sent his Son to die for you and if you will give him your heart and acknowledge him as your Savior, he'll put you on the narrow road. You'll have some challenges but you'll have the joy of watching God work in your behalf as he always does. He's a good God and he's worthy of your trust.