Psalm 107: 1 – 3, 43
“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” Psalm 34: 8. God’s goodness is a vast subject that occupies a huge part of the Bible. Rather than cover God’s goodness systematically, I would like to focus our thinking. We know that from God’s point of view the human race is divided into 2 broad categories: Lost – Saved. Either you are lost and estranged from God because of your sin or you are saved and your sins are forgiven through Jesus’ blood. I would like us to see how the goodness of God is displayed to both the lost and the saved.
1. How God is Good to the Unsaved
Romans 2: 4 “God’s kindness leads you toward repentance.” God always punishes sinners but sometimes his judgment is delayed so that men will have time to repent. Every breath taken by the unsaved is a sign of God’s goodness, meant to lead him step by step to repentance and faith. Let’s survey 10 specific ways God is good to the unsaved.
A. By creating them knowing that they would rebel
God surveys his creation and calls it good. The last time he looked at creation he pronounced it “very good.” Yet God knew that man would turn away from him. Shortly the peace and joy of paradise will be broken by Adam’s foolish sin. Paradise gained soon becomes paradise lost. God knew what Eve would do, he knew what Adam would do, he knew all the pain that would result from their sin, he saw the long stream of suffering that would flow out from Eden that pollutes the world to this very day. Yet seeing it all, and knowing it all, he created man anyway. While there are many mysteries here, we may say with certainty that creation in the face of rebellion is a mark of God’s goodness.
B. By sustaining them in spite of their continued rebellion
God does not execute the wicked the moment they sin. Exodus 34: 6 God is “slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” God would have been justified to kill Adam and Eve the moment they sinned. But he continued to show goodness to generation after generation even when men continued to turn away from him. Luke 6: 35 “he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” We have trouble showing kindness to the kind and goodness to the good. But God shows kindness to those who hate him.
C. By pouring out common grace upon them
Common grace - general blessings God gives to men regardless of their spiritual state. Many blessings come from God without discrimination. Matthew 5: 45 - God causes the sun to rise and the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. The earth flies through space, the seasons change, the rivers flow, the fields produce - all for the general benefit of the human race. The worst sinner may get the best suntan or he may run through the rain. He may not know it or appreciate it, but he is receiving common grace.
D. By putting a desire for God inside every human heart
Ecclesiastes 3: 11 - God has put eternity in every human heart. Romans 1: 18 - 20 - the knowledge of God is seen in creation and found to some degree in the heart of every person. Man by nature is incurably religious. He may turn to God or he may worship idols of his own making or the evil spirits of his ancestors. That “something” inside him is put there by God. Atheism is the most unnatural philosophy in the world. A man has to deny himself in order to be an atheist. He must stifle his inner longing for God in order to deny his existence. That’s why you meet very few true atheists. It’s not a natural philosophy. That men should by nature seek God is one more aspect of God’s goodness.
E. By hearing the prayers of the saved for the lost
Aspect of God’s goodness that the lost don’t realise and don’t appreciate. God is good to the unsaved by allowing the saved to pray for them. Romans 10: 1 - Paul says that his heart’s desire and his prayer to God is for the Jewish people to be saved. How many of us are in the kingdom of God because someone prayed for us? While we were still lost in our sins, a mother, a father, a son or a daughter, a neighbour or a friend at work brought our name before the throne of God. Only eternity will tell how much the prayers of others were used by God to bring us to salvation.
F. By allowing them to see God’s power in the saved
3 Hebrews in Daniel 3 - when Nebuchadnezzar ordered that all those present bow down before the golden statue, they refused and boldly remained standing. In a fury the king had them thrown in the fiery furnace. But when the soldiers looked, they reported to the king that they saw 3 Hebrews standing and a 4th standing with them - one like the son of the gods. The king ordered the 3 men brought to him. When he saw they had emerged unhurt, he publicly praised the God of Israel, saying “He sent his angels to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than worship any god except their own God.” This is why we should be bold. The unsaved watch us all the time. When we are willing to sacrifice ourselves for what we believe, they see God in us, and many of them praise God because of our faithfulness.
G. By allowing them to share in his blessings to his children
Joseph - after being sold twice - because God’s hand was with him, he rose in power to become administrator of all Potiphar’s household. God blessed the entire household on Joseph’s account. We see the unsaved receiving blessings simply from the presence of a saved person in their midst. 1 Corinthians 7: 14 - instructs Christians not to leave a marriage with an unbeliever if the unbeliever is willing to stay. Why? Because the unsaved spouse is “sanctified” by the presence of the believing mate. The unbelievers live under the influence of a godly mother or father and the whole family draws closer to God as a result. That’s why Christians ought to think twice before they leave a bad marriage or before they leave a job where they are the only believers. Believers are the light of the world. If we leave when we are surrounded by unbelievers, we take the light with us. If the light goes out, the darkness will only get worse.
H. By using them to accomplish his purposes
God often uses the unsaved to further his purposes. Pharaoh whose heart God hardened - led to the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians judged Israel for her sins. God raised up Cyrus as his anointed leader to decree the return of the Jew from captivity. Caesar Augustus whose decree led Joseph and Mary back to Bethlehem at just the time when Jesus Christ was born. None of these things happened by accident. God owes the unsaved nothing, yet it is a mark of his goodness that he allows them to play an important role in the unfolding drama of redemption.
I. By inviting them to salvation through Jesus’ death
Ezekiel 18: 23 - God takes no pleasure in the death of wicked. 1 Timothy 2: 5 - God desires all men to be saved. 2 Peter 3: 9 - God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. Revelation 22: 17 - invites “whosoever will” to come and be saved. God’s heart yearns for all men, all women, all children - every person in every country on every continent - he loves them all and wants them to be saved.
Why then are they not all saved? Because they have chosen the path of sin and disobedience and have not believed in Jesus Christ. But do not miss the point. No one will ever be able to say to God, “You cheated me because you loved others but you didn’t love me.” No, God demonstrated his goodness toward the lost in sending Jesus Christ to be the sufficient payment for the sins of the entire human race. Jesus truly died for all men and it is on that basis that God invites sinners to salvation.
J. By answering them when they cry out in Jesus’ name
He makes provision for their salvation, he invites them to be saved, and when they cry out in Jesus’ name for mercy, he hears them and saves them. No sinner will ever be able to say, “I asked for mercy in Jesus’ name but God turned me away.” That will never happen because those who come to God through Jesus will never be turned away.
Leads to a simple but profound conclusion: God is truly good to the lost even though they don’t appreciate it. Everything that God does for the lost is meant to lead them to repentance.
2. How God is Good to the Saved
“Count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”
A. By giving us eternal life the moment we believe
John 6: 47 - he who believes has everlasting life. 1 John 5: 12 - “he who has the Son has life.” Eternal life is not just heaven, it’s also the experience of God’s life while we are still on the earth. God could have made us wait until the moment of death to see whether we were going to be faithful, but instead he gives us eternal life when we trust Christ as Saviour.
B. By giving us immediate access through prayer
Hebrews 4: 16 - coming boldly to the throne of grace where we can find grace to help “in the nick of time.” Instead of access given only to a few, now we may come freely, boldly and openly - whenever we like - into God’s presence. We have been brought into God’s family. We can “go right in” and speak to God himself.
C. By answering our prayers, but not all of them
Why are some of our prayers answered and some not? Why are some people healed and others not? Why do some marriages make it and others end in divorce - even though we prayed fervently? I’m not sure the Bible offers just one answer to these questions. Often we won’t know even after the fact why some of our prayers are not answered. Take great comfort from Paul’s experience - 3 times he prayed that the “thorn in the flesh” be removed. 3 times God said no. Then the Lord spoke - “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Have you ever thanked God for the prayers he didn’t answer? We’re accustomed to praising God for answered prayer. Sometimes we would benefit from praising God for unanswered prayer. God is good to answer our prayers-but not all of them.
D. By giving ultimate purpose to the worst tragedies of life
Romans 8: 28 - “all things work together for good.” Easy verse to believe when the sun is shining, but it’s something else entirely in the darkness of human tragedy. We doubt this verse for 2 reasons. Paul says “we know” when most of us don’t feel like we know. Paul says “all things” when most of us would rather say “some things.” Key word - “good” - usually means happiness, health, prosperity and good fortune. Those things are good, but God’s good far exceeds our limited vision. God’s good is that we should be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Anything that makes us like Jesus is good. This gives a new perspective to heartaches and tragedies. They are part of God’s plan to chip away at our character until Jesus is fully formed in us. This doesn’t answer every question or turn sorrow into joy, but it does reassure us that something good is happening even in the worst moments of life.
E. By disciplining us when we begin to stray into sin
Hebrews 12: 5, 6 - those whom the Lord loves, he chastens. God disciplines us precisely because we are his children. I discipline my children because I love them and because I want them to grow up and be mature adults. The same is true with God. God forgives us when we cry out to him. Psalm 86: 5 -“You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.” Both these aspects flow from God’s goodness. He will not let us remain in our sin, but disciplines us that we might turn from our sin, cry out for forgiveness and begin to walk in newness of life.
F. By uniting us with Christ in his resurrection life
John 15: 5 Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” 2 Corinthians 5: 17 “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"To be in Christ means to be joined with Jesus in his resurrection life. Instead of saving us and then leaving us on our own, God has joined with Jesus so that our ultimate victory is completely assured.
G. By giving us the Holy Spirit and the Word of God so that we have everything we need to live righteously in this world
2 Peter 1: 3 “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.” No one ever has an excuse for sin. No one can say, “I couldn’t help myself” or “That was just too tough for me” or “I had no choice but to give in to sin.” God never asks from us what he does not also supply for us. If we sin, we have only ourselves to blame. In the goodness of God, we truly have everything we need to live a life that pleases God.
H. By giving us whatever we need so that we can be content whatever our circumstances
Philippians 4: 19 - speaks of God supplying all our needs. James 1: 17 - every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father above. In every situation we have whatever we need to be content. When we focus on material things, we will often feel frustrated, but when we focus on the Lord, we can rejoice that what we have can never be taken from us.
I. By giving us a reason to rejoice when the world turns against us
Jesus ends the Beatitudes with a blessing for those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Few of us want such a blessing, yet all of us will experience it sooner or later. Because we live in a fallen world, we will encounter spiritual hostility. Jesus - “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” This is not happy news but it is the sobering truth. Our opponents may rob us of everything except our joy.
J. By giving hope for the future so that we have nothing to fear at the moment of death
Hebrews 2: 15 - Jesus came to destroy him who has the power of death - that is, the devil - and to free us who were held in slavery by our fear of death. Death is the great leveller. In this life there are many differences among men, but in the end we leave the way we came - naked and powerless. Christians can die well - full of faith in God, still believing in Jesus till the very end.
What does it all mean? “God is good … all the time.” Indeed he is. This is just a little survey. We could expound in many other directions regarding God’s goodness. But this much is sure. God is good whether we see it or whether we don’t.
Everything About God is Good!
God’s goodness is the sum total of all His attributes. There is nothing about God that is not good. Truth always demands a response. What shall we say to the goodness of God?
If you are saved … Give thanks to the Lord for he is good.
If you are lost … Taste and see that the Lord is good.