Life in this world is not easy. Look around today and what do you see? Faltering economies, upheaval of nations, barbaric terrorism, biblical morality being replaced by “anything goes,” churches embracing society’s morals and practices, and a list of additional problems longer than your arm!
It could cause a person to despair, unless we believe that we will “see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” — that is, right in the here and now, right in the midst of our daily lives with all the related joys and sorrows, troubles and blessings.
Jesus spoke realistically, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). As expected, our life experiences confirm His prophetic word. Life is certainly not all trouble. But for sure it does include trials, troubles, tribulations. However, Jesus’ next sentence after His warning was an exhortation and a hope-building promise: “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” If your life’s journey has included (or even right now does include) significant troubles, take heart! Jesus said He has overcome the world, and the Scripture promises that you will “see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Not just when you get to heaven, but right now, in this life, you will experience God’s goodness.
Thankfully, God’s goodness includes His forbearance. Rather than punishing us immediately as our sins deserve, God “forbears” or restrains His judgment. It is His desire that His goodness and mercy in this regard will “lead us to repentance.”
I am reminded of my own spiritual journey. Although raised in a believing family, I personally for the first 25 years of my life had never, in sincere repentance and faith, made a commitment to Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. The list of my unforgiven sins and iniquities was piling up. But God in His goodness restrained the judgment that I deserved for my sins. I am eternally grateful to Him for that. Then at age 25 I began to read the Bible. In the course of two months of this, faith arose in my heart and I repented of my sins and embraced the Savior Jesus Christ as “the [only] way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
It is God’s unlimited goodness in my life — and yours! — that defers the judgment due to our sins for a time, in His gracious desire to lead us to repentance, to faith in His Son Jesus, and to being born again into the family of God.
Why do you serve God today? In fact, how can you serve God? It is entirely because He has “called us by His own glory and goodness.” It is entirely by His grace (Ephesians 2:8) and goodness and not due to any supposed goodness or merit in us (Titus 3:5).
How is it possible for us to live a godly life (vs. 3)? Because (1) God has called us, (2) He has given us salvation through repentance and faith in His Son Jesus, and (3) He has “given us everything we need for a godly life.” Did we deserve this? No, rather, God did this by “his own…goodness.”
Have you “tasted” the goodness of God’s wonderful Word, the Bible? As I mentioned briefly above, I began to read the Scriptures with great interest 47 years ago. I was on temporary duty at McChord Air Force base near Tacoma, Washington. Night after night in my room I read the Word of God. In a very short while I found myself eagerly consuming the Word. I couldn’t get enough of it! After some weeks of this, the truth pierced my soul, and I realized that I had not been truly born again by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone for my salvation. So one night I came to Him in faith and in sincere sorrow for my sins. I had a life-changing encounter with the Savior, Jesus Christ, and my life has never been the same since.
You can have this experience of “tasting the goodness of the Word of God” every time you open your Bible and read the Scriptures with a heart desiring to learn from God. You will be building your life on a foundation of everlasting truth and life.
The Lord appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai and revealed things about Himself to Moses. Among those revelations were God’s name (“the Lord,” vs. 5), His mercy, His grace and longsuffering, and His truth.
God also revealed His abundant goodness (some translations say His ‘love’ or ‘lovingkindness’). The word I want to emphasize is “abundant.” God’s goodness, His love to us, is abundant. He doesn’t just dribble it out in tiny measures, but generously! I see numerous examples of that in my own life: 43 years of happy married life, wonderful children and grandchildren, prevailing good health for most of my years and God’s healing in times of special need (recovery from a heart attack and from prostate cancer), and so much more. I agree fully with the sentiments of Psalm 107:8, KJV — Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
Life in this world has its ups and downs. Jesus prophesied to us: “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). But don’t stop there; read the very next words Jesus said: “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” In and through all of life’s difficulties God’s goodness will follow you. How long? “All the days of [your] life”!
And the ending is even more encouraging for the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ: “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” As the great old song says, this troubled world is not our final home! When believers complete their time on earth, they enter into the very presence of God and His Son Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). That is the goodness of God following you through this life and right on into eternity!
God’s goodness is not something we should overlook or take for granted. Good things don’t just “happen.” They proceed to us from God’s goodness towards His people.
James 1:17, NASB, reminds us that “every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father.” And God’s faithful people should continually “rejoice in [His] goodness.” Broaden your devotional life to include rejoicing, praising, and thanking God for His generous goodness to you.
It’s sadly easy to fall into the “same old, same old” trap and become nonchalant, even oblivious, to the Lord’s ongoing goodness to us. The inspired Psalms declare: “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits … Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits … What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?” (Psalm 68:19, 103:2, 116:12, KJV)
“All his benefits” — The list of God’s goodness and benefits to us is too long to list here. Some of them are: salvation, divine healing, the baptism with the Holy Spirit, answered prayers, deliverance from habits and troubles, safety and protection, the Lord’s presence in and with us, and so much more.
What shall we “render” to the Lord for all His goodness? Of course we can’t repay Him. That’s not what God desires, since these things are all by His grace. But our text above does tell us a couple of things we can do in gratitude for all His benefits.
First, we can “lift up the cup of salvation and deliverance.” Come to Jesus personally, believe in Him, repent of your sins, be saved, then “lift up” this amazing salvation also to others who don’t yet know and serve the Lord.
Secondly, we can “call on the name of the Lord.” Not just initially to become a born-again child of God, but also continuing to call on His name daily in a life fully devoted to Him.
Yes, God’s goodness is great. I thank God for it. But it is not indiscriminate. God especially “lays up” His goodness for (1) those who fear Him and (2) for those who trust in Him before the sons of men.
One of the shortest sentences in Scripture is “Fear God” (1 Peter 2:17). Never, ever bring God the Father or Jesus His Son down in your thinking to the status of casual “buddies.” No! God is to be honored with holy, reverential, respectful fear. Peter wrote that verse to New Testament believers: “Fear God!” Love Him? Certainly. Fear Him? That’s what God’s Word says. I loved my natural Dad very much. I also had a deferential, obedient respect toward Him. God our Father expects no less. And “how great” is His goodness, the Psalm says, to those who fear Him.
How great is His goodness also to “them that trust in [Him] before the sons of men.” How deeply and confidently should we trust Him? The Bible’s answer: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart … In all your ways acknowledge Him” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NASB). Be a God-trusting believer, and do so “before the sons of men” — that is, in the public testimony of your words and your life — and you will surely experience the promise of God’s great goodness to all who fear God and trust Him openly.
Is there another side to the goodness coin? Yes indeed. The apostle Paul writes of God’s goodness … and of God’s severity. He speaks of those who “fell,” referring in that context to Old Testament Israel’s turning away from God. They came under the judgment of God’s severity, not His goodness. Writing to those Roman believers [and to us], Paul spoke of God’s goodness to them … if they continued in God’s goodness; otherwise they too would be cut off! I will not elaborate more fully on this verse; it speaks for itself about the need for all believers to remain faithful to the Lord and to continue in His goodness. Do so, and all the promises we have looked at already concerning God’s goodness are yours!
God’s goodness in our lives is too good to keep secret. It is God’s desire that we “tell of” His mighty acts, that we “commend” his works to others, that we “celebrate” His abundant goodness and “sing of” His righteousness.
And this is a generational command, that is, that we speak of His goodness and His mighty acts to the next generations. Proverbs 13:22 tells us that “a good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” This may or may not be possible in the natural sense. But it is absolutely possible, and a blessing, to leave a spiritual inheritance to the generations that follow you.
My late wife and I were blessed by the Lord to have four children. Understanding the urgent importance of a generational transmission of God’s truth, we raised them in a continual awareness of the Lord and His goodness. I spent daily time with all four of them in the Word of God, the Bible. Raised in the knowledge of God and His Son Jesus, they have gone on to continue serving God now as adults. And they in turn are passing on to their own children the knowledge of God and His goodness. And I am delighted beyond measure to see some of my young grandchildren already sharing their faith with their classmates and friends.
The goodness of our God is something that we can experience with delight and share confidently with others. Let me leave you with one closing thought on that. As I mentioned above, my late wife was infertile for more than six years with a medically diagnosed condition. Then the Lord supernaturally healed her, and she bore us our four children, who have in turn given us ten beloved grandchildren. I frequently share this healing testimony with anyone whose heart I think it will touch. It is almost universally received with interest and sometimes opens the door for more sharing about the Lord. My takeaway for you? Think about the most wonderful example of God’s goodness personally to you in your life. Have that ready in your heart to share with others as a tribute to the goodness of God Almighty. You may be surprised and blessed at the doors that will open from a simple, short testimony to others of the gracious goodness of God. Try it, and see God work!
©2016, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.