The Goodness of God

Dr. Brian Allison

John Robinson (c. 1575 - 1625), the English separatist and Pilgrim preacher, has insightfully said, "Love [shown by someone] presupposes good, true or apparent, in the thing loved, by which that affection of union is drawn. But the love of God, on the contrary, causes all good to be produced in [the person]. He first loves us in the free purpose of His will, and thence works good for us and in us." All that makes life pleasant, happy, and enjoyable is the expression and result of the goodness of God. The testimony of every Christian should be the familiar chorus line: "God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He's so good to me."

What is God's goodness?

The goodness of God consists of two characteristics: first, kindness, and second, generosity. Let me illustrate these two characteristics. Yesterday I was quite busy, trying to prepare for a wedding. I asked my wife if she knew where the shoe polish was so that I could polish my shoes. She responded in the affirmative, and proceeded to get the polish. She did not give it to me, but proceeded to polish my shoes. When she finished, I turned to her and said, "Thank you, Cecilia, that was very kind of you." She went out of her way to be of help and to express favour towards me.

This past Friday, I went downtown to teach my Seminary class. After my class, I went to my car and it would not start. I phoned my wife to inform her about the situation and said, "You may have to come downtown to get me." My wife was taken aback – "What? Come downtown?!!" Now, my wife dreads driving downtown. It probably is one of the last things she would want to do. However, after the initial shock and reaction, she was prepared to come downtown. To me, that was an expression of generosity – a willingness to forsake her fears and respond in an unselfish fashion to someone in need.

Now, when we think of those two vignettes, illustrating kindness and generosity, we simply have to multiply these acts to the infinite degree in order to approximate the goodness of God. God is kind and generous; that is, God is very giving.

The book of the Bible which emphasizes the goodness of God is the book of Psalms. This book presents a number of important points about God's goodness.

God's goodness is pervasive

First, God's goodness abundantly fills your life, sufficiently meeting all your needs, and even your wants – "Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever" (Ps. 23:6; also Ps. 21:3; 85:12; 103:5; 107:9). The Psalmist speaks with confidence. As the tail follows the dog, so God's goodness follows us. The whole of life is graced with God's goodness, as a rain shower waters a field. Everywhere we turn, we are exposed to the goodness of God. Now you may raise the question: "Wherein is God's goodness in my life? What can I point to? When you refer to the goodness of God, His kindness and generosity, where do I see it particularly demonstrated in my life?" Well, the goodness of God is seen in many things: your good health, the delightful companionships that you experience, the close friendships that you enjoy, the dietary provision that you receive, the agility of mind that you evidence, etc. It is only by His goodness that you have your very existence in order to experience and enjoy the various facets of life. All the necessities for survival; all the conveniences and amenities which enhance life (which we often take for granted) are demonstrations of the goodness of God. The joy that you have for your children, the experience of love that you have for your mate or friend, the satisfaction of accomplishing some worthy task (and we could multiply the examples) are the expressions and results of God's goodness – He freely gives you the grace and means to experience and possess all that life has to offer.

When my grandfather was alive, he testified to the fact that the goodness of God 'followed him all the days of his life.' My grandfather grew up in a poor family. His father was a Methodist minister, and the income they received came from the weekly church offering. Some Sundays, only coins were found on the offering plate; and yet the testimony of my grandfather in his old age was, "I have been young, and now I am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, or his descendants begging bread" (Ps. 37:25). On one occasion, he apparently was financially broke, and slipping on a pair of pants, he found some bills in one of the pockets. Now, to be sure, the money was previously put there, but he had forgotten about it; and when he really needed it, God arranged for him to find it.

Can you point to the goodness of God in your life? Can you testify that God's goodness has followed you all the days of your life?

God's goodness is inevitable

Second, God's goodness flows to you from, and because of, His good nature; He is love – "Thou art good and doest good; teach me Thy statutes" (Ps. 119:68; also Ps. 34:8; 100:5; 143:10). God, by nature, cannot help but do us good. As it is the nature of an apple tree to produce apples, and as it is the nature of the sun to produce heat, so it is the nature of God to do good. There is no deceit in God, no evil in God, no corruption in God. He is necessarily disposed to do good because He is intrinsically good. On one occasion, a rich young ruler went to Jesus and inquired of Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" To which our Lord responded, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone" (Lu. 18:18,19). Only God is essentially, pervasively, and comprehensively good, through and through.

What is your view of God? Do you see God as being a cruel ogre? Do you see God as an angry Judge Who sits in the clouds, ready to smash you over the head with a club when you step out of line? Do you see God as one who is cold and distant, being insensitive to your needs, and uncaring about your situation? There are not a few Christians who have a distorted view of God. Yes, the Bible speaks of God's judgement and His wrath, but also it clearly teaches about His great love. Unfortunately, the Christian who has had an abusive, an authoritarian, or a critical father may possess a very negative and distorted view of God. God is not a cruel Father, but rather He is our loving heavenly Father. God is not 'out to get you,' but rather, He is out to provide for you. When you understand that God is love, which is the basis and reason for His goodness, then the anxieties, doubts, and questions that you may have concerning God will dissipate. God is for you; He is not against you. He really cares for you and is interested in you. God does not simply do good, He is good.

God's goodness is universal

Third, God's goodness extends to all people, but especially to you who have a healthy, spiritual relationship with Him – "How blessed is the one whom Thou dost choose, and bring near to Thee, to dwell in Thy courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Thy house, Thy holy Temple" (Ps. 65:4; also Ps. 145:9). In reflecting on his relationship with God, the Psalmist recognized that God takes the initiative in establishing the fellowship which may occur between the Creator and the creature. God is pleased to draw men and women to Himself; and with this divine drawing, and the subsequent fellowship, the worshipper experiences the goodness of God. In the presence of God, the worshipper is spiritually satiated and satisfied.

God's goodness, of course, extends to all His creatures. Thus we read, God "causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Mt. 5:45). He is a God who extends goodness to everybody, but particularly to those who are His people. Before Israel went into the Promised Land, God announced curses and blessings to them. God promised blessings if they were obedient, and threatened curses if they were disobedient. Now, in obedience, we enjoy fellowship with God, as well as His goodness. In other words, a healthy, spiritual relationship with God releases the channels of his goodness.

According to the book of Psalms, certain elements characterize this kind of healthy, spiritual relationship. First, one must trust God (Ps. 27:13). Second, one must seek after God (Ps. 34:10). Third, one must fear God (Ps. 31:19). Fourth, one must have a pure heart (i.e., be holy) (Ps. 73:1). Fifth, one must be upright or righteous (Ps. 84:11; 125:4). Sixth, one must be kind or generous (Ps. 125:4). Do you possess these characteristics?

God's goodness is variously expressed

Fourth, God's goodness is seen or expressed in different ways – "For Thou dost meet him with the blessings of good things. Thou dost set a crown of fine gold on his head" (Ps. 21:3). God's goodness comes to us through various blessings. In the Book of Psalms, these blessings fall into five main categories. 1) GOD CONSTANTLY LEADS AND TEACHES YOU HOW TO LIVE IN AN ACCEPTABLE AND RIGHT MANNER (PS. 25:8; 143:10). God is pleased to send His Spirit in order to illuminate your mind while you reflect on His Word. He brings conviction of heart through meditation; He brings a word of encouragement through a fellow believer; He provides clear guidance, through times of prayer, etc. 2) GOD OFTEN MEETS YOUR FINANCIAL AND PHYSICAL NEEDS (PS. 68:10; 104:28; 107:9). The pastor's job, in many respects, is a poor man's profession. Yet the testimony of my wife and I over the years has been that God has always provided for our needs. He has provided for our needs in some of the most unusual, and even the most unexpected, ways. We have had to learn to walk by faith. When I went to Philadelphia a little while ago, money was tight. Two days before I left, we were out for the evening. When we returned, we found a card between the screen door and the front door. Some saint had dropped by to leave a monetary gift. The Lord had again provided. It was unexpected; the Lord delights in surprising us. Again, this past week, a former counselee dropped by and brought a card with a monetary gift. She said that it was an early Christmas present! 3) GOD IS PLEASED TO BLESS YOU WITH MATERIAL PROSPERITY (PS. 65:11; 85:5). You who enjoy prosperity – your business is doing well, you are able to save some money, you are planning to go on a vacation or trip in the near future – how are you able to do that? God has prospered you. Do not forget this, lest God forget you. You only enjoy the 'fatness of the land' because of the goodness of God. 4) GOD FORGIVES YOU OF YOUR SINS AND MISTAKES (PS. 25:7; 86:5). This is good news, perhaps the best news. You are spiritually united with Christ, destined for glory because of the goodness of God. 5) GOD HELPS YOU IN TIMES OF DIFFICULTY AND IN TIMES OF DISTRESS (PS. 86:17; 109:21). Some of you have gone through deep waters and through the blistering fires. God has been pleased to allow your world to crash down around you, or your health to break, or your financial funds to dry up, or emotional distress to be experienced (because everything is ordained by Him); yet He has also been pleased to turn these situations around in your favour. A little while ago, I was feeling a bit discouraged as a pastor, being concerned about personal effectiveness and fruitfulness. Through His Word, God ministered to me. He said, "Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:58). That verse was God's comfort to my heart, and it strengthened me to press on.

The results of God's goodness

Fifth, a) God's goodness should lead you to worship – "Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting" (Ps. 106:1; also 107:1; 118:1,29; 145:7; 135:3; 136:1) God is supremely worthy of praise and thanksgiving. The goodness of God should lead you to worship, falling down on your knees prostrate before God, in remembrance of His grace and mercy to you. His goodness has no end.

b) God's goodness should lead you to live in hope – "I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living" (Ps. 27:13). What kept the Psalmist going? What kept him from going under? What kept him from staying on the mat for the ten count? Hope in the goodness of God. He lived in hope that God was going to be kind and generous to him. God is always present, and we can always count on Him. He is the ever faithful one, and we can be assured that our trying situations will get better.

Maybe you are struggling with an illness right now. God may surprise you with His goodness; continue to hope in His goodness. Maybe you are battling with some emotional pain; continue to hope in His goodness. Maybe you are experiencing some financial difficulty; continue to hope in His goodness. Maybe you are wrestling with an uncertain future; continue to hope in His goodness. God is kind; He is generous. We serve a good God.

My last word is to my non-Christian friend. According to Romans 2:4, the goodness or kindness of God should lead you to repentance. You have been a recipient of God's goodness. The air that you breathe, the food that you eat, the clothes that you wear, the sanity that you enjoy, the freedom that you experience are all expressions of the goodness of God. Now God has allowed His goodness to come to you in order to lead you to repentance; that you might turn from your wicked ways and turn unto Him, acknowledging His goodness. My non-Christian friend, I exhort you to turn from your rebellion and return to the Shepherd of your soul, even the Lord Jesus, acknowledging His goodness. In your repentance, God will do you good, and only good. Recognize His love, embrace Him by faith, and praise His name. Won't you do that right now?