Is God Good All the Time or Just When He Does Something Good for You?
I have to say that a pet peeve of mine is when I hear people saying “God is good!” but it is only usually stated after God has apparently done something remarkable that helped that particular person. I never hear this phrase uttered when something people consider tragic happens. I have to admit how difficult this is to do, for me as well. It is a fact of our fallen natures.
As I’ve stated numerous times before, I’ve long since come to understand that many aspects of the Charismatic Movement and Pentecostalism in general are simply wrong or over-the-top, but there is one feature that is something I will always remember from my short time involved in the Charismatic Movement. That feature is what Paul deals with in 1 Thessalonians 5 and has to do with the very thing that Job did seemingly automatically. For me, unfortunately, it is not automatic even after being a Christian for over 40 years.
In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul offers instructions to those particular believers (and by extension, includes us as well) about the coming “day of the Lord,” in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. Beginning with verse 12 of that same chapter, Paul then offers some final general instructions for believers in Thessalonica and everywhere really. Some of the things he offers include:
- honoring those among them who work hard – v. 12
- warning those who have gotten lazy – v. 14
- helping the weak, being patient – v. 14
- always doing what is good and forgiving – v. 15
These are basic instructions that all Christians should adopt when dealing with and relating to other Christians. It’s important to understand that Paul is speaking to Christians about how to act toward other Christians. In this context, he is not disclosing information about how Christians are to relate to the world. His concern in this specific passage is for Christians within the Christian community and how Christians are supposed to relate to one another. Sound like your church?
In the very next section of verses, Paul then offers instruction for how Christians are to act or relate to God when faced with various situations. Christians are to…
- rejoice always – v. 16
- pray continually – v. 17
- give thanks in all situations – v. 18
- do not do anything that stifles the Holy Spirit’s work – v. 19
- do not treat God’s Word with contempt (but test everything) – v. 20
- reject everything that is evil – v. 21
When Paul says we should “rejoice always,” what he means is this: we should rejoice always. There is never a circumstance in which we should not offer thanks to God. Here are verses 16 – 18 all stated together.
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Paul’s logical progression makes it very clear (or should) that the situations that happen to us in this life (“all circumstances”) are from God or allowed by God. This means the good things as well as what we consider to be the bad things.
Yet, what often happens among Christians when faced with some terrible illness? The first thing we do is to pray…that God will remove those things.
Think about it. When we are faced with situations that are uncomfortable or debilitating, the first thing we often do is to ask Him to change the circumstances. This is natural and even James tells us that we should do this.
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, (James 5:14).
There is nothing inherently wrong with seeking God’s healing in a health matter or other situation. In fact, tons of people during Jesus’ day sought Him out for physical healing. The problem though is when physical healing is seen as the be-all, end-all for all things spiritual, as if God is always supposed to heal and when He doesn’t it always means that we lack faith. This is not the case and when Christians start to see things like this, we miss much of what God has to offer.
When we get deathly ill, it tends to take us by surprise. Because of this, we act as though it has somehow taken God by surprise. This is nuts. Nothing takes Him by surprise at all. A test of our faith and willingness to trust Him is seen in how we react to the situations that come into our lives.
In churches, people will often send out prayer requests via email and want – very specifically – to see prayer answered in a certain way. For instance, someone is found to have cancer. The prayer is that God will remove that cancer. Again, I don’t believe there is anything wrong with this prayer at all. We are simply asking God to intervene and heal someone. He is free to heal or not. All too often though, people do not end these prayers with “not my will, but thine be done.” We somehow think we are not trusting God fully if we end our prayers in such a way, even though it is clear that Jesus did (Luke 22:42).
I have noticed that when the “proper” response by God to that cancer is to heal the person (whether through the medical community or supernaturally), invariably, the praises will come at that point. Often, the tail end of that report of praise will include the phrase “God is good!”
It’s as though it is implicit that God is only good when He does something “nice” or responds to our prayers in a way that pleases us. Folks, this is so wrong, I cannot emphasize it enough.
Is God good? If so, is His goodness based on how He responds to our requests or is He simply good because of who He is? The entirety of Psalm 136 is an exclamation of just how good God is simply because He is God. Yes, the Psalm is filled with examples of how the Psalmist saw God as good, but the first two verses sum up this aspect of God’s character perfectly.
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his loyal love endures.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods, for his loyal love endures.
God is good, period. If we stop and consider it, everything that is evil or bad in this life is due to humanity’s sin and faithlessness where God is concerned. We die, why? Because of our first parent’s sin, which created the sin nature in the rest of us. It also caused God to place a “curse” on humanity, the animal and plant kingdom, and the earth as a whole. Our first parent’s sin created death, both spiritual and physical (Romans 5:12).
From the moment we are born, we start to die and one day, we will physically and completely die. This is a sure thing. 1 Peter 1:24 tells us this truth, yet for some reason, like Hezekiah, who wanted more years added to his life (Isaiah 38), we don’t like the idea of death. We want to push it away, yet we are the ones who invited it into God’s Creation. It was our sin that is the cause of it, but God is supposed to fix it. He will fix it but in His way and in His time. If it were not for the fact that our first parents sinned and we followed them in sin, we would not have to deal with death, pain, or illnesses today.
The ramifications that God is only “good” when He answers our prayers in the affirmative says more about people’s lack of faith and failure to understand who God is and why He does not have to do anything at all to help us when “bad” things happen to us or our loved ones. God’s goodness does not rest on whether or not He answers our prayers the way we think He should. He is GOOD…all the time, whether we can wrap our brains around that or not! God is good.
Job understood this and since we have the entirety of the Bible (unlike Job), we have absolutely no excuse. After Job learned the horrific news that he had just lost most of his property and all of his children (to death), his response was nothing short of astounding.
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will return there. The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away. May the name of the LORD be blessed! (Job 1:21)
Job didn’t take the time to ask God to change the circumstances (though God did that, to some extent later on). Job’s first impulse was to thank God for what had occurred simply because he understood that God’s ways are better because He simply knows all things. We do not. We actually fail miserably at praising the Lord for all the things that He allows to come into our lives. We need to be cheerfully dependent upon God and His mercy. We need to practice praising Him so that it becomes a habit that brings glory to Him. Instead, it seems that we’re only willing to say He’s “good” when He does something that pleases us.
In Isaiah 38, we learn that King Hezekiah was told that he was going to die soon and that he should get his house in order. Instead of simply accepting God’s will as the best, he literally turned to the wall and cried. He wanted to live longer, so God gave him 15 more years. Those were terrible years.
The other day, I was out mowing my lawn and saw my elderly neighbor so I stopped to chat. He told me of his recent bout with prostate cancer and his 36 chemo treatments. He’s doing well now and in the course of the conversation, said he wouldn’t mind living to be 104 if that was the Lord’s will.
As far as I’m concerned, the thought of living in this world another forty years or so simply means waiting that much longer for heaven’s eternity. During that time, I’d get to see how much more corrupt and evil this world would become and the horrors that go with it. I’m not interested in living long. I’m interested in doing the Lord’s will and then going home.
Christian, are we too focused on this life? Are we too enamored with the things in this life? Believe me, I’ve lost people I’ve loved. I’ve had my bouts with bad health and there is always a part of me that mourns for people I’ve lost and wishes I had perfect health. While I can work on the latter to improve my situation, I can do nothing to change the fact that many of my loved ones are gone.
But whether in good health or bad, with loved ones or remaining as they are taken, none of this has any bearing on whether God is or remains good. God is always good. It is His nature to be good. It’s who He is and what He does. Evil comes from sin and sin exists through no fault of God. That sin entered into this world rests fully on humanity’s shoulders and all the ramifications of it.
God…is…good and He is good whether anyone thinks so or not and whether or not people like the circumstances that come into their lives.
Entry filed under: christianity, eternity, Political Correctness, Politically Correct, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: god is good, god is good all the time, praise in all things, psalm 34:1.