What is God Like?
True narratives smashing distorted concepts
“God is Good”
“God, of your goodness, give me yourself, for you are enough for me. I may ask nothing less that is fully to your worship, and if I do ask anything less, ever shall I be in want. Only in you I have all.”
-Julian of Norwich
“We have a God who is infinitely good & who knows what He is doing.” -Brother Lawrence
The belief that God is good is a foundation stone for all sound thought about God & is necessary to moral sanity. If He’s not good, then there is no distinction between kindness & cruelty, between heaven & hell. There is no standard, no rule of life.
The goodness of God means that God is the final standard of good, & that all that God is & does is worthy of approval. The cause of His goodness is in Himself. There is no higher standard of goodness than God’s own character & His approval of whatever is consistent with His character. And because He is the ultimate standard of goodness, He is also the ultimate source of all goodness. Therefore, all the goodness we seek is ultimately found in Him.
It’s easy to say God is good when life is going well & smoothly, but what about when tragedy, heartbreak, or difficult times hit?
Do we still really think God is good?
~When Jim’s (author) wife was 8 months pregnant with their second child, they were told their daughter had a chromosomal disorder & would live for just days. The diagnosis was wrong & Madeline actually lived for two difficult years.
~Having coffee with a pastor, Jim was asked, “So who sinned, Jim? You or your wife?”
~People feel the need to make sense of life & end up saying outrageous things.
~Have you ever been through a situation that caused you to doubt the goodness of God?
~Train yourself to ask this question when choosing the right narratives about God: “Is this understanding of God consistent with the God Jesus revealed?”
An ancient narrative: The Angry God
~It basically says this: “God is an angry judge. If you do right, you will be blessed. If you sin, you will be punished.”This is different than “There are natural consequences to my actions.”
> Do you agree with this statement?
> This is the most prevalent narrative among Christians today
~Have you ever wondered how & when you would be punished for a particular sin?
~Or have you ever had something bad happen to you & wondered what you did to deserve it?
~First off, He said His Father is good like no other being [Mt.19:17]
~So does Yahweh make people suffer for being worse sinners than others here on earth?
> Luke 13:1-5 answers this question clearly
> Jesus answers emphatically, “No.”
> Jesus rejects the widespread idea that wealth or suffering of individuals is God’s reward for righteousness or punishment for sin. He counters the common Jewish belief that calamity in life is the result of past sin.
> He made it clear that human tragedies are not always divine punishment & that it is wrong for us to “play God’ & pass judgement.
> Job’s friends made the same mistake of saying that his afflictions were evidence that he was a sinner. And if that was the case, what about the prophets, apostles, & Jesus Himself?
> If God does punish in this way, then you all best repent because you all are sinners. There’s God & then everybody else.
> The question & focus should not be “Why did these people die?”, but rather “What right do I have to live?”
> “We must abide by this rule, that we cannot judge of men’s sins by their sufferings in this world; for many are thrown into the furnace as gold to be purified, not as dross & chaff to be consumed.” -Matthew Henry
“Rabbi, who sinned?” John 9:2-3
~Rabbis taught that illness was caused by the parents’ sin or the person’s sin. Some ancients even taught you could sin in the womb!
~When confronted with someone’s suffering, have you ever wondered What did they do to deserve that?
Why is this response so common?
~Jesus affirmed none of this teaching. He made it clear that there was no correlation between this man’s blindness & his or his parents’ sin.
~Then Jesus healed him totally putting to rest any chance of this man’s blindness being justice for his transgressions. Otherwise, He would not have healed him.
It rains on the righteous, too Mt.5:45
~Reality bears out that terrible things happen to wonderful people & wonderful things happen to terrible people.
~People don’t all get what they deserve in this life.
~Yahweh is no respecter of persons & His loving-kindness never changes or waivers with anyone.
**Keep in mind though, there are consequences to our actions in this life! Here we are talking of tragedy, disaster & illness not brought on by our actions.
~There are good consequences to actions too.
Name some of the peculiarly good consequences (character, disposition, reputation) that are a part of the lives of those who do good.
There is no justice in this life
~Why is the “punishing-blessing god” so popular?
Because we like control. Guess what. We don’t have it.
~This narrative allows us to live in the illusion that we can control our world, which is very appealing in our chaotic existence. But it’s actually just another form of superstition- Don’t walk under a ladder, break a mirror, or let a black cat cross your path. Silly, but we still believe them as is evident by our actions. Some say we live on the “performance treadmill.” Think here of the evangelists who say they know why 9/11 happened or why the tsunamis hit. No one knows but God.
~At the end of the day, there is no way to make sense of it all, no system to explain all of the whys. Just know that God is sovereign & good beyond our comprehension. He knows what He is doing. We do not. It is wasted energy trying to figure it all out & can rob our focus of where it should be. If we needed these answers, He would have shared them with us because He is good!
~”We do not know why God’s judgement makes a good man poor, & a wicked man rich…Nor why the wicked man enjoys the best of health, whilst the man of religion wastes away in illness…Even then it is not consistent…Good men also have good fortune & evil men find evil fortunes…So though we do not know by what judgement these things are carried out or permitted by God, in whom is the highest virtue & the highest wisdom and the highest justice, & in whom there is no weakness or rashness nor unfairness, it is nonetheless beneficial for us to learn not to regard as important the good or evil fortunes which we see shared by good & evil persons alike.” -Augustine
Still, God is just
~He has the final say in life, & He is good.
~One day we will understand why God has done or allowed everything to happen that has happened.
~Does the fact that God has the final say offer you comfort? Hope? Frustration?
~What if we viewed everything in our life as either done or allowed by God to perfect us into what He wants us to become?[Juggernaut car or chariot of God] -H.W. Smith
Jesus believes when I cannot
~It’s not just the narratives of Jesus that help us through sorrow & rough times, but Jesus Himself. This is the difference between our faith & mere inspirational stories.
~The love, redemption, & communion we have with the Father are all a gift that cannot be earned. He gives us all out of His goodness & for that reason only.
> When we pursue Him, we are merely placing ourselves in the path of His goodness that is already there, not causing Him to bless us.
> This is like tuning into television or radio frequencies.
> We do not, by our good works, force God’s hand to bestow goodness upon us, we rather participate in His goodness. The more we participate, the more we experience God, & the more we experience Him, the more peace & abundance will characterize our life.
A reason of hope
~A while after Madeline died & Jim was in solitude, He told God that maybe it would have been better if she had not been born. That’s when he heard the clearest message from God he ever received. The voice of a girl he never heard but recognized as Madeline’s- “Daddy, you should never say that. If I had never been born, I would not be here now. I am so happy here in heaven, & one day you & mom & Jacob will come & see me, & we will live forever together. And there is more good that has happened because of me that you can’t see now, but will one day understand.”
~Two years later his wife was pregnant with another girl. They named her Hope.
In this world you will have trouble
~God’s goodness is not something we get to decide upon.
~”My own experiences of disappointment with God say more about my expectations than they do about God.”
~Jesus never promises a life free of struggle, but rather that all struggles will be redeemed [Jn.16:33]. We grow through adversity.
~Imagine before a lengthy road trip someone says to you, “I promise you will reach your destination safely & on schedule no matter rainstorms, roadblocks, or flat tires.” This is what God promises us with our destiny.
> His daughter did not die due to his, his wife’s, or Madeline’s sins.
> God is just.
> He will one day fully understand. All wrongs will be made right.
> There is a hope of heaven.
> God is good all the time, & all the time, God is good.
“God did not take my daughter, evil did.” -Luke Mertes