Do you ever listen reflectively to the conversations that take place around you every day?
Someone says, "Hi! How are you?" We may answer, "I‟m good. How about yourself?" We hear another person exclaim, "Look at that! Oh my good----!" Then there‟s the familiar admonition, "Watch where you‟re going, for good----‟ sake."
This week‟s Sabbath School lesson, focusing on goodness as a fruit of the Spirit, provides a wonderful opportunity for us to reflect on this God-given gift and what it means to you and me in the context of the most precious message God sent to prepare us for Christ‟s soon-coming (see Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 91-93).
As the foregoing examples illustrate, being "good" and references to "my goodness" are often stated in casual, exclamatory or flippant contexts. The focus of this week‟s Sabbath School lesson, however, is not about the goodness of man, but the goodness of God.
The Psalmist writes, "Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness and for His wonderful works to the children of men" (Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31).*
Psalm 107:1 begins with the exhortation "Oh, give thanks to the Lord for He is good."
In the beginning when God created our world, the Bible says, "Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good" (Genesis 1:31).
Sin came in and changed everything: "Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually"(Genesis 6:5). Further, we read: "There is none who does good, no not one" (Romans 3:12).
But the gospel brings Good News to light. God did not abandon us, sinful though we were. When Jesus left the heavenly courts to come to this world as our Savior, angels announced His birth to the shepherds, flooding the night-time skies with Good News! They proclaimed: "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10, 11). Fear was the very first consequence of sin. Adam and Eve hid from their Maker in the garden. But Jesus came to this world to reconcile us to Himself.
This good news would cast out fear. It would embolden martyrs throughout the ages to die by flame or sword, their faces lit with holy joy. It would inspire gospel workers to brave unknown dangers in distant lands to carry the precious gospel seed. It would prompt the rich to give all for Him. It would cause those who proclaimed it to rejoice in trial and hardship. This powerful good news propelled the gospel to the world in a single generation in Christ‟s day, and this is the good news that will soon lighten the whole earth with the glory of God!
The miraculous transformation of the human heart from vile to pure; the transformation that fills Christ‟s followers with holy boldness, is the result of beholding God‟s goodness to us. In Romans 2:4 the apostle Paul writes, "Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?"
E.J. Waggoner says, "We need not try to improve on the Scriptures, and say that the goodness of God tends to lead men to repentance. The Bible says that it does lead them to repentance, and we may be sure that it is so. Every man is being led toward repentance as surely as God is good. But not all repent? Why? Because they despise the riches of the goodness and forbearance and long-suffering of God, and break away from the merciful leading of the Lord. But whoever does not resist the Lord, will surely be brought to repentance and salvation" (Waggoner on Romans, p. 42).
Sister White explains the power of God‟s goodness in leading us to Himself: "As Christ draws them to look upon His cross, to behold Him whom their sins have pierced, ... they begin to comprehend something of the righteousness of Christ. ... The sinner may resist this love, may refuse to be drawn to Christ; but if he does not resist, he will be drawn to Jesus; a knowledge of the plan of salvation will lead him to the foot of the cross in repentance for his sins, which have caused the sufferings of God‟s dear Son" (Steps to Christ, p. 27).
Speaking to a group convened for the 1895 General Conference session, Brother Jones explores the depths of God‟s goodness in giving up everything for us:
"Did Jesus come to this world and then go back as He was before, and thus His sacrifice be for only thirty-three years? The answer is that it was for all eternity. The Father gave up His Son to us, and Christ gave up Himself for all eternity. Never again will He be in all respects as He was before.
"„He who was one with God has linked Himself with the children of men by ties that are never to be broken.‟ Wherein did He link Himself with us?—In our flesh; in our nature. That is the sacrifice that wins the hearts of men. Many look upon it, that the sacrifice of Christ was for only thirty-three years, then He died the death on the cross and went back as He was before. In view of eternity before and after, thirty-three years is not an infinite sacrifice at all. But when we consider that He sank his nature in our human nature to all eternity,—that is a sacrifice. That is the love of God. And no heart can reason against it. Whether the man believes it or not, there is a subduing power in it, and the heart must stand in silence in the presence of that awful truth. I will say it over: ever since that blessed fact came to me that the sacrifice of the Son of God is an eternal sacrifice, and all for me, the word has been upon my mind almost hourly: „I will go softly before the Lord all my days‟" (General Conference Bulletin, 1895, pp. 381, 382, condensed).
"For it is God which works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" Phil. 2:13.
We can say with confidence that God is good! Whatever work He does in or through us is good.
We can praise the Lord every day for His goodness! And we can invite Him to reveal the fruits of His Spirit in us each day, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" Ephesians 2:10 (the memory text for this week).
- Patti Guthrie
*All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.