By Daniel Henderson
Thanksgiving is a day when Americans, some of whom seldom reflect on God’s goodness, take time to consider the source of their blessings in this life. Truly, pausing to express gratitude is ultimately a recognition of the goodness of God. Yet, many of us fail to understand the real nature of God’s goodness.
In fact, in the next few days, tune in to the common and often confusing use of the word “good” as it is employed in conversations, news stories and modern day culture. In all likelihood, you will hear references like:
- “It’s all good!”
- “That was a good movie.”
- “She’s a good woman.”
- “The weather looks good.”
- “Good game, son!”
- “He’s good looking.”
- “The food was good.”
- “It’s good that you were here.”
- “He’s a good preacher.”
- “I feel good about it.”
- “Sounds good.”
- “There was a good crowd.”
- “This will be good for you.”
- “They had a good selection.”
- “Oh my goodness!”
Of course, the interpretation of these phrases can yield a convoluted and even confusing understanding of goodness. Just to prove the point, look over each phrase and try to figure exactly what is meant by the word “good.” These common expressions (and there are MANY others) remind us of the subjective nature of the word. What is “good” to one person might be seem bad to another, or mediocre to yet another. As one example of the diverse meanings, The Reader’s Digest Complete Oxford Word Finder devotes a full page of very fine print to various definitions of “good.”
Jesus stated “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18). We know that no one is righteous, not even one, and all have sinned (Romans 3:10, 23). God alone is good and the source of all goodness.
A.W. Pink explains that the goodness of God refers to the perfection of His nature and that nothing is lacking in it or defective in it, and nothing can be added to it to make it better.1 Puritan writer Thomas Manton states, “He is originally good, good of Himself, which nothing else is; for all creatures are good only by participation and communication from God. He is essentially good; not only good, but goodness itself; the creature’s goodness is but a drop; but in God there is an infinite ocean and sea, or gathering together of goodness.”2
The Bible encourages us to consider the goodness of God (Romans 11:22). In doing so, we are captured by countless verses and examples. Psalm 119:68 declares, “You are good and do good. God has “laid up” goodness for those who trust Him (Psalm 31:19). Psalm 52:1 says “the goodness of God endures continually.” It is as eternal as God is and will never stop. God crowns our years with goodness (Psalm 65:11) and fills our journey with so much blessing. Beyond the tangible provisions of life, “God fills the hungry soul with goodness” (Psalm 107:9).
Certainly, bad things happen in all of our lives. We suffer losses, go through disappointments, experience failures, and endure hurts. However, God’s abundant, constant, and sometimes imperceptible goodness transcends it all. Our responsibility is to trust Him even when we don’t see the way, follow Him even when we don’t know the way, and seek Him until He shows us the way. We do this with the firm conviction that He is absolutely, reliably good. And, he produces good in and through us for His glory.
Charles Spurgeon observed,
“When others behave badly to us, it should only stir us up the more heartily to give thanks unto the Lord because he is good; and when we ourselves are conscious that we are far from being good, we should only the more reverently bless him that “he is good.” We must never tolerate an instant’s unbelief as to the goodness of the Lord; whatever else may be questionable, this is absolutely certain, that Jehovah is good; his dispensations may vary, but his nature is always the same, and always good. It is not only that he was good, and will be good, but he is good; let his providence be what it may. Therefore let us even at this present moment, though the skies be dark with clouds, yet give thanks unto his name.”3
Goodness in the “Bad” Times
Perhaps you’ve read of George Mueller, a man of great faith and prayer who lived in Bristol, England in the late 1800’s. Through his orphanages he cared for over 10,000 children and the schools he established educated over 120,000 students. He faced serious tests to his faith in the goodness of God. One occurred when the Mueller’s only child, Lydia, almost died of typhoid fever in 1853. In February 1870 George’s wife, Mary, died of rheumatic fever. They had been married for over thirty-nine years. After her death, Mueller preached a “funeral sermon” from Psalm 119:68 that says, “You are good, and do good.”
The three points of his message declared:
1. The Lord was good, and did good, in giving her to me.
2. The Lord was good, and did good, in so long leaving her to me.
3. The Lord was good and did good, in taking her from me.4
In the days to follow as Mueller processed the loss, he continually chose to point to the goodness of God. His recorded prayer stated, “Thy wilt do the very best thing for her and for me, whether life or death . . . However, Thou dealest with me, only help me to continue to be perfectly satisfied with Thy holy will.”5 Speaking later of his wife’s death he exclaimed, “God Himself has done it; we are satisfied in Him.”6 Nahum 1:7 assures us, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.”
Whatever our perceptions of our circumstances this Thanksgiving season, we can anchor our souls in knowing “the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:11) “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8)
So, this Thursday, count your blessings but fix your eyes on the “fount of every blessing.” Focus, not just on the gifts – but on the giver, for He is good.
1 Arthur W. Pink, The Attributes of God (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975) 57
4 George Mueller, Autobiography of George Mueller, Compiled by G. Fred. Bergin (London: J. Nisbet and Co., 1906) 431
5 Ibid 442 6 Ibid. 440
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Daniel Henderson is president and founder of Strategic Renewal which exists to ignite the heart of the church through personal renewal, congregational revival and leadership restoration for Christ’s glory. As a Senior Pastor for over two decades, Daniel Henderson brought prayer-based revitalization to several mega-churches. Along with Jim Cymbala and dozens of other pastors, he recently launched a national fellowship for pastors focused on the priorities of Acts 6:4, “prayer and the ministry of the word.”