Good, Goodness

* God brings good out of bad circumstances

We have watched three people make serious mistakes: (1) Sarai, who took matters into her own hands and gave her servant to Abram; (2) Abram, who went along with the plan but, when circumstances began to go wrong, refused to help solve the problem; and (3) Hagar, who ran away from the problem.  In spite of this messy situation, God demonstrated his ability to work in all things for good.  Sarai and Abram still received the son they so desperately wanted, and God solved Hagar’s problem despite Abram’s refusal to get involved.  No problem is too complicated for God if you are willing to let him help you. (NLT)

Genesis 16:13 – Thereafter, Hagar referred to the Lord, who had spoken to her, as “the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have seen the One who sees me!”

* – When Joseph became a slave, Jacob thought he was dead and wept in despair.  But eventually God’s plan allowed Jacob to regain not only his son but his grandchildren as well.  Circumstances are never so bad that they are beyond God’s help.  Jacob regained his son.  Job got a new family.  Mary regained her brother, Lazarus.  We need never despair because we belong to a loving God.   We never know what good he will bring out of seemingly hopeless situation. (NLT)

Genesis 48:11 – Then Jacob said to Joseph, “I never thought I would see you again, but now God has let me see your children, too.”

* – God brought good from the brothers’ evil deed, Potiphar’s wife’s false accusation, the cup-bearer’s neglect, and seven years of famine.  The experiences in Joseph’s life taught him that God brings good from evil from those who trust him.  Do you trust God enough to wait patiently for him to bring good out of bad situations?  You can trust him because, as Joseph learned, God can overrule people’s evil intentions to bring about his intended results. (NLT)

Genesis 50:20 – As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil.  He brought me to the high position I have today so I could save the lives of many people.

* – Out of David’s tragic mistake came the purchase of a plot of land that would become the site of God’s Temple, the symbol of God’s presence among his people.  Every time the people would go the Temple they would remember that God was their true King and that everyone, including their human king, was fallible and subject to sin.  God can use our sins for good purposes if we are sorry for them and seek his forgiveness.  When we confess our sins, the way is opened for God to bring good from a bad situation. (NLT)

1 Chronicles 22:1 – Then David said, “This will be the location for the Temple of the Lord God and the place of the altar for Israel’s burnt offerings!”

* – Any trial a believer faces can ultimately bring glory to God because God can bring good out any bad situation.  When trouble comes, do you grumble, complain, and blame God, or do you see your problems as opportunities to honor him? (NLT)

John 11:4 – But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death.  No, it is for the glory of God.  I, the Son of God, will receive glory from this.”

* Not enough to be good some of the time

Why did Achan’s sin bring judgment on the entire nation?  Although it was one man’s failure, God saw it as national disobedience to a national law.  God needed the entire nation to be committed to the job they had agreed to do—conquer the land.  Thus, when one person failed, everyone failed.  If Achan’s sin went unpunished, unlimited looting could break out.  The nation as a whole had to take responsibility for preventing this undisciplined disobedience.

Achan’s sin was not merely his keeping some of the captured goods (God allowed it in some cases), but his disobeying God’s explicit command to destroy everything connected with Jericho.  His sin was indifference to the evil and idolatry of the city, not just a desire for money and clothes.  God would not protect Israel’s army again until the sin was removed and the army returned to obeying him without reservation.  God is not content with our doing what is right some of the time.  He wants us to do what is right all the time.  We are under his orders to eliminate any thoughts, practices, or possessions that hinder our devotion to him. (NLT)

Joshua 7:10-12 – But the Lord said to Joshua, “Get up!  Why are you lying on your face like this?  Israel has sinned and broken my covenant!  They have stolen the things that I commanded to be set apart for me.  And they have not only stolen them; they have also lied about it and hidden the things among their belongings.  That is why the Israelites are running from their enemies in defeat.  For now Israel has been set apart for destruction.  I will not remain with you any longer unless you destroy the things among you that were set apart for destruction.”

* Doing good in the wrong way

Rather than waiting for a priest, Saul offered the sacrifice himself.  This was against God’s laws and against the specific instructions of Samuel.  Under pressure from the approaching Philistines, he took matters into his own hands and disobeyed God.  He was doing a good thing (offering a sacrifice to God before a crucial battle), but he did it in the wrong way.  Like Saul, our true spiritual character is revealed under pressure.  The methods we use to accomplish our goals are as important as the attainment of those goals. (NLT)

1 Samuel 13:9 – So he demanded, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!”  And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself.

* Looking for the good in others

Saul had caused much trouble for David, but when he died, David composed a lament for the king and his son.  David had every reason to hate Saul, but he chose not to.  Instead, he chose to look at the good Saul had done and to ignore the times when Saul had attacked him.  It takes courage to lay aside hatred and hurt and to respect the positive side of another person, especially an enemy. (NLT)

2 Samuel 1:17-27 – Then David composed a funeral song for Saul and Jonathan.  Later he commanded that it be taught to all the people of Judah.  It is known as the Song of the Bow, and it is recorded in The Book of Jashar:

Your pride and joy, O Israel, lies dead on the hills!  How the mighty heroes have fallen!  Don’t announce the news in Gath, or the Philistines will rejoice.  Don’t proclaim it in the streets of Ashkelon, or the pagans will laugh in triumph.

O mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew or rain upon you or your slopes.  For there the shield of the mighty was defiled; the shield of Saul will no longer be anointed with oil.  Both Saul and Jonathan killed their strongest foes; they did not return from battle empty-handed.

How beloved and gracious were Saul and Jonathan!  They were together in life and in death.  They were swifter than eagles; they were stronger than lions.

O women of Israel, weep for Saul, for he dressed you in fine clothing and gold ornaments.

How the mighty heroes have fallen in battle!  Jonathan lies dead upon the hills.  How I weep for you my brother Jonathan!  Oh, how much I loved you!  And your love for me was deep, deeper than the love of women!

How the mighty heroes have fallen!  Stripped of their weapons, they lie dead.

* You can be good but miss what’s important

Much good can be said of Jotham and his reign as king of Judah, but he failed in a most important area: He didn’t destroy the high places, although leaving them clearly violated the first commandment.  Like Jotham, we may live basically good lives and yet is doing what is most important.  A lifetime of doing good is not enough if we make the crucial mistake of not following God with all our hearts.  A true follower of God puts God first in all areas of life. (NLT)

2 Kings 15:34-35 – Jotham did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, just as his father Uzziah had done.  But he did not destroy the pagan shrines, where the people offered sacrifices and burned incense.  He was the one who rebuilt the upper gate of the Temple of the Lord.

* Something done well is not always good

This psalm was written about Doeg the Edomite, who had betrayed Ahimelech and David and then killed God’s priests.  Doeg thought he was a great hero—even boasting about his deed.  In reality, his deed was evil, an offense to God.  It is easy to mistake “accomplishment” for goodness.  Just because something is done well or thoroughly doesn’t mean it is good (for example, someone may be a great gambler or a skillful liar).  Measure all you do by the rule of God’s Word, not by how proficiently you do it. (NLT)

Psalm 52:1 – You call yourself a hero, do you?  Why boast about this crime of yours, you who have disgraced God’s people?

* Determining the quality of your goodness

The Pharisees were exacting and scrupulous in their attempts to follow their laws.  So how could Jesus reasonably call us to greater obedience than theirs?  The Pharisees’ weakness was that they were content to obey the laws outwardly without allowing God to change their hearts (or attitudes).  Jesus was saying, therefore, that the quality of our goodness should be greater than that of the Pharisees.  They looked pious, but they were far from the Kingdom of Heaven.  God judges our heart as well as our deeds, for it is in the heart that our real allegiance lies.  Be just as concerned about your attitudes that people don’t see as about your actions that are seen by all. (NLT)

Matthew 5:20 – [Jesus said] “But I warn you—unless you obey God better than the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees do, you can’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven at all!

* Learning to ask for what is good for us

The children in Jesus’ example asked their father for bread and fish—good and necessary items.  If the children had asked for a poisonous snake, would the wide father have granted the request?  Sometimes God knows we are praying for “snakes” and does not give us what we ask for, even though we persist in our prayers.  As we learn to know God better as a loving Father, we learn to ask for what is good for us, and then he grants it. (NLT)

Matthew 7:9-10 – [Jesus said] “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead?  Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake?  Of course not!”

* Goodness alone won’t bring eternal life

Jesus exposed those people who sounded religious but had no personal relationship with him.  On “judgment day” only our relationship with Christ—our acceptance of him as Savior and our obedience to him—will matter.  Many people think that if they are “good” people and say religious things, they will be rewarded with eternal life.  In reality, faith in Christ is what will count at the judgment. (NLT)

Matthew 7:21-23 – [Jesus said] “Not all people who sound religious are really godly.  They may refer to me as ‘Lord,’ but they still won’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  The decisive issue is whether they obey my Father in heaven.  On judgment day many will tell me, ‘Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’  But I will reply, ‘I never knew you.  Go away; the things you did were unauthorized.’”

* Some may call your good deeds evil

The prince of demons was Satan, also known as Beelzebub and the lord of flies.  The Pharisees accused Jesus of using Satan’s power to drive out demons.  Good is sometimes labeled evil.  If Jesus, who is perfect, was called evil, his followers should expect that similar accusations will be directed at them.  But those who endure will be vindicated. (NLT)

Matthew 10:25 – [Jesus said] “The student shares the teacher’s fate.  The servant shares the master’s fate.  And since I, the master of the household, have been called the prince of demons, how much more will it happen to you, the members of the household!

* Doing good for wrong reasons

Sometimes what we are tempted to do isn’t wrong in itself.  Turning a stone into bread wasn’t necessarily bad.  The sin was not in the act but in the reason behind it.  The Devil was trying to get Jesus to take a shortcut, to solve Jesus’ immediate problem at the expense of his long-0range goals, to seek comfort at the sacrifice of his disciple.  Satan often works that way—persuading us to take action, even right action, for the wrong reason or at the wrong time.  The fact that something is not wrong in itself does not mean that it is good for you at a given time.  Many people sin by attempting to fulfill legitimate desires outside of God’s will or ahead of his timetable.  First ask is the Holy Spirit leading me to do this?  Or is Satan trying to get me off the track? (NLT)

Luke 4:3 – Then the Devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, change this stone into a loaf of bread.”

* -Paul had once commended the church at Ephesus for its love for God and others, but many of the church founders had died, and many of the second-generation believers had lost their zeal for God.  They were a busy church—the members did much to benefit themselves and the community—but they were acting out of the wrong motives.  Work for God must be motivated by love for God, or it will not last.  (NLT)

Revelations 2:4 – [Jesus said] “But I have this complaint against you.  You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!”

* How to live a truly good life

Many people try to be good, honest people who do what is right.  But Jesus says that the only way to live a truly good life is to stay close to him, like a branch attached to the vine.  Apart from Christ our efforts are unfruitful.  Are you receiving the nourishment and life offered by Christ, the vine?  If not, you are missing a special gift he has for you. (NLT)

John 15:5-8 – [Jesus said] “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches.  Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.  For apart from me you can do nothing.  Anyone who parts from me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers.  Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.  But if you stay joined to me and my words remain in you, you may ask any request you like, and it will be granted!  My true disciples produce much fruit.  This brings great glory to my Father.”

* How God works in all things for good

God works in “everything”—not just isolated incidents—for our good.  This does not mean that all that happens to us is good.  Evil is prevalent in our fallen world, but God is able to turn every circumstance around for our long-range good.  Note that God is not working to make us happy but to fulfill his purpose.  Note also that this promise is not for everybody.  It can be claimed only by those who love God and are called by him, that is, those whom the Holy Spirit convinces to receive Christ.  Such people have a new perspective, a new mind-set.  They trust in God, not in worldly treasures; their security is in heaven, not on earth.  Their faith in God does not waver in pain and persecution because they know God is with them. (NLT)

Romans 8:28 – And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

* You may not see fruits of your good efforts

Paul says that because of the resurrection, nothing we do is useless.  Sometimes we become apathetic about serving the Lord because we don’t see any results.  Knowing that Christ has won the ultimate victory should affect the way we live right now.  Don’t let discouragements over an apparent lack of results keep you from doing the work of the Lord enthusiastically as you have opportunity. (NLT)

1 Corinthians 15:58 – So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.

* Being good vs. being godly

The fact that all people, without exception, commit sin proves that without Christ we have a sinful nature.  We are lost in sin and cannot save ourselves.  Does this mean only Christians do good?  Of course not—many people do good to others.  On a relative scale, many are moral, kind, and law abiding.  Comparing these people to criminals, we would say that they are very good indeed.  But on God’s absolute scale, no one is good enough to earn salvation.  Only through being united with Christ’s perfect life can we become good in God’s sight.  “Under God’s anger” refers to those who are to receive God’s wrath because of their rejection of Christ. (NLT)

Ephesians 2:3 – All of us used to live that way, following the passions and desires of our evil nature.  We were born with an evil nature, and we were under God’s anger just like everyone else.

* Learning to see good in midst of evil

Some people see good all around them, while others see nothing but evil.  What is the difference?  Our souls become filters through which we perceive goodness or evil.  The pure (those who have Christ in control of their lives) learn to see goodness and purity even in this evil world.  But corrupt and unbelieving people find evil in everything because their evil minds and hearts color even the good they see and hear.  Whatever you choose to fill your mind with will affect the way you think and act.  Turn your thoughts to God and his Word, and you will discover more and more goodness, even in this evil world.  A mind filled with good has little room for what is evil. (NLT)

Titus 1:15 – Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure.  But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are defiled.

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