Remember God’s Goodness – Jan 20, 2023

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (v. 17). The change in subject seems abrupt, but the flow of thought is clear. We must not blame God for our temptations because evil desire leads to sin that leads to death (vv. 13–15). Twice James warns us not to blame God for our problems. When we sin, we have only ourselves to blame.

Everything good comes from God

Verse 17 sets up a contrast. Everything good in this world ultimately comes from God. If it’s good, God made it, He gave it, or He sent it. The familiar words of the Doxology state this very plainly: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” I wonder if we really believe that. Not long ago I asked a friend how he was doing. He laughed and said, “I’m upright and taking nourishment.” I laughed with him. But do we realize that “in Him (that is, God) we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28)? Do we understand that we are alive right now because God wants us alive? We breathe because He gives us air to breathe and lungs to take it in. If God withdrew His hand of blessing, not one of us would take another breath. We see and hear and move and think and laugh and clap and dream and cry all because of God. I suppose we all know that, but rarely do we think of it. Rarely do we stop to give thanks for the blessing of life itself. 

Linger at the foot of the cross

If you can read my words, you must be alive. If you are alive, it is a gift from God. If God has given you the gift of life, will you not give thanks to Him? We ought to ponder Paul’s question in 1 Corinthians 4:7, “What do you have that you did not receive?” Do you boast of your wealth or your fame or your talent or your accomplishments? Do you think your good looks owe only to your DNA? Who gave you your talent, your strength, your creativity, your ingenuity? Who gave you the blessings you take for granted?

The Gentle Rain from Heaven

James emphasizes this when he says that every good gift “comes down” from the Father of lights. William Shakespeare reminds us of that

“The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven.”

These famous lines from The Merchant of Venice are true in every way. Mercy always comes down. It starts with God and moves to man.  It begins in heaven and ends on earth. You don’t bargain for mercy because to make a bargain you’ve got to have something to offer, and we have nothing to offer God. Mercy is indeed like the gentle rain that softens the hard soil of the human heart.

We are alive because God wants us to be alive

We need this because we are sinners worse than we know. Even the best Christian would have no hope of heaven without the shining mercy of God. If God did not forgive and keep on forgiving, if he did not continue to pour out his mercy like the “gentle rain from heaven,” we would be utterly and completely lost. What kind of God do we serve? He’s completely good. He’s constantly good. He’s unchangeably good.

God will never not be good

God will never not be good.God could never be less than good. Everything He does is good.

“I am a witness”

I’m sure you’ve been in churches where they do the call-and-response that goes like this: 

Preacher: God is good.

Congregation: All the time.

Preacher: And all the time.

Congregation. God is good.

When I mentioned this in a sermon, someone told me their church does that in a slightly different way. They say it in five parts, one for each finger on their right hand. It goes like this:

In every situation, no matter what

God is good. All the time. In every situation. No matter what. God is good. You should hold up your right hand and say that right now, touching each finger in turn. Once you do it, it will stick in your mind. When I mentioned the basic call-and-response in a written sermon a few years ago, someone in Nigeria wrote back and said that in their churches, after saying “God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good,” the congregation says in unison, “I am a witness.”

“I am a witness”

That’s really good because it brings the truth home. It’s one thing to say “God is good” as an abstract statement, almost like a theological cheer for the home team. It’s even better if you think about those other statements, “In every situation” and “No matter what.” But best of all is to make it personal by adding, “I am a witness.” Sometimes it’s hard to say. Even when we think we know what will happen tomorrow, life can turn on a dime. No one knows what a day may bring forth. That’s a solemn fact. Life is not just one thing. It’s good and bad, sickness and health, weeping and rejoicing, life and death, war and peace, all mixed together. That’s why we need a God in whom there is no shadow of turning. He is the still point in our changing world. He is not good today and bad tomorrow. He does not capriciously change his mind and decide to be kind today and harsh tomorrow.We are like that. God is not. When you are tempted to give up, remember the goodness of God. When you feel like giving in to temptation, remember the goodness of God. When you want to resign from life, remember the goodness of God.

Excerpt from a longer piece written in the 90’s by R. Prichard; and missionary/pastor. I, PS, edited out some dated references

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