Grateful for the Goodness of God

Bad things happen in the world, don’t they? But here we are at a time in the year when everyone in our country is somehow aware of the need to be thankful. But thankful for what? Thankful to whom? Let us be very clear about something. We should be thankful to God for all that he does, for all that he gives, and for all that he allows into our lives. God is completely and continually good. Let me remind you then to consider what James 1:16-17 tells us about the goodness of God so that you will be grateful.

Stop questioning God.

Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. (Jam 1:16)

We all have this tendency, don’t we? We question God about a lot of things, and our questions are not just coming from curiosity about the world. They are coming from a rotten sort of unbelief that either fails or refuses to acknowledge God as God and to acknowledge God as being perfectly good.

Notice this tendency and reject it.

That is what James is saying here, in very simple terms. He is saying,

  • “Don’t make this grave mistake!”
  • “Don’t think these wrong thoughts, or arrive at these misguided conclusions!”

The idea that God is not good, or that God does things that are not good – it is wrong, very wrong. There is no truth in it whatsoever. Another preacher, Kent Hughes, says this.

The human tendency [is] to imagine when things go wrong that God is not good, and even sometimes to say it! Perhaps all of us have had such thoughts at one time or another. Let’s face it—we sometimes think evil of God when tragedy comes to those we love, when we have been fired or have undergone a divorce, or as we observe the dominating presence of evil in human life. Honesty with ourselves reveals that questioning God’s goodness is endemic to the human condition.

The question “why God?” easily degenerates into actually blaming God. Sometimes we blame God quietly, in our hearts, harboring resentment towards him in private. Other times we verbalize these thoughts and say them out loud. In either case, James makes one thing very clear. Don’t ever blame God for the evil you encounter in life.

What evil do you encounter in this world? What mistreatment? What persecution? What hardships due to the fall of man? What difficulties due to the problem of sin? Know this for a fact – that God is good. We see hints of this in this verse.

God loves you.

For the first time in this letter, James calls his audience “beloved.” Why does he wait until now? Why not at the beginning of the letter? Perhaps it is because the truth of being beloved is most powerful when it is mentioned in contrast with the evil in the world and the goodness of God.

Perhaps you have experienced terrible things in your life. Perhaps these things have been the result of sinful choices of your own, or perhaps they are the result of terrible things done too you. Whatever the case, it is possible that the guilt, grief, or sorrow that you feel has convinced you somehow that God does not care – that he does not love you. But here is the fact – he does.

In fact, God suffered the consequences of evil for you, on your behalf. He took the full force of evil on himself when he allowed Himself to be crucified for you, and to die.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8)

You need to direct your thoughts towards the incredible, sacrificial, amazing love that God has shown and continues to show to you through Jesus Christ as you walk through the evil that is operating in this world. Remember the love of God for you. Direct your heart in that direction.

Believe that God is good.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. (Jam 1:17)

What does the word “good” mean? It means that something or someone is excellent or kind. If it is an object or thing that is good, then that thing has qualities and characteristics that are excellent and exactly appropriate and right. If it is a person, then that person behaves in a kind manner – doing what is noble and for the benefit of others – and behaves in an excellent, kind and noble way. Goodness is being virtuous – having all the good virtues and none of the bad ones.

Any person – yourself or anyone else – can only mimic goodness in a very limited degree.

  • There is none that doeth good. (Psa. 14:1)
  • There is none that doeth good. (Psa. 53:1)
  • There is none that doeth good, no not one. (Psa. 14:3).
  • There is none that doeth good, no not one. (Psa. 53:3)

You see, we fail to be thankful to God when we fail to realize that we need him for everything. We somehow think that we are somehow good, at least in some ways. We somehow think that we somehow deserve to be treated in good ways and given good things. But we deserve nothing good, and yet God gives us his goodness all the time in all kinds of ways.

God is the source of every good thing.

Here’s the fact. If something is good, God has something to do with it.

Everything God does is good.

The phrase here is, “every good gift.” It means, “every good act of giving.” When God acts, he acts in a good way. He is not like Hollywood actors and actresses who star in a different role every year. One year as a protagonist, and another as an antagonist. One year as the good guy, and the next year as the villain of the story. No – not God. God is always good. God only behaves in an excellent, virtuous, noble, kind, and perfect way. Always. And…

Everything God gives is good.

Not only does God act in a good way at all times – he always gives good things. The phrase here is “every perfect gift.” This means that whenever God does something, it is always good, and it always results in good outcomes. The ending is always good.

And consider then what Paul tells the believers in Rome…

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Rom 8:28)

Perhaps you needed this fresh reminder tonight. Do you believe that God always behave in the most excellent, virtuous way? And that everything he does is perfect and complete, accomplishing what is entirely good, no matter how much evil you encounter in the world? God is always there, doing what is good – whether you see it or not – and will always bring things to their good and right conclusion – every single time.

Can you point to anything in your life that has challenged your perspective about the goodness of God? Some of us have faced some pretty serious trials in our lives. And we’ve been tempted to lower our view of God’s goodness. We know that he is good, and we wouldn’t overtly deny that. But in our quiet thoughts, we’ve somehow settled for a view of God’s goodness that is not constant and complete – always good, all the time.

James is telling us that just as the good and complete God gives us only good and complete gifts, so he also desires that His new creations be good and complete persons! James gives one interesting example from nature as a perpetual reminder of the goodness of our God.

God gave you the stars!

What? What does this have to do with anything we’re talking about? James reminds us that our God is “the Father of lights.” This phrase means that your God made the sun, moon, and stars!

Think about it. Your God made the stars – for you! The life you know here on this earth may be handing you many difficult and terrible things. But when you’re feeling down in the dumps, look up. Look up at night, in the darkest of nights – and see the stars. God is so good that he gave them to you! You can buy all kinds of lighting products in the hardware store – but you have the stars at your disposal at no cost whatsoever! They’re cheaper than any lights or projectors you can buy to light up your home this Christmas. In fact, they’re free! And they’re so much more amazing.

And friends – if God made all of these massive, incredible stars – for you – then think about it. Why in the world would he harm you? How could he forget you? How could he have anything to do with evil in your life?

God is entirely trustworthy.

James continues to use terms that refer to astronomy here in verse 17 to describe the goodness of God. He reminds us that God is …

God is always present.

“With whom is no variableness”

This means that His goodness is steady, like sunlight that never goes away. In this world, clouds and particles of dust, our own spinning Earth, and sometimes even our moon block or alter the sunlight that we enjoy here. But this is not so with God. The goodness of God is always brilliant. It is always intense. It is always at full brightness. By saying this, James is reinforcing the fact that God’s goodness is always present and in full force. Friends come and go. Your high-school friends. Where are they today? Your elementary school friends. Your preschool friends? Your college friends? Presidents come and go. Bosses come and go. Neighbors come and go. People come and go and come and go. But not God. he is always there, just as completely and loyally as ever. And he is …

God never changes.

“With whom is no shadow of turning”

Again, James uses an astronomical illustration to emphasize his point. We have lamps and light fixtures in our houses because the solar system is always moving. Our Earth spins on its axis, like a basketball spinning on a fingertip. And the Earth also revolves around the Sun. Other planets spin and revolve around the sun. All of this generates shifting light patterns on the Earth. In the morning, we turn certain lights on in our house because of the shadows. In the evening, we turn other lights on because of new shadows.

It is not like this with God. 1 John 1:15 affirms this.

“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

God is not good sometimes, and not others. He is not good in varying degrees – sometimes a little, and other times a lot. No – he is always good, completely good, all the time. Nothing that happens in this life can alter the goodness of God. And nothing can alter His love for you – no how much evil you encounter.

Here is some encouraging truth from Romans 8:37-39:

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

That is good news indeed. God is good, all the time – even when you are not, and even when the things that are happening in the world are not. And all of this should make you thankful to God for every good thing in your life, and most of all for God himself, who is always good.

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