Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunday Challenge - Dare to Believe in the Goodness of God

This week's challenge is perhaps one of the most difficult things that all people of faith grapple with, but as much as we have struggled with if we want to post this, we feel bound to do so.

Our challenge to all people of faith this week is to dare to believe that God is good.

Seems simple, but few people actually believe that God is good. For those of us who believe that there is a god, the greatness of God is rarely questioned despite our specific religious faith, but the goodness of God is often secretly, unconsciously doubted because we believe God's goodness is based on our circumstances, or the conditions we find ourselves coping with.

As we waited to hear for news regarding Tim Tebow's condition last Saturday night, this Facebook post caught our attention. First, because it was a relief that Tebow was going to be okay, but then the second part stopped us cold:

"Timmy's going to be alright...Thanks for all your prayers and keep praying...God is still good!"

If Timmy wasn't going to be okay, then would God have not still been good?

We'd like you to consider the following statements:

God is good...if Tim Tebow was never injured.

God is good...if Tim Tebow, and the Gators, go undefeated, win another National Championship, and Tim a second Heisman.

God is good...if Tim Tebow and the Gators don't win again.

God is good...if Tim Tebow was injured and plays later this season.

God is good...if Tim Tebow was injured and never plays football again.

God is good...if Tim Tebow had been rendered a quadriplegic.

God is good...if Tim Tebow had died on the field and had gone to meet his Maker and Savior.

God isn't "still" good. God is, and God is good.

It seems very simple, but very few of us actually believe it. Regardless of our faith. Disappointments accumulate over time, and slowly doubt creeps in and takes root. We ask ourselves, "doesn't God care?" "why would He let this happen?" and so on.

It is easy to thank God for his goodness when all goes well, but what about when everything is going wrong? We also tend to think that "good people" don't have the same trials and sufferings as the rest of us, because they are after all "good" people. But even the greatest men in the Bible doubted the goodness of God because of their circumstances. John the Baptist, isolated and unjustly suffering in prison, questioned if Jesus was the one.

Matthew 11:1-6

When Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He departed from there to teach and preach in their cities. Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.

Other translations state it this way, "blessed is he who does not take offense at how I do things" while others translate verse 6 as "Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."

And if you don't believe that even the greatest doubt, in verse 11 Jesus follows with this:
11 “Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist!

Every great man and woman in the Bible endured suffering. Their suffering was not an indication of God's disfavor, but his favor. We associate God's goodness with everything going well, with victory, and not defeat. But consider a few of these verses.

David, a man after God's own heart
Psalm 119:71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.

Job, who lost all of his children, possessions, and health
Job 2:10 "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

Job 13:15 Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him:

Queen Esther, deciding between her own safety and the annihilation of her people
Esther 4:16 If I die, I die.

Joseph, after being sold into slavery by his brothers and languishing in prison for 13+ years
Genesis 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

The Three Hebrew boys, before being sent to their deaths
Daniel 3: 17-18 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Just as the sun rises and sets on us all, we are all going to experience suffering. As a Christian you have to come to terms with that not only did God allow your suffering, He may even have sent it your way. When this happens, you really only have two choices; become offended and doubt the goodness and sovereignty of God, or accept what has been given to us, regardless of whether it is good or bad. As small consolation as it may seem in the midst of a trial, your suffering is for a greater purpose and good.

It is a favorite verse, but often we don't consider the flip side of I Thess 5:18, "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

All includes good and bad. Again, believing in the goodness of God may be the most difficult thing you may have to do as a person of faith. But consider this, Jesus was tempted in the desert by Satan after fasting for 40 days. There is no mention of his anguish or distress in his temptation by the devil. But it was Jesus' wrestling with God's will for him in the garden at Gethsemane that caused him the most anguish and sorrow.

Mark 14:32-35

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.

Your greatest trial might not be wrestling the devil and your temptations, but with accepting the will of God. In both the account of the Hebrew boys, and Jesus in the garden, both acknowledge that God is able to make circumstances change. Sometimes God lets us go through it instead of rescuing us from it.

Whatever lay before us all, we again challenge you to dare to believe in the goodness of God, and not fall away because of how God chooses to do things.

If you're struggling through something now, click here and hopefully it will encourage you to soldier on to a better day.

Photo: Getty Images
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