I have thought about this truth a lot this week. I was reminded how central this thought, about the goodness of God, is to the Christian faith and to Spiritual transformation. I know this well in my head. I often experience it in my heart. But I find I it so easy to allow anxiety and the “cares of the world” to choke out my solid resolve that God is good no matter what. So what happens? I complain. I worry. I compare my life to others. I forget all that God has provided and done for me and focus on what I think I’m missing.
In Deuteronomy 11, God told His people that if they loved Him with all their hearts and obeyed His commands, He would provide rain for their harvests. If they did not look to Him as their Source, the rain would stop. As they moved into the Promised Land, the Israelites believed God (Yahweh) was the God of the “big stuff” like rescue from Egypt and conquering enemies. The everyday stuff, however, was less obvious and so Baal worship entered the scene. During the time of Elijah, the people of Israel had a terrible habit of worshipping Baal, a pagan god of rain and harvest, trusting their own ability to please a false deity rather than obeying the God of their fathers. And so, when Elijah prayed for God to stop the rain, he was asking God to follow through with what was already stated: that if they turn and follow other gods, then Yahweh would “shut up the heavens so that there would be no rain” (Deuteronomy 11:17).
I don’t worship Baal, but I do tend to rely on my own abilities to survive. I don’t pray to anyone but God, but I sometimes act as if I can wield His power in my own life. I sometimes believe I needs His attributes (like strength or wisdom) when really all I need is Him. The attributes come as part of the package. And rather than trying to figure out how to work the system or manipulate the formulas, the Christian life is built on God’s goodness. God doesn’t HAVE to save us, He WANTS to save us! He is FOR us. Baal and my own abilities eventually fail every time. God’s goodness is the bedrock foundation of hope and trust.
No wonder Hebrews 11:6 tells us it is impossible to please God without faith. Faith requires a trust in God’s goodness as a starting point. So how do we build this kind of faith? How do we grow in this understanding and move from our heads to our hearts? Here’s some ideas:
We ask God to strengthen our heart faith in Him. Like the man in Mark 9 who exclaimed to Jesus, “I believe. Help my unbelief!” Only God can strengthen us. So we start by asking.
We meditate on God’s goodness as revealed in the life of Jesus and His Word. Find the passages of the Bible that reveal God’s amazing goodness and read them slowly, allowing them to soak in.
We can remind ourselves of the truth of the Gospel. Hebrews 2:1 says that we need to pay close attention to what we have heard so we don’t drift away from it. We need to find creative ways to keep the Good News fresh and not allow it to atrophy into a language that lessens its impact. Yes, Jesus died for our sins. But what does that mean to us now? How did that change things for you this morning? At work yesterday?
I hope your New Year is going well. Thank you for listening to me ramble. I hope my little ponderings bring some sense of encouragement to you.