THAT'S GOOD! (part three)
God is good and we are not unless we become born again through Christ. Once we become Christians we need to discern what is good and then once we know what is good we need to do what is good. Today we'll look at some responses we need to have to goodness.
1) We need to respond to goodness with good.
The bible talks about repaying good with evil. Cain and Abel. Abel's actions were righteous but Cain was jealous, so he killed him. He responded to Abel's goodness with evil. Jesus dealt with that too. Jesus was good but the Pharisees hated him. They dealt with Jesus' goodness by having him tortured and killed. David dealt with people returning evil for good.
Psalm 38:19-20, "Many are those who are my vigorous enemies; those who hate me without reason are numerous. Those who repay my good with evil slander me when I pursue what is good."
Have you ever been in this position? People hating you without any good reason? You pursue what is good and people are antagonistic toward you because of it? David not only dealt with that in general, but even with those who were his so-called friends.
Psalm 109:1-5, "O God, whom I praise, do not remain silent, for wicked and deceitful men have opened their mouths against me; they have spoken against me with lying tongues. With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause. In return for my friendship they accuse me, but I am a man of prayer. They repay me evil for good, and hatred for my friendship."
Have you ever been betrayed by a friend? Maybe they stole your boyfriend or spread nasty rumors about you. Perhaps they turned on you or they abandoned you when you needed them most. David asked God to do something about it.
He said he was a man of prayer. That needs to be our response. Go to God in prayer and ask him to handle it. That doesn't mean we don't confront the situation but as far as lashing out or getting even, we need to restrain ourselves and let God deal with it.
There are times when we do something good and it isn't appreciated or worse-it gets paid back with evil. They may accuse us of having an ulterior motive or maybe they take advantage of our goodness; they deceive and manipulate us to get more.
This can also happen when someone is generous and in response the recipient takes more when he isn't looking. That's a greedy response to someone's generosity. That's how people can be toward God. He blesses us with good things but maybe we don't have the good response we should.
Luke 12:15-21, "Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
This man was given goodness from God but instead of doing good with it he only thought of himself. When the Lord blesses us with good things how do we repay him? Do we honor him by helping others or are we selfish and keep it all to ourselves?
When someone doesn't appreciate our goodness or if they return evil for good we will be tempted to lash out and return evil for their evil. That's a hard thing to resist doing. It's one thing to return good for good or to not return evil for evil but the harder thing to do is to return good for evil.
To respond with goodness when someone does something bad to us takes a lot of humility, strength and love. The golden rule is to do to others as you would like them to do to us.
Isn't that what grace is? Mercy is not treating someone as their actions deserve. I might be allowed compensation but being merciful means I choose to forego what is owed to me. Grace goes a step further. In grace I actually respond to your evil by doing something good to you.
That's what God did for us when we were born again. We sinned-we did evil; but through Jesus, not only were we not treated as our actions deserved, we received forgiveness, the Holy Spirit and eternal life. And how does God want us to respond to that goodness?
Rom. 12:17-21, "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
This is one of the greatest ways we can let our light shine. To do this is not natural. This doesn't mean we become a doormat or stay in abusive situations, but we choose to not respond in the flesh when someone wrongs us. Instead, we go the extra mile and actually bless the ones who chose to take advantage of our goodness toward them.
Burning coals-kill 'em with kindness. But not for the purpose of showing them up but to win them over. They might be our enemy but do we want them to spend eternity in hell? Do we want to turn our enemy into our brother or sister in Christ? Is that what God would want? He wishes that none would perish. Do we feel that way too?
I try to be that way when people have lashed out at me; sometimes repeatedly. I respond by not treating them as they treated me but to forgive and be willing to bless them when they needed help. It hasn't been easy. There were times I didn't keep my cool; there were times I chose not to bless. But I've understood that the best way to overcome evil is with goodness.
So we not only need to make sure we respond to goodness with good, we also need to do the harder thing-respond to evil with good. John Wesley said, "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can."
2) We need to seek the good of others.
1st Cor. 10:24, "Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others." Paul is saying we should not think merely of what is good for ourselves but we need to be concerned about what's good for others too. It's important for us to be focused on our own goodness but not if it causes us to neglect others. We need to get outside of ourselves; we need to look out for each other.
Rom. 15:1-2, "We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up."
We don't look down on those who are struggling, we help them up and inspire them to do good. We come alongside of them and encourage them to stay with it. We offer to help where we can. We can't do everything for them but we help to convince them that they can do it.
Part of seeking the good of others is in inspiring them to do good. Heb. 10:24-25, "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
Sometimes people need a little spurring. That doesn't feel good, but it is good. Sometimes the good we need doesn't feel good at the time. Later in Hebrews it says God disciplines us for our good. It's not pleasant but it is for our good. So, although spurring is intended for the good of others they might not think so at the time.
But we do this because we care. Perhaps they're feeling discouraged and they start to detach from continuing to do good. We need to care about that and lovingly speak into their lives if we notice a change.
And we see in vs. 25 the importance of community. It's good to be around other believers. It's not good to isolate from the church. Right from the very beginning God declared that it wasn't good to be alone.
Gen. 2:18, "The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” So God creates Adam and declares it is not good for him to be alone. Why? One obvious reason is that unless a woman was created he would forever be alone. Therefore, God saw that is was good for people to procreate and make more people.
God said he was making a suitable helper for Adam. Adam's need wasn't just someone to make babies with, but someone to help him. Help him with what? The work of running the planet plus companionship. It's interesting that although Adam was perfect he still had needs. Having needs doesn't mean we're weak; it's how we are made. People are made to be in fellowship.
Some people take this verse to mean everyone needs to be married but I don't see that. In 1st Cor. 7 Paul mentioned a difficulty in marriage in that a married person has to balance doing God's work while maintaining a family life whereas the single person doesn't have to deal with that. Paul didn't say marriage was a bad thing-how could it be-God commissioned it-he was just pointing out the obvious difficulties it can present. Marriage is good but singleness is good too.
But in regards to it not being good for man to be alone-we need companionship; we need friendship. We're not meant to fly solo; we're not meant to be hermits. I know some people who prefer to be by themselves and there are a select few who spend the bulk of their time alone without much struggle. But most of us have the desire to be around people at least some of the time.
We like to have someone to share our thoughts and ideas with. We like to have someone to do things with. It's more fun to go to events with another person; things like that. And, as Eve was Adam's helper, we need help too. Some things we can do on our own but we can't do everything by ourselves; that's why God gave different gifts to different people; we were all meant to function together.
But even regarding what we can do; it doesn't mean we need to do it all; we need to share the load or else we will burn out. Moses' father in law, Jethro, told him to appoint leaders to help him with his caseload or else he would burn himself out.
Exodus 18:13-18, "The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”
Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and laws.” Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone."
If you read on you'll see that Moses took Jethro's advice and appointed qualified men to help him out. Jethro saw that the work Moses was doing was good, but doing it alone was not good. He needed help. God has designed the church to operate as a body. One person or a few people are not meant to do it all.
Each member plays an important role in order for the church to function and thrive. God has equipped his people with different gifts and abilities. Collectively, we all need to work together to accomplish God's plans. God made us to need help; that keeps us humble. We need to admit when we need the help of another person. It's not weak to ask for help; it's actually a show of strength.
Two are better than one. Ecc. 4:9-10, "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!"
Two get a better return for their work because two heads are better than one. You may have ideas or strategies that I wasn't thinking of and so together we come up with a better plan that yields a better return. Pity the person who needs help but has no help; whether the need is physical or spiritual.
Pity the one who has no one to encourage or motivate them; no one who believes in them-no one to simply be there for them. Two are better than one. We need to ask for help when we need it and we need to be proactive in looking to help others.
As Paul said in Phil. 2:4, "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." We need to get outside of ourselves and care about how the other person is doing. We need to take care of ourselves but we need to help take care of others too. We're all in this together. Seeking the good of others shows that we're not just focused on our ourselves-and that's good.