I want us to begin this morning by talking about produce goodness. And let’s start with watermelons. How do you know if a WATERMELON is good? Well, first you pick it up. If it’s good—if it’s ripe—it should feel heavy for its size. You may have to compare a few of the same size—but the heavier, the better. You should also give it a tap. A good watermelon—a ripe one—will have a slightly hollow sound.
It’s the same kind of sound you get when you tap my head.
Finally, look for a yellow area. All watermelons have them. They develop a sort of splotch where they rest on the ground. When that splotch is a creamy yellow—it’s ripe—it’s GOOD. You can eat it.
Okay—moving on down the produce aisle—how do you know if a PEACH is good? First, look at the color. And don’t be deceived by a RED peach. I mean we think red means good—ripe—and that might hold true for some apples but not peaches. I learned this week that breeders have bred the color red into a lot of peaches because they know it helps sell the fruit to all us “red-color lovers.” No—the way to tell a peach is good is to look for the color yellow.
A really good peach has a deep golden yellow color. Another way to tell if it’s good is to touch it. Good peaches are soft. Give the peach a firm squeeze—not enough to bruise it of course—if it has a little give, that means it’s ALMOST good. Buy it. Take it home and leave it on the kitchen counter a few days until it’s very soft and it will be ready for that first wonderful slurpy bite.
But the best way to tell if a peach is good is its skin texture. You see, good peaches have signs of shriveled skin around the stem. When you see wrinkles, that means it’s not just a good peach—it’s an excellent peach. This is because water evaporates from fruit once it has been picked. The wrinkles mean the peach is drying which intensifies the flavors. Okay, you’re set for watermelons and peaches.
What about pineapples? How do you know when a PINEAPPLE is good? Simple. You smell the stem-end of the fruit to see if it smells sweet. If it does, it’s good to go. You can also squeeze the pineapple to feel how firm it is. Good pineapples—ripe pineapples—will give slightly under your fingers when you press down.
Okay—that’s enough about “produce goodness.” If you’re wondering why I mentioned it—I did to get you in the mood to deal with ANOTHER “goodness question.” And here it is.
How do we know GOD is good?
Now, this is an old question—people have been asking it since the very beginning.
- I mean, Adam and Eve asked it—if not with their mouths, with their actions. What they did in response to the Serpent’s temptation shows that they questioned God’s goodness.
- Job asked this question when he was going through his time of trials.
- David’s wondering about God’s goodness led him to write tons of psalms on the subject.
So—what about it? Is God good? If so—how do we know?
First let’s define this particular attribute of God. I mean, what are we talking about when we refer to His GOODNESS? Here’s how A. W. Tozer defines it. He says that God’s goodness: “…is that which disposes Him to be kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men.” It’s what makes Him, “…tenderhearted and of quick sympathy.” The goodness of God is what makes Him, “…inclined to bestow blessedness and take holy pleasure in the happiness of His people.”
Tozer goes on to point out that, like all His attributes, God’s goodness is infinite and unchangeable. He says, “God is never more good than He now is, nor will He ever be less good. Plus, He’s not good to some people and bad to others. He’s not good because of us or the things we do. The cause of God’s goodness is Himself. His goodness means He cannot feel indifferent about anything. People are indifferent but not God. His goodness also means He cannot love sin.”
I’m sure the Bible is the inspiration for Tozer’s writings because it says over and over and over again that God is good. Here are a few examples: Psalm 34:8 says, “Oh taste and see that the Lord is GOOD!” In Mark 10 Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone.” James 1 says that “Every GOOD and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, Who does not change like shifting shadows.” And then, in Exodus 34 when Moses asked God to show him His glory, God said, “I will cause My GOODNESS to pass in front of you.”
In other words, as I told you a few months back, the most glorious thing about God is His goodness. BUT—back to our question—HOW DO WE KNOW GOD IS GOOD? How do we know the Bible is right when it says this? Well, unlike determining the goodness of produce—determining Gods’ goodness is not about smelling or touching—it’s about LOOKING.
(1) For example, we can know God is good by just looking AROUND.
I mean, evidence of God’s goodness is literally everywhere you look. All of nature displays this attribute of God, because, as 1st Timothy 4 says, “Everything God created is good.”
Think of it. Would a BAD Creator give us the beauty of sunsets and sunrises, and flowers, and trees? Would a BAD creator make glorious star formations? Would a BAD creator make fish in infinite variety? Would a BAD creator make babies?
Would a BAD creator make rain, and rivers and gentle breezes? Of course not. So—LOOK AROUND. You can’t miss it. God’s goodness is all over the place.
You know those beautiful nature scenes that pop up when you first turn on your computer?
I’m talking about the “wall-paper” that comes with your laptop—pictures like these? Well DELL, and HP and APPLE and Toshiba and Lenovo didn’t MAKE those scenes. GOD DID.
Those are PICTURES of the goodness of God that is all around us.
I know school just started and you’re already missing your summer vacations so to help with that. Let’s all go back to those vacations for a moment in our minds. How many of you love to go back to the ocean for vacation? You went there this year because you think the ocean is a good thing—a beautiful thing? How many of you love the mountains? You go there on vacation because you think they’re a good thing—a beautiful thing?
Well, God made both the oceans and the mountains—all of them! Psalm 95:4-5 says, “In His hands are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him. The sea is His, for He made it.”
Let’s talk about animals for a moment. How many cat lovers do we have here? You think cats are a good thing? How many of you are dog lovers? You think dogs are good? How many of you just plain love animals—everything from puppies to porpoises? Let’s move into the insect world. Other than David McGaffin, how many of you are fascinated by crickets and spiders—bugs don’t bug you? Well, God made everything I just mentioned! Job 12 says, “Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”
Psalm 145 says, “The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made.” Look on the screen at that last line again—The Lord is good to all—He has compassion on ALL He has made. This means there is nowhere in all creation that you can go and get away from God’s goodness. To prove that, let’s forget the fauna for a moment and look for proof of God’s goodness in the flora.
In his book Star Struck, Christian astronomer Dr. David H. Bradstreet writes: “Our planet is home to some 10 to 14 million species of living things—but let’s consider just plants. A recent column in the New York Times hailed them for being ‘as close to biological miracles as a scientist could dare admit.’ After all, they allow us to eat sunlight—and plants also produce oxygen, build topsoil and hold it in place, prevent floods, sequester carbon dioxide—buffer extreme weather and clean our water.’ Or consider the way God has made life thrive even in the deepest and darkest regions of the ocean floor, where no sunshine ever permeates the gloom. Strange plants grow 20,000 feet below the surface, surviving on chemical nutrients emerging from vents in the ocean floor.”
I mean, no matter where we look, we can see the mind-blowing GOODNESS of creation. Only a GOOD God would create beauty of this type—caliber—extent. Looking around is what inspired the words to this hymn. Sing it with me:
“For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies, for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies; Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.
For the beauty of each hour of the day and of the night, hill and vale, and tree and flower,
sun and moon, and stars of light; Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.”
(2) We can also see God’s goodness by looking BACK
I mean, all you need do to see that God is good is rewind your life and review all the ways that God—in His goodness—has helped you. Psalm 107 begins, “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good…” And then it goes on to share examples of God’s goodness. King David wrote this psalm and he has obviously LOOKED BACK and seen God’s goodness in the ways He has come to the aid of His people. I tell you what—I’ll share something David mentions in his look back and you respond with this phrase: “Because He is good!”
Ready? Here we go. David says:
“God has redeemed His people from the hands of their adversaries!”
Because He is good.
“When God’s people were lost He led them to safety!”
Because He is good.
“He satisfied the thirsty soul with good things!”
Because He is good
“When they cried out in their distresses and God saved His people!”
Because He is good.
“When they were at sea in storms, they cried out and He saved them!”
Because He is good.
“He blessed them with bountiful harvests and growing herds of cattle!”
Because He is good.
If you think for a moment you could write your own “look back Psalm.” Mine would go something like this:
“God gave me great parents” — BECAUSE HE IS GOOD!
“God provided me with a home” — BECAUSE HE IS GOOD!
“God has filled my pantry and fridge with food. I’ve never gone hungry.” — BECAUSE HE IS GOOD!
“God healed me of cancer.”— BECAUSE HE IS GOOD.
You probably think I’m going to mention my grandkids—but I’m not. I’m not going to tell you how wonderful they are—but it goes without saying that THEY are proof that GOD IS GOOD!
Does anyone else want to testify? Would anyone else like to share some way you can look back and see that God has been good to you—some way He came to your rescue? “God gave me….SHOUT IT OUT! AMEN. If we look back we’d have to be blind to say we don’t see evidence of God’s goodness. All you have to do to see it is to look back.
One of my favorite movies is the African Queen. It tells the story of Charlie Allnut, a hard-drinker who runs a small steamboat through the shallow rivers of East Africa in the early 1900s bringing dynamite, gin, supplies—and tools to European miners. He also carries the mail to Rosie who is a missionary. When WWI breaks out and the Germans burn Rosie’s home and church, she and Charlie flee in his little steam boat: The African Queen. Their destination is a large lake downriver where they hope to do their part in the Allied war effort by blowing up a German destroyer. They rig the African Queen with torpedoes that stick out of her bow. The idea is to ram the destroyer. Well, as they head down river they face one danger after another. Swarms of insects attack. They pass a German-held fort and are fired on. Bullets whiz by them. They go through terrifying rapids. And—with a lot of moxie they survive all these tests, but then the river splits into a hundred streams—and The African Queen bogs down in a marsh. With no current to push them along and not enough water for the engine to be effective—Charlie and Rosie use poles to push the boat forward, and eventually Charlie has to wade the shallows pulling the boat by a rope. Charlie gets leeches on his back and arms, but he grimly plods on—and soon Rosie herself slogs though the marsh hacking a path with a machete—while Charlie pulls. But in spite of their efforts, eventually they come to the end of their strength. The boat is stuck on a mud flat, and Charlie is exhausted and feverish. He says, “Rosie, you want to know the truth, don’t you? Even if we had all our strength, we’d never get the boat off this mud. We’re finished.” She responds simply, “I know it,” and they resign themselves to death in that marsh. As Charlie drifts to sleep, Rosie prays a simple prayer of resignation, “God, we’ve come to the end of our journey. In a little while we will stand before You. Open the doors of Heaven for Charlie and me.”
And then, the camera draws back slowly to reveal what the couple cannot see because of the reeds—the African Queen is less than 100 yards from the shining lake. Then the camera pans out and transports us far upstream to the headwaters of the river. A torrential rainstorm starts—sending animals scurrying for cover. As the camera moves we see how the rains have turned the rapids that the African Queen braved into cataracts. Then down on the mudflat where The African Queen is stuck a small channel begins to run through the reeds. The channel swells, gently lifting the Queen off the mudflat, and carrying it to the lake. Charlie and Rosie wake to the gentle rocking of the boat and a refreshing breeze. This part of the movie shows how a literal look back (or back upstream) reveals God’s goodness—His intervention. It also reminds us that many times we don’t experience—we don’t see the goodness of God until we admit our need for His good help.
So—to see the goodness of God—look around—look back—and then:
(3) LOOK IN
Look at yourself—examine your character—and you’ll see that God is able to use even the bad that He has allowed to come your way—-for your good. A look within will help us see that what Paul says is true. Our good God works, “…in all things for our good—even BAD things.”
As most of you know, when Joni Eareckson Tada was a teen she broke her neck in a diving accident in 1967. She dove into the Chesapeake not too far from here—misjudging the depth of the water—and became a quadriplegic as a result. She shares:
“I have learned that all things fit together into a pattern for my good and God’s glory. That doesn’t mean being famous. It doesn’t mean being a best-selling author, people knowing me. It simply means becoming like Christ.”
Joni goes on to share how her accident over 50 years ago has helped that happen.
“This wheelchair has made muscular my faith. I can believe God more now than I did before the accident. Suffering has done a job on my character. I’m not so sloppy about relationships. I stick to promises. I’m more patient. Being paralyzed has made Heaven come alive. Not in a cop out way, but in a way that makes me want to live life better here on earth because I know full well more is coming in the next. My thought life sure has been jerked right side up because I can’t reach for the common temptations most people do. My suffering has made me a lot more sensitive to people who are hurting. I could not have cared less about quadriplegics like me before my accident, but I’m more sensitive now.”
Well, you don’t have to be a quadriplegic to be able to LOOK IN and see how God has taken the bad that comes to all of us in this life—and used it for your good. As St. Augustine says, “The omnipotent God, primal power of the world, being Himself supremely good, could not permit anything evil in His works—were He not so all-powerful and good as to be able to bring good even out of evil.”
Everyone—take a moment and look in—if that look shows you how God has taken bad and made you better because of it—will you raise your hand? Thank you. Here’s another way—the BEST way—the CLEAREST way—to know that God is good.
(4) LOOK UP
I mean the best way to KNOW God is good is to look to Jesus. This particular attribute of God is most clearly seen when He gave us the gift of His only Son. In his book Ingram writes, “As a little boy, in a heart-to-heart talk with my mother, I shared with her my thoughts about God. ‘Jesus is OK,’ I said, ‘but God scares me. I get the feeling that He’s standing with His arms crossed, just waiting for me to mess up.” Years later Ingram learned that the primary evidence for God’s goodness is Jesus—that Jesus is God’s GOODNESS become flesh. Wouldn’t you Christians out there agree? Think of all the good that came our way when we put our faith in Jesus.
- Our sins are forgiven—washed away.
- Death is defeated. We need no longer fear the grave!
- When we ask Christ into our hearts—He comes—and from that moment on, He is always with us. We are never alone again.
- We never face life’s nightmares alone.
- Because Jesus is in us—if we need direction or guidance—He gives it.
- He empowers us to say no to temptation. We need no longer be slaves to sin.
All this GOOD comes our way—because GOD came our way. In Jesus our infinitely good and loving God came down here to seek us lost people and bring us home. If that’s not proof of God’s goodness I don’t know what is!
In the film The Water Diviner, Russell Crowe portrays an Australian farmer, Joshua Connor, who allows his three sons to enlist with other Australian young men and fight in World War I. All three of them are together at the Battle of Gallipoli. All three of them go missing in action and are presumed to be dead. The movie begins four years after their disappearance. His wife couldn’t handle their loss: she drowns herself early in the movie. Connor buries her, promising at her graveside to bring her boys home and bury them next to her. As a water diviner (someone who finds hidden sources of water in a dry climate), Connor possesses an innate ability to sense the insensible—and he applies his sixth sense to the problem of locating his lost children. After a three-month journey, Connor arrives in Istanbul, and from there he bribes a fishing boat captain to transport him to Gallipoli—against the wishes of the British Army, who were there trying to find and properly bury their war dead. Possessing nothing but his eldest son’s diary and the knowledge of what day his sons disappeared, Connor is convinced that he can find them. A Turkish officer who was present at the battle, Major Ihsan, is the only one who takes Connor seriously. The British officer in charge has already planned for a supply ship to take Connor back to Istanbul, and is content to see him rot on the beach in the meantime. One of the most powerful scenes is when Major Ihsan asks the British officer why they won’t help Connor to search for his sons. The officer says he can’t go about helping every father who won’t stay put and let the authorities handle the matter. Major Ihsan replies, “Yes, but he is the only father who came looking.”
Well, that’s a moving line but the major was wrong. Connor wasn’t the only father who came looking. In Jesus, God—our Heavenly Father came looking—SEEKING the lost. And—Connor came seeking his sons—sons he loved and sons who loved him back—good sons. But God came seeking sinners—seeking evil people like you and me. God is GOOD because He—our Heavenly Father—came looking for us. We didn’t deserve it—and that show’s His goodness because He came anyway. Romans 5:8 says that “God commends His love for us in this. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” It doesn’t get “GOOD-ER” than that! As the chorus puts it, “You’re a good, good Father It’s Who You are, it’s Who You are, it’s Who You are and I’m loved by You It’s who I am, it’s who I am!”
So God IS Good!
ALL THE TIME!
ALL THE TIME!
God IS good!
WELL, QUICKLY, HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND TO GOD’S GOODNESS?
(1) THANK Him.
As the Psalmist says, we should regularly, daily, “Give THANKS to the LORD—for He is good!”
(2) FOLLOW Him.
God’s goodness gives us the courage to risk for Him. When we know God is good we’ll attempt God-sized things.
(3) TRUST Him.
Knowing God is always good—gives us the wherewithal to trust Him—even in the horrors of life.
In his book The Holy Wild, Mark Buchanan tells about the day one of the youth in his church was killed in a tragic accident. His name was “Big Dave.” Here’s how Buchanan describes him,
“Dave looked like a cross between Genghis Kahn and the Buddha. He was as big as Goliath, but had the heart of King David. He was magnificently large—over 300 pounds on a six-foot frame. I once tried to move him from a spot. I heaved and leapt against him, ran headlong at him, battering-rammed his belly. He just stood, silent and stolid and unmoving and then he clamped my shoulders in his massive hands and picked me up like I was a gunnysack of squirming mice.
But Dave was gentle and deeply kind. He loved children and they loved him. Often, I’d see him from a distance, four or five children hanging off him, a couple more tucked under his tree-trunk arms. I baptized David the spring before his passing. It took two of us to get him down and up again. We plunged him hard and deep beneath the cold surface, and as we pulled him up the water fell off him in cataracts, rushing down his arms and chest and face. He stood up straight an embraced me in his huge arms and I knew I was helpless, that he could crush me with those arms, pulverize me to a sodden mass—break me to splinters. But I knew as well that he’d never do it. With those arms he’d only ever lift, receive, impart, protect, embrace.
Dave was on a youth trip when a stone shifted and he fell from a cliff and was killed instantly. It fell to me and our youth pastor, Carol, to tell his parents. They saw the look on my face and asked what was wrong and I simply told them, ‘There’s been an accident. David is dead.’
Then I saw a miracle.
His mom, Justine, began to worship. The first words out of her mouth were these: ‘O God You saved him. You saved my David. O Lord, thank You for that. Thank You that He is with You right now seeing You face-to-face. He’s dancing in Your throne room right now Lord. I love him. I love You. I miss my son, Lord. I need Your strength. But thank You that you saved Him.”We all wept. And, strange and beautiful as it was, we all worshiped.
Justine wrote a poem that she read at her son’s funeral:
‘You called David home, And I must let go
Of the dreams I had for him.
I had dreams for David,
That he would finish school
And for a job he would enjoy,
Because whatever he set his heart to,
He knew You would help him through.
I had dreams for David,
His first love, where it was returned to him
By the one who would be his wife,
The one that would be the mother of his children,
The grandchildren they would share with me.
They would teach the children about God
And they would grow to love Jesus.
Yes, Lord, today I place these dreams
I had for David
In my Father’s hands,
Knowing You will help me let go
I had dreams for David,
That one day he would see You face-to-face
Thank You, Father God
For making this dream come true in You.
Justine knew God so well, that even though He slay her, yet would she worship Him—because she knew—she knows that GOD IS GOOD. Justine knew that as Spurgeon put it, “God is too good to be un-kind and too wise to be mistaken. When we cannot trace His hand we must trust His heart.”