Last Sunday I taught a lesson and I wasn't 100% certain I conveyed my message the way I intended. I wrote a follow up I'd like to post here, so I can reference it in the future if needed.
I'd like to say a word about last Sunday's study. I've been thinking about what was presented, and would like to clarify a thought or two, just in case anyone misunderstood me.
Joelene made the comment about how some people toss about the phrase "God is so good!" or "God is good!" in a somewhat flippant way. I think the point Joelene was trying to make, and that I seized on and was trying to also point out, is that sometimes people use that phrase attributing goodness to God, when what they really mean is "Life is so good", or something in their life circumstances is good, at that particular moment. I don't always feel that phrase, flippantly tossed about by some, is a real acknowledgment of God's graceful provision in their lives.
We rarely hear the flippant or jovial use of "God is so good!" when we suffer trials and problems. Its at that point that many cry out to God for deliverance from our circumstance, and pray for the restoration of our life circumstances to that place of 'no more discomfort' that we expect God to provide for us. In the midst of our trials it is often difficult to see that, indeed, GOD IS GOOD, in spite of what our emotions might be telling us!
What I wanted to emphasize is that God is indeed SO GOOD that He is all about doing good for us in every circumstance! Paul makes it clear to us in his letters to the Thessalonians that I was reading today.
The most basic circumstance from which all other faith about God's goodness sprouts is that He saved us from eternal judgement and made us right with Him through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He saved us from eternal death. 1st Thessalonians 1:10 tells us that "Jesus, whom God raised from the dead...is the one who has rescued us from the terrors of the coming judgement."
That's good news from a God who is good! That's something to always be thankful for!
But the Good News of Jesus Christ does not promise us a life of "no discomfort", as some seem to expect or desire in the Christian life, but the Good News promises God's very own power to deal with the troubles that life brings. The Good News promises us that God will use those trials to mature us and build our faith in Him.
Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 1:6 that the Thessalonians "received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you." Clearly, the church in Thessalonica was persecuted from the start, but they took joy in the message of salvation! They understood the depth and importance of what they'd been taught, and took joy from it, despite the persecution that came because of it.
But Paul knew that trials and troubles, as inevitable as they are, can bring our faith into question, if we let it. In 1 Thessalonians 3:2-4, Paul wrote that he sent Timothy to Thessalonica to "strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through. But you know that we are destined for such troubles. Even while we were with you, we warned you that troubles would come - and they did, as you well know."
Because Timothy brought back a good report from Thessalonica about the strong faith in the church, Paul wrote in chapter 3:7 that he has 'been greatly encouraged in the midst of our (own) troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith." Paul and his group were going through their own suffering, but were encouraged by the faith of the Thessalonians. That's just beautiful. Think how you've been encouraged by a dynamic believer who has been faithful and grown in their faith through a trial. It's inspiring!
Clearly, the Christian faith does not promise an escape from the trials of life, be they spiritual or physical. In fact, Jesus promised the spiritual trials would intensify through persecution.
But is God good by allowing us to go through all these trials? God makes his rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike, but.... he promises us, His children, that he will never leave us or forsake us, and we will be able to bear up under the trials because God will use them to His purpose. That is a Good God!
Consider Paul's words to the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5: "We proudly tell God’s other churches about your endurance and faithfulness in all the persecutions and hardships you are suffering. And God will use this persecution to show his justice and to make you worthy of his Kingdom, for which you are suffering."
Also, in chapter 3:5, Paul writes: "May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ."
And God will never forget us, although His timetable is not always our timetable when we look for answers to prayer.
2 Thessalonians 1:7 tells us "and God will provide rest for you who are being persecuted and also for us when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven." Even if we can't see it right now, there will be a rest. It may be a ways off, but it will be there. Have faith.
There is hope, in even the direst circumstances, because God is always faithful to His character and to His cause. He will accomplish His plans, and use even the worst trials to strengthen our faith, if we trust Him.
James 1:2-4 states it in classic terms: " Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing."
That is great news to hear when I'm going through tough circumstances - God is using it to grow my faith. He leaves nothing wasted. That is a Good God! He may not provide the miracle I expect or desire, but He is faithful and to stand by my and go through it with me. He will use my endurance to grow my faith.
So, my point was not to discourage people from being pleased and joyful in the Lord, especially in good times! Consider those good times a blessing, and pass the blessing along to others! When God fills our coffers, He is indeed good! He wants us to bless others with what God has blessed us with! When we experience times of comfort and plenty, of course "God is so good!" Indeed, He is very good! Use those times to be the sacrificial servants of others, giving to those in need, supporting those who need help, loving others and comforting them from the strength God has given you during your time of plenty! And in all you do, give thanks to God and tell others of his goodness, remembering what the true basis of His goodness is, his Love for us and the wonderful salvation provided us by his grace and mercy through Jesus Christ.
But when tough times come, remember, THAT SAME GOD is still good! He is still looking out for your good, wanting to build your faith and your endurance, but to (I believe) above all advance His kingdom through what is going on in your life.
Don't lose heart when God does not appear to answer prayers in the way we expect. Stay strong in the Spirit, grounded in God's word, and committed to advancing His kingdom by loving God with all your heart, all you mind, all your soul, and all your strength, and loving others as as we love ourselves.
Remember, we serve Him. He doesn't serve us.