Sunday, October 31, 2010

Goodness & Faithfulness

I wrote this paper this week for an online class I'm taking through the International House of Prayer University based in Kansas City. The class has been on the attributes and existence of God; an excellent class that I have greatly enjoyed. And I thought someone out there might enjoy reading my paper. Maybe not, but either way, here it is.

            It has been said that the journey from the head to the heart is one of a thousand miles. I wonder how many times I will make that journey as each time another truth is cemented in my heart. Though I know in my head the attributes of God and could write you a list a page long; the attributes that I know with my heart make a much shorter list. I have walked the thousand miles from head to heart twice to come to truly believe two attributes of the God I love. These have become cornerstones in my heart, pointing to the work of the Lord and who I know Him to be beyond any doubt. These two attributes are His goodness and His faithfulness.  I will define both in light of my experience and then show how they work together in the heart of the God I love and call Daddy.
            I know God is good, not just sort of good or sometimes good. He is always, totally, wholly, good in all He is and does and that goodness is directed towards me. When I asked God to reveal Himself to me and answer my question, “Do You really care about me, personally?”, He did. Day by day, He spoke to my heart through the little things: conversations with friends, a song, pictures in my mind. Until, when I looked back, I could not deny the care and love He had personally shown me. I grew to know His goodness confidently, intimately, as the Lord revealed just how much He has my best at heart and that all He desires for me is good. A. W. Tozer in The Knowledge of the Holy defines the Lord’s goodness not as His holiness or righteousness, but rather His goodness is that force from within Himself and of Himself that causes Him to be kind, gentle, loving, merciful, benevolent, gracious to us (Tozer, 82). “By His nature (i.e. because of His goodness) . . . He takes holy pleasure in the happiness of His people.” (Tozer, 82).  Somewhere in the Bible it says that those who come to the Lord, must believe He is good and a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. If we do not believe Him to be good, how will we ever learn to trust Him? Thus He leads us on the thousand mile journey from head to heart, from intellectually grasping He is good, to knowing by experience that He is good.
            The Psalms proclaim over and over again the goodness of the Lord. Psalm 68:10 says that in His goodness, He provides for the poor. It was the promise of seeing the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living that caused David to not despair in Psalm 27:13. “Good and upright is the Lord”, declares Psalm 25:8a. And Psalm 106, 107, 118, and 136 all say “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.” When a would-be disciple addressed Jesus as “Good Teacher”, Jesus responded by saying “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18). In my life, I have tasted and seen – through experiences such as I mentioned above – that God alone is good and His heart towards me is only good. This summer when I was dissatisfied with my job, frustrated with living at home, lonely, and not wanting to be where I was at in life, I cried my hurt and anger on the shoulder of a friend. In that raw moment, she spoke these words, “But do you believe that He is still good?” At first I said, “I don’t know.” Then dialing down into my heart, I looked into who I knew God was and is, I answered, “Yes, yes I believe He is still good”. So when life does not go the way I expect it to or want it to, I know I can declare with David “I would have despaired unless I had believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living(Psalm 27:13)”, because His goodness is His promise to me.
            The faithfulness of God results from His immutability. A God who does not change, will be of necessity a faithful God. His faithfulness means that when He speaks we can have confidence because due to His faithfulness He binds Himself to His own words. What He speaks will come to pass. The promises He makes will be fulfilled. Tozer says “Upon God’s faithfulness rests our whole hope of future blessedness. Only as He is faithful will His covenants stand and His promises be honored. Only as we have complete assurance that He is faithful may we live in peace and look forward with assurance to the life to come.” (Tozer, 81) In the last year, God has taken me on the journey of experiencing His faithfulness. Ironically, this journey was not completed by promises being fulfilled, thus proving His faithfulness, but by promises that still remain to see their fulfillment. It has been through Scriptures and His voice repeatedly speaking to my heart, “I am faithful; I will fulfill My promises”, that my heart has gained confidence to stand on the truth of His faithfulness even as desires of my heart remain unfulfilled. To stand on the faithfulness of God is to stand in faith and to live in faith.
            Though many passages praises God’s faithfulness, it was a Scripture that indirectly speaks of God’s faithfulness that took root in my heart as proof of His faithfulness. Isaiah 55:11 says “So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” With this verse, God stamped His faithfulness upon my heart, saying “If I have spoken it, if I have promised, I will bring it to pass, for every word I speak accomplishes what I desire.” 2 Timothy 2:13 was another verse that spoke strongly to me. I know my own weakness and inability to remain faithful, as the Lord is faithful. But Paul boldy proclaims that “if we are faithless, He remains faithful for He cannot deny Himself.” Thus His faithfulness is not conditional, but arises from within His own heart. In one of the first declarations God makes of Himself, He states: “Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a  thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments (Deuteronomy 7:9).” He states His faithfulness, then gives an example of His faithfulness. Let my heart gain confidence; the One who speaks is faithful!
            If we know God to be good, then of necessity, He must be faithful. For in His goodness, He makes promises to His beloved. And in His faithfulness, He keeps those promises, so as to not suspend the action of His goodness. For how can that which is essentially good also be a wishy-washy waffler bent at every change in the wind? When God makes a promise, because of His essential goodness, we can have confidence that He will be faithful to keep that promise. He is not like men, who in weakness, lacking either goodness or faithfulness or both, will make promises only to change them. He does not speak with ulterior motives, with devious plans, with any imperfection in His heart. When God speaks, we can have confidence it will be good, and it will be for our greatest good. When God speaks, we can have confidence that His word will accomplish every plan He has for it in His timing, even as Isaiah 55:11 declares so poetically. So God’s goodness presupposes His faithfulness, for He cannot be good if He is not faithful to who He is in His goodness. His faithfulness presupposes His goodness; for if He were not good, then He would have no reason or purpose for being faithful. One without the other is useless and meaningless. Together they form a part of the God who is all awesome, powerful, gracious, and loving; the God I have come to call ‘Daddy’.
            To know the goodness of the Lord, I walked the thousand miles in three months. To know the faithfulness of the Lord, it has been almost a year’s journeying to walk the thousand miles with Him. But now having walked those miles, I never have to walk them again. I have experienced His goodness and I have seen His faithfulness; and all doubt is removed. These are my cornerstones. No matter what comes, I can look behind me, point to these stones, and boldly declare “But I know my God is good and I know my God is faithful!” In His goodness, He is always faithful. And in His faithfulness, He always remains good.


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