Jan 2 2022 How to Surrender to the Goodness of God
2nd January 2022
I’m going to do a commercial for 2022 Grace Summit – what we’ll be doing through the messages and other ways.
Walter Brueggemann is an Old Testament scholar who has categorized the Psalms into 3 life-stages. This creates a life cycle of personal faith. As we understand these stages, we will know where to go when we are in need.
He is speaking of our relationship with God.
Think of order, disorder, and reorder.
Creation – alienation – new creation!
Scholars have many ways to describe this pattern in scripture.
All of us, at some time, will find ourselves in that cycle.
There will be times our world is well-ordered – things are clicking – a time of orientation. That is what we will look at in the beginning of this year – mostly relating to God’s nature and character.
Other times, it will be like a hurricane came through – like a disorientation. We’ll be there in Lent.
Then Reorientation – Easter –
I will show you – through a few verses – because it is important – is there some kind of theme we could be thinking about? Learning to read our Bibles better. That is a little much – so I will tie this together.
How to see these patterns in scripture if we wish to have a better understanding of what we are reading.
The original authors looked for these patterns and placed them in scripture.
Genesis 1:2 Disorder
Genesis 1:3 Reorientation
This constantly runs through the Bible!
Moses is on the mountain with God. If you did not have a chance to watch the Bible Project video – Here it is: https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/character-of-god-exodus/
Exodus 33: 18 Then Moses said, "I pray You, show me Your glory!“ 19 And He said, "I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion." 20 But He said, "You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!"
So Moses asked to see God’s goodness – and God tells him what he is going to do – I will pass by – you will see My back, because you can’t see My face. And as He goes by, He says His name – not like, Mike – but 5 qualities that describe Him and His name – 5 Attributes
First – Compassion – Mercy – translators
Lovingkindness – Steadfast love – unfailing love – loyal love – Chesed – it is a BIG word for LOVE in the Old Testament.
4th – God’s patience – slow to anger
5 – Faithfulness – Truth – the same in O.T. language.
Today – God’s Goodness – the sum of all these things! It is through His goodness that we experience these 5 attributes.
Goodness defined: That which works for the betterment of others.
A thought I’ve had – I know God loves me – but I’m not sure if He likes me!
What we are saying – the Bible is clear that God loves us – He died on the cross for our sins – our children – we sing to them – Jesus loves me – this I know – it is embedded in us from our youth (for some).
But at times, it feels like I am not experiencing His love in my real life.
So, in that situation – we are doubting God’s goodness.
It is easy to feel like God loves me, but He doesn’t really care about my happiness.
Psalm 65: 4 How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You To dwell in Your courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your holy temple.
The temple, in Israel, was the place of God’s presence. The psalmist is saying – we experience God’s goodness as we learn to live in His presence. The blessings of God come to the one who dwells in the courts of His temple – who learn to dwell in His presence.
4 simple practices that will help us to live in His presence.
First – we must have a regular and consistent time entering into God’s presence. I would say ‘daily’ – but the only problem, I would say, with that, is that we don’t always have a daily time – just make it consistent at some level for you – don’t feel guilty if you miss a day.
You can call it a quiet time, or a devotional, or read the Book of Common Prayer – what matters is that we are learning to enter into the presence of God – learning to dwell in His presence.
Second – learn to practice sacred pauses. Learn to interrupt your daily routine to focus on God being with us in those moments.
Think of 2-3 places in your life where you can practice this. Maybe when you pull into the parking lot at work? Turn off the car and focus on His presence.
Third – the practice of slipping away to a lonely place – as Jesus practiced. And it will vary, based on your schedule – but a time where you have a longer time to experience the presence of God. It may be once/week or quarter or just as often as possible.
4th – Close your day with God – reflecting how God was present with us, working in our lives in that day.
The point – it causes us to learn to live in God’s presence all of the time – because He is there – to be aware of that – so God can be speaking and working within us.
Psalm 145: 7 They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. 8 The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. 9 The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.
God’s goodness is for everyone. He rains on the righteous and the sinners. When we hear rain – we think, oh no – but for them, it was a blessing in the desert land. He blesses the righteous and the sinner. Sometimes we struggle with that. We want God to bless the righteous – ME! – but curse the sinner – especially when it is our enemy – or the person who is ‘not like us’ – we need to remember, all of us, at one point, were enemies of God – every one of us! And if He curses the enemy – we would all be lost.
A great danger for us, living as Christians today – and we need to be aware – it is easy to develop a sense of religious or spiritual superiority! That is a seductive temptation. Here is why. We are right to believe that there is salvation in no other name but Jesus – and that He is the way, the truth, and the life – that is all true! Jesus is the only way to salvation – through His death and resurrection we come to God. But, knowing that – we believe that we are superior because we believe the right things – we see ourselves as superior to others – but we are NEVER superior to anyone. As Christians, we believe in the superior person of Jesus Christ – Jesus is the only one who is superior – we are all sinners saved by grace – we cannot claim any of it for ourselves.
When we express attitudes of religious or spiritual superiority, we diminish the superiority of Jesus.
This is happening too much today!
Psalm 103: 2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits (goodness – that which benefits us – and then he will list His benefits:); 3 Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; 4 Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness (steadfast loyal love) and compassion; 5 Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.
To believe in God’s goodness – we need to constantly learn to show appreciation for what He has done – we need to remember what God has done for us – to consistently bring to mind these things – our forgiveness, His redemption – His love for us – benefits – to all them to mind – and as we do that, we will experience His goodness daily – even when things aren’t going so well – even when we are struggling or suffering – even in those situations –
In those three stages – we can be in all of them at the same time!
Nahum – I don’t recall the last time I quoted from Nahum!
Nahum 1: 7 The LORD is good, a stronghold in a day of trouble; he protects those who take refuge in him,
The Lord is good.
It would be good if we get to the point where we could say that as our genuine heart understanding – it is difficult for some! It is a significant battle for some.
For me – I tend to doubt God’s goodness when things are not going well. In Nahum – there is a lot that is not going well – but it starts with goodness.
When things are not going well, I tend to shy away from God – but Nahum is saying – take refuge in Him.
When we fail and are ashamed – our tendency is to hide! But God says come to me! Have confidence because of Jesus!
Psalm 27: 13 I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. 14 Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.
Trusting and believing in God’s goodness is a battle! I would have been depressed- despaired – unless I believed God was good.
This is a key weapon – wait for the Lord. That is our best weapon in hoping and trusting in the goodness of God.
Learning to be patient – learning to wait – is hard for us. We want it NOW! But the Bible constantly says to wait for the Lord. God’s timeframe is not ours. His time is different from ours. He tends to wait – because He wants us to learn to wait.
Believing in God’s goodness is an issue of trust and surrender.
Brennan Manning tells a story – he is a Catholic priest – a nun came to him for counsel – “I never told this to anyone. From a young age I was sexually abused by my father…” and described to him the horrors. As a result, she had never been able to pray the beginning of the Lord’s prayer – Our father.
And he went on to explain how God as father is very different – but what this woman learned – she needed, in one sense, to surrender to the true goodness of God, even though her experience of a father was so incredibly opposite of God.
He said – she did this one practice daily – “Thank You that I am Your beloved child!”
And in time, she learned to trust that that is who she is – that she was deeply loved by a true father. Life will throw all kinds of stuff at us, but God is not life.
Philip Yancey and Larry Crabbe helped me with this one simple phrase – God is good – God is always good. Life is hard – and we should not mix up God with life.
Psalm 68: 9 You shed abroad a plentiful rain, O God; You confirmed Your inheritance when it was parched. 10 Your creatures settled in it; You provided in Your goodness for the poor, O God.