When training a dog, certain words make their way into the vocabulary very quickly. Commands obeyed such as sit, stay, or come are congratulated with a hearty “Good Dog!”. When the dog does something unpleasant such as jump on people, bark, or have an accident in the house, the word “Bad!” becomes an unfortunate but necessary word added to the vocabulary.
The words good and bad, no matter the language in which they are spoken, mean the same thing. As humans, our understanding of what is good and bad is typically based on cultural context or our feelings. As Christians however, we know from scripture God’s ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. From an eternal perspective those things which seem to be bad to us may in fact be good. The things which seem good to us may in fact be bad or harmful.
What Is Good?
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.Romans 8:28
Be honest. When you saw the beginning of the quote above, did you breeze through reading it? Many Christians are very familiar with this particular promise of scripture; overly familiar to the point of not treasuring this truth. It is a verse rightly committed to memory early on in our walk with the Lord. But, how many of us know and treasure the verse which follows…
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.Romans 8:29
If I speak the verse back to myself and personalize it, the verse becomes very real with all of its implications. It would read something like this. For whom God foreknew (you Frances!), He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus.
And who was Jesus, the one whose image I am being conformed to? According to Isaiah 53, He was a man of sorrows. He was acquainted with grief. He was despised and rejected by men. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet opened not His mouth. From the new testament we know Jesus was a humble servant. He always did that which pleased the Father and He was obedient to death, even death on the cross.
The Ultimate Good
Romans 8:29, gives clarity to what the “good” is which God is working out in the life of every follower of Christ. The ultimate good is that we would look more like Jesus.
So why am I surprised when life isn’t all sunshine and roses? If indeed God’s ultimate good is that I would be conformed to the image of His Son, then I should expect I will have to endure many of the same pressures which He did. These pressures will most likely not feel or seem good in the moment. They certainly didn’t for Jesus!
If I’m not careful, I will be surprised when fiery trials come which test my faith. Rather than counting it all joy as I am commanded to do, I will instead look for the quickest exit door, which may include sin, in order to escape the trial. Rather than depending on the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidence, I will do what seems right in my own eyes.
As Christians, our declaration of what is good or bad must be informed by something other than our feelings or what our culture says, especially in a culture which is increasingly calling good evil and evil good. In His kindness, God has given us His word to help in this regard.
He has shown you, O man, what is good;Micah 6:8
And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
The Good Path
A humble walk with God is one which trusts His goodness no matter what we see, experience or feel on the path of life. It is a walk which obeys.
We walk our dog in the park regularly. On more than one occasion there has been something very dangerous in the path. For instance, one day he ran straight past a rattle snake only to have a coyote further up the trail. We have trained him to sit when we tell him to stop and fortunately, he listened and did what he was commanded.
In that moment, it was very good that he listened. Had he not stopped, he would have been snatched up by the coyote, who was significantly larger than our little pup. Had he not sat but rather come back to us, he probably wouldn’t have run by the snake twice with out consequence. His obedience on that dangerous path saved his life.
But what about us humans? I don’t know about you but I don’t often hear the Lords voice stopping me in my tracks as we did with our dog. That said, God has given the ability to reason…with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can rightly think through the variety of trials and issues we come across on the path of life. How we think about those trials and issues will reveal what we think about God and His word. How we respond to life’s various trials, will either hinder or help our growth into Christ’s likeness. These issues can be a matter of life and death, both spiritually and physically.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Psalm 34:8
The Blessed Path
In this particular post, I’ve given more time and words to this subject than I normally would. As the days are becoming increasingly dark, Christians are going to have to think deeply and biblically in all sorts of situations we may have not encountered in recent history. As representatives of Christ, it is going to be imperative that we do not stray from God’s word. We do not want to participate in calling good evil and calling evil good; in so doing take the Lord’s name in vain.
If you and I view situations based on human wisdom and emotions, it will cause our walk to stray from the good path God has placed us on. As Christians, God has given us everything pertaining to life and godliness. The end result of staying on the good path will be glory to God and our conformity to the image of Christ. Our good and His glory!
Dear brother or sister in Christ…let us trust in the goodness of God in all of the circumstances in life, not based on what we feel or what we can see, but rather based on His character as revealed in His word. As we do this, life will be blessed no matter how dark and dangerous the path before us.