Psalm 100:4 says,
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
Why are we to enter the gates of the Lord with thanksgiving and his courts with praise? One reason given in this psalm is, “for the Lord is good” (Psalm 100:5).
This conviction that God is good goes to the very foundation of Christian faith. A Christian is somebody who has come to the conclusion, not just that God is good, but that God is good to me. Christians believe this even though our eyes are wide open to the difficulty of life, the pain and suffering of the world, and the presence of evil.
There is a song you may have heard that has the line: “Life is hard, but God is good.” That is what a Christian believes. Other people have chosen to say that life is good, but God is hard. They see God as a blemish in an otherwise good world. But Christians are convinced that it is we who have blemished God’s universe. Life is hard, but God is good.
When you have grasped that God is good, you will “enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.”
Let’s remind ourselves of the goodness of God, so that our hearts may be prepared for thanksgiving. The goodness of God is demonstrated in more ways than we can number. We’ll identify just three of them.
We See that God Is Good…
1. In the abundance of his provision
It seems to me that this is the first thing God tells us about himself.
When God introduces himself to us at the beginning of the Bible, he tells us what he did: he made the heavens and the earth. As he completed each act of creation, he said “it is good” (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31).
God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” (Genesis 1:11).
God didn’t just make fruit, but fruit with seed in it: provision for today, and provision for tomorrow.
When this whole ecosystem has been formed and perfectly adapted, God creates the man and the woman, and he says to them:
Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. (Genesis 1:29)
We don’t live in paradise, yet we still experience the abundant provision of God. Every good gift comes from him (James 1:17). His good gifts are more than we can number. The goodness of God is seen in the abundance of his provision.
2. In his kindness to his enemies
I wonder if you have ever stopped to think how extraordinary it is that God should be good to his enemies. Here in God’s world there are some who love him, and others who hate him. There are some who delight in keeping God’s law and others who delight in breaking it.
Paul describes some people who delight in every kind of evil:
They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; They invent ways of doing evil…They are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. (Romans 1:29-31)
How does God treat people like that? Answer: He is good to them.
Jesus spoke about this in the Sermon on the Mount:
“Your Father in heaven causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good. He sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45)
This is how God treats his enemies: he is good to them. This is the scandal of the Bible. In fact, it is one of the greatest moral questions of the Bible. How can God be good to those who are evil?
Here are two farms. One farmer begins every day with an hour of prayer. He reads the Bible, he loves God, and he gives to the poor. God sees him. God causes the sun to rise over his farm, and sends the rain to swell his crops.
Next door there is another farmer. When he gets out of bed, he kicks the cat, and his conversation is filled with blasphemy. He fiddles his accounts, abuses his wife, and has been in court repeatedly for acts of violence and intimidation against those who work for him. God sees him—and God causes the sun to rise over his farm and sends rain to swell his crops.
This is what we call “common grace.” God does good to all people, irrespective of character. God blesses the just and the unjust with good gifts. His goodness toward us does not depend upon anything that is in us—he simply is good. He shows his kindness to all people, blessing the unrighteous as well as the righteous.
God pours out his gifts indiscriminately. This is very humbling. When I count my blessings in life, every one of them reminds me that God is good, and that his goodness is not triggered by anything in me, but it is simply who he is.
3. In the gift of his Son
God’s goodness goes way beyond gifts of kindness. Yes, it’s wonderful that he pours good gifts indiscriminately into this fallen world. But God’s goodness goes way beyond that.
God has chosen to open up—for every person in this world—the possibility of an authentic relationship with Him that begins now and will go on beyond death for all eternity.
To bring this about, he sent his Son into the world. When Jesus came into the world he did good. But evil men hated him and nailed him to a cross. So why did God not wind up human history the day Jesus was crucified? Because God is good.
Jesus absorbed the evil into himself and he said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
As death came nearer to a man who had been sentenced for a capital offense, he cried out in desperation to Jesus: “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Jesus replied, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43)
Jesus opens the same door to the best and the worst. He’s not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). He offers grace, forgiveness, mercy, and reconciliation, to all who will come and receive.
He died that we might be forgiven
He died to make us good
That we might go at last to heaven
Saved by His precious blood. (Cecil F. Alexander)
And when you know that the Lord is good—in the abundance of his provision, in his kindness to his enemies, and in the sending of his Son—you will enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.
[This article is adapted from Pastor Colin’s sermon from 2002, “Thanksgiving — God is Good”] [Photo Credit: Lightstock]