This was a short sermon I did for the International Student Worship Group at our seminary.
I like to look at common statements or stories and look at them in a different way. One I like to turn around sometimes is the saying,
God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good.
For me, personally, I prefer to say, “God is good, but not all the time. Not all the time, but God is (still) good.
With the first saying, one is saying that God is eternally good of character. But we don’t live in the eternal state. We live from moment to moment. In often in moments of our lives we are not able to recognize God’s goodness.
In this we are not alone. The Psalmist in Psalm 73 had the same challenge.
A. Verse 1. God is Good.
Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
This is simple and easy. Simple and easy. God is good to Israel. God is good to those who are pure in heart.
B. Verse 2-15. … But Not All the Time
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
their evil imaginations have no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice;
with arrogance they threaten oppression.
Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.
Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.
They say, “How would God know?
Does the Most High know anything?”
This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.
All day long I have been afflicted,
and every morning brings new punishments.
If I had spoken out like that,
I would have betrayed your children.
Verse one says God is Good. But Verses 2-15 say that God is not good all of the time. The wicked prosper. They do evil things and amass wealth. They don’t seem to have any worries. They do whatever they want and God appears to reward them. If God is not rewarding them, he certainly isn’t punishing therm.
In verse 13 the Psalmist wonders if his faithfulness to God is worth it. He seeks to follow God’s commands, and yet he suffers while the evildoer profits. In fact things are so bad that in verses 2 and 3 he says that things are so bad that he sometimes even envies the wicked and is tempted to fall into sin himself.
We are not so different. We want things simple. We tend to want the evil to suffer and the righteous to prosper…. with the assumption that we are the righteous of course.
We want it to be that way… but it is not.
God Is Good. But NOT all of the time. Sometimes God steps back and allows the evil to prosper and go unpunished, and sometimes he allows the righteous to suffer and live without vindication.
We don’t want it to be that way.
C. Verse 16-25. Not All the Time
When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.
Surely you place them on slippery ground;
you cast them down to ruin.
How suddenly are they destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors!
They are like a dream when one awakes;
when you arise, Lord,
you will despise them as fantasies.
When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.
Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
The Psalmist is struggling with the conflict between what he believes (God is good) and What he perceives (God doesn’t seem to be all all that good often).
However, then he enters the presence of God. Perhaps like Habakkuk, he brings his confusion directly to God. And he sees the bigger picture. Justice may be delayed… the goodness of God may be observable at all times. It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow, but they are on slippery ground. And before you know it, God’s goodness will be demonstrated.
The Psalmist goes on to say… even though he feels abused and is suffering that God is with him and is still protecting him… in the present, and that some day he will be blessed of God.
And this leads to the final “But” in verse 28
D. Verse 28. But God is (still) Good.
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.
I read this as, But God is still Good. Despite the fact that things seem unfair. God seems unjust at times. God doesn’t always seem so God. God is good and good to be near. God is ultimately in control and is his protection.
So: God is good, but not all of the time. Not all of the time, but God is good.
You may be uncomfortable with that wording, but I believe much of the Bible becomes clearer this way.
If we identify God’s goodness in how we feel on a particular day, we will have trouble. Our lives are like a roller coaster… up one day and down another. God’s goodness is not tied to our feelings or whether we had a good day or not. God’s goodness is not liket that.
God’s goodness is seen in His character and in His ultimate intentions. If we want to see the goodness of God, we need to look to God Himself, and where He bringing things to. If we look for the goodness of God in the day to day things around us…. or in whether we are doing better than someone else or someone else is doing better than us… we will be disappointed often.