Thursday, July 2, 2009

Good Things

Somebody was whispering…and I was listening.

“Poor thing,” the voice said. “You don’t have things easy. Of course life isn’t hard for you compared to some people, but still…you could have a lot more enjoyment in life if you weren’t so self-sacrificing.”

“Hey, look at that girl,” it said a little later. “What a happy life she has, so many people around to love her and admire her.”

“Dreaming isn’t wrong,” said a voice by my pillow. “Especially when the life you dream about is so good and upright and beautiful. It’s strange that the Lord hasn’t given it to you.”

A strange thing started to happen. As I listened to the voice, and pictured the happy life that I could lead “if only,” I didn’t become happier. Quite the opposite. The greener that the grass looked on the other side of the fence, the yellower it appeared on my side.

That’s when I started meditating on the “good thing” verses. I have found four of them so far.

James 1:17—“Every good thing bestowed…is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.”
Psalm 16:2—“I said to the Lord, ‘Thou art my Lord; I have no good besides Thee.’”
Psalm 84:11b---“No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
Psalm 34:10b—“They who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.”

It’s fascinating how they fall into two pairs. When paraphrased, they read:

Every good thing is from God.
No good thing is apart from God.
God withholds no good thing from those who walk uprightly.
Those who seek Him get every good thing.

The first two are unconditional; they are about who God is, regardless of our behavior. They seem to depict God as Sovereign, providing good things to all the people in His dominion. Every good thing in this world is from God, no matter who enjoys it. There’s nothing good apart from Him. Those phrases are two different ways of expressing the same simple concept, and yet how often I mistrust that truth! Really, Lord? You mean I’ll never find anything that is genuinely good, apart from You?

The second two verses are conditional. They deal, not with Who God is, but with how He acts. They depict God as Father, blessing individually those who became His children by receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior (John 1:12). A good father desires to bless his children to the full extent of his ability. If it were up to him, he would give them a new gift every day when he came home from work. And yet, sometimes he is hindered, not because he is unable to bless them, but because his children are acting in such a way as to prevent him from blessing.

Perhaps it is because they are being disobedient, and if he gave them a gift in their disobedience, he would be reinforcing their bad behavior, which would ultimately lead them away from him and the love that he wants to give them. Sometimes he cannot bless them because they are ungrateful for the love he’s already shown them, and to give them a gift would only spoil them and lead them to feel perpetually discontented. Sometimes he can’t bless them because they never stop long enough to take the blessing, but tear past his outstretched hand, bent on their own mission. Sometimes, he must withhold a blessing for a time, simply because the child isn’t ready for it. They have more to learn, or they need to grow, before they could properly enjoy it. Nobody would think it a good idea to give a brand new car to a child of six.

Aren’t these all reasons that our God might have to withhold good things from us? And yet, these verses emphasize God’s eagerness to shower upon us every blessing that He possesses. His purpose for eternity is that “in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Don’t you think He longs to do that now?

It’s almost as though God has His hand in His pocket, ready to pull out a gift to give His child, and He’s leaning down, watching until the very first moment when His child is ready to get the gift. The instant comes, and, without a second’s delay, the gift is theirs.

Each of the “good thing” verses, is an absolute statement, “Every good thing,” “No good thing,” “Any good thing,” “No good besides Thee.” God gives a “satisfaction guarantee.” Nothing but our own sin and obstinacy, can hinder us, as God’s children, from getting the full dose of His blessing. Sometimes we think that we must plead with God for His blessings. I wonder sometimes if He feels like pleading with us to step into the place where He can give us the blessings that He must otherwise hold back for our own good.

The next time the voice shows up, I’ll have some good ammunition. The motto of the local hardware store is, “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” When I’m walking in obedience to the Lord, and that little voice points out to me something "good-looking" that somebody else is enjoying, I can remember the “good things” verses, and hear the Lord saying to me, “If you don’t have it, you wouldn’t want it—it’s not a good thing for you right now, daughter.”

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