Meditating on the Will of God: 10: God’s Goodwill
Jn 3:16,17 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Rom 8:28 we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,J who have been called according to his purpose
There is a sense whereby this meditation is going to be The most obvious one going, but the truth is that because we are tainted by sin, when push comes to shove, a very large number of Christians doubt it. I refer very simply to God’s goodwill towards us. We have previously spoken of His love which is clearly displayed in scripture, as the first verse above declares, but it seems to me, having watched Christian people for well over forty years, that we have a tendency to romanticize words sometimes and thus rob them of their meaning. ‘Love’ is one such word. I described it previously as, “warm affection, attachment, liking, benevolence or strong benign feelings for us, and in God it shows selfless, sacrificial, unrestricted good will towards us.” Note the ‘good will’ aspect to that definition.
When Adam and Eve first sinned they ran away and hid. Guilt and shame and even possibly fear entered their experience and those things have been with us ever since. They are things that, even after we become Christians, lurk in the background just waiting to make their presence felt, and because of that they either show or anticipate our negative feelings towards God. In a previous study, speaking about words such as service and sacrifice we noted the tendency to take on the ‘hard man’ attitude towards God that comes out in Jesus’ parable of the talents. So important is that in today’s Christian world that I need to repeat and expand on it here.
If our Christian life is all about duty and we worship in a church where the words ‘ought’ and ‘should’ prevail it is probable that we see God as a ‘hard man’ one to be obeyed and feared (and yes those words are there in scripture) and talk of laying down your life is often heard. As true as all these things are, it is the motivation behind them that counts. What I believe is prevalent in today’s Christian world is this ‘my activity’ focus rather than ‘His love for me’ focus.
If my life is all about what I should be doing as a Christian – I ought to pray, read my Bible, worship, witness, and so on – then there is a ‘driven’ element to it. The school of thinking that speaks about the ‘spiritual disciplines’ that comes out of America encapsulates partial truths and as good as their hearts are (and I am sure they are good) they come from a culture where ‘The American dream’ has been defined as “a national ethos of the United States, a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work,” and that has filtered into Christian life.
Am I denigrating the work ethic and putting forward a doctrine of idleness? No, very far from it, but I am talking about motivation and starting points. Jesus won my heart by offering me salvation when I was down and out. He reached out to me, drew me to himself, put his own Holy Spirit within me, told me I was now an adopted child of God, a son of God even, and that He had a wonderful life ahead for me whereby he would never leave me or forsake me and he would be there at every moment to guide me and provide me with all the grace I needed. Now that is the truth declared by Scripture and it is true for every one of us who is a Christian. He died in my place (Jn 3:16) and has given me an eternal life with him that started when I came to him and I was born again, and it has no end (Jn 3:17). Now he is there, constantly working on my behalf to bring good into my life in any and every situation (Rom 8:28). If that doesn’t win and move my heart and motivate me to run with him, nothing will and I must be hard hearted!
But it does! I refuse to see God as a hard man. He IS love and everything He thinks says or does is an expression of love. He is perfect and therefore nothing that He thinks says or does can be improved upon – nothing! Even when I stumble, Jesus is there speaking to the Father on my behalf (1 Jn 2:1). As Paul said, he is FOR me (Rom 8:31) and that means God is for me, whatever happens. I am His child after all and so He guards me, protects me, is there to pick me up when I stumble, He’s there to teach and guide me, not in any heavy way but to help me in all things. There is nothing of my life that is outside His interest. Yes, He observes and helps and inspires me when I worship, when I pray, when I read His word, when I speak about Him and so on, but He’s also there interested and there to help and inspire when I write, when I do gardening, when I make love to my wife, when I go shopping, when I go on holiday; nothing is outside of His concern for me and in all these areas He is there to bless me, because He has good will towards me – that is what is involved in “God’s will”. Hallelujah!