December 29, 2020
God is good all the time! Even in a year like we’ve just experienced. Here we are, the last Sunday of 2020. It’s been quite a year: In the Spring we experienced a run on toilet paper, the advent of social distancing, face masks and two months of lockdown. In the Summer we watched in disbelief as many of our major cities were held hostage and literally destroyed by unruly and violent protests. Then in September we had to wonder whether the world might be coming to an end when more than 6 million acres were ravaged by forest fires in across Oregon, Washington and California. Then this Fall, we endured one of the most caustic and contentious election seasons ever. But here we are – we’ve almost made it to 2021. And even though this has been an unpredictable and unprecedented year in so many ways – God’s grace has carried us through. And I for one am thankful. So as we say good riddance to 2020 and hello to 2021, there’s no better time to remind ourselves of Who has been with us every step of the way this year.
So today, as we wrap up 2020 , I want to remind you of God’s continual grace to us in the midst of one of the harshest, confusing and difficult years many of us have ever experienced. And to do this I’ve chosen four truths about our God that can remind us of how God is good – all the time! And the first truth about our good God is this:
We have a Father who is always there for us No matter what crazy circumstances come our way, we can know that we have a God who will never leave us nor forsake us. This promise of God’s commitment to always be there for us comes from the story of Joshua just prior to him leading 2 million Jews into the promised land to face their enemies and claim the inheritance God promised to them. This is what God said to Joshua: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
One common flaws about being human, is that when life seems to spiral out of control, we tend to let our fears get the best of us. That’s what was happening with the people of Israel as they were to enter the promised land. After wandering in the desert for forty years, and finding themselves on the verge of entering the promised land, reality sank in when they saw who they were up against. The people of this land were large, fierce and strong, so they were terrified. So God said, “Do not be afraid.” But they weren’t just afraid, most saw what lay ahead as insurmountable. They had very little courage or resolve to enter this land and claim it for themselves. So God added the command, “Do not be dismayed.”
Not only did they need courage, but they needed the kind of inner resolve that would help them do what didn’t seem possible. So God told them He would provide their courage and resolve, when He said, do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua needed this encouragement. Israel needed this encouragement. And we need this encouragement. We need to be reminded that no matter how intimidating, how confusing, how impossible the future looks, that we have a good God who will be with us every step of the way.
So then, Just as God promised to be with Joshua, He will be with you. In this age of social distancing, God is never distant. His attention is always on you. He watches over you day and night. He is always seeking your best. As He promised Joshua, he says to you: “I will be with you wherever you go.” I will be with you when your fears start to get the best of you. I’ll be with you when you lose your resolve to keep going. I’ll be there for you no matter what, because I am the God who is for you. So get your courage from ME; find your confidence in me. Get your resolve from me. “For I will NEVER leave you nor forsake you.” And God has been there with us. He’s kept us together. His presence has never left us. And He will continue to be there for us. For that’s who He is. He will always there for you, because God is good, all the time… That’s the first truth about our good God. Here’s the second:
We have a Priest who knows what we’re going through Let me ask you: Have you ever felt that no one knows what it’s like to be you? That no one knows the doubts you carry; the heartache you’ve felt; the pressures you are under; or the temptations you’re facing? Well, the good news is that you have someone like that in Jesus. Jesus knows what it is like to be you.
Jesus knows what it’s like to questioned, to be misunderstood. Jesus knows what it’s like to be laughed at and what it’s like to be rejected. Not only that, but He also knows what you struggle with. He knows your deepest fears, your worst failures, as well as every last sinful, shameful thing about you. But rather than reject you, He’s actually drawn to you. For His primary ministry today is to be your great high priest before the throne of God. The Bible tells us that right now Jesus lives to intercede for you no matter what you’ve done or what you are going through. That’s the truth comes from Hebrews 4:14-16 and says: Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:14-15
You have in Jesus, a priest who knows precisely what you are going through. He knows how this pandemic has worn you down, frustrated you, perhaps even depressed you. He knows if you struggle with despair. He knows when discouragement tries to defeat you. He knows you are worried about the kind of world your grandchildren may be forced to grow up in. He knows how powerless you feel in the wake of all that’s happened these past 12 months. And He knows your weaknesses: how you fail to love as you should, how selfish you can be, and how you sometime actually do really stupid and sinful things. But the good news about Jesus knowing all this about you is this: Jesus gladly defends you before the Father, because He knows what it’s like to be like you.
That’s what God’s Word says: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15
You see in two previous verses in Hebrews, verses 2:17 and 18, God’s word tells us that Jesus was “made like his brothers in every way” and because “he suffered through his temptations, he is now able to help us.” So Jesus does know what it’s like to be you, because He’s shared in every kind of experience you’ve experienced: He’s knows what it’s like when no one believes in you. He’s felt the heartache of losing a loved one. He knows the pain of betrayal. He’s felt the hate of condemnation. But in all of this, he never stopped loving God or loving His neighbor – Jesus never sinned.
And so the good news is this: There is never a time when Jesus loves you more, than when you struggle, when you doubt, when you fear or when you fail. For that’s when He stands up for you before the Father. Because He knows what it’s like to be you. That’s why we’re given this encouragement: Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16
Jesus isn’t only there for you to give you mercy when you fail, but He’s there for to give you grace whenever you need it. And here’s the thing: We need grace all the time. So this text reminds us that God is good all the time. Jesus has your back 24/7. Jesus became like you, to know what it’s like to be you, so He might help you.
So, if you’re struggling with something difficult right now, if you’re battling discouragement or depression, if you’ve fallen into sin – know this: Jesus knows all your weaknesses and your sins, and the very worst about you – but because He is your high priest, He has your back. So come to Him. For He is there to give you mercy and grace in your time of need. And that’s what makes Him so good –He will always have your back! That’s the second truth about our good God. Now, here’s the third:
We have a Lord who reigns in power over us If there’s ever been a year when you may have asked, “Where’s God in all this?” it’s probably been this year. If you’ve ever asked that, then there’s a Scripture God wants me to remind you about today: Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Ephesians 6:10 You see, we tend to do the opposite. When life gets hard, we tend to dig in and try to muster up the strength to be strong – to be strong for our spouse, or our children, to be strong for our friends, or be strong for our church. But what happens when we try to be strong? Eventually, we get weary and can’t keep carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. And when that happens, what happens to us? We tend to give up. We give up emotionally or spiritually, so we just disengage. I’ve seen this happen. Some people just stop caring. Or they get angry and blame God. Or they just throw in the towel and walk away from God.
But our God never meant for you to be strong without Him. He never meant for you to carry life’s burdens alone. Listen to what Jesus says: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
We are not to be strong in our own strength, we are to be strong in the Lord and His strength. He is mighty. He is all powerful. There is nothing too big for God that He cannot carry. Are you growing weary in the midst of this pandemic? Are you struggling to hang in there with God because nothing seems to be getting better? Has one trial after another left you feeling exhausted? Take the yoke of Jesus upon yourself. Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
For there is nothing in this world that is stronger than our God. Think about it: God’s power is incomparable. His is the power of life over death. His is the power of the resurrection. His is the power of life that now dwells in Jesus Christ. For on that day Jesus rose from the grave, Jesus defeated death. And if Jesus lives in you, His resurrection power lives in you. Let that sink in: Jesus is the power who reigns over all, and is complete control. Today Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father in the position of ultimate power over all the universe. He is Lord over all and He is our Lord. So then, no matter how out of control this world gets, you need never fear. For nothing can defeat Him or unseat Him. Jesus has no rival. And we have been bound to His power through our union with Jesus from the moment we believed. So then, be strong in His power and the strength of His might. For…
His power will give you the strength to keep going when you’re tempted to quit
His power will give you the patience to keep loving when you’re tempted to hate
His power will give you the strength to keep serving when you’ve given all you can
His power will give you the courage to stand when everything in you tells you to run
We have a Lord who is mighty in power, who is able to carry the weight of the world on HIS shoulders. So let’s let Him. Don’t let the endless cycle of contempt, confusion and carnage in our world wear you down. Come to Jesus, take His yoke on you, be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might. He can handle it, for He is good – and His goodness focused toward you – all the time.
And this truth about our good God leads me to the final truth about God’s goodness to you today, and that is this:
We have a Shepherd who is always good to us Two of the Scriptures that have continually reminded me of God’s goodness toward me during this year come from Psalm 23. The first is this: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. Because of who God is, and that He is my Shepherd, I have no worry for anything in my life. I have a good Shepherd who provides for me, who watches over me, and who satisfies me to the core of my being. How do I know this? Because of His name. His name “The Lord” Yahweh! There is so much goodness wrapped up in his name. Let me explain what I mean:
Yahweh means God exists without limitation. In other words, God’s name reveals His timeless nature. He is not limited by time and space like us. God’s name also reveals His self-sufficiency. He is not limited by anything. That means God needs nothing. He needs no wisdom from anyone else; He has all wisdom in Himself. He needs no power; for He is all-powerful. He does not need to be worshiped or helped or served. Nor is He accountable to anyone. He answers only to Himself… And since He is timeless, that means God is always the same. He does not change. That means He is the same today as when David wrote these words.
What does that mean for us? Not only does He have unlimited wisdom, power, and freedom. He also has unlimited grace, goodness, compassion and love that He pours out on His sheep. That’s why David was able to say with confidence: “Surely Your goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life” In other words, once you know God as your Shepherd, once you know Him by faith in Jesus Christ, you will discover that God is so good in who He is that there is no limit to God’s goodness to you. Imagine that?
There is no limit to His grace for you: God exists to give you what you do not deserve, and He does so every single day. He gives you air to breath, the sun to warm you, sleep to restore you. He gives you family to love you, food to sustain you and laughter to bless you. He gives you hope, joy and faith to uphold you. His unlimited goodness to you means there will never be a time when you will not be the object of His love. He is simply committed to you for your good. That is who God is. He is good and His goodness knows no bounds.
In fact, as your personal Shepherd, God is relentless in His goodness to you. Right now, even as I speak, God is pursuing you like a hunter with His relentless goodness. That’s why you can always count on God to forgive you when you sin, lead you when you’re lost, comfort you when you’re hurting, and heal you when you’re broken. That’s why God will never force you to do His will and why He will never shame you or guilt you.
Now God never promises to spare you from life’s difficulties, but He does pursue you with His goodness to help carry you through life’s troubling times. All He asks of us is to trust in His goodness to us. For God is good all the time and His fountain of goodness toward us has no limit. I love how Dallas Willard speaks of God’s goodness to us:
God is not stingy. He dwells in magnificent abundance, and lovingly provides for our needs out of that abundance. God is not worried that He is going to run out of something. God is beyond rich. He is overflowing with everything that is good and everything we need. He has so much that He will never run out of any of it…. It is so very important to remember this when we are fretting over a perceived need. In such a time we may be tempted to think that maybe, just maybe, God is as stingy and small as we are. He is not. God loves to give. God loves to gush forth with His goodness. Dallas Willard
This is our good God. This is the God who knows you: who knows your name; who knows when you rise; who knows what keeps you up at night. This is the God who knows that you worry about your grandchildren and the world they’ll grow up in. This is the God who knows all your hopes and your fears. This is the good God who knows everything about you, because that’s what a good Shepherd does. And He wants good for you. For He is a good God and His grace to you knows no end. Sometimes it takes a year like this to remind us of how good our God is. So as we say goodbye to 2020, let me encourage you to rest in His goodness and then let His goodness flow through you to a world desperately in need of His grace:
Like God does for us, let us be there for one another and encourage one another.
Like God does for us, let us have one another’s backs and stand up for one another
Like God does for us, let us carry one another’s burdens and share God’s strength with one another
And since we have a God who is good to us all the time, let us do good wherever we can, to whomever we can, so that God may be praised. For our God is good – all the time.