Wednesday, March 15, 2017

An Inexaustible Fountain of Goodness

The LORD is good to all, 
 and his mercy is over all that he has made.
The eyes of all look to you,
 and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand; 
 you satisfy the desire of every living thing. 
(Psalm 145:9, 15-16)
The eighteenth century English Baptist pastor John Gill described God’s goodness as “an inexhaustible fountain” overflowing forever even as he continually shares his goodness with the living things he has made. In John Gill’s time, city fountains didn’t recirculate their water like the fountains we have now. They drew their water from a reservoir or some natural springs, and provided it to the people who lived around them. Fountains were a source fresh, clean water for drinking and washing. God’s inexhaustible fountain of goodness is this kind of fountain—one that constantly provides us with fresh goodness. But with his fountain of goodness, there is no danger the reservoir will run dry or the springs will dry up. He has an infinite, eternal supply of fresh goodness. There is no limit to his kindness and no end to his generosity, but his goodness flows from him forever in a never-ending stream.

From the abundance of his generosity, God grows mushrooms to feed squirrels and saplings to feed deer. He provides earthworms for robins and mice for foxes. The greens I grow in my garden come from his goodness, too. He could have created only one kind of salad green, or none at all, but instead, he created crispy romaine, buttery spinach, chewy kale, spicy arugula, and red leaf lettuce for extra visual punch, each variety increasing my pleasure as I eat my salads. Vegetables, fruits, grains, and meats—every different kind is a good gift from our good God.

Sustaining Us and Giving Us Joy

God directs everything in the universe, so every benefit we receive—every “good gift”—comes from him (James 1:17). Beyond our food, homes, and families, he gives us jobs, friends, vacations, sunshine, music, colours, and even the air we breathe. Everything that sustains us and everything that gives us joy—all are God’s gifts to us. Even when other people give to us, underneath their gifts is the goodness of God. He gave them enough to share (1 Corinthians 4:7) and the desire to share with us.

God is generous to everyone, even those who don’t acknowledge him or his gifts. “[H]e is kind to the ungrateful and evil,” Jesus said (Luke 6:35). “[H]e makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45). Even God’s enemies receive good gifts from him.

But for those who belong to him, God's generosity continues throughout eternity. Even in this life, every single circumstance is a good gift working an eternal purpose. All things, including life’s trials, are part of God’s benevolent plan to make believers more like Christ (Romans 8:28-29). Can you see why the apostle Paul reminds his readers to be thankful in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18)? Our generous God uses everything, even the hard things, to remake his people in his image.

Reflecting His Goodness

And as those who are being remade in his image, God’s people should reflect his goodness. Since he is good to all, even his enemies, we are called to do good to our enemies, too. And who are our enemies? When he commanded his followers to love their enemies, Jesus included a wide range of people in this category. According to Jesus, anyone who didn’t love them, anyone who wasn’t a brother to them, along with anyone who was actively persecuting them (Matthew 5:43-48), was an enemy. The grumpy neighbor who doesn’t like your family because she prefers silence to the sound of children playing in your backyard is, according to Jesus, your enemy. As a follower of him, you are called to not retaliate, but do good for her instead. If you take her fresh muffins, you are fulfilling his command to love your enemies. You are providing for someone who doesn’t love you or your children, just as God provides for those who don’t love him or his children. Likewise, when you treat your difficult co-worker kindly, you are imitating God’s kindness to both the just and the unjust. And if you pray for someone who is hostile to you because of your Christian faith, you are also reflecting God’s generosity to his enemies. You are following Jesus’s command to be like “your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:45).

But just as God is especially generous to those who belong to him, his people should be especially “good to… those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). Yes, we should give to people in our neighbourhoods and across the world because our God gives to everyone, but the priority for our generosity should be our fellow-believers. Even as we donate to needy children world-wide, our first duty is to make sure the needs of the children in our own churches are met.

And whenever we give to others—to our fellow believers, to the community around us, or to people far away—we are simply giving from what we have already received from God. Any praise we receive for our generosity should be redirected to him, who gives to us so we can give to others. All the glory for both the gifts we receive and the gifts we give is rightfully his.

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