Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth. (Exodus 34:6)
God perfectly exemplifies the goodness found as the sixth fruit of His Spirit. We cannot even comprehend how good God is! His goodness is everlasting, shown in His lovingkindness and compassion to the very people who rebelled against Him. His lovingkindness abounds throughout the Earth (Psalm 33:5), and He loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us (John 3:16)! This is unbelievable compassion. This is amazing grace.
In light of all this, God is unarguably the only One who is perfectly good (Mathew 19:17). But yet, we are called to follow His example:
To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power. (2 Thessalonians 1:11)
As Christians, we should desire goodness. After all, we are supposed to be perfect, as God is perfect (Mathew 5:48). We should seek to be morally and spiritually excellent, and this excellence will be manifested in our active kindness and good works.
If you had to reread that last line about good works, I don’t blame you. Good works get a bad rap in our churches today. Christians seem to shake their heads at good works, almost as if they are sinful. True, some would try to use good works to gain their way into heaven, and that is clearly wrong. We are saved by grace through faith, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). Still, it is obvious from the Bible that good works are important.
Almost as if God knew we might struggle with the right balance between salvation by grace and good works, the Ephesians passage above continues that though we are saved by grace through faith, we are still to do good works, works which God created beforehand for us to walk in.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
The goodness we should seek to cultivate in our lives starts inwardly, but it does not stop there. First we must make Jesus our Lord and desire His pure goodness in our lives, but then this goodness must be expressed outwardly in our actions. As Christians, we have been created for good works!
Do you ever struggle with being good like I do? If you answer no, please read 1 John 1:8. We want to be good like Christ, but oftentimes our old sinful self gets in the way. It may be either encouraging or rather disheartening to note that even Paul, one of the greatest Christians ever to live, also struggled with doing good. (It is encouraging in the sense that we are not alone in our struggles, but rather disheartening to know that even if we become a mighty warrior for Christ, we will still struggle with being good [sigh])
Paul wrote in Romans chapter seven that he is “the one who wants to do good.” He joyfully concurred with keeping God’s Word and wanted to be pure in all he did, but yet still he did what he did not want to do, that which is evil.
You see, ever since Adam’s first sin, there has never been a human (well except for Jesus, duh) who could avoid living without sinning on a daily basis (Romans 5:12). We are all born in a fallen state, and in this state we can do nothing other than sin. Though our minds have been made new in Christ, we still live in our fallen bodies. As much as our redeemed mind wants us to be pure, our flesh, sinful and fallen, wages war with our mind and makes us prisoners to sin still. Paul knew this and could only cry out:
“Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?”
This should be the cry on all of our lips. We should be broken by our inability to be good; we should recognize just how wretched we are! But thankfully, we have an answer to the question above: Jesus. He will set us free from our body of death! This freedom will never be complete till our bodies are redeemed when we go to be with Jesus, but from the moment we accept Him as Lord, Jesus begins this transformation in our lives from one who hates good to one who does good all the time! And He definitely gives us some practical advice in His Word to help us along.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:2)
See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. (1 Thessalonians 5:15)
We have been given a tool to overcome evil with, and with it comes the first practical application I can think of. Do you seek goodness? Resist returning evil with evil. Humble yourself to the point where you would seek to do good to everyone, even the one who does evil to you.
Also, stay away from bad company, for bad company corrupts good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33). Do you have non-Christian friends? Do you enjoy hanging out with non-Christians more than you do Christ followers? Now I am not saying that we should become something akin to Amish people and never associate with those of the world, for how are we to reach the word with the Gospel if we isolate ourselves from it? However, if we are not careful, the ones we try to reach out to can instead pollute the very root of the goodness we are trying to grow in our lives.
Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed. (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)
I would encourage all of us to sow goodness in abundance! Not only this, we should be cheerful as we do it! God is for us. He will supply us with the sufficient grace to accomplish every good deed we set out to do! Sow goodness in your lives, and it will grow.
One quick warning before a last verse of encouragement: sometimes after we show goodness to others, we will be praised. This praise may be warranted, but it can be very harmful. All praise belongs to God who has saved us from death and equipped us to do good. Our puny little selves (excuse me for calling all of us such) should never be praised for something that God is doing in our lives. Instead, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Mathew 5:16)
Now for the encouragement:
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. (Galatians 6:9-10)