Somewhere out there, there’s a Good Life. Somewhere.

My friends and I have been thinking about certain issues and one of them, in particular, is the issue of the good life.

The “Good Life”. It’s out there right? It has to be. Once in a while we’ll be sitting at Starbucks, my grande house blend in hand and my friend sipping, a water. He’s coffee intolerant. Or rather, his teeth are. We start talking about hikes we want to go on and what it would be like to not have cell phones. Owning a huge plot of land or at least, having a yard where I could plant rows of corn, pumpkins, tobacco, and a grove of fruit trees. Dream a bit here, flesh it out. We dream on and on about this life that, well, seems to be non-existent but, not totally. It’s imaginable, seems realistic, and is being lived by someone out there in the world, right?

And so my quest began. I needed an excuse to leave the e-life, do something else, and begin living the good life guilt free. But I needed direction. A standard, a model. And it needed to be a good one. I needed a standard, a flagship life so to speak so that I wouldn’t die in self-decadence nor wallow in religious hum drum boredom and American work-till-you-die ethic. I needed someone, something to point to and say, that’s what they do. Someone, something credible. Someone like, God.

It turns out I have a certain nostalgia for many things retro. Retro being anything before, ah, 1970. Disco pretty much ruined the seventies. And so, I have a friend who has a collection of old books ranging from history, theology, and fiction that I knew I could peruse if you will to find something good, some old head who knew a lot about God, and told it how it was vintage style.

I came upon “The Attributes of God” by Arthur W. Pink. A solemn and blessed contemplation of some of the wondrous and lovely perfections of the divine character. “Yeah, that should have some blessed information” I thought and dug in. What I found was the standard I was looking for.

Essentially what I was looking for was God’s take on the good life and more specifically what he thought about goodness in general. Because if whatever God thinks is good, or what goodness is, than anything I choose to include in my good life, ought to be ok with the almighty. That was a good enough standard for me to point to. Actually, if I were to be honest, I’ve come to believe he’s the only standard we should be looking toward. But you can decide that for yourself.

Many of today’s writers, and specifically, Christian theologians (if you’re unsure of what a theologian is, the short end of it is they think and write about God, a lot) write with a certain, sensitivity to current cultural trends. That is, political correctness. But back in the day, being PC was, well, it wasn’t. There was none. And to a certain extent, that was good. They told you how it was. Or at the very least, told you how they thought it was and what it should be. They took a stance and really didn’t care too much who thought what. They used archaic bible translations with th’s added to words and sentence structure that took two or three passing's to get the point. While they might not be so easily read today, they were, well, to the point.

Here’s what I found. According to David, a major character in the Hebraic and Christian story plot, he said, “the goodness of God endures forever” (psalm 52.1). That goodness he’s talking about is in respect to God’s well, perfection. There is an absolute perfection to God’s nature. The fact that he is good means that nothing is missing and nothing needs to be added to make him better.

To quote another scholar on the issue, Thomas Manton,

“He is originally good, good of himself, which nothing else is; for all creatures are good only by participation and communication from God. He is essentially good; not only good, but goodness itself: the creature’s good is a super-added quality, in God it is his essence. He is infinitely good; the creatures good (that, by the way, is you and me) is but a drop, but in God there is an infinite ocean or gathering together of good. He is eternally and immutably good, for he cannot be less good than he is; as there can be no addition made to Him, so no subtraction from him.”

Well, that makes sense, right? God is the summum bonum, the chiefest good. And so a bit of history. The original Saxon meaning of our English word “God” is “The Good.” God is not only the greatest of all beings, but the best. He not only made Tiger Woods, he would own him on the back nine. All the goodness there is in any creature has been imparted from the Creator, but God’s goodness is underived, it’s the essence of who he is.

As God is infinite in power from all eternity, before there was any display of it, his power that is; so he was good before there was any communication about the good things he had stored up or anyone to whom he might impart or exercise his goodness. Like people. The first exercise of this Divine perfection, goodness, was in giving things life, being. Because he has inexhaustible goodness to give, he decided to give the things he created, goodness. Again, good old David says, “You are good, and the source of good; Train me in your goodness” (Psalm 119.68, The Message) God, has in himself enough goodness to last eternity. And, an endless treasure chest of all things good enough to fill all things made.

All that emits from God–his decrees, his creation, and his providences–cannot be otherwise than good: it’s written in stone. “And God saw everything that he made, and said, “Yeah, that’s good.” Moses wrote that. Genesis 1.31 So the goodness of God is seen, first, in creation. The more closely the creature is studied, the more beneficial attributes of the creator, God, is found.

Another writer once said, “I thank you, High God-you are breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration-what a creation!” (Psalm 139.14, The Message.) This isn’t a bout of hyper-egotism. Everything about the structures of our bodies from the single cell all the way to neurological functions attests to the goodness of a really, smart, and good maker. Hands designed to work, sleep designed to rest a weary body, lids and brows to protect the eyes. If you took, oh I don’t know, a month, and studied the various ways in which the body protects and heals it self so that it can live and thrive, you still wouldn’t be done finding ways in which a good creator provides for the creation.

But the goodness of God is not confined to humans; it is exercised toward all his creatures. “All eyes are on you, expectant; you give them their meals on time. Generous to a fault, you lavish your favor on all creatures.” (Psalm 145.15.16, The Message.). Whole volumes might be written to amplify this fact. Whether it’s the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, or the fish in the sea, more than abundant provision has been made to supply their need. God apparently “gives food to all things, his mercy lasts a long, long time” (Psalm 136.25). It’s true, “The earth is full of Gods goodness” (Psalm 33.5).

The goodness of God can be seen in the variety of natural pleasures, which he has provided for his creatures. God might have been content to satisfy your hunger with out the food being very tasty. Can you imagine life without chocolate, peanut butter, fruits, vegetables, and tacos? He didn’t just give us senses, but he gave us things that gratify them; and this also reveals his goodness. The earth might have been as fertile as it is without it being so delightfully variegated. Our physical lives could have been sustained without beautiful flowers to look at, to smell. We could walk fields without ears hearing the sweet sound of birds in the trees or a gentle breeze rustling the leaves on a warm autumn day. Life could be bland, and necessary. Vitamins and water. Why isn’t it? Where do all the extras come from? “The tender mercies of the Lord are all over his works.”

Preach it.

The goodness of God is also seen in that when Adam and Eve sinned, and every human being for that matter thereafter sinned, God didn’t dispatch a dish of whoop ass right away. Or more theologically put, his dispensation of wrath did not at once commence. It could have. He could have deprived us of every good thing that he had provided for us. Every comfort, every pleasure. Instead, he decided to let us live in our mess. A mixed nature of mercy and judgment. This is something to consider. Think through it. Notwithstanding all the jacked up stuff that goes on in the world, the ratio of good to bad is favored way on the good side. With comparatively rare exceptions, men and women experience a far greater number of days healthy than they do sick or in pain. There is much more creature “happiness” in the world rather than creature “misery”. Even our sorrows admit considerable alleviation. It’s good to cry. And God has given mankind a mind that is pliable. It adapts itself to circumstances and makes the most of them. Spend three years on a island by your self, and a volleyball can be pretty welcoming.

Enter in the question of human suffering. Just because there is human suffering and much, much sorrow in the world, it hardly seems fair to question God’s goodness. If man, in his stubbornness, decides to sin against the goodness of God and despise the “riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering,” and after hardening his heart and being impenitent thereby storing up against himself wrath that is due against sin, than who can a guy (or woman for that matter) blame but him or herself? (Romans 2:5.6) Would God be “good” if he didn’t punish those who abuse his blessings, his benevolence, and trample his mercy under their feet? Would it be good, to let guys like Sadaam Hussein free, only to see that with his freedom he only caused more atrocities against his own people, and say, oh well? Or Hitler, or Stalin, or Insert bad guy here? It won’t be a poor reflection of God’s goodness when he decided to rid the earth of those who have broken his law, abused his patience, defied his authority, mocked his messengers, scorned his son, and killed those who followed him. Rather it would be the exemplification of it.

The goodness of God was most apparent some 2,000 years ago when he sent his son, “made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Galatians 4:4.5.) Then, it was a whole bunch of angels saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14) Goodwill toward men that is, from God. In the gospel the “grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2.11).

“O that men would praise God for his goodness and for his wonderful works to the children of men” (Psalm 107.8) Gratitude seems justly required from those of us, you and I, who reap the benefits of a good God. Yet, we often don’t or aren’t thankful for it. We treat it as if it’s deserved or no big thing. It becomes lightly esteemed because it is exercised toward us in the most common of events. We daily experience it. At the supermarket. During Holidays. At the park. On a hike. At School. Yes, even at School.

The goodness of God seems to be the way in which he most appeals to our hearts.

Charles Spurgeon, a lively fellow, once said,

“We must never forget: his dispensations may vary, but his nature (being good) is always the same.”

That longing in my heart for something more, a good life, the dream of the good life, isn’t quite a fantasy after all. There are good things in life. Plenty of them. We want the good life because; God wants us to experience what’s good. And evidently, it’s more than just, “things”.

It’s him.

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