Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
God is Good to You
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:17 NKJV
Question 105 of the Larger Catechism asks, “What are the sins forbidden in the first commandment?” In the final part of the answer, it says, “The sins forbidden in the first commandment are… resisting and grieving of his Spirit, discontent and impatience at his dispensations, charging him foolishly for the evils he inflicts on us; and ascribing the praise of any good we either are, have, or can do, to fortune, idols, ourselves, or any other creature.” Last week we looked at the many ways even Christians can deny Christ’s Lordship over their lives. This week we consider the sin of denying or doubting God’s goodness to us.
There is a Christian praise song called “God Is Good All the Time.” The song is true so long as we remember that God’s goodness to us includes not just the joys and delights of life but also painful discipline, hardship, tribulation, persecution, and physical death. God is good AND He is sovereign over all things. Therefore, everything that comes our way; every pleasure and every pain; is from God, and it is for our ultimate spiritual good in the sanctification process, even if it hurts. We can learn this truth without too much difficulty from studying the Scriptures, yet when we actually begin to experience real suffering or affliction; in our sinful weakness; we are tempted to forget it and rather than see God’s goodness to us in the hardship, we can begin to question, doubt, or resist Him. There are several ways we reject God’s goodness.
First, the Catechism calls attention to the sin of resisting or grieving the Holy Spirit. Stephen charged the Jews in Acts 7:51 of resisting the Holy Spirit when they did not repent at the preaching of the prophets but rather persecuted and killed them, and Paul speaks of our grieving the Holy Spirit in Eph. 4:30 when we tear down rather than build up fellow Christians. Clearly we see that resisting and grieving the Holy Spirit are both the result of sinful pride as we refuse to humble ourselves in order to either admit our faults or to serve the good of someone else. The Holy Spirit would have you to be humble before God and before men. Do not resist or grieve Him by refusing to admit sin or serve others.
Second, we consider the sin of being discontent or impatient with the way the Holy Spirit is working in our lives. Here again, the root of our sin is pride in thinking we know better than God does, as to when we have learned one lesson and are ready for the next. Yet if God is truly all-powerful, all-knowing, and always willing our ultimate good, how can we ever be discontent with where he has us? By definition such discontentment can only be the result of some embracing of evil on our part. Typically it is the evil of believing we know better than God. We think we would do better if He would only do in our lives what we want. So we become discontent; we grow impatient with God as we try to tolerate His poor providential care of our souls! Pray that God would allow you to see areas in your life where you may be harboring discontentment or impatience towards His perfect governing of your life, so that you would repent!
Finally, we notice that when we allow ourselves to become discontent or impatient with God, very easily this sin can grow into full rebellion, where we foolishly charge God for the “evils” He is inflicting on us. For, once I allow myself to question and even doubt that God is seeking my good, it is inevitable that without repentance, I will begin to charge Him with evil in seeking my demise. I will begin to secretly hate God and ascribe any goodness that comes to me to anything other than God, whether it is another person, another “god,” some force like “luck” or “chance,” or to my own efforts apart from or even against the actions of God. What a sorry condition such a state is: to believe that God is out to get you, to blame Him for all of your sorrows, when in fact, the joys you still experience are entirely from Him, though you deny it and spite Him in it! God forbid that you or anyone you know would enter into such a sinful state. May God grant us the grace and mercy to never harden our hearts to the point where we would ever doubt that all of the goodness, pleasure, and joy that we have is entirely from Him, and that any pain and suffering we endure is far less than our sins deserve!