Doing good or trusting — which comes first?
In trying to live strong and live well, most of us would agree that the main thing is... doing good. And doing good to others.
A life that is passive, perhaps believing in God's providence, but not doing very much in response to it, seems inadequate. And so it is.
Churches can appear to say the right things to encourage members to be good, and even to be changed, while remaining comfortable clubs for the initiates not doing much to benefit outsiders. But there's little credibility in talk without action.
On the other hand we've all encountered busybodies who invade other people's lives but we're left with questions about what the motivation is. Apparently good works can sometimes come from muddled motives. Sometimes we're doing what's appears to be good, to make ourselves feel good, or to meet a need we have to be needed, or even to feel in control.
Our 'goodness' is only truly good if it comes out of more than ourselves -- giving away what we ourselves have been given, with no strings attached.
There's a lot in the Bible about doing good, but there is also a lot about trusting God and depending on Him. Which comes first?
We're inclined to 'do good' as a way into relationship with God, who is good. If He sees us doing a version of what He does, He will recognise our good works and reward us with His favour -- or so we think.
But that's putting the cart before the horse. God wants us to trust Him, and know Him, and receive His goodness first. What we do then, comes out of that relationship. What we give away to others out of His generous supply will not be tainted by our mixed motives.
The Book of Lamentations in the Bible contains a very well-known verse that has become a motto for many. It is about God's compassion, or goodness, being renewed every morning in God's faithfulness.
And in that context, today's verse speaks of our trust of Him
The LORD is good to those who depend on Him, to those who search for Him. Lamentations 3:25 NLT
He's not only good to those who show some evidence of depending on him. He is generous in His kindness to those who make any kind of turn towards Him.
Most of us do quite a lot of searching for God -- and soul-searching too -- before we let Him into our hearts and lives. It's a big thing to give up our independence. It is costly to admit our need of what Jesus has done for us, which we could not do ourselves. Then, recognising how He has given up His earthly life for us, we have to trust Him with our life ongoing.
We read many accounts in the NT of people who had a spiritual encounter with the Lord and believed in Him.
This is how it works:
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.
As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame.”
So in our searching, this is what it is like when we find the Lord -- or perhaps it is really Him finding us.
This is depending on God, and coming into the assurance of eternal life with Him. And yes, God is good to us in this relationship. It is a new spiritual start in life, and it opens our eyes to a whole spiritual dimension we were not aware of before.
We now have a prayer life. We are not in our own. We have help and guidance.
But as millions of Christians testify, God draws us to Himself and begins helping us and showing His goodness to us long before we ask Jesus into our life and come to know Him. He is good to those who search for Him from the moment we make the first hesitant turn.
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him. Lamentations 3:25 NIV