2023: A YEAR OF GOD’S GOODNESS
“Goodness consists not in the outward things we do, but in the inward thing we are.”
My original intent was that my first missive of 2023 would be a blistering review of things going wrong in our world on so many fronts. To this end, I had already teed up several facts in my mind to write the first of several missives—beginning with coming energy disruptions—that would characterize “2023: A Year of Dislocations.” A good friend in West Texas agreed; he told me it was going to be a year of upheaval ahead.
I was prepared to charge full speed ahead, like a snorting bull, at any number of red flags the world’s arena has to offer.
And there are enough of them to make a matador dizzy.
But then I got interrupted by the small, still voice of God.
It happened at 2:30 a.m., during one of my nightly trips to the bathroom, long after the ball had dropped in New York, after the partying and dancing on television subsided, and hours after the Ohio State placekicker missed a field goal that would have completely changed the narrative of the college football championship.
At any rate, I was talking to God about what the year ahead would hold for my family, friends, and troubled country that I love so much. I was expecting confirmation for a litany of bad developments ahead.
Instead, God told me that the year ahead was going to be a season of unprecedented goodness for the people that call on His name!
God stopped me in my tracks.
I had so steeped my spiritual thinking in the judgement of God that is coming—and it will—that I have completely underestimated the goodness of God as a change agent in the lives of individuals, my family, my extended family of friends, the communities around me, my country, and the globe.
And in one short burst of spiritual insight—for the briefest of moments—God opened for me a lifetime of realizations into His goodness.
As you can imagine (or at least many of you can) it was quite the experience.
This unexpected bathroom encounter has changed my approach to everything: the way I view God’s marvelous creation, my relationship with Imogene, and the way I talk to and interact with other people around me (later that very same day I was able to prophetically speak the goodness of God as a healing balm for a grief-stricken mother’s troubled soul).
In a word, I’m seeing God’s goodness everywhere around me. From a pastor’s reference to the virtuous woman (who does her husband good and not evil all the days of his life … who will rejoice in the time to come); to the reappearance of scurrying sandpipers on the beach; to God’s innumerable mercies and acts of favor on my behalf every day.
The next afternoon, I was walking on the beach. I asked God a question: what do You mean by the concept of good? Is my mental comprehension of “good,” filtered as it is through my English linguistic prism, the same as God’s? What did the Holy Spirit mean have in “mind” when the word is used in scripture? In the Bible, for example, the word “good” appears 749 times.
The first appearance of the word “good” is in Genesis 1:4 when God, after He creates light by His Word, says that it is good (in the Hebrew language tobh). As one commentator notes: “The word contains less an aesthetic judgment than a designation of purpose and correspondence to God’s will, indicating the moral goodness of the Creation.”Of course, one could spend a lifetime studying the Old Testament concept of good. For our purposes here, biblical scholars see five aspects of the concept: practical, abstract, quality, moral and technical.
In Psalm 34:8 it says plainly: “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”
In the New Testament there is a fascinating exchange between Jesus Christ and the rich young ruler that appears in all three of the synoptic Gospels (Matt. 19:16-17; Mark 10:17-30; and Luke 10:25).
“And behold, one came and said unto him, ‘Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life’? And he [Jesus] said unto him, ‘Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God:’”
Jesus used his local dialect, of course, which was later rendered into Greek. The Greek word corresponding to Jesus’ meaning is agathos, (a good that acts for the benefit of others)one of many Greek words for “good” in scripture.
Again, one could spend several years exploring the topic of “good” as revealed in the scriptures, including the theological implications of the passage mentioned above.
The older I get, the more interesting the study of words and their origins become.
The etymology of the English word “good” we use today is similarly interesting. Our word is derived from the Old English god, derived in turn from the Proto-Indo-European term g”ed,” (to unite, be associated, or suit). Its Russian cognate is godnyj (fit, well-suited, good for). I find it interesting that none of these words have our deity concept of god as the root word.
At any rate, my final linguistic stop is the world of Chinese characters. As many of you know, I love the study of Chinese characters because the language often offers word-pictures of concepts dating back several centuries.
In my mind, that is the beauty of studying Chinese characters.
The word “good” in Chinese, as we learned in our Chinese Mandarin classes in Monterey, California many years ago—is most frequently Romanized as hao好(third tone). The character is an ideographic compound: woman plus child. The widely accepted meaning of this character is that the characters for “female” and “child” were put together to form a compound because it was “good” for a woman to have a child. Over time, the idea that became internalized in Chinese thinking was the affection and feeling between a mother and her child. In the Chinese thought world, this relationship personified “good,” and was conceptualized accordingly.
I love that thought.
Enough of my etymological forays.
The last two Wednesday mornings here at North Myrtle Beach, I have attended a Christian’s men group. A local supermarket provides a meeting room and breakfast for the weekly gathering of at least 70 or 80 men, of all denominations. The men assemble for one purpose: to worship Jesus Christ as Lord and King. It is the goodness of God in action. The speaker started the last two meetings with the same idea:
“Yesterday is history
Tomorrow is a mystery
Today is a rendezvous with destiny.”
What a powerful thought!
It implies the goodness of God.
If all this is a dream, or I’m playing out a role in some superior intelligence’s virtual reality game, don’t wake me up!
For the moment I’m bathing myself in the goodness of God.
Is all of this to say that there is not an insidious evil growing like a cancer in our society? No. There is. And most of you can sense it. Nor, in my view, is the goodness of God to be seen as a blanket of sand for me to bury my head in until the evil somehow passes by. Or pretend it isn’t there. I have a personal obligation to resist, stand and overcome the darkness.
Certainly, God’s goodness is not a protective shield for churches and leaders who have become listless, lazy, compromising, self-indulgent, indifferent, and afraid to speak out.
Moreover, I am seeing, more and more, the goodness of God as the antidote to the pervasive toxins everywhere around us: overreaching government control efforts; the absence of integrity in public leaders; the erosion of civility, discourse and standards of morality; efforts to undercut the sanctity of marriage and family; the politicization of institutions; and, demonic activities becoming acceptable.
And that list just scratches the surface.
My insistent, constant, and integrous search for God’s goodness in my life and my personal relationships, and how I can spread those spiritual realities—like life-seeds—to the world around me, has become my quest for the year ahead.
It is my new assignment.
And it is so much more than a fleeting New Year’s resolution.
I will speak God’s goodness to the growing darkness around me without fear. I decide—as a matter of my human will—to confront, head-on, what is coming over the horizon. I will not be sidetracked or rendered ineffective by negative words, or verbal arrows, intended by those around me to distract me from my task or to wound my soul.
Insofar as my limited abilities and limited circle of influence allows—as the days of 2023 unfold—I am determined to become a beacon of God’s goodness to a dying world.
Will you join me?
 Proverbs 31: 10-31.
 The King James Study Bible, (Liberty University, 1988), p. 5.
 “The Hebrew Word for ‘Good,’” ichthys.com.