Through out the scriptures we are told that God is good. When we hear this we tend to describe the word good in terms of immediately recognizable “good.” Our definition of the term “good” could alternately use synonyms like “pleasant, pleasing, desirable, pain-free, or sought-after.” When we study the verses that deal with the phrase “God is good,” we see that part of God’s “good” activity towards us is not within that shallow, immediate definition. In scripture we find things like “testing,” “trying,” “examining,” and “sacrificing” in the context of describing God's goodness towards us. In Psalm 107, which begins and ends with statements attesting to the “goodness” of God, forty-three verses are laced with real life situations where the goodness of God is manifested to people. Some of these people were lost and wandering, some had been subjected to bitter labor by God, others where caught in a storm sent by God, some of them were suffering in divine discipline for their rebellion. Although each group was in a different situation and for a different reason (some had rebelled, some had obeyed, some were guilty, some were innocent), they all were in the goodness of God.
The truth that God is doing something in our lives to change us is so obvious it goes without saying, but yet it is one of the things we must be taught so we do not go to extremes.
In Philippians 4:12-13 Paul says he has “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” In the original Greek the phrase “learned the secret” is a technical term that refers to the process of initiation. The initiation would include more than knowledge but a sequences of life experiences. Four situations in life are then listed by Paul and written with specific Greek verb tenses. I have taken these four situations and formed a quadrant which can be used to help identify and clarify changing situations in our life. Paul says he has learned to be content when “well fed,” “hungry,” “in plenty,” or “in want.” These four may seem redundant in the English Bible as if saying “prosperity or poverty, or prosperity or poverty.”
The tenses of the verbs that Paul uses in the Greek text develops the quadrants that can categorize every situation in life.
The first prosperity phrase (“well fed”) is passive. Meaning Paul was the recipient and not the doer of the verb. In other words he did not cause it to happen. This is true of the last phrase (“in want”) indicating there were times that Paul was in need that were out of his control. Paul did not deserve or cause the lack in this situation, it was given to him. The other two phrases (“hungry” or “plenty”) are in the active tense meaning Paul did or created both of these in his life at some time.
All of these serve a purpose and is the manifestation of the goodness of God in our lives. You may be suffering undeserving like Joseph or deserving like Samson. You may be prosperous undeservingly like Solomon or deserving like Abraham. But, one thing is true, God’s goodness will eventually take you to all four quadrants and through his initiation you can be content in any of them.
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