Romans 8:28-30

There was a little boy named Johnny; a good boy to be sure. He loved hanging out at the local 7-11, so much so he offered to sweep the store once a day for free just to be able to hang out. The owner wasn’t sure if Johnny had some kind of problem, but he noticed that other boys would constantly tease him. They would say Johnny was two bricks shy of a load, or two pickles short of a barrel. To prove it, they would offer Johnny a choice between a nickel and a dime. Johnny would always take the nickel; they said, ‘because it was bigger.’

One day after John grabbed another nickel, the store owner took him aside, “Johnny, those boys are making fun of you. They think you don’t know the dime is worth more than the nickel. Are you grabbing the nickel because it’s bigger, or what?” Slowly, Johnny turned toward the store owner and a big grin appeared on his face and said, “Well, if I took the dime, they’d stop doing it, and so far I have saved $20 worth of nickels!”

Good things happen to good, and in this case smart, people.

Last week, I talked about what the Bible has to say about why bad things happen to good people. Today I want to talk about how and why good things happen to good people. To do so I want to return to the verse I made mention of last week; Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the ‘good’ of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”

This verse assures of something that most of us instinctively know; that as we live our lives for Christ, good things are going to come our way. When we cooperate with God by allowing Him to work in and through us by the power of His Holy Spirit, we will by and large lead good, if not great, lives. Good things will naturally come our way.

Not always of course; I reminded us last week that the Bible is very realistic in letting us know that no one is exempt from trouble and heartache.

But the Bible also indicates that a person who follows God will find more blessing in life than those who do not. Psalm 84:11: “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no ‘good’ thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.”

When our ‘walk’ includes PRAYER

then God’s goodness promised in Philippians 4:6-7 will be given to you. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Dr. Jamie Aten, a cancer survivor wrote in The Washington Post. “Most of us operate from what some researchers refer to as a ‘just’ worldview. We tend to believe that if we are good, good things will happen. It’s difficult, then, to find meaning when bad things happen to us. I went to the doctor for tests because of shooting pains in my leg. I never dreamed it was from a mass sitting on a nerve bundle in my pelvis. It was difficult for me to wrap my head around what had happened. Thoughts like, ‘Wasn’t I a good person?’ plagued me. Then I met a man whose roof had been blown away by Hurricane Sandy who optimistically quipped: “Sometimes you have to lose the roof to see the stars.” There is a man who knows how to find meaning in loss. As a Christian, I began to pray and God got me through the cancer.

Inspired by the man who encouraged him to look to the stars, Dr. Aten turned to research on how people respond to trauma. “My colleagues and I have interviewed disaster survivors about their views of God in the wake of catastrophe. We have found that you can have two people who go through almost identical losses, with one praying to God, and the other not praying and found that the person who doesn’t pray will struggle a great deal more.”

I encourage you then: Even in the worst moments, look for the stars 1

“Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace” and that’s a good thing.

When your walk includes GIVING

then God’s goodness promised in Acts 20:35 will be given to you. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

I picked up the book, Why Good Things Happen to Good People, subtitled, How to Live a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life by the Simple Act of Giving. It was written by Stephen Post who lives in Cleveland and works at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine where he researches the blessings that result from Simple Acts of Giving.

What kind of giving? The giving of your time, the giving of love, the giving act of listening, the giving of forgiveness, and yes, giving money and resources.

Post writes,

Giving reduces mortality significantly later in life, even when you start late. One study followed 2,000 people over the age of 55 for 5 years and found that those who volunteer for two or more organizations had an impressive 44 % lower likelihood of dying in those 5 years. And that’s after sifting out every other contributing factor, including physical health, exercise, gender, habits like smoking, marital status. 2

Perhaps that’s why Tom White lived to be 90. White graduated from Harvard and made his fortune in the construction business. Before he died, he had achieved his life’s goal: to give away his entire fortune. White was a Boston businessman who has given away $75 million. When people asked him ‘why,’ he responded with ‘give me three reasons I shouldn’t,’ and then proceeded to give three reasons he should: “I can’t take it with me, my kids are okay, and my wife’s taken care of.” He also said, “I’m motivated a lot by what Jesus wants me to do and I think he wants me to help make the world a better place. White served on the boards of Boston College, Harvard Divinity School, the JFK Library, and the New England Patriots (he built Foxboro Stadium), But his proudest relationship is with the poor people who live in Haiti to whom he gave millions. When his alma mater, Harvard University, calls for a donation, he says, “For God’s sake, you’ve got $15 billion over there, and I’ve got people over here starving; you tell me what I should do. Then with a chuckle, he adds, “I still give $1,000 a year to Harvard so my classmates will still talk to me.” Tom White’s one regret? “I’m sorry I don’t have more money to give away.” 3

When your walk includes FORGIVING OTHERS as God in Christ has forgiven you

then God’s goodness of having a heart NOT poisoned by anger, bitterness and resentment promised in Matthew 18 will be yours to keep.

Yvonne Pointer was one of ten children born to a wonderful mother and father, although she admits: “I was the worst one of the kids. I was always getting suspended, I dropped out of school, I was pregnant at 16. For three years, a friend of her father’s continually tried to get her to church. “He was a thorn in my flesh.” But there came a day when life took a bad turn for the worse and she went to church and cried out to God. “That was May 4, 1975,” she explains, “you never forget the day or hour you have an encounter with Jesus.”

However, less than 10 years later, Yvonne’s 14-year-old daughter Gloria, the oldest of her three children, was raped and murdered while walking to school in Cleveland, Ohio. In the beginning, it was all about the injustice done to my child; period.” But eventually, I found hatred too heavy a load to carry. Would I want the person who murdered Gloria over for Sunday dinner? No. But if I didn’t forgive him, un-forgiveness would kill me, too. Forgiveness releases you to live again.”

Then slowly but surely, a new sense of direction emerged. She co-founded Positive Plus, a women-helping-women organization. Today, Pointer’s ‘day job’ is in Cleveland’s community relations office, but she’s also a writer, speaker, and tireless advocate for child safety. She even speaks in prisons, sharing the love of God with inmates. “This is the message we need to take to the world, that God loves us.” 4

Yvonne is so right. And she is an example of the fact that as we live in Christ we will not only have the blessing of God’s goodness as part of our lives but will be enabled by God’s grace to impart God’s goodness to others. As did she and Tom White and Dr. Aten.

When we do our best to live with and for God in Christ on a daily basis good things will come our way because God causes all things to work for the good to those who love God.

When you follow God’s commands to love God and love others then God’s goodness promised in Proverbs 3:1-4 will be given to you:

My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.

“Most days, love is both little and large. Little in that, it is often as simple as a reassuring smile, a moment of patience, a gentle touch, and a small thing given with an open heart. Large because a life well lived is really the sum of thousands of small, ordinary acts of kindness.” 5

On May 13, 1965, Housekeeping Monthly offered the following advice to women in what they called “The Good Wife’s Guide”

Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious dinner ready when your husband gets home from work. This is a way of letting him know you have been thinking about him and are concerned with his needs. Prepare yourself. Put on some make-up, put a ribbon in your hair, and be fresh-looking. He’s been with a lot of work-weary people. Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash them up, brush their hair, and change their clothes if needed. Remember, they are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part. Have a cool or warm drink for him, and arrange his pillow and take off his shoes. Over the cooler months, you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. After all, catering to his comfort will bring you immense satisfaction. Let him talk first. Remember that his topics of conversation are more important than yours. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner or entertainment without you. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his need to relax. 6

Obviously, times have changed for the better. The irony is that there really is some wisdom here. There really is something good and noble about doing these simple, everyday tasks for another person. In the New Testament, Paul tells us all to serve one another, to defer to one another, to submit to one another, to love one another.

“Now you are full of light from the Lord and your behavior should show it! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true” (Eph. 5:8b-9).

Ultimately good things happen to good people because God is good!

The Bible proclaims over and over that “God is good.”

Psalm 34:8 “O taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the person who takes refuge in Him!”

Psalm 100:5 “For the LORD is good; His loving kindness is everlasting.”

Psalm 107:1 “O give thanks unto the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.”

1 Chronicles 16:34 “O give thanks unto the LORD, for He is good; His loving kindness endures forever.”

Good things happen to good people because God is good, and as James writes: “Every good and perfect gift comes from God” (James 1:17)

Speaking of James, or in this case, Lebron James most of us recall that on June 19, 2016, the Cleveland Cavaliers led by James clawed their way back from a three game to one deficit, won three games in a row, and became pro basketball’s new world champs. After the seventh and final game, which the Cavaliers won 93-89, their head coach Tyronn Lue referred to LeBron James as he proclaimed, “Great things happen to great people.”

In the realm of pro sports that statement might be true. After all, James carried his team through the final three games, averaged almost 30 points per game, and became the finals MVP. But the gospel of Jesus offers a very different take on great things happen to great people. The gospel of the Lord Jesus proudly and boldly proclaims, great things happen to bad people, unworthy people, little people, poor people, and unrighteous people. In other words, the gospel of Christ says that great things can happen to ALL PEOPLE who turn with faith to God in Christ and begin to cooperate with Him in living a full and rich life as He did.

“But then God our Savior showed us His kindness and love. He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of His mercy. He washed away our sins, and gave us a new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us because of what Jesus Christ our Savior did. Because of His grace He made us right in His sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life” (Titus 3:47).

1 Dr. Jamie Aten, Spiritual Advice for Surviving Cancer and other Disasters.
The Washington Post (8-9-16)

2 Post, Stephen. and Neimark, Jill. Why Good Things Happen to Good People.
[New York: Broadway Books, © 2007] Page 10.

3 Jeffrey Arthurs, South Hamilton, Massachusetts; source: Boston Globe (3-23-04)

4 Audrey T. Hingley, Gloria’s Legacy. Today’s Christian (May/June 2006), p. 31-33

5 Post, Stephen. and Neimark, Jill. Why Good Things Happen to Good People.
[New York: Broadway Books, © 2007] Pages 11-12.