For years I misplaced goodness with "good things." Sometimes it’s still hard to differentiate between the two. So easily I end up serving or doing and not being Christ-like. As a teenager I wrote the Fruit of the Spirit in my journal and rated how well I performed them each day. I was focused on doing and not being.
I get caught up in serving my husband and family. Cleaning the house, feeding the baby, talking with my husband—I mean, they’re good things, but they’re not goodness.
Have you ever met someone who radiated Jesus?
The pastor of my former church in Maryland radiated Jesus. His actions echoed goodness, instead of good things. He did good things, but they surfaced from the goodness in his heart. God’s goodness.
Sometimes I’d walk into church after an event and he would be sweeping the floor alone, singing to Jesus. He made an effort to know every sheep in his flock. One mother explained to me, wiping tears from her eyes, how "Craig just loves. I remember when my daughter was in a coma he sat by her hospital bed holding her hand and praying for her for hours."
He’s trudged through three feet of snow to preach a sermon that barely anyone showed up to hear. When I think of him, I think of someone who literally lays his life down for God and others. Through his self-sacrifice he shines the goodness of Christ in this world.
Whenever I get caught up in doing and not being, I think of Pastor Craig. I remember that I can do good for someone and not love them. I can do good for selfish reasons—to look good to others or feel good about myself. But to be good, to radiate the goodness of Christ, is to die to myself and become more like Him. It is to love like Him, serve like Him, see the world like Him, and ultimately, to be like Him.
George Muller once said:
There was a day when I died, utterly died, died to George Muller, his opinions, preferences, tastes and will; died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame even of my brethren and friends and, since then, I have studied only to show myself approved unto God.
I’ve learned to stop focusing so much on striving for perfection in my life. I’ve learned to stop overwhelming myself with serving and doing good things when I don’t feel like it. Instead, I ask God to strip me to nothing—empty me and fill me with Him so that I love so much that I naturally feel like doing good.
I think of the rich young ruler asking Jesus, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" and Jesus replying, "Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only One who is good" (Matthew 19:16-17).
It’s hard for me to remember that I cannot be good apart from God. He is the Creator of goodness, from the very beginning when He fashioned the earth and saw that it was "good."
I can’t be good without God. I can’t do good without God. But still, I try. I lose sight of this truth and focus on service while lacking heart—lacking goodness in my good acts.
However, when I focus on Him, learn of Him, and draw near to Him, I become more like Him and goodness begins to radiate in my life.
When I was a teenager, curled up with my journal and rating the Fruit of the Spirit in my life, I was striving to do good. When I worry about raising my daughter and research everything from pacifiers to food schedules until I’m exhausted, I am striving to do good.
Now, I think back to Pastor Craig’s example and ultimately, Jesus’ example of self-sacrifice. Truly, no good can come from me when I’m trying and trying and trying. When I am in love with Jesus my heart overflows with goodness. I’m no longer striving to do good for my own reasons, I’m being good because He is the center of my heart. Like Paul says in Romans 7:18, "I know that nothing good lives in me." The only good in me is Him.
This truth is something I need to remind myself daily. And when I do, I find refreshment. I am not good. God is good. And through Him goodness shines in my life. Through Him, like Pastor Craig, I too can radiate Christ. I can replace my motivation for good things with God and find goodness.
My prayer, my desire, my hope among many, is to shine the light of goodness in this world. The only authentic goodness that exists. The goodness of God.
And there’s only one way to do so—more of Him, less of me.