A professor in seminary once described the book of John as a book a child could wade in the shallow end of its simplicity yet a book that theologians could spend a lifetime exploring its depths. As I teach the children that enter my classroom, I discover that so much of biblical truth is just that - simple enough that I can explain its truths to my class yet deep enough that I will mull over the application for days after my lesson.
Yesterday, in junior church, we talked about goodness, one of the fruits of the Spirit. "Good" is such a simple word. Kids know what's good and what's bad, yet still struggle with God's meaning of the word "good." So often I've heard kids tell me the way to obey God is to "be good." One boy I was trying to win to the Lord told me he couldn't accept Jesus' salvation because he wasn't "good enough."
As I pondered my lesson, I had to ask myself if I understood the concept of goodness. Goodness is more than obeying a long list of "don'ts." According to the Greek meaning, goodness is going beyond a duty bound obedience to the rules. Goodness strives for excellence. Goodness seeks to benefit others. Goodness works at making the world a better place, at influencing others to be their best.
Our lesson looked at how Saul showed goodness before Samuel anointed him as king (1 Samuel 9, 10). He obeyed his father without question. He didn't give up the search for the missing donkeys easily. He stopped to think about the concerns of his father. He didn't take advantage of the good graces of the prophet Samuel; instead, he wanted to give Samuel a gift before asking him for a special favor. Most importantly, he was humble in his acceptance of the kingship of Israel.
Recently, as expressed in this blog, I've been feeling unproductive and at loose ends. I just turned 50, I'm moving my two daughters into their own apartment in three weeks, and I've seen my church's children's ministry fizzle. "What do you want me to do with the rest of my life?" I've cried to the Lord. I thought he would answer me with a roomful of children the next Sunday or a book contract - it didn't even have to be lucrative - just a book contract would do.
Instead, through this lesson, I'm reminded of Paul's admonition to women my age. God wants me to be known for my good deeds. I've raised my children; now it's time to "show hospitality, wash the feet of the saints, help those in trouble and devote [myself] to all kinds of good deeds (1 Timothy 5:10)."
As this verse indicates, doing good is more than just providing a meal to a sick widow. I must remember that goodness is doing what will benefit others. Showing goodness might mean playing ping pong with my eleven year old student while listening to him tell me how he is fighting less with his sister. It might mean refusing to point out to my husband that he is being extra irritable. Would it benefit him or me if I mentioned it? If goodness is going beyond what is my duty, it will mean that when I go with my husband to visit a sick church member in the hospital, I will take an active part in the visit, showing compassion for the heartaches of her past and participating in a loving expression of prayer for her healing.
The fruit of the Spirit result from a joint effort between God and me. I need to work on these character traits but He is the one who enables me to grow them into my life. He gives me opportunities to show them. He uses my efforts for His glory. So, with that in mind, my prayer this week is that the Lord will give me opportunity to do good to others. I think I had better ask Him to open my eyes to what good things I can do! When I see His hand guiding me, I can't take sole credit for my acts of goodness, for I know it is through His guidance that I am able to do good to others.
I think I'm out of breath! All that from a simple Sunday School lesson that I taught to three students! As always Inside the Classroom, the teacher is most likely learning more that students.