“The LORD is good to all, he has compassion on all that he has made”
Psalm 145 v 9
As you may have heard for the last three weeks I’ve been in Russia! I was there on a camp run by CCX (The Russian version of the Christian Union) teaching English, swimming, making friends, participating in Bible studies, having a great time and meeting fantastic people. The whole experience is definitely one I will always remember – in a good way!
But more importantly than what I did was what I learnt. As such I’m going to write two posts the first (this one) about what God has taught me about himself and the second (on Friday) about what God taught me about myself.
I was wondering before I actually did the trip what God would teach me. I assumed that I would undergo many a hardship but come through it all with hard lessons learnt and a stronger faith. Reality turned out to be slightly but no less amazingly different.
The number one lesson I was taught was quite simply the fact that God is good. I know, it seems ridiculously looking back on it, why would someone have to learn that? Surely the goodness of God is evident in everything from the beauty of creation to his work of salvation within me. But to my shame if you asked me before the Russia trip whether God was good I would have said yes but only because I knew that that was the right answer. I would not have said yes because in my heart I was convinced of the all surpassing goodness of God.
I stand corrected.
For whilst in Russia barely a day didn’t go by where I marvelled at God’s goodness to both myself, the team I was with and the camp we were on. To recount every example, every answer to prayer, every blessing would take too long so I’ll only mention the highlights.
People became Christians!
“In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Luke 15 v 10
Need I say any more? Does an example of God’s love, goodness and mercy trump this? We’ve heard that three or four people became Christians over the course of the camp! Four people moving from that wide road that leads to the destruction to the narrow path that leads to eternal life. Four people whose chains were broken, who are slaves to sin no more and who God has brought to himself in repentance and faith.
God was with us
"Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28 v 18 – 20
In Russia I saw that promise that Jesus will with us always to the very end of the age being fulfilled. The team I was on set an example of love and openness that the other Russian students noticed. I say that not to boast for love and openness are not two words I would use to describe my character. I say it because there is only one reason that as a team we managed to set such an example and that is the continued love and work of God.
I found my own attitudes both challenged and changed. Things that previously I would have done in bad grace I suddenly was eager to do. And more as a team we got on really well together, had so much banter and that again is a mark of God’s goodness to us.
“O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!”
Psalm 34 v 8
Liz and Pete got engaged!
“For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favour and honour; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.”
Psalm 84 v 11
I’m sure they won’t mind me sharing this. Two of my teammates got engaged on camp (side note: they had been going out for 14 months before this). What an example of God’s goodness in bringing of a man and woman together in marriage. Ever since Adam and Eve God’s sovereignty over marriage has been clear and to see it working out in the life’s of Liz and Pete was fantastic.
I coped with loads of new experiences
“You [God] are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees”
Psalm 119 v 68
During the three weeks in Russia I did so many things for the first time, things that I wouldn’t have believed I could do before. Yet in every one I see God’s goodness to me in giving me a healthy attitude to them, in giving me the courage to do new stuff and push my comfort zone out.
God answered prayer
“Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”
Psalm 106 v 1
I remember this one particular period where we were getting on a train from Moscow airport to get to our youth hostel. It was 35 degrees and we were carrying our heavy luggage. I remember praying that it would be cooler and lo and behold when our train got into the station there was a short summer shower of rain. We continued on our way and Ali just happened to realise he had left his wallet on the train. Well, he went off to get it and the rest of us prayed that he would find it. He did. Five minutes later we were waiting for a tube train and I prayed that there would be seats available so we could rest. The train pulled in and it was heaving with people. The doors opened and they all got off. We all managed to find seats. When we got off the tube Rachel thought that she had lost her wallet, another prayer, another answer.
Coincidences? Only if you don’t believe in an absolute and sovereign God ruling over all things for the good of his people. And the above example is a tiny fraction of the prayer I know were answered over the three weeks.
“With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD: "He is good; his love to Israel endures forever.”
Ezra 3 v 11
One of the clearest messages of the Bible is the goodness of God. But to my shame I had little faith in it. And that is one of the most amazing facts about this lesson: I really didn’t deserve it. I was like an ungrateful child wanting a present to know that his parents loved him. Yet God blessed me on the trip, he blessed the whole team and the camp as well. Why? Because God is good. And now it is my prayer that I will never again doubt the goodness of God. And like so many of the Psalms I rejoice and praise God for his goodness.
A psalm. For giving thanks.
1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Psalm 31 v 17 - 24
Let me not be put to shame, O LORD,
for I have cried out to you;
but let the wicked be put to shame
and lie silent in the grave.
Let their lying lips be silenced,
for with pride and contempt
they speak arrogantly against the righteous.
How great is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you,
which you bestow in the sight of men
on those who take refuge in you.
In the shelter of your presence you hide them
from the intrigues of men;
in your dwelling you keep them safe
from accusing tongues.
Praise be to the LORD,
for he showed his wonderful love to me
when I was in a besieged city.
In my alarm I said,
"I am cut off from your sight!"
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
when I called to you for help.
Love the LORD, all his saints!
The LORD preserves the faithful,
but the proud he pays back in full.
Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the LORD.