One of the great attributes of goodness is its divine power to overcome evil. Consider that the Word does not tell us we can overcome evil with a good sermon, it does not tell us we can overcome evil with a good song, but it does state unequivocally that we can overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
This is one of those deceptively complex verses in God’s Word that is easy to read, but difficult for many implement practically in their lives. The desire to go on the offensive, to return evil for evil is engrained deep within the genetic makeup of man. We see it in children not yet old enough to speak, as they will attempt to strike back at whoever struck them. It is one of those instinctual reactions which we must subjugate, and have under submission.
When God asks something of a believer, it means that the believer is able to accomplish it; it is within the believer’s power to do it. God will only ask of those who have already received His grace in abundance, because first God gives, then He requires.
When we are commanded not to be overcome by evil, but rather to overcome evil with good, as children of God we have already been given the power by which to accomplish this task. We know evil exists, we know evil wars against righteousness, but we also know, by God’s Word how to overcome it. So often when we face a trial, when we face an attack of the enemy we grow discouraged, because we only see the problem before us, and not the solution that God has also provided. For every hurt there is a balm, for every hardship there is guidance, for every trial, there is a means by which we overcome. When we receive the whole counsel of God, when we stand on His Word, when we know what we have access to as His beloved, we walk in strength, and authority knowing that we can indeed overcome evil, because God said we could.
Much of our Christian walk is an inward issue of the heart. We do not physically pick up our crosses every day, except for that one man who walked all over the world carrying a huge wooden cross, but by denying ourselves, by picking up our crosses, by allowing righteousness to flow in us, it also flows out of us. That which is inside a man, will inevitably manifest outwardly. This is the beauty of goodness, that when it has a place in our hearts, it readily manifests in our actions and our conduct as well.
There is a story I once heard of a small business owner who had given his heart to Christ. He was still a babe in the Lord, still learning the way of the cross, and as he read his Bible he happened upon the verse that described the fruit of the Spirit. The man became sad in his heart because he knew he could not produce this fruit due to the fact that he hated the business owner across the street from him, who also happened to be his competition. There had been an ongoing animosity between these two men going back many years, and whenever one would have a chance to poach the other’s customer, he would do so gladly.
Going to his pastor, the man opened his Bible and pointed to the verse in Galatians and with sorrow in his eyes said, ‘I cannot fulfill this passage in the holy Book, I still harbor animosity toward my competitor, and he still harbors animosity toward me. How do I go about changing my heart on this matter?’
The man’s pastor thought for awhile, and said, ‘try doing good. If you have a customer who can’t find what he’s looking for in your store, send him to the store across the street.’
The man did as he was instructed, although it was no easy task for him. Days turned into weeks, and the shopkeeper across the street began to notice the pattern that was emerging. People would come out of his competitor’s store, cross the street, and walk into his own. As he began to ask the people walking into his store how they had heard about his business, to his great amazement he discovered it was his enemy that was now sending him customers.
The man’s heart was so moved by this gesture, that he in turn began sending customers across the street when he didn’t happen to have what they were looking for in his own store. In this way, the believer unfettered himself from the evil that had bound his heart for all those years. He had learned what it was to overcome evil with good.
Our Christian life is not measured by the knowledge we amass, but by the life we live, and the fruit that is evident in the smallest and most insignificant areas of our existence.
Goodness is neither an emotive weakness, nor is it the inability to say no to people. Goodness is the practical character of God that is daily growing in us. Goodness not only makes Jesus visible in us, but also accessible.
When Peter preached Christ to the house of Cornelius in the tenth chapter of Acts, he used the following description: ‘God anointed Jesus of Nazareth, with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.’ – Acts 10:38
‘There he goes talking about works again!’ No I am not talking about works; I am talking about having the nature of Christ. Goodness, like all the other ingredients that make up the fruit of the Spirit, are not works, but the byproduct of your fellowship and maturity in Christ.
Men today love to make blanket statements when they disagree with anything you’re saying. They take one verse and run with it, until they can run no more, dismissing the rest of Scripture as unnecessary for them in their present predicament. Yes, it is true, and Biblical, that by grace we have been saved through faith, and that not of ourselves. Yes, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
However it is also Biblical that James 2:24 says that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
I’m not trying to get off topic, but I am trying to make a valid point. The Scripture is a symphony, yet many today choose to bang one key on the piano over and over again. Continuing in the vein of this analogy, God is the composer, Jesus is the conductor, and we are the orchestra. Our duty is to know the sheet music, and follow the conductor’s direction.
We cannot reject such attributes as kindness and goodness, gentleness and self-control, simply because we keep repeating the same mantra of ‘no works, no works’, over and over again. These attributes grow in us as a natural byproduct of our relationship with Christ, they reveal our heart and character, showing the world that we are not what we once were, that Jesus did indeed change us, and we have received a new mind and a new heart. Remember, the Bible is a symphony, not one solitary note.
So how do we develop and grow goodness in our hearts? One of the surest ways to develop goodness is to daily return to Calvary and gaze upon the One who was and is the pinnacle of goodness. When we sincerely ask Christ to fill our hearts with His presence, it is unavoidable that goodness will be one of the attributes with which we are filled.
In order for the fruit of the Spirit to continue maturing in us, we must also keep our hearts pure. The inward sins of the heart choke off the fruit of the Spirit, and as such we must continue to be watchful, looking into the mirror God’s word to see if any undesired seeds have been planted that will upon their maturing attempt to destroy the virtuous attributes growing in us.
Above all, we must continually remain aware of the fact that we are not the authors of goodness, but the receptacles for goodness. God pours goodness in us, and our duty as His ambassadors is to disseminate and disperse it.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea jr.