Saturday brought tragedy to our state. A 25-year-old woman recklessly barreled her car through a crowded Oklahoma State University homecoming parade, killing four individuals and wounding forty-four more, some critically. We had church members just a few feet away from the tragedy as it happened, and one person told me yesterday that he will never forget the horrific sight of the dead and wounded lying on the street and sidewalks around him.
Watching the news Saturday night, I heard someone who narrowly escaped being hit by the car say to an interviewer, "Only by the goodness and kindness of God was I not hit." It seems programmed into every person to believe the evidence of God's goodness and kindness is material and physical blessings or the avoidance of temporal tragedies. It seems unnatural to say that God's kindness is present in the lives of those hit by the car as much as it is in the lives of those not hit by the car. But because such an idea seems so unnatural, maybe we ought to conclude there's some truth in it because God's ways are not our ways, neither His thoughts our thoughts (Isaiah 55;8).
Personally, I believe the gospel requires us to say that Christians who experience terrible tragedies are as much in the middle of God's kindness and goodness as those who don't experience such trauma.
The writer of Hebrews makes an astonishing statement about Jesus Christ. "Christ saves to the uttermost those that come to God by Him" (Hebrews 7:25). Question: For "those who come to God by Christ," what is it that Christ saves us from? Answer; Christ saves us from ever "being cut off from the goodness and kindness of God" (Romans 11:22b). This is the teaching of the New Covenant, and Paul spends a great deal of time in his letter to the Romans teaching this principle. Paul says that believers in Christ abide in God's goodness, but those who refuse Christ are "cut off" from God's goodness and kindness. There is a popular saying that "God is good all the time and all the time God is good." This saying is only partially true. God is good all the time to those "who come to Him by Christ." Those who refuse Christ are 'cut off' from God's goodness."
"Behold the severity of God" (Romans 11:22a). It is a severe thing to be outside of the realm of God's goodness and kindness. One is "cut off" from God's goodness. However - and this is important - "to be "cut off" from God's goodness can only be measured by your attitude toward Jesus Christ. Those who come to God by Jesus Christ are never cut off from God's goodness, are never outside the realm of God's kindness, and are never "cut off" from God's grace, because Jesus "saves us to the uttermost."
The King James Version word "uttermost" - which means "completely," "fully," or "totally" - is the best word to translate the Greek word panteles. It's much better than the New International Version or New American Standard word "forever." It is true that Christ saves us forever, but when the Bible says "Christ saves us to the uttermost," it means He "completely," "totally," and "fully" rescues us from ever being cut off from God's goodness.
One of the worst things a Christian can do is to measure "God's goodness" in terms of health, wealth and other material or temporal blessings. These things are good and definitely comprise some of the blessings that come from God ("for it is God who gives you the power to have wealth'), but these are not God's greatest blessings nor are they God's surest signs of His kindness and goodness. A rich, healthy, powerful man can be 'cut off' from experiencing God's goodness in Christ and be utterly miserable spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically. The internal belief that God is good to you personally, unconditionally, and eternally - regardless of your merit or ability to earn this favor - is a far superior gift than any external experience of temporal, material and physical blessings. Only the person who comes to God by Christ can have the assurance that cancer, job loss, accidents, and other tragedies are never a sign of being cut off from God's kindness and goodness.
Jesus Christ fully, totally and completely delivers us who come to God by Him from ever being cut off from God's goodness, no matter how things seem around us - even if we are struck by a car during a parade.