God is good all the time. All the time God is good.
This “call and response” Affirmation of Faith is often used in the African-American church tradition. The leader proclaims: God is good; and the congregation responds: All the time. Then the leader echoes: All the time; and the congregation answers: God is good.
On our BEST days, we believe this. On our WORST days, we doubt it. Most of life is lived somewhere between the two extremes. Like most Affirmations of Faith, we profess it on the good days so that we can claim it on the bad days. And there are days when we are like the man who said to Jesus: Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.
We are first called to profess that God is good in the GOOD times; and this is the easiest part of the affirmation. There are grace-filled moments in life when we recognize just how blessed we truly are.
The sun is shining. Our health is good. The family is well. Work and school are prospering. Life is GOOD. It feels like we are living life in the midst of a doxology, praising God from whom all blessings flow.
However, it is challenging to affirm that God is good in the bad times, too. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul did not write: Rejoice in the Lord in the good things, and again I will say, rejoice. Instead, he wrote: Rejoice in the Lord always. For the hard of hearing, he repeats: Again I say: Rejoice!
Let me honestly say to you that there have been times in my life and ministry when thanksgiving seemed entirely inappropriate. Sometimes thanksgiving and praise seem like ill-mannered guests who burst into the midst of our sorrow and pain.
What right does a hymn of praise have to intrude upon our grief? What part does worship play when our world is falling apart? How does our faith support us during an economic crisis with job loss and an uncertain future?
However, remember that Paul was not sitting in a heated office behind an oak desk dictating to a secretary when he wrote this letter to the Philippians. The disquieting truth is that the apostle was in a Roman prison awaiting trial when he penned this epistle.
During his ministry, the man had been insulted, scourged, beaten, shipwrecked, stoned, and imprisoned for preaching the gospel. Ultimately, Paul would die as a martyr, beheaded by the Romans for proclaiming Christ.
Rejoice in the good times . . . and yes, Paul says, rejoice in the bad times, too. Rejoice in the Lord, ALWAYS. So we affirm our faith by declaring:
God is good—all the time. All the time—God is good.