People of a Good Report
In the world we live in today, there is an unfortunate abundance of bad news. The popular saying “No news is good news” encapsulates our expectancy that just around the corner is probably another negative report to demonstrate how bad things really are!
It is absolutely true that there is much to be concerned about in our current world. The moral fiber of our society has been eroded in many ways by a widespread lack of conscience before God, resulting in anti-biblical stances on many foundational issues.
However, as believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we must never allow the pervasiveness of godless influences around us to change our position before God as His representatives. No matter how corrupt the world and its institutions may become, there is still a greater and more powerful reality of God’s righteousness that will prevail – and this prevailing righteousness is what we as God’s people represent.
In the book of Numbers, when the Israelites were at the brink of entering the land promised to their forefathers, Moses famously sent out a group of twelve spies – one from each of the tribes – to scout out the land of Canaan (see chapters 13-14). When the spies returned, all of them agreed that the land was wonderful and fruitful; but only two, Joshua and Caleb, said the people should rise up and take the land. The other ten spies brought a bad report, saying that the people of the land were too mighty for Israel to overtake.
Though the ten spies with the negative report had presented facts, they did not add faith to the equation, and together they turned the people of Israel aside from the purpose for which God had appointed them at that moment. Hebrews 4:2 summarizes the nation of people at that time,
“[T]he word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.”
Of that generation, only Joshua and Caleb, who brought the good report, we’re able to be a part of those who took possession of the Promised Land (Numbers 32:11-12). They added personal faith to the facts that they had found, and thus they saw the fulfillment of God’s promise.
Philippians 4:8 offers for us today a timely invitation to a godly perspective, an invitation to continually live as people of a good report:
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
This scriptural command sets the standard for how we should process the unfolding of current events, the rise of evil influences in our world, and the navigating of difficult circumstances in our lives. If we meditate on and are defined by the elements of a negative report that we receive, instead of what God is doing in a situation, we will miss what He wants to give to us and how He wants to work through us. If, however, we meditate on what is just, pure, and of a good report, we will be prepared to be God’s vessels of change in that same situation and countless others like it.
The mark of great leaders throughout history – leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, and so many others who have brought lasting change to society – is not that they somehow managed to achieve perfection, but that they continued to persevere towards a good and righteous result even when corruption, injustice, and all odds were against them. Because they lived by a vision of what was noble, just, pure, lovely, virtuous, praiseworthy, and of a good report – they became tools in God’s hand to bring about His righteousness no matter how many evil influences stood in their way.
It was Martin Luther King, Jr. who unforgettably said the day before he was assassinated:
“I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”
Even in the midst of threats against his life for his stance on racial equality, Dr. King chose to dwell on the things that were praiseworthy and of a good report. Like Joshua and Caleb of old preparing to enter the Promised Land, Dr. King added faith to the facts that were before him. Because he did so, he left a legacy that those who came after him have been able to build upon.
What is the good report that you must live by today? What wrongs can you make right by receiving God’s verdict rather than the negative report of the enemy?
The people of God always have a reason to bring a good report, because the plans of our God will never be thwarted. He will reign, justice will triumph, and God’s authority will rule over all things.
And that is really good news!