Lego was my favourite toy when I was 10. Family would often give me and my brothers presents of lego at birthdays or Christmas and so over the years we seemed to accumulate quite a lot. I loved building things – sometimes small things like tiny cars which would involve choosing just the right piece so every detail would be right – and sometimes bigger things, like whole towns with buildings, roads, an airport and a harbour. The bigger things were more of a challenge. They would stretch my imagination as I thought of things that could be created. Sometimes I would lay awake at night and think of grand lego-ideas. The problem came next morning when I would sit there and wonder where to begin. What do I do first? Will it ever get done? What if I run our of time? What if mum wants to clean my bedroom when I’m half way through?! What I learned was that you just have to make a start.

If we go back in history some 2,500 years or so, we find the Israelites returning to the promised land, after 70 years of exile. It’s time to rebuild things. Not just their lives, but their homes, their businesses – and now the temple. The idea of building again the temple is a vast one. It’s a massive vision. For some the thought filled them with both joy and fear. Could it be done? Would they have the time, and the energy and the resources? In their hearts they knew God had called them to do this, so they make a decision – like I did with my lego landscape but on a much bigger and more serious scale – they decide to make a start.

We read about this in the book of Ezra chapter 3.

The task seems too great. And there’s opposition (v.3). But they’re making a start.

The task seems too great. It involves giving money (v.7) and giving things (v.7). But they’re making a start.

The task seems too great. They need to find skilled people to oversee the building work (v.9). But they’re making a start.

A big day for these returning exiles is the laying of the temple’s foundation stone (v.10). That was important because it showed they were serious. It was a physical sign that this was going to happen. It was a sign to each other. A sign to the people around them. A sign to God. And they marked the occasion with music (v.10) – with a fanfare of trumpets and cymbals.

And as the music played so there was a refrain – a chorus – which they sang. It was a chorus found in many songs of their old temple hymnbook – what we now call ‘The Book of Psalms’. It was a chorus that was simple and memorable. It was a chorus which motivated them and inspired them to keep keep going having decided to make a start. It was a chorus which they’d used time and time again, probably even during the difficult years of exile. It was (v.11): ‘he is good & his love endures forever’.

These words were basic and foundational to their belief in who God is. And it’s the same for us. Our God is like this. He is good. And his love endures forever.

Have you discovered that?

Maybe like me you answer ‘yes’. But if so, why do we sometimes not live and act like it’s true? When bad things seem to come our way, why do we think that God is not good? Or at least not good to me? Either he is good, or he isn’t. Which is it?

When we’re feeling down, or low, why do we think that God doesn’t love us any more? Either his love does endure for ever, or it doesn’t. Which is it?

The answer is that two foundational things about the character of God are true, all the time. They are not dependent on your circumstances, or mine.

The Israelites had learned that the hard way. They had just gone through 70 years of exile. And yet they could still say of God that ‘he is good’. No doubt there’d been days when it was hard to say that. We know they’d asked, ‘how can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?’ And it can be the same for us as we find it hard sometimes to declare the goodness of God in the the midst of struggle. But they had come through and learned that even when they felt abandoned, God was still good.

Now they were home. But it still wasn’t easy. They were trying to do something good, and yet were being ridiculed with even the risk of martyrdom. They were trying to do the right thing. Trying to see the kingdom re-established. You can imagine them questioning: ‘Shouldn’t this be easier? Is God good? Does his love endure for ever?’ And yet the answer they came to, even in the midst of opposition was: ‘God is good. Every time. All the time’.

Have you discovered that?

I find the writings of the author Philip Yancey really helpful. I’ve read most of his books. But one I haven’t yet read is called ‘What good is God?’ It has 10 chapters, all telling a different true story of people who go through tough times. And yet behind each story of struggle and suffering and pain and endurance they discover the goodness of God. I’m looking forward to reading it.

I want to encourage you to do just that. To discover again the goodness of God. When, in the coming weeks and months you doubt the goodness of God and that his love endures for ever… stand back and pray. And ask the Holy Spirit to show you the goodness of God in that situation. And the Holy Spirit will show you. And as he does, you’ll see things with a whole new perspective.

What the Lord may do is take you to the cross to show you how he went through struggle and pain in order to allow you to fully experience his goodness and love. Jesus Christ went through the most terrible ordeal in order to forgive you and liberate you and allow you to experience that he really is good and his love does endure forever.

Have you discovered that?

About 10 years ago my mother found she had breast cancer. I think she thought she was going to die. This was a difficult period in her life. It was painful and stressful. She was a believer in Christ and so knew if she died where she was going, but nevertheless it was not an easy time. She had surgery and I recall seeing her in hospital. And on this particular day she seemed much more peaceful than before. There was a joy and a radiance about her. What had happened is she’d found the goodness of God in her suffering. She’d come to a settled place. Secure in the presence of Jesus and his love. She’d found as she’d shared something of her faith with the other patients and nurses, that Jesus Christ had given her a renewed vision of his goodness and love. She’d discovered that, even when times are hard, God is good and his love goes on and on and on and on…

Have you discovered that?