What makes the good book so good?

First published in the Christian Science Sentinel

The leather cover of our old family Bible is crumbling. Its pages are brittle, held together by tape. There's no doubt it has been well used over the years.

For some families, a Bible is the only book in the house. Others have one - or more - for every member. Sales figures prove it's a perennial bestseller.

What makes the Good Book so good? Elements of adventure, history, biography, and poetry fill its pages. But that's true of countless books whose impact has faded over time. To me, the Bible isn't just a good book - it's a book about goodness. A record and celebration of how God makes His good nature known and felt in ordinary and extraordinary situations.

I think that's the secret of its endurance. People long to know that good is real, dependable, inevitable. That it's a present power, the underlying law of existence. The Bible assures them of this.

At various times, I've been drawn to the stories of Abraham, Ruth, Nehemiah, Daniel - and Jesus. Their goodness has revealed to me a radical way of thinking and acting. Every one of them honored God, or at least sincerely tried to. They listened to Him in prayer, praised His might, trusted His will. Although they underwent hardships - or maybe because they did - their innate persistence, integrity, and affection were honed and strengthened. Good was clearly the guiding force in their lives.

Ancient scriptural texts remain unfailingly relevant in the 21st century. A single verse can impel a major thought shift, an improvement in character, or a physical healing. I've experienced all three. And the distinct message of these changes has been that I can depend more and more on the good that is God.

One time, researching a single word in the Bible had far-reaching effects for me. After college, I took a position teaching English in Nantes, France. I was on my own for the first time, and found myself with seriously dwindling funds. When weeks of fretting and figuring failed me, I decided to look for good in God instead of in my circumstances. My wholehearted prayer - and a yearning for relief from agitation - prompted an in-depth look at one aspect of goodness, the concept of peace.

With each passage about God's peace that I read in the Bible, a strong and spiritual calm grew within me. By the end of my search I was absolutely free of worry, even though my financial state had not changed. This deep happiness was enough. And then good multiplied unmistakably in my life. It took the form of new ideas, of funds from three unexpected sources, and of protection in a serious accident. Within a short time I had covered not only basic expenses, but even a few luxuries - with money left over.

What happened? I certainly didn't create good or make it happen. But I single-mindedly focused on the reality of good, trusted and expected it as the nature of God made evident to me. The resulting signs of good matched my commitment to perceiving and understanding it. The goodness that comes from God had been in effect all along. I just needed to practice relying on this fact, and the Bible was my resource and guide.

A primary theme in the Scriptures is that God is good. The word good describes "God" and "man" over 600 times throughout the Bible. In "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy wrote, "In the Saxon and twenty other tongues good is the term for God" (page 286). And in the glossary of "Science and Health," she explained that the word good means God.

Just as the Word of God is much more than words, the Bible is much more than a good read. It's a body of evidence people everywhere can look to whenever they want to remember how good they really are.

All scripture
is inspired by God,
and is useful for teaching
the faith and correcting error,
for re-setting the direction
of a man's life and training him
in good living.

II Timothy 3:16, J.B. Phillips

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