Thursday, September 22, 2011

How did he do it?

“For I know that my redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God.”
Job 19:25-26


How does one man, suffer the greatest level that anyone can suffer, and yet still extol the one that allowed the suffering?   Job had graduated from the school of Theology.  We learn so much about suffering, sovereignty, creation, heavenly creatures and spiritual warfare from the book of Job.  Job wasn’t just a nominal follower of God, nor a fair weather Christian.  Job lived out his belief and everyone around him knew it.  Job was constantly seeking to bring more glory to His maker. 
How did Job do it? 
  1. Job didn’t stray from what he believed about God (good sound theology).  He didn’t let his eyes determine his belief.  Clearly, Job was a man that spent much of his days with his eyes closed...in prayer and in worship.  Though he did not understand why God was allowing him to suffer, he did not cast aside his integrity (or faith in God).
  2. Job didn’t break his relationship with God when circumstances didn’t go his way.  Job didn’t deny God or look to other sources of help when the heavens were silent.
    1. What happens when we don't get our way?  We typically break off communication with God.  We stop praying and we stop having a quiet time.  Job understood the deadly consequences of ceasing communication with God.
  3. Job took action (you could call them resolutions) to build safeguards around his life.  He did this so that he would be more pleasing to God, so that he would live a holy lifestyle, so that he would be an example to family, friends and countrymen.  Look at a few of them found in chapter 31:
    1. v. 1: Job made a resolution that he would not lust.  I will not look with desire.  I will not stare.  I will look away when I see a woman who is dressed in a provocative manner.  “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?
    2. v. 4: Job recognizes God never leaves him or forsakes him.  God has determined his days.  “Does not he see my ways and number all my steps?”
    3. vv. 13-14: Job has executed justice and fairness to all, including his employees.  “If I have rejected the cause of my manservant or my maidservant, when they brought a complaint against me, what then shall I do when God rises up?”
    4. vv. 16-23, 31-32: Job shows compassion and mercy to anyone in need.  “If I have withheld anything...from the poor, from the widow, from the hungry, from the fatherless, for those that needed clothing, or harmed the fatherless...then let me be accursed.  I am not guilty of withholding from anyone that was hungry, even the stranger that was traveling by...including housing them.” 
    5. I will only worship God, I will not put my confidence in anyone or anything other than God.
      1. v. 24 Don’t put your confidence in money/wealth.
      2. v. 25 Don’t rejoice in the abundance of your wealth.
      3. v. 26 Don’t worship the sun, moon and stars.
    6. v. 29, 30: Don’t rejoice when those who hate you end up in ruin and don’t ask God to curse that person that hates you.
    7. vv. 33-35: My life inside my house, behind closed doors, is not different than my life in public.
       
    8. vv. 38-40: My business will be done with absolute integrity.  I have not wronged others, let the very ground that grows my crops testify to my integrity.
   

Conclusion (Job 19:25-26)
Job could respond the way he did because he had lived a life wholly and completely given to God’s glory.  It wasn’t about Job’s life, it was about living a life that found favor with his God.  Job had a perspective on our earthly life that few have ever grasped. Job understood that everything in this world was temporary and only what he did for God would last.  That’s why he could lose the most precious things in this world and still say, “I know that my Redeemer lives”.  He wasn’t cursing God, he didn’t change his viewpoint that God isn’t real or God isn’t all-powerful and therefore he couldn’t prevent this tragedy. 

Job knew . . .
a) his God was his redeemer and He was alive,
b) his God would conquer death, sin and tragedy and bring creation back to it’s original glorified state,
c) after the ravages of sin had taken the final toll on his body, he would be with God for all eternity.

“For I know that my redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God.”

Job 19:25-26

Thursday, September 8, 2011

I Want to Die . . . when all Hope is Lost.

Have you ever felt like death would be a welcome alternative to living?  That life is so awful that you have lost all desire to continue existing in a world that seems to offer no hope?  Maybe you have said to yourself, “I wish I had never been born?  Don’t despair, you are not alone and there is hope for you.

In my quiet times I am continuing to read Job, a man that holds fast to his integrity.  He rests in his faith alone, but that doesn’t ease the pain of his suffering.  After being bankrupt and losing his children, he is further tested by painful, loathsome sores from head to toe.  Clearly, the hand of God has come down swift and hard on this mortal man.  His days of prosperity and respect are a distant memory as friends come to sit in horror as they gaze upon this broken and downtrodden figure of a once great man.

Immediately after being plagued by these excruciating boils, Job still has a healthy perspective on life.  He says, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (2:10)  But after more than a week of intense suffering with oozing sores that pound his flesh with extreme agony and misery Job is ready to die.  He laments the day of his birth and wishes that he had never been born.  He prefers death  to the extreme torment that he now endures without hope (1:11; 7:6).  In the story of Ruth, Naomi has a similar experience after losing her husband and two sons.  She wants to change her name to “Mara” which means “bitter” because she too has lost all hope.

Loss of hope is devastating and blinding.  One of the dangers of losing hope is the inability to view life accurately.  Job loses hope and therefore wants to die and wishes he had never been born.  He forgets the joy of spending time with his children and the laughter of life.  In the same way, Naomi sees only hardship, pain and turmoil.  Naomi forgets what awaits her back in Israel, several kinsman redeemers. Naomi seems blind to the fact that Ruth, her daughter-in-law, is forgoing all hope of marriage, family and friends for her sake.  In reality, Naomi has many things to give her hope. 

When you are under great suffering, remember the stories of Job and Naomi.  There is always hope in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  Remember, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worship of praise, think about these things.” Phil. 4:8

Recommendations:
-When you are feeling blue, begin to count the blessings in your life.  Remember the past blessings and try to find one or two things you can be thankful for in your present circumstances.  (See song below).
-Read the story of Ruth (it takes less than 20 minutes).
-Keep a journal.  When you encounter times of suffering, go back and read about fun times, encouraging family stories and blessings from your heavenly Father.
-Above all, don’t stop having a daily quiet time.  There is no quicker way to lose hope than cutting off your relationship with the One who gives us eternal hope.
-Read When the Darkness Will Not Lift by John Piper.  Free pdf version at www.desiringgod.org.

I remember singing this song in church as a boy.   
Count Your Blessings.

   When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
    When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
    Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
    And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

       Refrain:
        Count your blessings, name them one by one,
        Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
        Count your blessings, name them one by one,
        *Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.
        [*And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.]

    Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
    Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
    Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
    And you will keep singing as the days go by.

    When you look at others with their lands and gold,
    Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
    Count your many blessings—wealth can never buy
    Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

    So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
    Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
    Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
    Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Written by Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1897.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Gone in Sixty Seconds

I am a number, a growing statistic.  One year ago this month I was laid off work like so many others in North America.  My vocation?  Pastor.  This fact is made even stranger in that I gave up a thriving secular career to follow God’s leading into a vocation ministry.  Things become even more surreal with the knowledge that I raised my own support for the first three years of ministry so I worked for the church for free.  Therefore, on this anniversary month, it seemed like a good day to reflect on the past year. 

Today, the house is strangely and wonderfully quiet.  The morning begins with a hunger to dive into His Word.  I open the Holy Bible to the book of Job . . . His timing is perfect.  It is one of my favorite books of the Bible and yet this morning chapter one seems so fresh, vibrant and new.  In lieu of the last twelve months, chapter one has new meaning, I can relate to Job like never before.

Read Job 1
Job is blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil (1:1, 8; 2:3).  He loves his children and consecrates them in case they have cursed God in their hearts.  He acts as priest for his family offering sacrifices to God. 

Timing is everything
Job receives the news of his demise in a way that is intentionally delivered by Satan to provoke Job to sin.  The first messenger might leave Job wondering but the second one leaves no room for doubt.  The “fire of God from heaven” consumes 7,000 sheep and all the servants (save one).  The third messenger completes the financial bankruptcy of Job and the fourth just adds fuel to a fire of brokenness.  By all appearances, God has turned on Job and made him his enemy.  Everyone will ask, “why?”  Satan doesn’t want to just hurt Job, he wants to devastate him to the point of maximum suffering to tempt Job to curse God. 

Job prepares to worship
I have read verses 20-22 hundreds of times and I never thought about the time required for Job to shave his head.  I always pictured Job falling to his knees and worshiping but never thought about the time it would take to prepare for worship.  They didn’t have modern instruments to shave, because men rarely did.  Secondly, the hair of a Middle-Eastern man is not like a blond hair blue eyed man.  It will require some effort and time to shave his head.  After shaving his head and tearing his clothes he probably goes to the place where he normally worships. 


Prostrate and Praying
Job acknowledges that everything he has/had is a gift from God.  Job is the steward of these gifts but they do not belong to him.  He is grateful for the time the Owner has allowed him to use these gifts but he does not curse God for removing them from his life.

Clinging to those precious gifts of God is one of the hardest temptations in life.  Life is good when we have them, we love God and proclaim His praises.  But when those gifts evaporate, that’s when our faith will be tested.  Are you ready?  Are you holding those gifts too tightly?  Can you honestly pray verse 21 to God?  The book of Job is a wonderful book to prepare you for just such a time.  Start today by reading and meditating on chapter 1.  Spend the rest of the month studying and applying Job to your life.

Quotes:
"Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God."

"Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open."

— Corrie Ten Boom   

Resource:
Suffering and the Sovereignty of God,  by John Piper (www.desiringgod.org)