Monday, February 4, 2013

Lessons from Job

As followers of Jesus we're often eager to give God credit for good things that happen in our lives. But when tragedy strikes we tend to view it differently. God is in control of the good things that happen but the bad things? Well, He just sort of allows those things. Or maybe we say that the devil did that instead of God.
Does God need us to make excuses for Him? Does He need us to try and defend Him, to give Him an out? Does God need to be let off the hook for the calamities and disasters that befall us?
In the book of Job we find an answer to that question. Job's story is familiar to us--wealthy man, large family, loved God--but in an instant he lost it all. Through the loss though he maintained his faith in God and continued to worship. But when he is struck with what the Bible calls loathsome sores, that was the final straw for his wife. In 2:9 she says, "Do you still hold fast you integrity? Curse God and die." It's as though she is telling Job, "If this is how God treats His servants, why serve Him?" Job answers her with a staggering question: vs10, "Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?" In asking this question Job makes a statement about the source of the tragedies that have befallen he and his wife. He acknowledges that the good things they had--the riches, the family, his standing as greatest man of the east--all came from God. But he further acknowledges that the evil, the disaster that they now face--loss of his family, his wealth and health--are also from God. Job didn't try to make excuses for God or explain away what happened. He acknowledged the absolute sovereignty of God in every circumstance in his life. Good or bad, blessing or curse, joy or sorrow, God was ultimately behind it. What can we learn from Job's statement?
1, God Gives Good Things. We can all agree on this. We acknowledge God as the source of good things in our lives. And this is right to do. It's a scriptural understanding. James 1:17, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights..." Got something good in your life? Blame God. He is ultimately responsible for it. Jesus said in Matthew 5:45, "For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." The sun didn't rise this morning because you bid it do so. Rains do not fall at our whim. God is behind these blessings. Every grace in our lives, from the beauty of a sunset to the joy of a kiss from your child, comes from the gracious hand of God.
2, God Gives Bad Things. The 2nd lesson Job teaches us is by far the most difficult. His question about receiving from God underscores the truth that just as God gives what we call good things, God gives what we call bad things as well. And it's not just Job who says this. In 2:3 God says to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast His integrity, though you incited Me against Him to destroy Him without reason?" When we recount the story of Job we speak of the devil taking away all he had. But what does God say? That He destroyed Job, not the devil.
Sometimes God brings calamity into our lives. God will bless us, but there are times when God will break us as well. And that's not just something we're comfortable with. When a hurricane makes landfall it sounds bad to say, "God sent that." But scripture demonstrates that He did. Now we certainly must be careful about attributing a reason for why God sends what He does, simply because we don't know. Just as Job never knew why God struck him, we too don't know the reason why God does what He does. But the point is, God does indeed send calamity.
Now our understanding is usually something along the lines of  "Well God allows it but He doesn't cause it." We could say that about Job's situation couldn't we? But remember 2:3? God says He did it, not just that He allowed it. And that's precisely what Job. The challenge for us, then, is to come to the place where our faith is big enough to accept that God can and does send bad things. To recognize that it's not just the devil who brings hardship into our lives. Sometimes it is--but even then our enemy can not act apart from God's permission. Our theology must recognize that God has the right, as creator, to do whatever He wants.
So how do we respond? When disaster strikes, when calamity comes what's the proper response? Again, we look to Job. When Job first hears the news of the loss of his family and wealth he mourns and grieves. And then he worships. The only appropriate response to what God does--good or bad--is worship. If we can only worship God when good things happen then we're not really worshipping God. True worship acknowledges the worth of God and the greatness of His character. And those things do not change, regardless of our circumstances. The key is to learn to look at Christ rather than at what is happening around us. We trust in the promises of Romans 8, that our God is so great and good and glorious and powerful that He is able to take all things, even the things that don't make sense to us, and work them out for His good. God sends good, and God sends bad. But no matter what He sends, we worship.

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