Mercy, Not Sacrifice Part II: A Good Report

God could have told the devil, “Job is way too proud for me.

His self-reliance doth defy my law of liberty.

His armpits drip with fear. His brow reeks with uncertainty.

It’s utter foolishness. Why don’t you humble him for me?”

 

But God, who’s rich in mercy, didn’t take that tack at all.

His heart was not to set the innocent up for a fall.

His goal, it seems, was to reveal the gospel to this man,

For the One who suffers with us all had formed a mighty plan.

 

It wasn’t something Job could understand inside his head,

Or wrap his mind around. He must experience it instead:

Not from a savior’s point of view, but from a sinner’s seat.

He must sit in the pit of misery and feel the heat.

 

Until you’ve truly suffered, it is hard to understand

The Father’s fervent love for you, the mercy he has planned.

For pain that has no purpose lacks the mighty healing touch

That flows from stripes laid on the back of Him who cares so much!

 

Was Job a sinner like the rest of us? Well, in the midst of Job’s suffering, after Satan has afflicted him, he asks God, “How many are my iniquities and sins? Make me to know my transgression and my sin. Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and holdest me for thine enemy?… For thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth.” (Job 13:23-26)

The reference to iniquities in his youth show that Job was not perfect in the sense of being sinless. However, exposing those sins is not the purpose of the Job book, for when you read the beginning, you see no mention of God punishing him for those sins. Like every man, Job had his flaws, but when God spoke to Satan about Job, He left the past in the past and focused on Job’s good points.

“Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” (Job 1:8 KJV)

Job was a man like no other, and God had blessed him in his work. Throughout the land there was no equal when it came to fearing God and eschewing evil (to eschew evil = tell evil to “shoo!”)

God spoke glowingly to Satan of Job’s perfect behavior, just as He spoke well of His creation in the book of Genesis. He called everything He made “very good,” not “very bad.” Even after the first people sinned, he didn’t call them bad names. Instead, He provided the promise of a Savior, the “seed of the woman” who would crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15)

Do you feel guilty over something you’ve done? Do sins of the past continue to haunt you? If so, what do you imagine God would say? Would He yell at you to stop messing up and order you to get your act together?

Note that God did not accuse Job before Satan. Satan was the one who accused Job before God. “If you take away his blessings, he’ll curse you to your face.”

For the purpose of proving Satan wrong, God allowed him to afflict Job – not once, but twice. Job lost his business and his family in one day. It was all wiped out. His business was attacked by Sabeans and Chaldeans. All his animals were killed and so were all his employees.

In fact, before every test Job endures, God is quick to point out what Job has done right.

“Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? And still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without a cause.” (Job 2:3)

Although it may seem as if God was, in fact, punishing Job, the purpose of the test is clearly not to find fault with Job but to prove the glory of God’s good name. For the sufferings of Job are nothing compared to the sufferings of Christ, yet in the book of Job we find some small picture of those sufferings, and (at the end) a spiritual resurrection from the dead.

 

Faith That Works Through Love

The Bible tells us God is love,

And love believes all things.

It’s Jesus’ faith that saves us

With the righteousness it brings.

He never fails to show us

All the great things He can do.

If we will keep our eyes on Him,

Then He will see us through.

He promises to give us hope,

A glorious future too.

He healed the lame, made blind men see,

And cured the lepers too.

He never once made people sick,

And when they were in doubt,

He used his quiet authority

To cast the demons out.

One day a man who had no hope

Said “Jesus, if you can

Do anything, then help my son,

Because there is no man

Among your followers who knows

The way to calm his rage.

Please free this boy tossed to-and-fro

Inside that unseen cage.”

Amazed to see such unbelief

Displayed before His eyes,

Yet brimming with compassion,

Not a lick of compromise,

He drove out the evil spirit,

Overruling every doubt.

Though, as the boy lay on the ground

(it looked as if he’d died),

As Jesus helped him to his feet,

It could not be denied

That something great had taken place,

A miracle of faith.

God’s own belief brought wholeness

And rebuked the wrathful wraith.

No unbelief can stand against

A love so pure and true,

Through which all things are possible.

I know that love. Do you?

Sick or Simply “Suffering for Christ”?

In my travels throughout the Christian world and throughout cyberspace I have discovered some disturbing philosophies concerning true Christianity and what it means to suffer for the Lord. It is the idea that physical disease and handicaps are part of Christ’s sufferings in which His followers are called to participate. But what does the Bible say about suffering?

The Old Testament book of Job is frequently mentioned when it comes to the idea of physical pain and suffering. If you read the first two chapters very carefully, it is evident that while God allowed Job to suffer, it was Satan who afflicted him with sickness, and it was a works-based mentality based on fear that opened the door. In the first chapter, we see that Job was worried about his children, so he sacrificed for them continually, thinking “What if they cursed God in their hearts?”

Does such thinking fall under the category of “serving God,” or did Job have a problem with his thought life?

“But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.” (Matthew 6:23) The vast majority of us have physical eyes with which to see, but I believe the eye can also refer to the imagination.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

What does it mean to be pure in heart? Well, what do you imagine God to be like?

Job was worried about his children. Was he trusting God with them? What kind of God did he think he was serving?

“Lord, I knew thee, that thou art a hard man,” the servant told his Master in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:24). If this is our attitude toward God, then we will live in fear, not faith. Now, if you want to call that “suffering,” then fine. But is it really suffering for the Lord? In the talent parable, the servant feared his master, but not in a good way. Instead of using his talent for good, he hid it. Did the Master reward him? No. He took the talent from him and gave it to the ones who used their talents. They were men of faith, not fear.

Were they better than Job? No. According to Romans 3:23, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

If Job could have been justified by works, then it seems he would have been.

“Hast thou considered my servant Job?” God asked Satan. “… there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” Job 1:8

If anyone could have made it to heaven by their works, it probably would have been Job. But if he fell under the category of “all have sinned,” then he obviously had some deeper heart issues that disqualified him.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that Christians are immune to suffering. While sickness can help us understand what suffering is like, I wouldn’t call it “suffering for the Lord.” I believe sickness is part of the curse that causes death and which came upon man as a result of the fall. Sin, whether outward or inward, is what invites Satan to attack us.

But by the stripes of Jesus we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

 

Faith Versus Feelings

Many times, in Christian circles I have heard it said that believers are to walk by faith and not by feelings. But I have noticed that when Christians feel bad or are experiencing depression, they often do follow their feelings – straight to the doctor’s office. They want meds to make them feel better so that they can enjoy life and resist the constant urge to kill themselves. Others, who were born with a dose of overconfidence and optimism may also end up running to the doctor – not to make them feel better but to help them get some rest. They desire drugs to balance their overexcited nerves and bring peace to their souls.

“I know I’m supposed to walk by faith, Doctor, not by feelings. So please, you have to fix my feelings so I can walk by faith.”

The question is, what does Jesus think of this idea? Can you imagine Him sending his disciples to a doctor when they were upset?

“I’m afraid you’ve got a little problem with manic-depression, Peter, jumping out the boat one moment, confident that you can walk on water. The next moment, you’re in a panic, crying out for me to save you as you sink beneath the waves. You need some meds to even out your mood swings!”

Feelings change. They’re like waves of the sea – up one moment, down the next. That’s why Christians shouldn’t live by their feelings. But does that mean we shouldn’t have them?

Many of us have felt God’s presence. We have experienced His touch. Our emotions have been stirred through worship. When we read His Word, it stirs our hearts to action. If you know you should step out in faith but your heart’s not in it, should you look to natural means to fix your feelings?

Or should you seek the LORD with all your heart and believe the promise in Jeremiah 29:13?