Heart Thoughts - Considered 7/16/14

     I think when one considers the books of the Bible, Job doesn't rank very highly.  It's not an account our flesh will enjoy as it chronicles the intense tribulation undergone by Job at the hands of the enemy, satan, and it's even less appealing when we understand that the devil was first given permission by the Father Himself to attack Job's life before any of it took place.  If you know the story, satan came before God and claimed that the only reason anyone followed Him at all was because of the good things He gave them.  In the midst of this conversation, it was the Father who asked, in Job 1:8, "Have you considered my servant Job?"  And so began Job's journey of pain, heartache, loss, and sorrow, and none of it, as is so clear, was deserved.
    We are very big on justice, especially when it is justice for ourselves.  We do not sit still for injustice, again, especially when we are on the receiving end of it.  We demand justice, and if we are followers of Christ, we demand it of He and the Father.  If it is not instantly forthcoming, real trouble will be on our horizon, and our target, directly or indirectly, will almost always be God.  "Why?" will be the question on lips.  Why did this happen?  Why did You allow it?  Why aren't you ending it?  Why are you letting it go on?  Why"  An unending parade of "Why's?"  I think I know something of this.  Maybe you do too.
    My "why's?" first came in strength when divorce hit my life.  I never thought such a thing could happen to me.  I was a pastor, I was dedicated to Him, followed Him with all my heart, not perfectly for sure, but with a heart that was His.  I thought that should be protection enough.  As I walked through that time, what grew in me was anger, bitterness, resentment, and much of it directed towards Him.  I can remember, to my shame, accusing Him of failing me, forsaking me.  I can remember literally shouting at Him that I had given Him everything, followed Him with everything within me, and this was my reward.  I can remember closing one conversation with Him by saying "Well, it really pays to serve God."  Yet, in all of it, He gave back to me not wrath, or judgement, or His own anger, but mercy.  Abundant, rich, overwhelming mercy.  It took a long time to notice it, but in time, I began to embrace it.
    Chris Tiegreen said that so much of our problem with suffering is that we assume His salvation is "first and foremost about our well being," defining that as "comfort, prosperity, health and success," and though He is interested in our well being, it is He who defines what that is, and we need to understand that His highest purpose in all things is "His glory, for this is a God centered, not man centered universe."  Everything in my response to what had happened to me was centered on myself.  My pain was real, but in it, I saw nothing of Him, I saw only myself.  When that happens, we will not allow Him to be our Healer, our Comforter, and our Deliverer.  He can only be our adversary, we can only see Him as being against us.  We are blind to Him, and worst of all, the enemy's accusation that we only follow Him because He blesses us is chillingly true.  Yet, with all glory to Him, this is not the state He chooses to leave us in.  There is another place He will lead us to, though the great tragedy is that it can take us so long to get there.
     When the news of the devastation that had hit Job's life came to him, the loss of all his property, his position,and his family, 1:20 says that he "got up and tore his robe and shaved his head (signs of his deep grief).  Then he fell to the ground in worship."  I had not done this.  Very likely you did respond to suffering this way either.  It's so much easier to rant, accuse, and shake our fists at God.  Only in His Spirit, by His Spirit, may we worship Him, and we can only do so if we know, if we have settled two truths in our hearts and lives; that He is good, and that He is sovereign.  Job was able to worship Him because he knew, in all of his life chaos, that these two things were true about His God.  He was fully good, and He was fully in control.  More, God knew something about Job, that he would trust Him in everything, even the worst.  He did not get an explanation of the events, just assurance that this was true.  For Job, it was enough, is it enough for you and I?
     Jesus said that it would be through many tribulations that we would enter into the Kingdom of heaven.  This is not one of the promises we like to memorize, but it is so, and will always be so.  In our lives, can we cling to, as Job did, that in the midst of them all, the truth that no matter what our circumstances say, we know, He is good , and He is in control, and so, in their midst, we worship Him?  I am so thankful for this truth, and so thankful that when I have forgotten it, He has shown me, and will always show me, mercy.  In all things, good and bad, may we worship Him.

Pastor O