Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Job: A Gospel for the 21st Century


The Old Testament poetry/wisdom book of Job brings both questions and answers to those willing to plumb its depths, though I am not sure of which it provides more: questions or answers.

As I have been preparing for this week's upcoming message I have seen a few new things in the story of this man who was greatly humbled by God, who was both helped and hindered by his friends, and whose life has left us with both challenges and hope. I have seen that his story is a gospel desperately needed in our culture today, both inside and outside the walls of the church.

I believe that over the past generation or two, the church in the west has been sold a false bill of goods, and sadly, has turned and sold that same false goods to those who have come to seek God's grace. Now, hear me, I am not saying this is true of every church, of every follower of Jesus Christ, it's just that I have seen this too often.

We have proclaimed a gospel that goes something like this: "Come to Jesus and all your troubles will be changed to blessings." If you believe hard enough, and pray long enough, and follow close enough, the blessings will come.

In the worse case scenarios people are promised perfect health, great wealth and a blessed life on earth. But even when we do not "push the issue," we subtly proclaim that Jesus came to take away all your pain and trouble. I don't think this is the gospel message of the New Testament as much as it is the gospel message of our materialist, consumer-driven, me-first culture.

Now, before some of you get your toga in a knot, I do believe that Jesus came to bind up the broken hearted and to set the captives free. I do believe that there is great blessing in following, trusting and serving the risen Lord. I do believe that God can, and does heal, bless, and give to us "exceedingly, abundantly beyond all we ask of think," but I also believe that there is more to following Jesus.

The problem is that when we preach this kind of Gospel, when things do get tough people are more apt to give up on God, or to beat themselves up for not having enough faith. Maybe what we need is a little more honest disclosure.

In the story of Job we find a man who by the world's standards (and even God's) was a good and righteous man, and who was blessed beyond measure. But, we also find a man who knew that trusting and following God does not always mean things will be easy, but that does not mean we can curse God, or turn our back on Him.

Now, to be true, Job did "have his moments" of doubt and questioning of what God was doing, but in the end he realized that is was God who was not God, and not himself. He realized that in whatever God brought, or allowed, it was God who was his redeemer, and his hope. And therein lies the "good news" of Job. News that we need to acquire today.

We live in a world that seems to be falling apart at the seams. Nations are at endless war, and culture looks to be self-destructing, and yet we must remember that God IS sovereign over ALL. It is the LORD who is our hope. It is the gospel of hope in the midst of hard times.

As Job said, "Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him..." Will God find in each of us a faith that keeps faithful even when the blessings do not come? Will we praise Him in the good and bad times? Will we love Him when the blessings cease to flow? Will we trust in the God who IS faithful, and IS good, and IS merciful?

May our hope be found in the hope that Job professed, "I know that my redeemer lives, and in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh will I see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes--I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27)

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

testing

Anonymous said...

The latest ---think - or wish - or believe ---and you can have whatever you want craze being promoted on Oprah and Larry King Live is “The secret.” Kind of a believe, wiggle your nose, and presto. You can have whatever you want philosophy.

I enjoyed watching “the secret” being used for skits on Saturday Night Live recently rather than watching yet another high profile Christian Evangelist providing fodder for comedians. It’s so ridiculous that it was humorous to see a skit where someone who lived in a war zone was being interviewed by some heartless idiot who was smugly suggesting that all they needed to do is acquire a positive attitude. I can laugh heartily at that type of foolishness as long as they are not imitating a high profile Christian leader who is making a mockery out of my faith by rubbing salt in the wounds of the less fortunate.

To teach Christianity accurately, one be willing to embrace “the mystery” and “the promise” not “the secret” -- because we only know in part. We see though a glass darkly and will continue to until one day we see Christ face to face. Truth without paradox is not truth at all, but mans way of trying to remain in complete control. Yes, God rewards those who believe. Yes faith works. Except when it doesn’t.

I watched a show recently (fiction) where they were interviewing a sexual predator who had killed a child while molesting him. The sexual predator was whining about how life was treating him. The detective said, “Well, you know. Sometimes, bad things happen to bad people.” He made his point.

In reality, we are all sinners who have no right to expect anything except hell and damnation from God unless we put our faith in Christ and allow his blood to cleanse us and make us righteous enough to stand before God as His adopted sons and daughters.

Yet, even those who believe, who have put their faith in Christ rather than themselves, who walk by the spirit and not by the flesh sometimes have very bad things happen to them. If only we really could say to non-believers, “Just put your faith in Christ, and you will always be blessed and never suffer or hurt again.”

Well, we can say that. It’s being said a lot lately and I suppose will be said a lot more as Paul predicted in 2 Timothy 4:3-5. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”

It’s interesting to note that right after he warns about sound doctrine, in the very next breath, Paul tells Timothy to do what? Does he say to think positive? Think and grow rich? Believe and
he will receive? Nope. He tells him to endure afflictions.

Teaching the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth requires balance. We need to teach that we if put our faith in Christ and follow him by hanging out with winners instead of sinners and live righteous lives, we can probably stay out of a lot of trouble, not be in the wrong place at the wrong time or be influenced to do anything stupid. Thus we will probably be spared a lot more woes than those who join “the world.” We need to teach that it is true that faith is the substance of things not seen, God does reward faith, and it is also true that without faith, it is impossible to please God.

But, bad things happen to good, faithful people like Job too. They always have and they always will. And each of us at some point in our lives will go though times where our faith will be severely tested. Times when we will have to just trust God realizing that in his infinite wisdom, he knows what he is doing and really does have our best interests at heart – even if that faith – the ultimate faith -- seems to defy logic when we look at our outward circumstances whether that faith is tested for :
an hour,
a day,
a month,
a year,
years
or in some cases like the people in Hebrews 11:13
a lifetime

gentledove

Anonymous said...

Pastor,
Job has always been a puzzler to me...God seemed to go to such extremes to prove a point to the devil regarding Job's devotion and faith in Him. It seems that one or two tragedies might have "done the trick"....but they go on and on and on! When I read Job I can't help but thank God over and over for His incredible mercies to me!!
I guess the bottom line is:
Who do I believe God is? If I believe He is my "heavenly Santa Claus" with a bag full of "goodies" and blessings...then I am disallusioned when the storms of life rage...and say"WHERE is GOD?"...or "HOW could YOU allow THIS to happen to ME?" If I view God as only the God on the mountain top....who goes with me through life's valley experiences?
I agree with you that many pulpits have been guilty of saying...or at least INFERRING...that people's troubles are over if they but come to Him. They ARE over spiritually and eternally...but not on this earth! The scriptures say that the "rain" falls on the JUST and the Un-just.....rain can spell destruction(as YOU well know) it can also be blessings in times of drought.Both the just and unjust suffer..or benefit. The scripture also says that in this world we WILL have trouble...BUT...if our belief is in the absolute Sovereignty of God...we recognize that although we may suffer loss of health, wealth, friendships, family...even reputation...that we are not alone in our boat!!! The beauty of rock solid faith, as Job had, is that although we lose every blessing on earth...NO ONE can rob us of our relationship with our Savior or the eternal life He has purchased for us. "Though He slay me...yet will I trust Him" WOW!!
There IS NO ONE else! Standing at the bedside of a sick loved one, standing at the graveside of a loved one or friend....there IS NO ONE else! Externals are just that....externals...they fanish with time...it is the INTERNAL that matters and holds us steady in adversity.It is often the tough times in life that "grows" us up..strengthens character, solidifies our faith and sets straight our priorities.
Job suffered from his losses even after God showered him with MORE wealth, MORE family...he still suffered the loss of his "lost" children etc. He was a man of incedible faith...what an example!
I hope I can exhibit a fraction of that kind of faith when I face my life trials! Ruthie

Pastor Randy said...

gentle dove and Ruthie,

It's been awhile, eh? Good to hear from you both again, and thank you for sharing your hearts. It is good to know that there are those, like yourselves, that know the blessings that come from trusting the Sovereign God, no matter what He allows into our lives.

May the testing of our faith truly produce the endurance of which James writes, so that we can be perfect and complete lacking in nothing.

Randy