Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Right Thing

"For such is the will of God, that by doing right we may silence the ignorance of foolish men." 1Peter 2:15.

We can do the “right thing” all of our lives and bad things will still happen to us. Doing the right thing does not save us from future circumstances. It is when we continue to do the “right thing” when life goes bad on us that our lives gain significance in the eyes of others.
Job is the perfect example of the man who did the “right thing” all the time, yet he suffered a great deal. The real significance of Jobs’ life is that he continued to do the right thing even as he suffered. I’m going to go out on a limb here, but when I really give it some thought I realize that if Job hadn’t acted as he did he wouldn’t even be in the Bible. If he hadn’t continued to live as he always had his faith would have no standing with the world. It wasn’t his suffering that set him apart, a lot of people suffer. What set Job apart, what made him worthy of our notice, was what he did in the midst of his suffering. He just continued doing what he had always done.
It is when we continue to do the “right thing” when bad things happen that the world takes notice. When trials occur in our lives our first question is often, “Why me?”. The more appropriate question should be, “Why not me?”. My faith does not exempt me from adverse circumstance. Trials happen to everyone at some point, but we as Christians are given the means to cope.
Prior to Jesus, Job was the epitome of suffering. Things that never happen to anyone happened to Job all at the same time. A lot of people get hung up on the whole idea that God allowed Job’s children to be killed. What most of us fail to do is to look at these events from God’s perspective. Granted this is a difficult proposition at any time, but we need to try it in order to understand this issue. God knew that Job’s children would be going to heaven, which is better than being on earth any day. So their deaths were not a bad thing from His view, and once they got there I know they were pretty happy with the outcome. The reason He knew where they were going, aside from the fact that He’s God, is that Job had raised them to know God. In fact, Job even made sacrifices for his own children just in case they forgot or sinned somehow. Just to make sure all the bases were covered. Job did the “right thing” even when no one else thought he needed to. Job was conscious of his relationship with God all the time. Because Job spent so much time in fellowship with God there were qualities in that relationship that most of us only dream of because we have chosen not to pursue God wholeheartedly.
God knew Job. He trusted Job.
When God pointed to Job He said, “Have you considered my servant Job?” He didn’t say “Here’s a long list of my followers that you should look at.” Of all the people on earth He could have mentioned He named only one. He did not name Job’s children, or his wife, or his friends.
Job was the only name that passed God’s lips.
To have faith is to be tested. I have to wonder if untested faith is real faith at all.
Let me clarify that statement: We all have faith in something. It may be a thing, a person, or even an activity. We tend to put our faith in people or things that have passed some test that has proven to us that it is worthy of our dependence on it. Sooner or later the object of our faith will be judged as to whether or not it is worthy of it. I can tell you with complete certainty that everything we have faith in on this earth will fail us. The reason for that is this; on earth we determine whether something or someone is worthy of our faith, but with God it is He who determines if we are worthy to have faith in Him. The quality of our faith in God is determined by its resistance to the influences of a dying world, and it becomes our own choice as to whether we allow our faith to be strengthened or weakened. To be tested is to go beyond our own limits to the point where only God’s strength can sustain us. It is when I reach the limits of all that I aspire to that I find that I alone am not enough.

So it is that Satan dares to come before God, and he can’t help but acknowledge God’s authority in saying that he can’t get past the protection that God has set around his servant. I think there was a lot more to this interaction between God and Satan than we realize. I think Satan came face to face with the reality of God as he never had before.
“Have you considered my servant Job?”
Satan already knew about Job. He was already aware of the protection God afforded him. "Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side ?" (Job 1:10) He had already tried to get past God’s defenses. That’s how he knew that God had surrounded Job with His protection.
I think God was pointing something out to Satan. I think He was sending a message to Satan that said, “Whatever you do to this man will never be enough to make him curse Me. There is nothing you could ever do to anyone or for anyone that will create in them that kind of loving devotion to you. I alone am the one who will have this, and I freely return that same devotion to those who give it to Me. You lost this war before it began just as I have always told you. Have you considered my servant Job? Your worst will never be enough to change his heart. I already know the truth of Job, but by testing him you will only be proving the truth to yourself. You will not win. Remember the name of Job whenever you think you have won an inch of ground, and remember that you have gained nothing! So consider my servant Job, Satan, and understand that you haven’t got a prayer.”

I think the truth is this: God did not choose Job to suffer. He chose Job to survive.
God knew what Satan intended, and He knew that Job would not give up. He also knew that others would, and they would go to hell if Satan tested them the same way.
There are days when we have grief upon grief. Tragedy hits and life falls apart. We are not strangers to this. When something tragic happens I lose the ability to understand the why or the wherefore. It is completely overshadowed by the pain. Sometimes we don’t want to see our wounds. Sometimes we cover it over rather than acknowledging the fact that faith and grace are often very bloody.
When God’s protection was in place Job apparently did not feel Satan’s attacks. When it was taken away Job felt the attacks, but still endured because he knew for a fact that God was still there. Job had no ability to understand why these things were happening, but he did know without a doubt that none of it affected the fact of God’s existence or His love for him.
By living his life as he had, Job ensured that his own faith was strong enough to maintain an unseen connection with God so when God withdrew His protection from Job their connection remained. And we see the truth of this in scripture when we read, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8) Once we are near God we are simply near Him. It doesn’t matter what side of the halfway mark you are on. To be in the presence of God is overwhelming no matter how far back in the balcony you think you are. All the seats are good.

After describing Job’s restoration the book of Job ends saying, “After this, Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons and his grandsons, four generations. And Job died, an old man and full of days.”
There is no further mention of Satan seeking to inflict anything further on him. He took his last shot and failed. I think Satan fled the halls of heaven chased by the voice of God echoing behind him saying, “Remember my servant Job.” Satan is a failure, and God considers us the jewel of His creation.
Satan’s failure is our success by God’s proxy. There is no better claim to God’s love than this. He proved it to us at the Crucifixion.
We will suffer,
and we will have joy,
and God will welcome us Home.
©Dan Bode 2010