Category: Listen


Death Precedes Resurrection

As one of my favorite worship leaders has said (and wrote the book) “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven But Nobody Wants to Die”. Each and everyone of us has within our Natural man this self-protecting, self-preserving, self-providing, self-promoting Self, ie. Me. We want to live. How then can we be resurrected until we die?

Do you want to experience the Resurrection and the Life? Do you want to experience Real Life, Abundant Life? Then you must die. Seems paradoxical doesn’t it? That’s because we operate too often in the mind of our soul and not the Mind of Christ. Spiritual things are foolishness to the carnal man, the natural man (e.g. the man living for Self without being led by the Spirit). And by the way where does the Spirit often lead us? Into the Wilderness, a barren place, to be tempted and tested. Tested in what way? To see if we are living to protect and promote Self or trusting in the Word of Life who is our Life, none other than Jesus the Christ of God, our so-called Lord.

There are so many statements that speak to the need for the death of our natural man and the resurrection of the new man that I cannot even take the time to begin listing them. “He who loses his life for My sake…”,  If any would come after Me, let him …”, “Unless a seed fall to the ground and die …”.

And a familiar passage to all of us (hopefully) addressing this concept head on: Romans 6:3-13 – “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.”

Here is an  excerpt from a favorite author of mine that tells it better than I could hope to:

The Lord God then took the man, and placed him in paradise of delights, to till it and keep it. And He gave him this commandment, saying, Eat of the fruits of all the trees of the paradise. But eat not that of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

After God has put man into this paradise of delights, which is the center of his soul, and has given him His grace to overflowing, and a grace which protects him everywhere, so that he cannot fall away without a notable infidelity: after, I say, having loaded him with such great gifts, He desires him to dress and keep the paradise. It is in this that the soul’s fidelity consists, to dress and keep what God has confided to it.

What is this keeping, my dear brethren? Learn it of Jesus Christ: “Watch and pray,” said He, “that ye enter not into temptation: for the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” We must, then, keep this earth by watching, and watching on God continually; for this is the kind of watching that God desires unless, that it may be always sustained by prayer, as David said, “I will watch on Thee, from early dawn; for it is in vain that we watch over the safety of our city, if the Lord keep it not Himself.”

But, it will be said, if I keep not watch over myself, and thus neglecting myself, I am content to wait on God alone, I shall be surprised by mine enemies. It is quite the contrary; for so soon as we forget ourselves to think only on God, the love that He bears to us makes Him take the more care over us; for He never allows Himself to be conquered in love, although He suffers Himself to be conquered by love. Are we not much better guarded by the strong and mighty Protector than by ourselves? It is certain that a stronger than we would disarm us, and seize upon the very things we were guarding so carefully. But if we put all our affairs into the hands of God, shall we not be able to say with the utmost confidence, like another St. Michael, “Who is mightier than God?”

God wishes also that we cultivate this delicious paradise of our interior. And what is this cultivation? Our Divine Master will teach us: “Deny yourselves (says He), and take up your cross daily.” To deny ourselves unceasingly in all that nature might desire contrary to God, and resign ourselves correspondingly, so as to bear equally the many crosses, pains, and difficulties that God permits to happen to us, —this is the work of man, who, aided by the abundant waters of grace, which fail him never, dwells in the order of the will of God, and arrives thus at his end.

God permits man to taste of all those delights represented by the fruits — that is to say, of all the virtues — but He forbids him that of the knowledge of the good and evil, which is the usurpation of our own conduct to the prejudice of the reign of Jesus Christ over us. If you taste of it, He says, ye shall die; for it is thus that we seize upon what belongs to God alone, and attribute it to ourselves, regarding as a fruit of our cares what comes from His pure goodness. And as every tree that is not grafted into Jesus Christ cannot bear good fruit, so all good fruit comes necessarily from Him, in whom we are grafted, that He Himself may bring forth fruit in us. Now he who desires to conduct himself, and who would withdraw himself from the dominion of Jesus Christ, attributing to himself by his reflection the good that God does in him by Jesus Christ our Lord, seizes upon it with complacency; and it is thus that in so marvelous a state of grace we give entrance to sin, curiosity, and self looking into the goods of God, bringing death to it.

-End of passage.

You see, it is this conducting of ourSelf to our ends and agendas that is seizing the dominion of Jesus Christ. It is this living for Self as opposed to denying Self and taking up our cross and dying daily that keeps us from the resurrection Life of Christ, Real Life, Abundant Life.

We (Christians) often say very glibly at this time of year. “He is risen!” To which the traditional response (dating back to that first century) is “He is risen indeed!” Has He indeed risen in you? Not if you are still living for Self. If you have not yet died, you cannot be living His resurrected Life. Death precedes resurrection.

Selah.

Suffering is Your Opportunity to Show Your Quality (Part 15)

The Whittling Work of Waiting (Chapters 8,9,10)

The enemy is working feverishly to wear down Job, to get him to forsake God and His will. He is busy whittling Job down to nothing, till there is no hope left. Little does he know that he is accomplishing God’s work in the life of Job.

As long as we see how it will work out or could work out, we have hope. It is when we cannot see a way out that we must kick into faith gear. We are forced to come to grips with Who God has revealed Himself to be to us. This comes when we have exhausted our ideas and strategies and bag full of human tricks.

These chapters of the meaningless battering of Job’s friends and their religious perspective on life has a way of wearing on Job. Notice that they keep on trying to make meaning out of something that defies sense and the common experience of men, out of something that is foolishness to the natural man. Notice they keep taking pot shots at Job and he is becoming more and more annoyed at their platitudes and nonsensical illustrations.

Listen to Bildad who asks questions but gives no answers. How does that help Job in time of need? What ministry is that? the ministry of frustrating annoyance?

“Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said,  How long wilt thou speak these things? and how long shall the words of thy mouth be like a strong wind?  Doth God pervert judgment? or doth the Almighty pervert justice?” Job 8:1-3 Inquisitive yes, helpful, encouraging, supportive, no. It sounds like Bildad is getting impatient with all Job’s suffering, like he is put out by the whole ordeal.

Then there is his string of “if” remarks which is nothing more than hypothetical escape from what actually is. “If thy children have sinned against him, and he have cast them away for their transgression;  If thou wouldest seek unto God betimes, and make thy supplication to the Almighty;  If thou wert pure and upright; surely now he would awake for thee, and make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous.” vv. 4-6.

This is Satan’s handiwork. He is whittling Job down, he is diminishing him piece by piece and using Job’s very friends (among other things) as the knives to do it. This is nothing less than death in stages. Job is being chipped away at. But that is how God works, like a sculptor, removing the me to reveal the Him that is in me. There is a son of God that needs to be released and exposed. There is a son that when his good works are shown, will give glory to God. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Eph. 2:10.

Did Jesus do good works when He was here? Did He glorify His Father? You can bet your salvation on it. But what exactly were those good works? It was to reveal His Father in Him. Jesus said, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” John 14:9. “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” John 6:38. Jesus goes on and says the things I do, the places I go, the things I say these are not mine but the Father’s.

Where is the fun in that? How can you live your whole life and not do what you want? not say what you want? not go where you want? Ask Jesus, that is what He did. You can do it when you understand that you have not come to do your own will but the will of Him who sent you. “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.” Psalm 40:8.

Doing His Father’s will was the very joy of Jesus’ life. It was the thing that kept Him going through His trials, afflictions, sufferings. I mean think about it, Jesus said, “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.  As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.  If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.  These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” John 15:8-11.

Do you see the progression to Joy?

1.) Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

God the Father and God the Son is glorified when we bear much fruit, when there are things showing in our life that exhibit to others our good works, i.e. His work showing through us.

2.) As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.

This abiding is dependent on our knowing God’s love and remaining in that knowledge.

3.) If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.

It is this love that motivates us to obey Him and do His will. We love Him because He first loved us. The love of God constrains us. Jesus asks, “How is it that you say you love me and keep not my commandments?” Obedience without love, obedience out of fear is bondage and slavery.

4.) These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

When we keep his commandments out of love for Him we experience Joy.

This is how Jesus experienced Joy among a life full of hardship, heartache, betrayal, vindictiveness, pain, suffering and death, even death on a cross. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb. 12:2.

He was not in the thing for Himself, He was in it for His Father’s will. Once we learn to live for His will and not our own, once we eliminate expectations for what others should do for us and to us, once we submit to the sovereignty of a loving and all-powerful, all-knowing God, then we can learn to rest in Him, trusting that everything that comes to us comes from Him according to His will, for our good.

This is precisely what is being revealed in Job as he is learning to trust God and depend on His wisdom and love. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Job 13:15.

Suffering is your opportunity to show your quality (e.g. Him!).

Suffering is Your Opportunity to Show Your Quality (Part 14)

Whose Life is on Display Anyway? (Job 6, 7)

As Eliphaz has just finished his railing at Job with strong words that reveal that his perspective and understanding do not reach to the place that Job is at, it becomes more and more difficult for Job to compose himself and remain quiet.

Sometimes it is those who are nearest us, who we have allowed to enter a sacred place in our hearts, who end up wounding us the deepest. Unfortunately each of us can only relate to events that we are brought into as spectators, from the arsenal of our own limited understanding and experience. In our pride and/or desire to be helpful and consoling to another we begin speaking out of turn about things that we know nothing about. We want to have the right words, we want to solve the problem, we want to be the hero. Job’s friends passed from wisdom and encouragement on to error and frustrating confusion when they begin to speak into Job about something that God had not spoken to them about.

How often, too often, we speak from our human reasoning and scientific analysis giving our prescription and unsought opinion into matters best left to God and the work of His Spirit.

When a person is within the depths of sorrow and pain, when a person is holding on to the fringes of the meaning of life with nothing but the tips of their fingers, don’t you dare place another burden in their hands. These places of agony and bewilderment are sacred ground, hallowed by the Presence that enters with you to give you His strength and His hope. There is fellowship in this place when it is a place that you have been led into by the loving hand of your Father.

There are these types of situations – the untimely death of a child; the senseless murder of a loved one; the destruction of a home by a family member; those sick and twisted things that people do to one another that leave us numb and at a loss for sense and meaning. They shatter our world and the security we once had in understanding (or so we thought) how it worked. Such is Job’s predicament. He has found futility in navigating in uncharted waters. He is in a place that he has neither heard of nor fathomed.

Just listen to the expressiveness of inexpressible things through the words of Job: “Oh that my grief were throughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together!  For now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea: therefore my words are swallowed up.  For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me… Oh that I might have my request; and that God would grant me the thing that I long for!  Even that it would please God to destroy me; that he would let loose his hand, and cut me off!” Job 6:2-4; 8,9.

You just can’t touch this. This is sacred ground. This is not God making a son, this is God displaying a son, showing forth his quality.

Recall that God has already declared Job perfect, mature, ready for every trial. Remember also the challenge of Satan, “Doth Job serve God for nothing?” Satan is challenging God’s assessment of Job, a son in whom He is well pleased. He is asking God to prove it. And the fire is the place for proving just what a thing is made of. “Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;  Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” 1 Cor. 3:12-13. And then, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:  But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” 1 Peter 4:12-13.

Here is the test question: “Doth Job serve God for nothing?” That is a good question. The way Satan sees it, nobody would serve another unless there was a profit and personal benefit. He can see it no other way. The concept of love is foreign to him. This is a trademark of his and his followers – that everything and everyone can be had for a price. It is the economy of self-service. In this economy there is no such thing as trust, loyalty, generosity or love, all is dependent on wiles, power, strategy and taking. The thinking (satanic thinking) is that if you just find out what Job is getting in the deal and cut it off, then he will surely curse you to your face.

This is a sad statement and even more sad are those who have bought into it and have had their minds corrupted and made cynical regarding others.

What God is getting at, what Satan cannot even begin to imagine, is that Job loves God irrespective and independent of what God does for Job. Job loves God for God. Job has already met God’s love. It is not what God does but who He is that draws us. God is Love. And not just any kind of Love but unconditional love, a love that loved us when we were not lovable, when we were not doing anything commendable or loving. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. It is by this love that we are changed and made like Him. It is this very quality that He is making in us – the ability to love Him and even others independent of the way they treat us and what they do to us or for us.

“We love him, because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:9 His love enters our hearts as a seed, a son-seed and transforms us. And when we have cooperated with the watering and nurturing of that seed we grow up to be like Him! Not only can we love those who love us, but those who hate us and persecute us and spitefully use us. Like we did to God. Now by His grace through faith we are becoming like Him. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” John 13:35.

This is what the world and all of creation is waiting to see – the sons of God manifested in the earth. Christ in us, the hope of glory. A love that surpasses human understanding. A love that sacrifices and gives for the sake of another. That is what God was bragging about regarding Job. He does love Him for no reason, just the same way God loves.

Suffering is your opportunity to show your quality.

Suffering is Your Opportunity to Show Your Quality (Part 13)

God In the Spotlight (Job 4, 5)

All of our life has as its designed purpose to know Him and enjoy Him, our heavenly Father. Paul put the sum of his purpose this way, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” Philippians 3:10. We all give lip service to the importance of relationship with God through Jesus Christ and yet it seems there are a thousand other things that we place as a higher priority than getting to know our Daddy.

What we often consider knowing God is actually nothing more than the collecting of some Bible facts about Him, picking out the ones we like and dismissing the ones that are hard or difficult to understand or accept and calling that man-created persona we hold in our mind Almighty God.

These little facts that we have collected about God probably reveal less than one percent of who He actually is. It would be like looking at the Grand Canyon through a straw that is fixed on a particular view and proclaiming that you have seen the Grand Canyon in all its majesty. Only now imagine that you are looking at the One who measures the universe in the palm of His hand through the same straw.

Truth is a Light and Light is very revealing. In fact Jesus, the Light and the Truth said, “… Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” John 14:9. Just as in the example of looking at the Grand Canyon through the straw, we tend to see Jesus and thus the Father with a spotlight, illuminating a smaller part of the bigger Truth. We see truth (little T), yet Truth (big T)remains unknown to us.

What we are dealing with in Job chapters 4 and 5 is men who know some things about God, but don’t know Him. They have a spotlight in the universe of God. They see parts that come into view but don’t see the parts that have not been yet revealed. To know God is not a logical fact or a mental perception it is a revelation fact. As far as I can tell, it will take all eternity to search the universe Life of God with a spotlight. Unless God reveals Himself through revelation, you cannot know Him. “… for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” Matt. 16:17.

As an important reminder consider this passage: “But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.  And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.  And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.  [Ye] Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.  And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” John 5:36-40.

You can read all the scripture you like, and that is great because they testify of Him. But you will not know Him until you come to Him and He reveals Himself to you. This is the confusion of Job’s friends. They have knowledge and facts about God that they have collected and they believe they know God when actually they know some things, very finite and limited, about Him. If they actually knew Him (in part) then they would realize that they don’t know Him (in whole).

Eliphaz begins by reminding Job and he their friends have God figured out and is hinting that Job should understand exactly what God is doing with him. “Behold, thou hast instructed many, and thou hast strengthened the weak hands.  Thy words have upholden him that was falling, and thou hast strengthened the feeble knees.  But now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest; it toucheth thee, and thou art troubled.” Job 4: 3-5.

The tone is somewhat sarcastic implying that you have instructed others and now that you are in the seat of suffering and you are experiencing things yourself, you want to change your perception of God. Exactly. That is it. We could just about stop here. Yes, we do hold a view of God that is workable with our current understanding. Current is the key point, we are looking through the straw, we have a spotlight on God. As the spotlight is moved through the universe of a new experience we have now a more current view of God.

Eliphaz continues to expound on their theology of God, the preconception that God blesses the good man and does not bless the bad man. “Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?  Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.” vv. 7,8.

Did we think that we could go to church and Sunday School for thirty years and exhaust the knowledge of God? As a modern-day prophet has said, “We are far too familiar with a God we hardly know.” Again, this is to be likened to an ant that has surveyed the limits of the sand box and believes he has seen all the world there is to see. It is exactly in the seat of suffering that our spotlight gets a new, even larger focus, that we see something that we had not noticed before.

I am come to believe that it is only in the seat of suffering that God really does have our attention. I don’t mean to discount true desire and Holy Spirit led seeking. It’s just that we do not focus so intensely on our inner man and our relationship to God and others, we do not take a true inventory of our heart and our actions and motives until we are in the seat of affliction, trial and suffering.

I told a pastor friend about seven years ago when relaying my then present suffering (and now continued suffering) that there was so much that God wanted to do with me that required such a deep surgery and removal of big noxious parts of me that He had to get me to willingly come to His operating table. It was my love for Him and the others in my life alone that brought me to the state of willingness to endure such great personal loss and pain. There was no way I would have been willing, much less understood that I needed to do this (e.g. be willing to die to mySelf), if it were not brought to my attention and concentrated focus through suffering.

You might even say that suffering is God’s chosen and often favorite instrument. So much work can be done by The Master Physician and His scalpel. It can make the finest, most accurate incision that you cannot even imagine. He is an Artist in the operating room.

Those people in the waiting room have no idea about the precision of the surgery that is going on in you. Job’s three friends are not under the scalpel. God does not have their attention. Their logical thinking, their theology, their beliefs about their beliefs are occupying their mind. Meanwhile God is transforming the mind of Job, renewing him through the revelation of Himself. And Job is a patient patient, he does not reject the Doctor’s program for him.

Suffering is your opportunity to show your quality. Now the spotlight is on you.

Suffering is your Opportunity to Show Your Quality (Part 12)

To Die is Gain

Chapter 3 of Job is a relentless pleading for death. An intense desire to be released from life as it is currently being experienced by Job. To wit:

“After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day.  And Job spake, and said,  Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived.  Let that day be darkness; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it.  Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it; let a cloud dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it.  As for that night, let darkness seize upon it; let it not be joined unto the days of the year, let it not come into the number of the months.” Job 3:1-6. I stopped copying at verse 6 but Job goes on for some time. These are the words of a man who is at the point of surrender and wants to die.

In the Dark Night of the Soul, the Valley of the Shadow of Death, the Wilderness, the Belly of the Whale, the Belly of the Earth, the Unrighteous Prison (Joeseph), the Flight of the Godly (David with Saul and Absalom, Elijah with Jezebel, and many others), we are faced with a very real and present suffering and darkness, an extreme temptation that presses us to the extinction of our human hope. We are forced past the end of our rope into the great nothingness of faith. We no longer have anything to hold onto, no longer see a meaningful future. We are out of our resources, plans, ideas and have exhausted all our efforts and strength. Then and only then are we willing to die to our Self, to hear our Father and submit to His will. Face it, we are stubborn when it comes to dying. We don’t want to do it.

To be certain it takes a lot for us to give up on ourSelves, to admit defeat and surrender. We have a demonic and determined pride of life that will not let go and trust Him. Just think of how much positive self-talk, marketing hype, and psycho babble has as it’s purpose to arouse, energize, fuel and perpetuate the inner man to “go for the gusto”, “never give up”, “get ‘er done”, and “just do it”. This world system is built on the strength, value and determined effort of man. Determined to do what?, you might ask. Determined to prove to others and especially yourSelf that you don’t need anybody, rely on anybody or submit to anybody. Not others, not God (although this is seldom realized or done consciously).

Oh, we pay lip service to need and love for others and God, but just under the surface is this determination to claim and proclaim, “I did it my way” and “I did it all by mySelf”. We love the freedom and power of independence and control, that is a big part of why money (the preferred currency of this world system) is so zealously sought and fought for. This is the demon that must be made to die – self-assurance birthed from it’s parents of self-sufficiency and self-protection. This is the orphan spirit that I have often referred to. I am all alone and have to take care of everything myself and can’t trust anybody to do it for me.

This death – the death to Self – is death to my claim to my right to mySelf, that nobody can tell me what to do. I am large and in charge. I run the Me Show and you can buy tickets but I pick the program and have the controls for what I will and won’t do. Now you would think that Job was none of these, but with stealth-like subtlety this monster lurks in the dark corners of your soul, not wanting to be known, seen, heard or exposed. It is there in each of us. If you were ever born of the flesh and have not had the beast unmasked and slain, and then slain again and again, he is there all right. He just sleeps. He has no reason to awake if you are operating in the flesh as a natural man. Only begin to walk in the the Spirit and he will come out of his hibernating slumber and you will see him in the full sunshine of the new season.

He only sleeps when he is happy and he his happy most of the time due to the rarity of anyone or anything poking him and prodding him to waken.

Job’s sleeping monster was awakened. How is that? Job had his soul and his will wrapped up in a theology regarding a God that he could control by strings. Job held the belief that if he was good and devout, if he loved God and sought to please Him, that God would (read: had to) act according to his theology, that being that God would reward him and his life would be happy and fulfilling. Note: Job’s friends held these same beliefs (as I once did) and they were not willing to change their theology to hear about and believe in a God that did not fit the image they had fashioned of Him. The ensuing chapters are a ringside seat to the bouts of Truth with error. At some point as the wrestling continues you will finally find your experience pinning your theology to the mat and you will have to surrender that belief in death to a part of you, yourSelf.

Listen again to Job as he is pinned to the mat, held in a tight place with no room or place of escape: “Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, and whom God hath hedged in?” v.23. This is not unlike the wrestling match of Jacob with God where he ended up with a leg out of socket, a damaged walk. Oh, he walked with God but not without humiliation and shame, not without a death to Self.

We all fear death, and more than anything we fear death to Self, of giving up on our hopes, plans, agenda and will. Job feared these things as well. Now death has come to his door – not physical, but soulish – a death to Self and his own will. “For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.” v25. Job is in the ring and we have a ringside seat.

As you celebrate this Resurrection Day remember. There is no resurrection without there being a death first. My favorite verse is about this same resurrection taking place in me: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20.

To die is gain.

Suffering is your opportunity to show your quality.

Suffering is Your Opportunity to Show Your Quality (Part 11)

Good Intentions Going, Going, Gone

At least Job still had his friends right? Well, lets see how far their love goes with Job. We know that they started out with good intentions.

“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him.  And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven.  So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.” Job 2:11-13.

Wow, these are really good friends. I am sure they would have traveled a great distance at great expense. And really, didn’t they minister to Job in a particularly amazing way. They sat there with him in his ordeal without saying a word, for seven days and nights! I don’t know about you, but that amazes me. To me it is an Old Testament miracle. How many people can sit there when you are in dire straights and not say a word. It is almost like there is a compulsion to say something. Many will offer sympathy, many will make assessments, many will make awkward comments attempting to ease the burden, many will bring stories of others who have had similar things happen to them, most will try to help with solutions and remedies. They did not, not yet.

We get a glimpse into the depth of suffering that Job was going through. We know that he had lost so much that was dear and precious to him. He really lost everything but his life, even his health. And when that goes, the stress and distress of the loss of physical strength goes with it. When you are exhausted and depleted you are such an easy target for the enemy. Never purposely allow yourself to go without adequate nutrition, exercise and rest or you are an easy target for attack.

Job clearly did not have a choice in this matter. Decisions were being made for him. Another was dealing the hand he must play. He was so bad off that it was outwardly visible from a distance: “And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven.” And that was from a distance. The friends could see that Job’s situation was very severe. Imagine as they got closer, the stench of his sores and the infection in them. His friends immediately reacted to the sight of him with the strongest statement of woe that was used in that culture. They wept, tore their clothes, and placed dust on their heads.

Don’t you know they had to be thinking, “There but by the grace of God go I.” And they probably added to it some self-righteous thoughts of what he must have done to deserve this and that they wanted in on the scoop. This is purely conjecture though and I don’t know what they were thinking as they looked upon their friend. Soon enough though we get some insights. But, “they saw that his grief was very great.”

Eventually Job speaks and lets out some thinking that was building up in him. He spends the next chapter (3) letting his grief be known, very likely desiring to know that someone cares, someone understands. Don’t we all need a way to get relief from our pain and suffering? I believe that God understands us. He too was tempted in all ways. He knows just what it feels like when everything is against you and you can’t seem to find a source of relief and comfort. Even his disciples left Him in the end.

Job is not angry or blaming God, he is just hurting. He needs some relief from his present state. We all need hope. We all need to believe in our time of suffering, pain and loss that it will get better. When you are in the heat of the trial and test you do not always see this readily, that is often God’s purpose, to take you beyond what can be managed by you and beyond your present hope. He wants to teach you that your hope is often beyond your sight, beyond your reasoning and beyond any solution you can find. Hope resides past these in your faith, in Him. Believing when there is no visible or reasonable evidence to believe – have faith in God.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1.

Job’s despair is not only in the circumstances that he finds himself but even more poignantly within the truth coming home that being righteous will not protect nor prevent you from experiencing hardship and suffering. Job is being processed by his affliction and taken to a higher understanding. He is approaching a new revelation through personal experience. Who knows, they may have even had a saying in their day that when someone began with, “God is good”, they would end it with, “all the time.” Is He? This will mess with your head, this will renew and transform your mind. Where is the good in this? Where is the good in pain and suffering?

I can pretty much tell you that if you want to go on with God, to become like Christ you will need to be processed too. It is a dark day (for a short time) when all your religious sayings and teachings that have tickled your ears can’t touch the reality you find yourself in. Stick in there though, having done all stand, then stand. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Psalms 30:5.

Don’t be concerned though, this is optional, for disciples only. God never made any man do anything against his will. You have to love Him enough to want to be like Him. “If any many would be my disciple…” It is always a choice. Many, sadly, do not want to be His disciple and exit the race far too soon. That is your choice though, not His. There, I have told you beforehand.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.  For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.” Rom. 8:28-29.

There is absolutely a choice to make concerning how far you will go. There is absolutely a cost to following Him – your very life. All this talk about death, dying, living sacrifices and resurrection starts to make sense when you are going through it.

Jobs friends are with him for now. Once he begins making claims that he is without blame, that he is yet righteous and still all this has come upon him, the friends take a different tone with him. Much of the rest of the book of Job is a volley of dialogs between Job and his assertions of righteousness and the friend’s challenges to that statement. Their good intentions only led them as far as their tickling ears wanted to hear. Once some stout truth is spoken that disrupts their religious thinking, they get testy with Job. Suddenly their intentions that were formerly good get changed. When they had formerly come to be a comfort to Job, they are now searching for words and arguments that comfort themselves.

Oh yes, the temperature will get very hot in your life if you choose to take a stand for God and truth. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” 2 Tim. 3:12. People with good intentions will even turn on you when your words challenge their neat little way of keeping things clear and easy and manageable. But through it all Job kept his integrity. He did not succumb to the pressures of his friends. He did not take pleasure in the battles but when the battles concern truth a son of God must not back down, no matter the cost. We are not called to be liked and accepted, we are called to be Salt and Light, two things that can have a very adverse effect on impure and darkened things.

Suffering is your opportunity to show your quality.

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