Friday, April 22, 2016

"Hold on to the truth!"

Day #114

Scripture Reading:  Job 19 - 20 ...

As a pastor, I often talk about the importance of knowing TRUTH.  What you know to be true, what you believe, determines how you think and how you feel and how you react to the situations that arise in life every day.  That is especially true when it comes to facing trials.  You discover what people believe, and what they just say they believe when they are faced with a crisis of some kind.  For many people who claim to know God, a crisis in life produces a crisis of faith. Doubt, fear, worry and anxiety crowd out the truth that God has spoken and which they may have believed (or at least thought they did) in an "easier" time. 

I read somewhere that what you REALLY believe comes AFTER the “but”!!  If you are going through struggles and begin your testimony to others by saying, “I know God is with me and that He is faithful, BUT this is more than I can bear.  Where is God when I need Him?  I feel so alone,” then what you really believe is that God has failed you, that He has let you down, that He has broken His promise, that He has disappointed you … and your “faith” will be shaken.  So what do you do?  Are you supposed to cover up your feelings and just pretend??  No, God knows what you are thinking and feeling.  You can voice your inner struggles, but your testimony needs to END with what you really believe!  “I am hurting and I feel alone and overwhelmed right now, BUT I KNOW that my Father in heaven loves me, that He is with me and that I can trust Him, even when I don’t understand why I’m going through this struggle right now.”

Job needed this counsel from his friends, but instead he was repeatedly warned that he was being punished because of his sins.  Increasingly, Job’s frustration led to his feelings of being abandoned my God.  He felt as though God was pursuing him and now his friends were piling on.  Still, in the depths of his heart, he hung on to a sliver of hope in spite of all that was happening.  He KNEW the truth, now he needed to put it to practice.

In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus says that the "seed" (God's Word) that is sown among the rocky places is the person who hears God's Word and receives it with joy, but does not have a root.  He or she is not "grounded" in God's truth.  Therefore, their joy lasts only a short time, and when trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away (Matthew 13:20-21).  Some might say that this is what was happening to Job, but not so fast!

Job knew the truth ... he really did.  But as we saw in previous chapters, his "friends" caused him more harm than good.  Had they comforted Job by reminding him of God's love and presence, rather than accusing him of sin, Job may not have reached the depths of the spiritual struggle that he endured.  We learn a lot of things from the book of Job, and one of those things is the importance of standing by those who are facing trials and encouraging them.  As Job said, his friends were "miserable comforters" (16:2).

Like many, Job fell into the pit of self-pity, and yet he musters the strength to confront his friends and their unceasing attacks and to point out in chapter 19 that if God is punishing HIM, THEY should "fear the sword” themselves (19:29), for God's wrath may strike them next.  You know the old saying, "When you point your finger at others, the rest of your fingers are pointing back at you!"  Job gives a long list of his troubles and then pleads, "Have pity on me, my friends, have pity, for the hand of God has struck me.  Why do you pursue me as God does?  Will you never get enough of my flesh?" (19:21-22).

Job seems to have lost his hope for relief in THIS life, but he did not lose his hope in the life to come!  "I know that my Redeemer lives," he cried, "and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will 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).  No thanks to his friends, Job looked past his present and trusted in the promise of God to send a Savior.  Incredibly, he declares that his Redeemer will stand upon the earth and that he, himself, will be raised from the dead and will stand with God.  Such was the faith of Job, in spite of all he had been through and was going through.

Zophar and Job's other friends should have learned from Job and stopped talking.  But Zophar once again picks up the conversation by attacking Job.  The problem with Job's friends and their judgment of Job was their arrogance.  Remember, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6).  Zophar declares, "I hear a rebuke that dishonors me, and my understanding inspires me to reply" (20:3).  Really?  What "understanding" would that be, Zophar??

He ASSUMED that God was punishing Job ... and ultimately, it would be Zophar and Job's other friends who would face God's rebuke.  And in all of this, what was missing is giving glory to God - our calling in every circumstance of life.  You and I don't have to understand everything; in fact, we never understand everything!  But we DO know God's character and through faith in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of whom Job spoke, we have confidence that nothing happens by chance and His promises will never fail.  That's what Job needed to hear from HIS friends, and that's what we need to share with ours.

Be a real friend to those around you and encourage them when the troubles come ... and they will.  We need each other desperately so that we will never give up or give in to despair.  "Jesus is on the throne, and the angels are singing!"  Our Father in heaven knows what is going on in your life and if you trust in Him, He is already with you before you cry out to Him.  Trust in Him today, receive His comfort ... and then pass it on!

"Our Father in heaven, so many times we can be tempted to lose hope in the midst of life's trials.  In those times, I pray that we will be surrounded by friends who will remind us of Your love and faithfulness and point us to the cross, where our Redeemer gave His life to remove the barrier of sin and to give us access to Your throne.  Remind us that He now intercedes for us at Your right hand and that His strength will hold us up in our weakness.  Thank you, Father, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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