Monday, April 18, 2016

"How does God 'work'?"

Day #110

Scripture Reading:  Job 11 - 12 ...

Be careful what you say about God because HE is listening!  Seriously, God is listening; and for those who know Him and love Him, that is a good thing.  How often during the day do your thoughts rise to heaven?  Many people like to quote Jeremiah 29:11: “’I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” God goes on to promise, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:12-13).  Those words were originally spoken to a remnant from Judah, but the point is true for all those who know the one true God … He hears His children when they call out to Him, when they pray.

And He also hears us when we murmur and complain!  Job had responded well to his trials at first, but then, under the examination of his friends, he began to defend himself and to complain against God.  Those who claim to speak truth about God to another person need to understand God first themselves.  Who of us knows or understands God completely?  No one!  But God HAS revealed Himself and how He "works" in the lives of those who come to know Him ... and Job was one of these.  His friends also knew some true things about God, but they were too eager to try to figure out what God was doing in Job’s life to simply offer him the comfort and encouragement he needed and leave the rest in God’s hands to reveal in His own time.

Zophar seemed to follow up where Eliphaz left off, in concluding that God was punishing Job for some sin he had committed.  He asked Job, “Will no one rebuke you when you mock?” (11:3).  Job wasn’t really mocking God, but Zophar took it upon himself to remind Job that he could not possibly understand the mysteries of God.  He said with confidence, “If you put away the sin that is in your hand, and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then you will lift up your face without shame; you will stand firm and without fear.  You will surely forget your trouble … Life will be brighter than noonday and darkness will become like morning” (11:14-17).  He was trying to offer Job hope, yet he was doing so without understanding.  Many do the same today.  Do good and you will prosper and all will be well and God will bless you and you will never have any problems!  Is that really how God works?

Since no one is without sin, it is easy to attribute suffering such as Job was going through to God's discipline.  Zophar seems to be saying, "If you live right, you won't have problems like this!"  Like so many today Zophar believes that obedience to the Lord produces "your best life now!"  But remember how this whole thing started in the first place, by God declaring that there was no one like Job on the earth, a man who was blameless and upright, fearing God and shunning evil!!  Looking at someone’s life and assuming they are facing suffering and trials because they have sinned is presumption at best and hypocrisy at worst.  Yes, God does tell us that where there is obvious sin it is necessary for brothers and sisters in Christ to call one another to repentance, but to assume every trial, every problem, every bit of suffering endured by God’s children is the result of His discipline of some sin is to cause despair to the fainting heart!

We know from chapter 1 that this was NOT the case here.  Does sin sometimes bring discipline?  Yes.  Does obedience sometimes bring visible blessings, including prosperity, health and other good things?  Yes.  But that's not always how God "works."  God's ways are not our ways ... they're much, much higher!  Job rightly observes that sometimes it looks like, "Those who provoke God are secure ..." (12:6).  So it seems ...  Job declares throughout chapter 12 that God is in control over all things.  "To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are His" (12:13).  He gives a long list of things that are both “good” and “bad” in our eyes, and all of them are under God’s hand, in His control.

How DOES God "work?"  God orders the events of mankind in ways beyond our understanding to bring glory to Himself and to lead His children through good times and hard times into His perfect presence.  Those who trust in Him will at last enter into His presence by faith in the Savior He promised and sent, who died and rose again and ascended into heaven to intercede on our behalf.  Meanwhile, those who do not come to God through faith in Christ may find their lives easy in this world, but they will ultimately face God's wrath and judgment.  It’s not as easy to figure it all out as some would make it out to be.  Jesus said those who are full now would be hungry and those who are hungry now will be filled later.  Remember the rich man who had everything in this life and ended up in hell, while the poor man who had nothing ended up in the arms of Abraham!!

You and I are called to believe all that God has revealed about Himself and to trust Him in every circumstance, knowing that He will never leave those who are His.  Job knew that, in his heart of hearts, as we shall see.  Our Father in heaven is faithful in every situation.  Paul writes, “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).  Job’s friends may mean well, but both they and Job were trying to look into things that they did not and could not understand.  They thought they knew how God worked, but they had an important lesson to learn.  Things are not always the way they look to the human eye; in fact, there is much more going on “behind the scenes.”  We need to know how God "works" and where we do not understand, live by faith!

The best solution is to draw near to our Father in heaven as Solomon explains in Proverbs 3:5-6:  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

"Father, I pray that you will help me to believe all that You have revealed in Your Word about Yourself.  I know that Your ways are higher than my ways and Your thoughts are far beyond mine.  I trust You to give me all I need to follow Jesus, whether in good times or bad, and to declare to the world that my God reigns!  I love You, Lord!!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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