Job Part 4 – The Gospel Problem (Job 1-3, Philippians 3:5-11, 2 Corinthians 11-12)
There is a huge misconception in modern Christian thinking that it is okay to feel what we see others feeling. We often read ourselves into stories this way. This brings a great deal of relatability to characters. If a character is feeling fear, we tend to justify our own fear. If a character is angry, we feel justified in our anger. We do the same thing with non-fictional heroes or people with whom we relate. For instance, if a friend is upset, we feel perfectly justified in being upset even if the situation does not affect us in the slightest. I believe there is real danger in making this empathy an unconscious habit, especially when reading the Scriptures.
Now, I must say that there are Scriptures that command us to mourn with mourners and rejoice with the rejoicers, but we must allow a loving distance when our brothers and sisters wander into the dark night of the soul. We must resist the impulse to wade into the waters of their doubt, fear, anger, and struggle. We do this not because we want to be cold or unfeeling to their situation, but because that should be a grace given to us in not feeling the full brunt of their struggle. This distance is not one that we muster and impose ourselves, but is a working of the Spirit within us through the power of the Gospel.
We talked last time about Job’s limitations in being able to adequately deal with his situation. Job did not have a Bible to flip open and immerse himself in. Job did not have a pastor or church leader to point him back to God. Job didn’t even have the example of Christ to look back on and find strength. Job was limited by the revelation of God available to him.
We cannot be satisfied with empathizing with Job when we hold God’s Word in our hands.
Sadly, we have drifted so far from our need of God’s Word, we believe that God is no longer the God of the Bible. He has evolved. He has modernized. He no longer wants us to be satisfied in Him, He care about our happiness more now. He wants us to have stuff. He doesn’t want us to struggle, fight, change, or be uncomfortable. His dreams for us are our dreams for us. He calls us to follow Him down the streets of gold not the road to Calvary.
People love to read Job and relate with him. They remember the times that they were being good people when something went wrong. Teenage girls remember the day their boyfriend broke up with them and that was their “Job day.” Young men remember when their team lost the big game and that was their “Job day.” Some people remember losing a loved one. Others remember their parents divorcing. Some remember war. Others remember sickness. Paul remembered floggings, beatings, imprisonments, and shipwrecks. The difference for Paul was that he had nothing to lose.
The full weight of Philippians 3:5-11 is often lost on the modern church. We equate knowing Christ with wealth, health, and prosperity. So counting things as loss for the sake of knowing Christ is not a sacrifice, it’s a socio-economic upgrade. Paul had something else in mind. Paul was looking beyond the accomplishments and materialism of this life and focusing the prize of Christ for eternity. There were no more “Job days” for Paul. There was nothing that could pull him from Christ. There was nothing he could lose, no tragedy that could befall him that could ever cause him to question God as Job did. So why do we?
The pains of this life are real. There is nothing easy about losing loved ones, struggling with sin, losing a job, hunger, poverty, war, or a thousand other thorns that pierce our souls. There is real pain and suffering that takes place in this life. But our hope is not in this life. Comfort and peace in this life is not proof of our eternal home, neither are they statuses due us for being obedient.
If history has shown us anything it is that there will be days that we are tempted to ask the same questions as Job. We will want to die or wish that our lives had never happened. We will hold high our own righteousness and question God’s justice. Children of God, when this day comes for you, I pray that you run to His Word. I pray that you wrap yourself in the comfort of His love. I pray that you have surrounded yourself with better friends than Job – friends who know the Word and will speak it faithfully to you even if it stings a little. May we be people of the Word, and may we stop holding on to the things of this world that do not satisfy like Christ does. I love y’all more than you know. Grace and peace,