Job knew one of the great secrets of faith: the disciple of the Messiah is to have no emotional ties to the things of the world. The true believer has voluntarily abdicated all rights. He freely accepts the status of a bond slave (doulos) and no longer lays claim to any earthly goods, whether it is “house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields.” These are the sort of things Job has just lost, and yet his initial response to their loss is not bitter complaint, or mere acquiescence, but adoration.
Every day we see people fighting and lobbying under the banner of Christianity for all sorts of human rights and freedoms, both personal and political. To what extent the Bible actually recognizes such rights is a complex question. In terms of individual spirituality, at least, the mature Christian knows he has no right even to the shirt on his back. We could take it even further to say he really has no right to his next meal, let alone the right to vote, to have a pension, or to get eight hours of sleep every night. Strictly speaking, the servant of Christ does not even have a right to his own private thoughts and feelings, whether they are good, bad or indifferent. As the Lord pointedly put it to a sulking Jonah, “Have you any right to be angry?” Our very being is to be subject to the direction of our Lord. I hope you had the opportunity to think about that before you signed up to follow Yeshua!
The fact is Christians have given up the rights in one kingdom in favor of another. They have released their hold on this world’s elaborate system of amenities and expectations, in order to embrace something infinitely higher. Jim Elliot rightfully said, “He is no fool who gives up what he can not keep, to gain what he can not lose.”
In practice, this letting go can be a delicate process. As citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, we certainly have rights, but what we do not have are worldly rights. “Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you,” advises Paul—though at the same time he hastens to add, “If you can gain your freedom, do so.” Worldly freedom, in other words, may be a good thing for the Christian, but it is not an entitlement. The children of God have the Lord’s own promise that “I will pay you whatever is right;” yet what is right has to be calculated not in earthly terms but in heavenly. As Jesus taught, “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”
If a Christian insists on having worldly rights and comforts, he is plain and simple, the same as being a grumbler. He is just like the Israelites who died out there in the desert because they were continually complaining against God (I Corinthians 10:10). Believers waste so much time and energy trying to “claim” things that we have no right to claim. Our lot in life is nothing more than to share the cross of Christ. While we are doing all this “naming” and “claiming,” we are neglecting to claim the spiritual rights that are properly ours. In our pursuit of worldly contentment, we forfeit spiritual joy and peace. All too quickly the attractions of this world and the delights of wealth, and the search for success and lure of nice things come in and crowd out God’s word from our hearts.
I have already made the point that God not only loves believers, He likes them, too. But what about our feelings toward Him? If we claim to love God, do we also like Him? Are we genuinely fond of the Lord? Do we like the way He does things? Do we approve of His methods of child rearing? Or do we secretly resent Him whenever life does not go our way? Can we enjoy God, and yet not enjoy the life He has given us, not bless our own unique incarnation in all its fantastic variety and unpredictability?
We know in our bones that we never had any right to be created in the first place, let alone redeemed. We know we have no more inherent title to life and its goodness than a dead man has. For us the coffin lid has already been nailed shut on all the natural joys and privileges that earth can offer. Knowing this, we are set free to bless the Lord in all circumstances, whether we find ourselves clothed or naked.
When Adam discovered he was naked, he hid from the Lord. But when Job was faced with his nakedness he worshiped, and this is what sets the fallen man apart from the redeemed man. Even Christ, after all, when He came into the world, came naked. He died naked, too. The Gospels plainly state that soldiers divided Jesus’ garments among them at the foot of the cross, including His undergarment. The pictures do not usually show this; it is almost as though the sight of God’s nakedness would be somehow more appalling than His death. In the full Biblical revelation it is clear, God became not only man, but also man naked and helpless. At both the beginning and end of the Lord’s earthly life, His bare flesh had to be wrapped in rags like that of any other poor wretch.
So examine your own heart and discern how naked you are. Are you free to worship your Father regardless of your circumstances? Despite whatever hardships you are experiencing–unemployed; over-burdened with the responsibilities of parenthood; the guilt of being overwhelmed with debt through poor money management–or on the contrary, maybe you’re experiencing the joy and excitement of success and prosperity? Regardless of your circumstance, are you free to worship your Father?
Are you feeling singled out; sitting there and watching others prospering and having success and you are going nowhere . . . I can understand that, and it reminds me of what the Lord said to Jeremiah: “I know the plans I have in mind you; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
The Lord has called you to imitate Jesus, and He is calling you into a life of crucifixion and humility. He is calling you to a life of such obedience that you will not be able to imitate the success or work of other people, or more importantly, measure yourself by other Christians.
If will be frustrating, but there are going to be times when the Lord is going to allow other people do things that He simply won’t allow you to do. You will see other believers who are able to carry out great ideas and plans, but you won’t be able to do it, and if you even attempt to do them, you will fail on your face and the Lord will deal with your disobedience.
This is an area I have wrestled with many times—and still do. There are all kinds of things that I want very much to do, but the Lord simply won’t allow me to do them. Now these are good things, and works others have been allowed to do, but whenever I attempt it, the Lord stops me. I’m sure many of you have been frustrated about things, as well. This might have nothing to do with your ministry, but maybe it is in your business—or maybe in your family. I do not know what the issue is you have been wrestling with, but I know this message is specifically for some of you.
Others might go around boasting about themselves, about their work, their successes, their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any of those kinds of things, and if you begin to do any of them, He will lead you into a deep time of repentance that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.
For instance, others might be allowed to succeed at making money, but it is possible the Lord is going to keep you poor. Why? Because He wants you to have something far better than gold: a helpless dependence on Him! His desire is that He have the privilege of supplying your needs day-by-day out of an unseen treasury. Yes, the Lord might allow others to be honored, and yet keep you hidden in obscurity. Why? Why would He be so unfair? Well, is it unfair? He wants to produce a tremendous work for His coming glory, which can only be done in the shadows–unseen by others and out of the limelight.
Yes, maybe others are going to be great, and you will remain small; maybe He will let others do a work for Him and receive all of the credit for it, but make you work and toil without anyone knowing how much you are doing. Then to make your work still more precious, He may let others get the credit for the work you have done, which will make your reward even greater when Jesus returns.
What you need to learn, just as Job does, the Holy Spirit has a strict watch over you, with a jealous love, and will rebuke you for even little words and feelings or for wasting your time, which other Christians never have any problems with. So make up your mind right now, that your God is an Infinitely Sovereign Being, and has a right to do whatever He pleases with His own.
No, He may not explain to you everything that is going on in your life, but if you will absolutely sell yourself to be His servant, He will wrap you up in Jealous Love, and pour into you blessings which are only available to those who are in the inner circle.
I am telling you to settle it in your heart, that you are going to deal directly with the Holy Spirit, and that He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue, or chaining your hand, or closing your eyes, in ways that He does not seem to use with others.
When you are so possessed with the living God that you are pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private and jealous love, you will have found the vestibule of Heaven.
If you are interested, you can download the entire study of the Story of Job.
Other Bible Studies and Commentary are available at Doulos Studies