Job Voices His Complaint
Job was the first to break the silence, and when he speaks, he pours out the depths of his soul. He doesn’t exactly renounce God. Nor does he actually rebel against Him. However, he does “curse the day of [his] birth.”
There were no words of welcome to his friends. Nor did he explain anything to them. Formalities and ordinary language really had no place at a time like this.
The words that Job pours out in the anguish of his soul tell us something of the thoughts that have been filling his mind during the silence of this past week.
“May the day I was born perish. That day should never again be a joyous one, instead let it be a day of mourning. Oh that it could be blotted out from the calendar, that it might be forgotten.
“Why didn’t I die . . . for now I would be lying down in peace; I would be asleep and at rest . . . In the grave the weary have rest . . . the wicked cease from turmoil . . . the prisoners no longer hear the slave drivers shout . . . the slave is freed from his master.”
It is interesting how in the middle of a deep trial we figure death is the only escape. Elijah said to the Lord in his time of exhaustion under the Juniper tree: “It’s too much, I can’t take any more . . . Take away my life.”
Moses said under the pressure of the responsibilities of leading the Israelites: “The burden is too great! Kill me, I beg you.”
Jonah said when the Lord did not fulfill the threatened judgment of Nineveh: “It would be better for me to die.”
“I wish I were dead.” Those words have been said by many repeatedly in the time of anguish.
Maybe that is what you are saying. Maybe you are not considering death as your escape, but you may be considering divorce, it could even be marriage for some. You might be trying to find an escape in a different job, a new church, running away from your children, ad infinitum. Whatever it is, it is still a lie. Your peace will never be found in a different place, a new “significant-other,” only in a renewed relationship with the Lord, and an acceptance of the circumstances in your life that you will have to endure.
Now maybe you are in a bad career. Don’t abandon it at the first opportunity that comes your way. It may indeed be the direction you are to go, but it may not be, as well. I have known many a believer who jumped into the newest “sure-fire” way to success and prosperity—only to have their dreams be crushed and fall on their face in shame. That is why you need a person or people who be your prayer-partners, counselors, support. Everyone needs a Pastor—not the guy up front every Sunday morning, but someone who knows you, cares for you, prays for you, “shepherds” you. Scripture tells us there is safety in many counselors.
I remember one brother giving his testimony and he talked about how dissatisfied he was in life—constantly moving from city to city, church to bar—and when he finally moved to Europe he had a profound epiphany: no matter where he moved, or how far he traveled—he was always there! The problem wasn’t the place or the people—the problem was him and his alcoholism!
With all this talk, Job hasn’t really rebelled against the Lord, at lease not yet, but he was getting pretty close to it. He had told his wife that we should be willing to “endure unpleasant things” as well as receive “good things” from the hand of God. However, to long for death as the way of escape, is not the way to bow to the will of God.
Yet, it is the cry of nature for escape from suffering, pressed out from the soul in its anguish and pain. It is the same with divorce or, for instance, Patrice and I thinking about moving back to Kalamazoo when things got so difficult for us in Ann Arbor because we thought it would have been easier. Whatever it is that you are trying to run away from, you are not only bowing your knee to the confrontation at hand, you are also being rebellious and disobedient to the Lord.
Satan is behind all of this language, the same way he moved Job’s wife when she tempted Job to speak against God. I have said it many times before, and I will say as many times as possible: Satan has only one weapon to use against us: TIS . . . Thoughts, Ideas and Suggestions. The enemy is throwing this cloud on his mind, and pouring into his head these thoughts of escape through death. Some have yielded to such thoughts in the time of deep anguish and despair. They have been driven by the tempter to take their lives in order to reach this place of rest.
If you find yourself thinking these thoughts, take hold of the Lord. Thank Him for the privilege of life. Take authority over those thoughts! Resist and flee the temptation of dwelling on thoughts of peace in the grave—choose life! Even if it is life in the very crucible of fire, right now. It will pass! The sky, not the grave, is our goal! “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Job’s problem is that he keeps dwelling on these thoughts. “Why is life given to the bitter in soul; to those who long for death . . . which rejoice when they reach the grave?” He doesn’t realize the cowardice of his language, or that he is opening the door to the enemy even further. He goes on to call himself a man whom God has hedged in. To Job, the hedge is one of his miseries while Satan considers it one of Job’s peculiar blessings!
Job concludes this outpouring of grief by saying what has probably become the most quoted, and most misunderstood, words in this whole story: “What I feared most has come upon me.”
That one sentence is used as the proof-text that all of Job’s troubles were of his own making. “He had fear and instead of faith,” I hear them say. Possibly, what he feared was not the calamity, but rather the testing of his faith.
Taught of God as Job was, he knew that the time of testing must come. Now that it had, he found himself shrinking back from it and being afraid of it. He confesses that he had not been at ease in spite of the outward peace of his life. He knew that the furnace was inevitable, and now all that he had shrunk from had happen.
The testing will come! What form it takes for you I don’t have any idea. As I said before, it might be physical, maybe emotional. It could be a lying down of your own plans for school, marriage or even ministry, or wealth. For Abraham it was sacrificing his only son and only heir. In fact, it was sacrificing the very thing that the Lord had given him!
Everybody looks at the story of Isaac and thinks that it wasn’t so hard for Abraham to offer Isaac. After all, the Lord stayed Abraham’s hand and he didn’t really have to do it. However, Abraham did not know that! He was intent on sacrificing his son . . . in fact, the angel had to grab his hand to keep him from sacrificing Isaac. But he did not know and you cannot have any confidence that when the Lord demands you sacrifice something very important, even something He has clearly given you, that he may not stay your hand and you may never be able to have those plans again.
That should not matter anyway! If something is truly laid on the altar as a sacrifice, it is no longer yours! You no longer have any claim to it.
I don’t know what words to use to drive the reality of this home. God will accept nothing less than absolute surrender to His will. A.W. Tozer once said that there are three characteristics of a dead man. First, he is facing in one direction. Second, he does not look back. Third, he is not making any plans of his own.
I have met some who were waiting for a call to a nationwide ministry of historic proportions when the Lord wanted them to first finish college. Some waiting for a mate, when maybe the Lord has other plans for them and is waiting for them to stop wanting.
The point of all of this is we must simply lay ourselves, our lives, plans, desires, dreams, ambitions—everything!—on the altar and let the Lord do as he desires. When the Lord instructed my wife and I to move to Ann Arbor, I had to sacrifice a teaching ministry; a place of honor in our church—I had people calling me wanting me to come teach at their church, for crying out loud . . . In other words, I was a somebody—a person others looked to for answers; for prayers; for wisdom . . . and when we moved to Ann Arbor, nobody really cared . . . as one brother put it, I was just another cog in the wheel. When you are used to being the hub, being a cog wasn’t all that easy.
In my opinion, one of the biggest problems in many churches is so many people want to be somebody and not enough people who couldn’t care less if they are even noticed. Their only desire is to be true to the Lord and fulfill His will and not their own.
My only desire, if I fall asleep before the Lord’s return, is that they can quote Acts 13:36: that Nickolas “served the purposes of God in his generation, then fell asleep.” I simply want to fulfill the Lord’s plan for my own life, nothing more, nothing less.
Everybody wants to preach and teach but nobody wants to sit and serve. That is what Paul was trying to get people to understand when he was saying that the eye is no more important than the ear—they simply serve a different purpose.
The hand is no more valuable than the foot. Both serve a very important function but people are able to survive without either. Where is true humility, humility that says: “The Lord is the vine and I am the branch. Without Him, I can do nothing! If He sees fit to use me, I will obey with great joy and enthusiasm. If not, I will obey with great joy and enthusiasm.”
I believe it was Broadman who said: “There is no hierarchy in the gifts of God. The ministry of the church does not rest on status but on service. No gift that serves others is little. God uses both stars and candles to light his world.”
The issue to God is not who the stars are and who the candles are. What he is concerned with is His light coming forth. Sometimes we are hung up on the stars and we forget that a star only shines at night—one designated time—but a candle can shine at any time and anywhere.
The times of testing will come. Do not shrink back from it. Do not be afraid of them. The result will be a purity of heart and inner strength to endure all things. In fact, as I already reminded you above, you should consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds . . . so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. When you stand the test, you will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.
Paul admonishes us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” We are to “endure the hardships as discipline because it is for our good that we may share in His Holiness.” He admitted, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.” “Later, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those that have been trained by it.” However, if you refuse that training “it will cause resentment and misery.”
If you are interested, you can download the whole study of Job.
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