18 August 2010 13:06:42

Why can we rejoice like this in the face of adversity? Because, like Job, we know that, “God cares, cares right down to the last detail”.

The book of Job is as relevant today as it was 4,000 years ago.

Much of Western Christianity seems to be obsessed with obtaining blessings of wealth, health and happiness.

The story of Job however reminds us in no uncertain terms that believers' lives may involve pain, persecution and even loss of possessions!

The very name Job means 'persecuted', 'hated' or 'enemy'.

Many Christians throughout the world are suffering persecution because of their faith just as Job did.

The same enemy who attacked Job, Satan, seeks to attack us and destroy our faith.

This is why the New Testament uses Job's life as an example to us in James 5:10–11:

'Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honouring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course!

"You've heard, of course, of Job's staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end.

"That's because God cares, cares right down to the last detail' (The Message).

The phrase that is often used about the 'patience of Job' is more correctly translated as 'endurance' or 'perseverance'.

Patience or perseverance?

We may wait patiently for hours for a train, but that involves no real pain, suffering or crisis of faith.

Endurance is totally different. It involves a refusal to give up in the face of great opposition or overwhelming grief.

A mother could wait patiently for her lost children to return home during a raging storm or she could go out and endure the tempest to find them.

Many Bible characters persevered through apparently impossible situations and refused to deny their faith even when faced with death.

The three Hebrews faced with torture and execution by fire declared, 'If we are thrown into the flaming furnace, our God is able to deliver us … But even if he doesn't, please understand, sir, that even then we will never under any circumstance serve your gods or worship the golden statue you have erected.' (Dan. 3:17–18.)

In the face of loss we are sometimes all too ready, as Job's wife advised, to 'Curse God and die!' (Job 2:9).

Consider for a moment the losses that Job suffered. He lost his possessions, he lost his children, he lost his health, he lost compassionate friends ('you must have sinned'), and he lost the certainty of his faith ('why do you oppress me while you smile on the schemes of the wicked?').

Yet through it all Job did not curse God or cease to believe in Him.

Job's responses have become classic sayings in many languages: 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall depart', 'The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised' and 'Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him'.

We recognise of course that Job did express his emotions and honest questions to God, but at no time did he renege on his faith.

In fact, Job later acknowledged that his trials even served to deepen his relationship with God (Job 42:1–5).

Trials strengthen faith

As with Job, our own trials of faith can work to strengthen our spiritual life and experience the comfort of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:3–5, 8:28; Jam. 1:2–4; 1 Pet. 1:6–7).

Paradise is found only in heaven where 'there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain'.

Until then, our lives on this earth will inevitably be affected by accident, sickness, poverty, broken relationships and death.

For the Christian there may also be the added suffering of persecution, temptation, satanic attack and trials of faith.

This is not meant to be negative, only a realistic assessment of the consequences of living in a fallen world.

Yet in all these things we are persuaded that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ (Rom 8).

We can, like Job, patiently endure with God's strength and echo the cry of Habakkuk 'though the fig-tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour'.

Why can we rejoice like this in the face of adversity? Because, like Job, we know that, 'God cares, cares right down to the last detail'.

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