I recently reminded you of my two favorite words: But God . . . Paul had just explained how we are dead in our sins, alien to Yahweh’s presence, far from our Savior’s redemption. In other words, a step above slime. But then . . .! But God . . .! After explaining our desperate needs, he sets forth how great our salvation is and attempts to help us understand what has happened to us in Jesus Christ. Nothing is more important than that we grasp these great words:
But God is so rich in mercy; he loved us so much that even though we were spiritually dead and doomed by our sins, he gave us back our lives again when he raised Christ from the dead — only by his undeserved favor have we ever been saved — and lifted us up from the grave into glory along with Christ, where we sit with him in the heavenly realms—all because of what Christ Jesus did . . . (Ephesians 2:4-6)
Hallelujah! You can start jumping up and down to celebrate that great news! Those two words, But God, represent a dramatic contrast. At the opening verses of this chapter, we just saw what our condition is [er, was], as Yahweh saw it, as He is in life. Then, to compare that gloomy picture, Paul says, “But God…”
I don’t think any of us have any idea what life would be like if our Creator suddenly stopped his redemptive processes. I am sure that within hours there would be mass suicides all over the earth. I say that because every bit of glory would be removed from life, every bit of joy, every bit of gladness, all those moments that we delight in when the family gathers around and gives us a sense security, of warmth and joy together.
All of this would be gone. You have heard about the fire and brimstone, but the worst aspect of Hell is that we will no longer have access to our Creator! All of those blessings I just mentioned, come from His activity among men, from our God at work redeeming, reaching out, seeking to grab the attention of every individual all over the earth. Men, woman, children and infants. All currently live within His grasp. However, if all that suddenly ended, life would become incredibly dreadful, dark, dull, drab, dreary.
However, life teaches us that there are times when our God does temporarily withdraw his blessing from life, and his goodness from us, and invariably life turns impossible to live. We find ourselves crying out in agony, “Father, I am lost!” That is the way life is for so many. Life is utterly dull, drab, lonely, miserable — like Hell!
In the study I created on the Book of Job, I discussed how, at one point, Job finally admitted that he didn’t have a specific word from God during his deep trial. It seemed that whichever way he moved — forward, backward, to the left or to the right, he couldn’t perceive a trace of His Presence or His workings.
This time of hiding causes the bitterest pain of all in our lives, but once He hides Himself, it is useless laboring to find Him. No agonizing in prayer or writhing in self-effort will compel Him to unveil His face when He is hidden in thick darkness.
Whatever you may think about it, even though some call it rebellion, we must be willing to determine to hold to our convictions. The Lord “will break us down on every side,” and when this happens there is no possibility of “keeping up appearances.”
No amount of agonizing or striving will ever compel the Lord to give an account of His actions, but that doesn’t mean that He will never speak to us. In fact, He does indeed “reveal His will; He speaks not only once, but He speaks again and again.” The problem is that either we are not listening or we simply do not understand how He is speaking.
Close to the resolution of Job’s trail, one character, Elihu, describes two or the ways the Lord teaches us to know Him and His will. One way is through direct inner teaching of the Holy Spirit “in a dream, in a vision of the night,” which is probably the only time many of us become totally separated from our “earthly” responsibilities and the simple “cares of this world.” The Lord “opens our ear” and gives us “wisdom and instruction” so that we will withdraw from our own purposes, agendas, and self-will and “become disgusted with our own disappointing self-sufficiency.”
I realize Jesus completed the work of redemption on the cross. However, it still takes a long haul — even a lifetime — before the fruit of that work is seen in our lives and we start to become conformed to His image.
This fellow, Elihu, began to explain a second way that the Lord instructs his children, through physical suffering. This is an area I believe is the most misunderstood.
First, I believe it is used as a last resort; when we have not heeded His other methods. I realize that Elihu only mentions two of them, but I can think of several ways the Lord will try to lead and teach us. He uses a direct inward witness of the Holy Spirit with our own spirit, as Elihu described. But, the Lord will also use His Word, both the written word and the “rhema” (the words he speaks directly to us). Sometimes it is through a prophetic word or situations of life, the circumstances we experience daily. The point is, He will use whatever it takes for us to hear (remember he once used a mule to correct one of his prophets?).
Here, though, Elihu describes a physical suffering where we become “convicted by strong pain.” The Lord strips a man of all his natural vigor and strength so that he loses desires for bread, or “dainty desserts.” A friend of mine says if you’re too sick for deserts, you must be really sick.
Job’s devotion and surrender to God in his days of strength is what was being put to the test. Did he really desire the will of God more than the work of God? Is he willing to be broken so that the Excellency of the power may be seen to be God? Will he glory in his weakness so the power of Christ will rest on him?
My only encouragement for you during your time of “testing” is to continue to stand. The Scripture tells us that “having done everything else, to stand.” Call to your Father and don’t rest until He answers you! Depend on Him. Pursue His wisdom and guidance and support as you would a buried treasure — make whatever sacrifices that are needed. Throw aside every hindrance to find the light of Righteousness and Liberty!
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I do thank you for your gifts. It is your faithful and continued support that makes these messages possible.