Everything Must Go

I hope your weekend was absolutely awesome. Mine was incredible and  busy. This weekend I drove about 500 miles, took in the sights and sounds of Richmond Folk Festival, taught a lesson at church, played for our church choir's anniversary service and filmed a music video. Can you say  exhausted!? 

As I was buzzing around this weekend I found myself thinking about Job. Most of us know this guy's story. Christian folks point to this story as prime illustration of stalwart faith. Atheist use the narrative as a basis for their unbelief. Job's story is complicated. It isn't easy to digest. It isn't just about faith. It also reveals a great deal about the nature of God.  

I think one of the reasons why we have such struggle with the story of Job is our culture. In the West, we have a greatly diminished perspective of God. We under appreciate his vastness. We under estimate his power and and authority. That's one of the major themes we see in the book of Job. In this book, we are reminded of the stark reality of God in all of his sovereignty.  

I find it interesting that God points to Job as a prime candidate for Satan's attacks precisely  because of his faith. The Bible says that Job was an exemplary man. The scripture says that even when Satan began to act with God's permission Job did not sin - a pretty marvelous fete if you think about it. Most of us would look at Job and say this guy's faith was super strong. 

As strong as Job's faith was, it is also very clear in this narrative that he didn't a great understanding of God. It wasn't until everything that Job valued was gone that God was fully seen by Job. It wasn't until he was brought to his lowest point that Job came know God. He says: 

"I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you."  - Job 42:2-5  

As painful as Job's losses were, they were a means to God's end. This is a point that atheists consistently miss in this story. God's permitting Satan's action was not an empty flex of God's omnipotence. Through Job's suffering God revealed himself. He revealed his sovereignty; true. However, that's not the only thing God revealed to Job through his suffering. God also revealed his grace. 

In our lives we often find ourselves in situations where we - like Job - wrestle with our circumstance. Our understandings of God are challenged in these space. We find ourselves asking "why God?". We find ourselves asking "why me? why now?". In many of these challenges we face, God's answer to our questioning is the same as it was for Job:  I AM GOD! 

It is important for us to know and understand that God doesn't offer himself to us flippantly when he asserts his sovereignty this way. God's revelation of himself in these circumstances  is a blessing. Out of our struggles comes a richer understanding of who he is. Flowing out from our struggles is an opportunity for deepening enjoyment of God, deepening peace, deepening dependency on him.  

The uncomfortable truth is that God ordains that our relationships with him is sometimes painful. That pain is a causeway to knowing him more. God's deepest desire for us is to enjoy fellowship with him. That fellowship requires us to  know him. We do well to realize this. We have to remember what Jesus said would be required of us:  

If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. - Luke 14:26

The same uncomfortable truth is corroborated in Job's story and Jesus' own words. In order for us to truly understand God and fully enjoy fellowship with him we must be willing to give it all away. That's a tough pill to swallow but it is the truth. God's desire for us is that we value him above everything and everyone. This isn't an unreasonable expectation of a narcissistic and harsh deity. God's requirement is actually an exercise of his unfathomable love. 

Everything in our lives will pass away at some point - except God. Since only he is eternal, only he is can be our hope for eternal satisfaction. This is why he insists, when it come to the people, places and thing in our lives we must posture our hearts give it all away. In order to position ourselves to know him more fully we need to get comfortable with the idea that our sovereign God may just require that  everything must go! 

I've got questions!

  • What do I cling to?
  • How do I react in times of loss and pain? Do I run more toward God or do I withdraw from him? 
  • If God required me to give up the person, place or thing I value most in order to know him more, would I be willing to trust him?

Don't Get too Comfortable!

Over the course of the last week or so, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about just how big God is. What started me thinking in this line was a video that I came across on Tuesday. (If you'd like to check out the video, here it is.) I have to say, it absolutely blew my mind.

After watching, I found myself thinking over and over again about how inconceivable God really is. I started thinking about how wondrous it is that he loves me - little, insignificant ME! All of last week was consumed with these kinds of thoughts. Again, the implications of that video completely blew my mind!

As I started to think about my relationship with God and my perception of him, I found myself dealing with some conviction. Considering what I’d seen that video and how I had been interacting with God, I suddenly felt like I’d become way too familiar and cozy with him. I suddenly felt like I'd been under estimating and under appreciating him in a huge way. Let me explain what I mean.

When I consider my place in the universe, the fact is that I’m utterly insignificant; all of us are. The flip side of that is this, when I consider God’s place in the universe the complete opposite is true. He is supremely significant! The whole universe - all those millions and billions of stars and galaxies rest in his hand; under his authority!

Now, with that fact in mind, I started to consider how I pray. I started to consider how I worship. I started to consider how I think about God. The more I considered, the more I felt convicted. I’ve had things backwards! I am not central. I am not significant in this universe. Only God is! I exist for him and his glory; not the other way around!

With this in mind I’ve found my posture in prayer and interaction with God being made over across the last few days. I’ve found myself completely humbled at the thought of my insignificance up against his supreme magnitude. I’ve been even more humbled by the thought that God cares for me - even as insignificant as I am! 

David said it this way:

What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?

- Psalm 8:4

There are three things that I’ve taken away from this past week.

1) Thinking about God and his supremacy in and over the universe should naturally result in an ever deepening humility in my hearts.

Just the thought of the vastness of God’s creation, and how big and holy he must be to do such work should press a button that triggers humility deep down within our souls! The thought that the massive and supreme God who holds all of this universe together has any awareness at all of us should take our breath away - not to mention that he loves us to the point of sacrificing his son for our salvation! This is scandalous stuff! It really is unfathomable. If we see think about God this way, then it should compel us to live every day with an ever deepening humility.

2) The natural bi-product of this ever deepening humility is complete submission to God and his supremacy. 

If we are humbled before God, then it follows that we ought to be completely submitted to him. This is sticky for us in our culture. We all to often feel entitled to God’s gracious nature. We easily get caught up in thinking he exists to serve us. Our cultural perspective tells us that God is there to give us stuff, and heal our sickness, and make us prosper. Yes, God is gracious and he kindly does these things for us according to his will. However, it is a huge mistake to think these are the reasons why he exists! He does not exist for us! He was before the beginning of time. The idea that he exists for us is.. frankly put...  stupid. The fact is we exist for him and that fact has two implications:

A) resisting him is futile. 
B) submission to him is the only thing that makes sense.
C) The humbled and submissive heart is overwhelmed with gratitude.

When we humble ourselves before God and posture ourselves to submit to him, it follows that we will enjoy him more and more! The thought that God, in all of his glory and magnificence, would do anything at all for us should be cause for overflowing gratitude. Oh, but how much does he do for us and how much does he give!?  WOW! If we are humble and submissive before him, how can we not be completely satisfied and grateful in him?

As we get into this week, I hope you’ll consider some of this. I hope you’ll take a look at your walk with God. I hope you’ll reassess how you see him and how he sees you. I hope today’s email will be a reminder that when it comes to our relationship with God, it is important that we don’t get too comfortable.

No questions this week!