Grace Under Pressure--Week One: Consider My Servant Job
This series is entitled Grace Under Pressure, and yes, I totally ripped off the name and the image for our series logo from the rock band Rush, and their 1984 album of the same name.
As I mentioned, we're going to be studying the oldest book in the Bible from the Hebrew Scriptures (OT), the story of Job, which is one of the most mysterious and misunderstood books in all of the Bible.
Job seeks to answer a question that we have all asked at least once in our life: Why do bad things happen to good people?"
When we are facing trials and tribulations, challenges, and problems, it’s easy to wonder where God is in the middle of everything. We may even start to wonder why God would allow the things that have happened to us, to happen.
But what if we were able to see the challenges we face in life as chances to grow stronger in our faith, to learn to trust God more, to surrender our need for control?
What do we do when we keep all the rules and do everything right and things still fall apart? How do we learn to discover grace under pressure? This series will seek to answer those questions, and more. So let's get right to it...
Let me ask you a question:
Ever feel like God is picking on you?
It might feel like it when you've had a really bad day. Maybe a day as bad as some of these people---cue images.
When you are having one of those days--you know the kind of day I'm talking about--when everything just goes south. It's like you fell down after being hit by a wave in the ocean, and as you try to get up, you keep getting smacked by more waves.
Have you ever wondered in the middle of one of those days---maybe out loud--what God was up to? Maybe you asked that question a few times over the past 18 months.
Maybe you even asked a deeper question... "Is God even there?"
The book that we're going to be studying for the next few weeks begins with a strange twist. It starts off with this verse:
In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.
This is the ancient Hebrew equivalent of:
So right away we know that we are dealing with a story, a parable, a work of legend, a story that probably has been passed down from generation to generation---at least this first part.
And the funny thing about the way Job begins... God makes a bet with a character named Satan, which is a Hebrew word for Accuser, and in this case should be thought of like the Prosecuting Attorney, the D.A. of Heaven.
The result of that bet is pretty costly for Job and his family, to be honest.
In the opening of the story, there's an assembly of the royal court of God and Satan is among them. God asks Satan to consider how awesome Job is, and how faithful to God Job has been.
And the Accuser says, "I bet you I can get him to curse you. Just take away everything that matters to him, and let's see what happens."
So naturally, in this story, God takes the bet and tells the Accuser to do anything he wants to Job--but he can't harm him physically. And so the story relates how Job loses all of his flocks, his wealth, and then all of his sons and daughters are killed in a freak accident.
I know that people who read the Bible literally want to try to make this into some sort of historical account, but it isn't. This is a story, albeit a powerful one. But it's a story that resonated with the ancient Hebrew audience who told and retold it.
And it resonates with us, too. When bad things happen to us, sometimes really bad things... we want to affix some kind of meaning to it, even when it seems meaningless.
So naturally, the easy thing to do is to begin to believe that God has it in for us... or is messing with us... testing us... you get the picture. We've all done it. That's part of what makes this story so timeless.
But despite what we read here---we can't blame God for our problems because God didn't cause them. God doesn't cause all things. Sometimes things just happen.
But even though God doesn't cause all things, God is present in the midst of all things, and the recognition of that presence can be transformative for you and me. And that's what we're going to spend the second half of the sermon exploring.
I want you to hold on to this one very important idea though...
GRACE UNDER PRESSURE TURNS PROBLEMS INTO POSSIBILITIES
Our challenges can become chances for us to grow in our faith and learn what it means to exhibit grace under pressure as we learn to trust God, no matter what is happening in our lives.
Let's pick up the story of Job in chapter two where Satan finds his way into the Divine court once again:
On another day the angels[a] came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”
3 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”
4 “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. 5 But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
6 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”
7 So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. 8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.
9 His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”
10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.