Grace Under Pressure - Week Three
Today we are continuing our sermon series for the month of October, and we're using select readings from the oldest book in the Hebrew Scriptures as our guide.
This series is entitled Grace Under Pressure, and 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 is seeking to answer those questions, and more. So let's get right to it...
Today we're going to be learning an important lesson about self-centeredness in the midst of trials and tribulations---when we become so focused on our pain, we can easily begin to shift toward seeing ourselves at the center of all of it.
I'm going to do everyone a solid today, and teach you the etymology of a word you have probably heard of before. Sound good?
Okay here's the phrase: navel-gazing.
So you might have some idea what that means in our cultural context. Navel-gazing is described this way: self-indulgent or excessive contemplation of oneself or a single issue, at the expense of a wider view.
In other words, someone who practices navel-gazing is kind of self-obsessed.
This comes from the Greek word omphaloskepsis, which in Greek culture referred to the actions of a contemplative person who would seek to gaze inward, often at the expense of the real world around them.
But here's the thing--in our current culture, navel-gazing has been elevated to an art form. Think about this for a moment.
We live in a world where everything revolves around you---brought to you personalized, curated, picked especially for you by Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft... you get the picture.
"Alexa" is always listening, man. Ready to give YOU what YOU want.
You can fashion your media world so that you only see or hear things that you agree with or like. You will receive ads for things that you love. You can adjust your playlists on Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, Spotify, and the like so you only see movies that you will probably enjoy and listen to playlists made up of music that you love.
You can join clothing clubs that will assign you a personal shopper who will purchase for you things that you like.
There is a darker side to this navel-gazing society, though.
We start to believe our own press after a while. We start to think that maybe, just maybe we might be the center of the universe. And we might not even be aware that we have started to think that way.
So when things don't go our way, we don't react well. We start to wonder if maybe, just maybe God might have gotten things wrong---because we're suffering and we're not supposed to have to suffer.
This is what makes the story of Job such a great guide through this conversation. Job's story takes an interesting turn in the passage that we're going to be studying today.
You may recall how Job's story began in the Hebrew Scripture - Recap
After all, is said and done, Job continues to maintain his belief that God is good (sort of), and must be misinformed about Job. Despite this, he remains focused on his own issues, suffering, and problems.
And then he wishes he'd never been born:
days of suffering grip me.
17 Night pierces my bones;
my gnawing pains never rest.
18 In his great power God becomes like clothing to me[a];
he binds me like the neck of my garment.
19 He throws me into the mud,
and I am reduced to dust and ashes.
20 “I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer;
I stand up, but you merely look at me.
21 You turn on me ruthlessly;
with the might of your hand you attack me.