Saturday, August 17, 2013

Adversity Does Not Equal Punishment

Adversity does not equal punishment. The book of Job is the account of a man of God who endured great pain and loss through the death of his children, the loss of his possessions, and even physical affliction. Job’s “friends” came to him in his affliction and tried to encourage him. While they spoke highly of him, they also pointed to him and told him that in spite of all of the righteousness that they had seen in him and the way he lived his life there must be some secret thing for which he was being chastised by God and in need of repentance. Even Job, himself, listened to that line of thinking, and in chapter 7:17-21 we read just a small portion of what he felt and said in response:

““What is man that You magnify him, and that You are concerned about him, That You examine him every morning and try him every moment? “Will You never turn Your gaze away from me, nor let me alone until I swallow my spittle? “Have I sinned? What have I done to You, O watcher of men? Why have You set me as Your target, So that I am a burden to myself? “Why then do You not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity? For now I will lie down in the dust; and You will seek me, but I will not be.”” (Job 7:17–21, NASB95)

They had all in some way considered the false principle that if something significant goes awry, it must be punishment from God in some form for something which they had done. In Job’s case, we have the benefit of being able to read the whole account from beginning to end. In the beginning we read,

“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.” (Job 1:1, NASB95) And at the end we read,

“The Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the Lord increased all that Job had twofold. Then all his brothers and all his sisters and all who had known him before came to him, and they ate bread with him in his house; and they consoled him and comforted him for all the adversities that the Lord had brought on him. And each one gave him one piece of money, and each a ring of gold. The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; … After this, Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons and his grandsons, four generations. And Job died, an old man and full of days.” (Job 42:10–12a, 16-17, NASB95)

God knew Job’s heart and his actions, and He even knew how Job (and his friends and his wife) would respond and how He (God) would ultimately return blessing to Job. What Job suffered was not as a result of disobedience or because he had riled God in some way. Though God made it clear that Job was in no position to judge God and that Job was not the creator and sustainer of things as God is, God also made it clear that He would not abandon those who are His and that He indeed is aware and in control of all that He allowed to come Job’s way (and our way). And unlike our ability to see the account of Job from one end to the other, we (like Job) may not understand what God is doing while we are in the middle of it. (Consider reading the whole book of Job if you have not done so, or done so in recent memory)

So far this concerns a man who was considered righteous by God, who lived his life in obedience to God and was impacted severely by events beyond his control or his own initiation. Yet there are also things which come into our lives which are results of actions we might have taken. These are known as consequences, and our God is even sovereign over consequences.

First and foremost, He is faithful to forgive. If you have placed your trust in Jesus Christ for your salvation then all of your sins—past, present, and future—are forgiven and God will not hold them against you. What He tells us in His Word is that we are to come before Him and admit (confess) those sins, thank Him for His forgiveness, and commit (as before) to obey Him in the future (1 John 1:9). Then what God does with the physical consequences of wrong actions in this life is really subject to His overwhelming mercy and grace. For example: When we break a law we may be convicted and then have to go to jail. This does not mean that God loves us any less, what it does mean is that there are consequences to our actions. This does not change our eternal acceptance by God or His willingness to grow us even in our transgressions and through the consequences. After all, it was not our cuteness and cuddliness that brought about His action to save, but our dire need and our inability to do anything about it.

So, when things press in and you are tempted to question God’s love and even His punishment, know first of all, that His love never fails and our acceptance by Him is never in question. Ask if there is something you need to confess, and (if there is) deal with it before Him. Then, ask Him to strengthen you for the things that lie ahead, whether you know the cause of them or not.

As with the past few days I was a bit out of whack in my devotional reading, with today’s “Jesus Calling” actually being the one from the 15th. And you know what, as I was going to bed last night and considering the season we (my family and I) are in, I am very thankful that this is how God spoke to my heart today.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (8/15)

I am the God of all time and all that is. Seek Me not only in the morning quietness but consistently throughout the day. Do not let unexpected problems distract you from My Presence. Instead, talk with Me about everything, and watch confidently to see what I will do.

Adversity need not interrupt your communion with Me. When things go “wrong,” you tend to react as if you’re being punished. Instead of this negative response, try to view difficulties as blessings in disguise. Make Me your Refuge by pouring out your heart to Me, trusting in Me at all times.

Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. Psalm 55:17

Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him. Psalm 32:6

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:8

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