Job’s “One Great Story”

I listened to a wonderful podcast called Earbender by my friend Alexi Muzik yesterday where Rozette, a successful Pop Vocal Coach on Tiktok and InstaGram, described at the end of the interview her “one great story”. It was such an inspiring story full of doors flinging open unexpectedly and other people playing a crucial part in her growth and development as an artist. I commented that “I love when doors open for sweet people by the generosity of others around them — not only by their own talent. It helps build a humility that is so necessary in order to even begin trying to handle true success or fame.”

Success, fame and honor has another side to it that can be just as devastating to a life as loss. Just look at the number of lives destroyed by “easy come easy go” riches, success and fame. Look at the number of sports stars who can thrive on the field of competition, but whose personal lives are destroyed by what grows out of their success. Look at the number of celebrities who find themselves even more lonely, trapped, isolated and depressed even while their fame has them “on to of the world”.

But imagine the crash, to fall from the top of a building versus from the top of a few steps!

The contrast in the chapters of Job 27 and Job 28 should be humbling to any of us who have experienced success, favor, honor or fame in our lives. Chapter 27 talks about how it feels to live a life kissed by the favor of the Lord. While chapter 28 talks about a life darkened by strife, grief and depression.

Those who think that being religious and doing religious things guarantees them only success, honor and fame in this life are utter fools. And many only see religious traditions, theology and dogma as a way of improving their own standing — a narcissistic means of self worship (with God as a supporting cast in their own hero story). This is not worship or faith, but is hypocrisy, self righteousness, sin.

Even those who have truly humbled themselves before God, who know Him and walk with Him, and who are anointed by the Holy Spirit of the Living God are not immune to suffering, grief, loss, oppression, and trials in this life. In fact, Jesus tells the believer to redirect these things.

This verse in chapter 28 sticks out for me:

I live in terror now. My honor has blown away in the wind, and my prosperity has vanished like a cloud.
Job 30:15 NLT

This verse isn’t a statement from before Job ever walked in the favor of God. It isn’t like all was bad before Job made a decision for God and then all was wonderful afterwards — just like God wasn’t only angry and vengeful before the cross and isn’t only peace love and happiness after the cross — and just like our lives aren’t going to be all health, wealth and prosperity once we start “giving money to the preacher man”.

No doubt, there is so much that is gained in a life lived drawing close to the Lord. And the favor and blessing of the Lord is very real. But there is also a cost, and that cost is wonderful. Because that cost refutes the enemies claims that we love God only because He is good to us.

God is indeed very good to us. But only loving or hating Him for whether He is good or bad to us is very shallow, and isn’t about Him but is about us. Going through a season where we are hurting and God doesn’t “fix it” to what we want just because we pray over and over for it in various ways as we try to make sense of things like sickness, suffering, injustice, etc. — it stretches our faith to break through the ground and display the sapling to the world around us of a very real and peculiar faith. And it happens again when a new layer of bark is added. And again when a new branch springs forth. And again when bloom and fruit come forth.

We don’t have to pretend that everything is good if it isn’t. We don’t have to stick it up and take it until we make it. We don’t have to be in the height of our one greatest story to be content and at peace. We don’t even have to be strong.

Wherever we are today, I hope that humility will accompany us through the mountaintops and that peace will accompany us through the valley. And that even in our darkest and weakest hour, we might speak our piece, cry out to God, and then be quiet — for the glory of God. Amen.

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Your Reasonable Service

What is “your reasonable service” to Almighty Father God, to Lord Jesus Christ, to the Holy Spirit?

Is it to live in the ways of the world?

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which  is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Romans 12:1-2 NKJV

Choosing to turn towards sharing in the sufferings of Christ, also means turning away from the ways of the world.

By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.
Hebrews 11:24-26 NKJV

Faith is not an idea or a belief in concept only. Is a woman impregnated by just thinking about a man,  or is it only when she surrenders and submits to him that a seed is planned? Isn’t it the same with the Holy Spirit of Christ who lives in us believers?

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
James 1:21-22 NKJV

Even if that worldliness, that compromise, that conforming to the ways of the world,  offers you promises of wealth and prosperity in this world – are you so easily satisfied with your temporary treasure here, or are you seeking those things eternal?

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
Hebrews 11:13-16 NKJV

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
I John 2:15-17 NKJV

And our choice matters:

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.
Matthew 16:24-27 NKJV

What does  it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does  it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!
James 2:14-19 NKJV

What will your reasonable service be today, for Christ who was slain on the cross for you?

And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.  For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it —  lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,  saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?  Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?  Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.  So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.
Luke 14:27-33 NKJV

“For the kingdom of heaven is  like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.  And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.  Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents.  And likewise he who had received two gained two more also.  But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his Lord’s money.  After a long time the Lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’  His Lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.’  He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’  His Lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.’ “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ “But his Lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed.  So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Matthew 25:14-30 NKJV

Tough Love?

And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.
Jude 1:22-23 NKJV

With children, some situations call for compassion and some call for correction. If all we ever offer is compassion,  we will end up with selfish,  manipulative little devils. And if all we offer is correction,  we will end up with resentful,  rebellious little devils. It takes both to be an effective parent. And it takes listening to and receiving both to grow in maturity.

It is the same with the Kingdom of God. We must be willing to receive both His mercy and His discipline. Both are ingredients necessary for growth and survival.

A fool with little vision or understanding, looking at the strong heat of the sun bearing down on plants day after day, might see outwardly that the sun is causing them to bend under its power might, but not having any knowledge or understanding of what is going on inside the plant, this fool might completely misunderstand the purpose for the sun’s brightness shining down on the plants so they can grow closer to the sun.

This same fool might look at the soil of the earth and the rains that come down on the plant and bless the rain for providing the plant with mercy while cursing the sin for the harsh trials that it puts these plants through, not realizing that only through the sun – through its transforming the materials provided by the earth and rain to the plant – can any fruit be grown. Without the sun, no amount of water and soil will rise up to be anything more than water,  dirt,  or mud. It is the warmth of the sun,  and the power of its repeated, powerful shining down on the plants that awakens the seed to burst forth from the ground and reach towards the heavens as it grows.

And this is how our trials grow us. This is why both the mercy and the trials are important. If all we are interested in is the rain of His mercy and the resources of the soil of this earth – if we listen to the twisted message of the enemy and are interested only in receiving the rain of forgiveness and the wealth and comforts of this world,  but we refuse the trials and correction and discipline of repentance – don’t we understand that we are rolling in the mud like the pigs instead of reaching towards the heavens?

And if we will speak to others about Christ, if we will call ourselves teachers of His one way,  one truth,  one life – aren’t we called to follow Him in that way and to share the whole truth of this Christian life – not just the same story of the rain and the soil that even the pigs know how to get excited about – but singing praises of His trials and tribulations and discipline and chastisement and correction and redemption and delivery from the soil to reach for the heavens, yearning to escape the mud and grow closer to the sun?

Yes,  even the pigs get excited about rain and soil. Even the pigs get excited about forgiveness and prosperity. But only the living and growing plants appreciate the heat of the trials and sufferings and persecution that we as, Christians are promised in this life – because we understand that is where the growth happens,  that is where the escape from the ways of this world occurs, that is what draws us closer and closer to the source of our life even while we are still planted in the ground.

The Lord has made the sun shine down,  the rains fall down, and the earth to break open and allow room for our roots to grow deep – not so that we can cling tightly to this world,  but so that we can grow taller and higher and closer to the heavens. But if we are only grounded in the soil and mud, the storms of adversity would tip us over and we would only be useful as wood for the fire. We look to grow upward.

And we are meant to be those who abandon the ways of this world – those who follow Christ faithfully – those who are not just called to grow – those who have been chosen to be grafted into the strong and sturdy vine of Christ. Once we are tapped into that strong vine of Christ, when we are a branch that has been grafted into His tree, when we have Him as our foundation, we are not only growing towards the heavens,  but living alongside and with our Savior daily.

So we should ask ourselves where we are in this journey? Are we still rolling in the mud? Are we just bursting forth from the ground? Are we cursing the strong heat of the trials, wishing we were back in the mud? Are we shooting up fast and high above the mud in pride of our own accomplishments only to be withered away and fruitless because we are looking down on others and not up at the sun? Have we grown in the past,  but we’ve let ourselves become stunted in our growth because of our concern over whether we’ve gathered enough soil and water at the base of our roots,  worried about our toppling over instead of expecting to be grafted into a new vine? Have we been grafted in and we’re excited to see new buds growing on our branches? Have we been bearing fruit for some time but we’re wondering where it all went?

Yes, we are each at a different place in this journey – but we all have the opportunity to continue growing instead of turning back to the mud. There is something much better than the mud, friends, isn’t there? Don’t you know the truth? Tell someone else,  and find out if they also know that there is something better than the mud. Yes,  we all played in the mud at one time, but we have a better destination and purpose available. Are you Called? Following?  Chosen?

Reflecting on our life. Today? Tomorrow?

So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT

Usually when people talk about “reflecting on their lives” it is about the past. But God tells us about a type of reflecting on our lives that is for today and for our future. It is the reflecting of His glory in our lives.

It is the outpouring of His very Spirit and nature into our lives, as we become more and more like Him. And it is a process – not that we are yet perfected, but that is our aim and our goal – to become more and more like Christ each day.

May you be unveiled to the Truth and the Hope that is found in Christ Jesus, God comein the flesh, to die on the cross, as a sacrifice to bring you back into communion with the Lord, God Almighty, the Holy Spirit. May your life today reflect even more of His glory than it did yesterday. And may you continue to grow and be changed into His glorious image. Amen.