The book of Job is much with me. It gets deeper in my spirit all the time. I taught a class on it a couple years ago and preparing for that lesson took me to new places. In my personal studies, I had never before really focused on Job’s profound understanding of God’s sovereignty which enabled him to resist the prosperity philospohy of his friends. But at that time, I saw that he clearly understood that God is in charge and God decides what we go through– for His own reasons.
Job lays the foundation for his philosophical viewpoint in the opening chapter of his book. In chapter 1, verse 21b, he says, “The LORD (Yahweh) gave and the LORD (Yahweh) has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD (Yahweh).” And, he is still declaring that same message in chapter 23. His misguided friends were tag-team badgering him relentlessly with a prosperity gospel throughout the lengthy discussions but Job resisted and refuted their arguments as he attempted to defend himself. They kept telling him he must have sinned and if he’d just repent, his prosperity would return. Read chapter 22, verses 23-28, to get an overview of their “Word of Faith” or “Prosperity Doctrine” philosophy in a nutshell. In verse 28, Eliphaz the Temanite says, “You will also declare a thing, and it will be established for you; so light will shine on your ways.” Sound familiar? Teachers who take this verse out of context and use it to further their prosperity doctrine teachings have apparently forgotten what God, Himself, said to Eliphaz in chapter 42:7, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as my servant Job has.” NKJV
Job responds powerfully in chapter 23, verses 10-17, with the bottom line truth that his friends are running from. They don’t want to receive the truth because they are afraid of their own vulnerability to disaster. They really want to believe that as long as they do good, no hard times will befall them. But Job declares otherwise! Job says, “But He is unique, and who can make Him change? And whatever His soul desires, that He does. For He performs what is appointed for me, and many such things are with Him. Therefore I am terrified at His presence; when I consider this, I am afraid of Him. For God made my heart weak, and the Almighty terrifies me; (WHY?) because I was not cut off from the presence of darkness, and He did not hide deep darkness from my face.” NKJV
This is a very sobering truth. God is sovereign and we are not promised exemption from times of darkness. It’s really obvious if you study the lives of the great saints in the Bible and throughout history that virtually all of them faced times of suffering. Don’t just read the beginning of Hebrews 11, the faith chapter of the Bible, read to the end and look at what happened to those saints “of whom the world was not worthy.” They all went through times of great difficulty to fulfill God’s purposes in their lives. But many Christians today never grasp that concept and are truly shocked when they face dark times. Especially since large portions of the church world are teaching that they shouldn’t have to go through hard times if they have enough “faith.”
This is on my mind because I’m still processing where I’ve recently been. It was very dark for me in the “valley of the shadow of death” when I suffered kidney failure in 2009. But Jesus was with me and His Word comforted me and increased my faith. He did not keep me from facing dark times but He went into them and through them with me. When I thought I was dying at 3 o’clock in the morning and I read, “Peace be with you, do not fear, you shall not die” in Judges 6:23, those words resonated in my spirit as if Jesus had spoken them aloud to me just as he literally spoke them to Gideon. I felt no differently physically, but I knew that I knew I would not die from that affliction and that assurance never left me as Jesus carried me through the lengthy recovery process.
Dearly beloved, “…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17), and there’s no strength like the strength that faith brings with it. When you have a need of any kind, seek His face and search His Word until He speaks a word into your situation that you can stand on. Don’t “name and claim” or “declare” things that have not been specifically promised to you. That can lead to disappointment and questioning God’s goodness or faithfulness if things don’t turn out like you have declared they should. Instead, ask for wisdom and guidance from your living, personal, Father God, with the understanding that He knows what is best for you and that He is Sovereign, and you shall receive His best for you.
Jesus brought this Word to my attention later in my journey. “Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.” Hebrews 12:12. Wasn’t that an encouraging word for me when it looked like I was facing knee replacement? Wow! God is good and His Word is so personal it can speak to any need if we’ll just listen!
Wherever you are, He loves you and He’s with you. And I pray you will be encouraged by His Word and His presence today.