“Patient endurance attaineth to all things, Whom God posesseth in nothing is wanting, Alone God sufficeth!” Teresa of Avila
It’s been quite a while since my wedding reception, but memorably, one witty speaker wished my new bride and me, “…the patience of Job, the wisdom of Solomon, and the children of Israel!”. Since then I’ve found that two children and two grandchildren are more than enough blessing for a lifetime, my wisdom has increased mainly at the expense of the mistakes I’ve made, although it’s still far from Solomon-esque proportions, and I’m patiently waiting for patience to arrive!
But since patience is invariably associated with Job, we should take a look at how he got this reputation.
‘There once was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless—a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil. He had seven sons and three daughters. He owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 teams of oxen, and 500 female donkeys. He also had many servants. He was, in fact, the richest person in that entire area. Job’s sons would take turns preparing feasts in their homes, and they would also invite their three sisters to celebrate with them. When these celebrations ended—sometimes after several days—Job would purify his children. He would get up early in the morning and offer a burnt offering for each of them. For Job said to himself, “Perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular practice.’ Job 1:1-5 NLT
So, the initial description of Job is that he was a man of complete integrity and was devoted in his worship of God. He was also the richest man in his neighborhood. He was blessed beyond reason in every measure people used to measure wealth in those days.
It is an understandable heresy, still prevalent today, that assumes that his blameless character and wealth were connected in some cause and effect relationship. In fact I would argue that Job’s case was the exception rather than the rule — there are many examples of rich, and even conspicuously evil, people who seem to thrive in this world heedless and careless of God’s will for their lives and many devout believers who live in poverty.
However, Satan always seeks to exploit our faulty thinking by telling persuasive lies!
‘Satan replied to the Lord, “Yes, but Job has good reason to fear God. You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!”’ Job 1:9-11 NLT
So, Satan wants us to believe that piety and prosperity are inextricably linked and that when prosperity is removed we will inevitably join the ranks of the fallen angels in denying God’s sovereignty over our lives!
But God knows what kind of man Job is! God knows that Job’s devotion is such that a catastrophic loss of wealth will not shake his faith! All the material wealth belongs to God, not Job. And so God allows Satan to remove Job’s wealth, even although it will cause much distress and misunderstanding for Job, his family and friends.
We do well to note that what Job, his friends and neighbors initially see as “punishment”, but in reality is just God moving his assets around!
I plan to explore our understanding of this supposed punishment/reward argument, as well as the means used to enact the calamities which befell Job in a future column, but for now, let me point out that Job just “gets it”:
‘Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. He said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!”’ Job 1:20-21 NLT
It is obvious that Job’s piety is not linked to his possessions. When all his “stuff” is taken away his first reaction is to fall to the ground and worship his creator!
Patience is the ability to wait, while believing that some more desirable outcome is possible and maybe probable. And so Job demonstrates his patience, believing that something better than possessions awaits him if he continues believing in God’s goodness.
Regrettably, that patience would also involve endurance, or what the King James translators would term “long-suffering”, because stubborn Satan would return with yet another lie!
God would refute that lie to our benefit using Job as his glorious example!
It is good to note the teaching of Jesus on the subject of earthly possessions,
Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:20 NLT
So while it is true that every good thing is a gift from God, let us not fall into the trap of believing that the lack of material possessions is a sign of God’s disfavor. God is good all the time and he always has our eternal wellbeing in mind despite circumstantial evidence to the contrary.
We may not always be comfortable, but we are always loved!
Next time we’ll look at the problem of peer pressure in the story of Job.
Blessings on you and yours