So far, we’ve looked at Paul, with unbearable burdens (which he likened unto death), a thorn in the flesh, and constant persecution. His choice was to follow God’s plan for his life, no matter what circumstances were thrown at him.
We’ve also looked at Christ, who voluntarily came to earth exactly as the prophets foretold. He lived a life of joy through his persecutions, disloyal friends, and ultimately the betrayal of Judas. He chose to go to trust in His Father’s plan and went to the cross for your sins – and for me!
Throughout the Bible we see much persecution for the sake of God, but one thing is in common: everyone who chose to follow God’s path was rewarded (maybe not in this world), and those who turned from God’s path found themselves in even worse troubles.
That leads to us. How do we choose to fight through persecution? And is persecution simply verbal or physical harassment? Could it really be God’s plan that I end up with a broken ankle just after I start a new job? Or that your house is in foreclosure? Or that your spouse left you, or a loved one died?
Which Bible character do you think suffered the worst persecution (besides Christ)? Most people would say that it is Job. He lost everything, and his three “friends” spent more time putting him down than lifting him up. But do you remember the beginning of the story? Why was Job so persecuted?
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. Job 1:6-12 (ESV)
Who allowed Job to go through these trials? Can you imagine how holy and in tune with God’s will that Job was? Of all the people on the earth, Job was the one man that God knew could get the job done and go through a major set of trials. What would God say about you?
What is Satan’s role? Can he make decisions on his own?
Satan accuses God of placing a hedge of protection around Job. He accuses Job of having an ulterior motive for serving God. Satan almost taunts God to remove the hedge. God trusts Job enough to allow Satan to do anything he wanted to Job. I can’t even imagine!
So who is the devil, anyway? The red guy with the tail and the pitchfork?
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 1 Peter 5:8-9 (ESV)
Nothing like the world’s concept of the devil! He’s a roaring lion. He wants to devour you. He wanted to devour Job, and God allowed him to touch everything Job had -- except Job himself. So Satan took advantage. He had Job’s kids killed. All his servants died. All his cattle, sheep, etc. were killed, and Job lost his entire fortune. Job was quite upset, of course. But his response if interesting.
Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly. Job 1:20-22 (KJV)
Job tore his clothes and shaved his head (the sign of mourning) and then … HE WORSHIPPED???? And later, when his “friends” were tearing him down, he said:
This would be my comfort; I would even exult in pain unsparing, for I have not denied the words of the Holy One. Job 6:10 (ESV)
Think about that for the next couple days… how do your actions in times of adversity compare to Job’s? Have you learned to worship in all things and at all times? What needs to change? How can you change it?
If you are in America or celebrating the American Memorial Day, I pray your celebrations are fun and festive. I look forward to talking to you on Wednesday.