In two short chapters we watch Job’s life fall apart— his family, his wealth, and his health. Job wrestled to reconcile God’s justice with his own personal suffering, because it’s clear he had done nothing wrong. We read in Job 1:8 that Job was “a man of perfect integrity, who [feared] God.” Job’s story challenges Western ideas that are basically “Christian karma”— that if we’re good, God will be good to us, and if we’re experiencing suffering it’s because of something wrong we did.
The mental anguish revealed in the subsequent dialogue is not grief over loss of Job’s possessions, rather grief over his perceived abandonment by God. The ironic thing is, in his wrestling, Job was closer to Yahweh than He had ever been before.
The hard truth is God allows suffering for His purposes. We see no better example of this than in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus— the Suffering Servant. Jesus told his disciples about the necessary suffering He would endure for our ultimate good yet, in their finite minds, they could not grasp the big picture. However, Jesus willingly took the cup of the Father’s wrath to satisfy the merited penalty for our sins. There on the cross, He experienced the unimaginable grief of actual abandonment, as His holy Father turned His back on Him.
Jesus was forsaken by God so you and I wouldn’t have to be. Even on our darkest days, we have this hope: nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:39).
Friend, what suffering are you enduring right now? A heath diagnosis? A financial crisis? The death of a loved one or loss of a relationship? Like Job, are you sitting in the dust of despair?
In our finite minds, we cannot grasp the big picture of what God is doing. Regardless, we can choose to rest in the truth that He is unchanging and unfailing.
God is still good.
God is still present.
God is still working for your good and His glory in every situation.
Looking back I can see that God was with me, even in the ashes of my parents’ divorce. He has been with me through many more suffering since, and He will be with me in the sufferings to come. The same is true for you— He never leaves us nor forsakes us. And, unlike Job’s condemning friends, He comforts us in all our troubles (2 Corinthians 1:3).
God does not despise our wrestling, but in the end He desires our trust. We won’t always understand God’s ways, but we can willingly submit like Jesus did— saying, “Not my will, but yours be done.”
Memory verse: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 NIV
When I think about it, the key to enjoying both my coffee and my life in peace aren’t all that different. Pleasant coffee and a pleasant mindset both require the same thing: good filters.
In Philippians 4, the apostle Paul is dishing out some practical advice to new believers—specifically, how to live in peace. He says, “Rejoice in the Lord always... do not be anxious... present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6) I’ve often separated this message from the one under it until recently I realized they are strongly connected.
Paul is actually continuing his thought in verse 8 when he presents this 7-layer filter to keep out peace-robbers. He says:
“Whatever is true
Whatever is honorable
Whatever is right
Whatever is pure
Whatever is lovely
Whatever is admirable
Whatever is excellent or praise-worthy...
Think on these things.”
Whatever is true…
I love that Paul begins with this filter.
The truth filter asks, “Do the thoughts I’m thinking line up with what God says?” This filter is most effective when I’m in the Word of God daily.
I don’t know about you, but this one eliminates 100% of my negative self-talk, and on the flip side, takes care of “vain imaginations”— the prideful idea that I am better than I actually am (2 Corinthians 10:5).
The filter of truth also eliminates unconfirmed hearsay that often leads to gossip. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself “Is this true?” when a friend comes to you with juicy gossip?
Just because a thought makes it through the truth filter doesn’t make it beneficial to dwell on it. It may be true that my child is acting up at school, a friend is going through a divorce, or a family member is treating me poorly— but that doesn’t make any of those honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praise-worthy.
This is where Paul’s previous words come back into play. My job is to take those situations to the feet of Jesus, and ask for wisdom to see them the way He sees them.
As Christ-followers, peace in every situation is one of the things Jesus intended to set us apart from the rest of the world. Unfortunately, more often than not, our response is worry and anxiety, just like everyone else.
Friends, may it not be so among us. Let us be intentional to think about what we are thinking about.
If abundant life is like a good cup of coffee, then anxious thoughts are the grounds that should have no place in it. May our thoughts be fixed on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praise-worthy today.
Growing up in church, Jesus was often compared to these fairytale heroes— making me the princess. I didn’t hate it. After all, Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine were strong, independent, and intelligent. Sure, they needed physical or emotional rescuing at some point, but they ultimately played some part in defeating the enemy.
Now that I have a deeper understanding of the Gospel, I realize that’s not at all how God’s love story works. I love Paul’s rich letter to the church at Rome, in which he thoroughly and beautifully unpacks the doctrine of salvation to new believers.
In Romans, He says, “…rarely will someone die for a just person— though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (5:6-8)
In these verses, Paul makes it clear that when we were saved:
These aren’t the most uplifting facts I’ve ever heard about myself. There’s a prideful part of me that likes to think my good works played a part in the story, or that He chose me because of what I could bring to the table.
But Jesus didn’t rescue me because of any of those things. He rescued me simply because of His love for Me. That’s humbling.
There is only one hero in God’s love story, and it’s not us— it’s Jesus.
Knowing this truth gives us freedom. If God’s love and grace for us is completely unmerited, then it’s not on us to sustain it. This doesn’t give us a free ticket to do whatever we please— As Christ-followers, He invites us into His Great Story.
I’m often prone to get a big head about this, too. I constantly have to remind myself I’m not the hero.
Here are some signs I’m making too much of myself:
I compare myself and my ministry to others.
I feel chained by my Christian “to-do list.”
I allow fear to keep me from what I know God is asking me to do.
Friend, have you made yourself the hero in God’s story? It’s time to give Jesus back His rightful place. Have you doubted Jesus’ affections for you? Remember there’s nothing you did to earn His love, and there’s nothing you can do to lose it.
God’s story is greater than any story Disney (or Lifetime) could ever produce, or that our minds could ever fully conceive. Give thanks to the One True Hero for all He’s done. Go, and grow His Kingdom.
I can’t remember exactly when I discovered her tribute, tucked away in the center of my Bible, but from that day forward I knew I wanted to be just like her. I made my to-do list and set out to be the best Christian wife and mom I could be. But all my efforts seemed to produce was a life that was far from “abundant” (John 10:10). It was completely exhausting.
Being like Ms. P was a noble goal, but the truth is that I had missed the point completely.
In the same way, the day I visited Angel Oak, I had overlooked a key fact. Underneath the soil I stood on were miles upon miles of root systems. The existence of those unseen roots made everything that was seen so exquisite and awe-inspiring.
In the same way, if we read to the end of Proverbs 31, we find the not-so-secret secret to her admirable qualities: “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised.”
Underneath the strong, successful, secure, smart, and sympathetic woman everyone could see was something greater— a root system which fueled her every word and deed: fear of the Lord. This “fear” the author writes about is not the feeling of terror. When the Bible talks about “fear of the Lord,” it’s referring to an awe-filled reverence in response to who God is.
Ms. P rooted her life in Him. The Amplified version elaborates, “reverently worshipping, obeying, serving, and trusting Him...” As a result, her good works were not manufactured at the cost of her own exhaustion— they were simply the natural product of God’s work within.
Good works are meant to be the fruit of our relationship with God, not the root of it.
Friend, God wants to bless you, and make you a blessing to others. He wants the world to stand in awe “for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:3). God never intended for us to strive. He longs for us to rest in Him. This doesn’t mean we quit trying. It means we put our effort into the right thing: shifting from the shaky soil of self-reliance to fully trusting in Him.
Are you thriving in Christ, or striving in exhaustion? Are you positioning yourself to experience God, or are you focused on production?
There is freedom when we remain in Him. We don’t have to have to have all the answers. We don’t have to will ourselves to be better. We don’t have to put on a happy-Christian-mom “mask” and pretend like we have it all together. When we couldn’t do anything for ourselves, Jesus came with a rescue plan. He is the Author and He will be the Perfecter of our faith.
Find rest in that truth, today, friend, and “let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on him.” (Colossians 2:7)
Then, and only then, would they be saved from God’s wrath about to be poured out on the Egyptians. And this event wasn’t just meant to be a one-time ordeal, God told them to observe “Passover” indefinitely, in the first month of each year.
So what is the deal with all of the blood in the Bible?
If you remember back to when Adam and Eve first sinned, the scriptures tell us they became filled with shame. In an attempt to hide that sin and shame, they covered themselves with leaves. But God provided another, more complete covering— animal skins. This was the very first sacrifice, but it wouldn’t be the last. Sin had a price tag, and that price tag was death (Romans 6:23).
Leviticus 17:11 says, “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have appointed it to you to make atonement on the altar for your lives, since it is the lifeblood that makes atonement.”
The sacrifice of specific animals (depending on the offense) became the only way for peace with God, or atonement (reparation for sin).
Fast-forward back to Exodus and this first Passover actually paints a beautiful picture of salvation. The blood on the doorposts set apart the Israelite people. While the Egyptians suffered the consequences of their sin and hardened hearts, those who trusted in the blood of the unblemished lamb were saved from destruction.
Hundreds of years later, on the night Jesus was crucified, He celebrated Passover with His disciples. Little did they know they were sitting with the Spotless Lamb who was about to pay the price for their sins and save them from destruction once and for all.
Animal sacrifice was our insufficient attempt to cover our sin and shame, but God, once again, provided the complete covering we needed. The shedding of His perfect blood didn’t just cover the sins of one man— it covered the sins of every man who would put their trust in Him.
The price for our rebellion and disobedience was death. Jesus’ blood paid that debt.
Friends, we can rest in this assurance:
Weak stomach or not, that’s reason to celebrate. Let’s slow down, acknowledge, and give thanks for all He has done, today.
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