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No Matter What May Come My Way
based on Job 1:1, 2:1-10, Psalm 26, Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12
a homily by F. Schaefer

I'd like to invite you to take an imaginary trip with me: the place I want to visit is the headquarters of the universe.  The "building" is much more sophisticated than the White Hose or the Pentagon ever will be--absolutely high-tech. God sits behind the most impressive looking desk, running the entire universe. His desk is clattered with all kinds of papers--no wait, that's what my desk looks like! No, God's desk is very organized: the papers are all in incoming and outgoing trays; there are all kinds of communication devices--much more sophisticated than our computers, much more efficient than e-mail will ever be.

God appears to have summoned some sort of conference (perhaps the first recorded board meeting?) Enter the personification of Evil, Satan himself. He and the Almighty get into a conversation and, somehow, Job's name comes up in it. In fact, God inquires: " Did you notice my faithful servant Job?" "O, sure, he is," says Satan, " he is faithful because you gave him all these blessings. Take them away and he will curse you, that's for sure." But God has confidence in the faithfulness of Job, so much so that God allows Satan to have his way with Job for a while.

Last Wednesday, we read this passage in our Pathfinders Meeting (a spiritual discovery group made up of community people). A number of participants became upset at the suggestion that we are mere pawns in the hands of higher powers. All of them felt that if God allowed Satan to torment Job this way, it wasn't any different from God tormenting Job directly. But most of them also agreed, while they didn't believe that God actually treats people in this way, that it sometimes feels like that to us.

At this point, one could easily get entangled in a discussion of the theodicy--the discussion of why bad things happen to good people if a loving and almighty God is in charge of affairs.

Of course, none of our best  theologizing would have benefited Job. He didn't know what was happening in the ethereal spheres. One commentator (H. H. Rowley, Bulletin 41, p. 44) suggests that Job must not have known that God thought he was suffering innocently simply because, had he known, it would not have been a real, meaningful test.

The way Job suffered is certainly also different from the way one may suffer for God's kingdom. Our lesson from Hebrews praises our Lord Jesus for purposely taking upon himself the suffering of the cross in order to show us the way to new life in God. In addition, the author of Hebrews encourages us and adds purpose to our sufferings.

Heb. 2:10 expresses it like this: "It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings." There is a purpose for the suffering of the righteous: if our pioneer, Jesus, was made perfect through his walk to the cross, so can we as believers be perfected through our sufferings.

Yet, Job did not have the privilege of this knowledge. He was not assured of his righteousness, nor was he aware of any purpose for his plight. Neither did Job have the attitude of the Psalmist (Psalm 26) who is so confident in his theology that he even asks God to put him to the test:   "Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and mind. For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in faithfulness to you. (Verse 2-3)."

Job isn't sitting among the ashes because he wants to be there, he did not ask for a test. Job simply doesn't know why God allows him to suffer innocently.

So, then, how does Job deal with his situation? He could have despaired and given up on his faith, given up on God. His suffering was so severe that his wife suggested: "just curse God already and die!" "Why prolong the agony?" "Put yourself out of misery."

Let's look at Job's answer: "Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?"

Job's response shows just what kind of man he was. Job was a man of commitment. He truly put God first in his life. Satan was wrong about him. Satan thought that Job was one of those believers who live by the principle (that seems to be commonplace in Christianity today): "all these things shall be added unto me; therefore I seek first the Kingdom of God." Job lived by the principle of putting God first, and then, somehow, sometime, all these things shall be added. His statement is one of the most profound expressions of trust and faith in God in the Scriptures. A true standard of faithfulness.

Job is saying, I will take the bad with the good, whatever God puts on my plate is what I eat. By the way, that's how I was raised. None of the "I don't like this, I don't eat that" routine that I see among many children today. My generation knows this parental admonition only too well: "You'll eat what's on the table, or you don't eat anything at all."

I love Job's attitude. In my mind's eye I can hear Job say: "One day it may be a celery stalk with bit of mustard, and on another day it's surf and turf. No matter what, I made up my mind, whatever God gives me I accept, because God is where I go for my food. I put my trust in God." It doesn't get any simpler than that!

The chorus of one contemporary gospel song ("My Life Is In His Hands" Kirk Franklyn & God's Property) expresses Jobs attitude of trust and faithfulness so well:

I know that I can make it,
I know that I can stand
No matter what may come my way,
My life is in His hands.

I don't know about you, but I find refreshment and encouragement in Job's attitude. I want God to find me to be just as faithful as Job. I want that simple faith, I crave that simple trust in God. I want to return to this child-like faith (a reference to the gospel passage may work here--Mark 10:15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.") that doesn't question God, but instead simply says: no matter what may come my way, my life is in your hands, o God. With you in my life, I know I can make it; with you by my side, I know I can stand--even in the face of trials and pain and despair. Amen.