As Sparks Fly Upward II

Faith — October 10, 2021

A man walking on a tightrope stretched out between two tall buildings shouts down to the crowd gathering below.  Their were shouting words of encouragement to him.  He crossed over from one side to the next and back again.  Then to add to the challenge he grabbs a wheelbarrow and  shouts to the crowd, “Do you believe I can make it across with my wheelbarrow?”  

“Yes,” shouted the crowd. 

“Do you really believe I can do it?”  

The crowd exuberantly shouts back, “We believe! Do it!”

So he shouts “Great!  I need a volunteer!” (to ride in the wheelbarrow).

The crowd is silent!

Faith.  

We all say we have faith.  And, yet, we all consider our own faith as weak and inadequate.  Do we have enough faith?  We pray, Lord, strengthen our faith!

The book of Job is about suffering, but more importantly it is about faith in the midst of suffering.   How strong is our faith in hard times?  Can we trust God even in the dark?  What if our health fails?  What if our loved ones die?  What if justice fails and the bad guys seems to win without any accountability?  The book of Job challenges our thinking about fairness.

The prologue of the book gives us as readers an a view behind the curtain when the main character, Job, and his would-be-counselors, do not hear the conversation between God and Satan.  Job never sees behind the scenes.  We are given that perspective and witness the struggle of Job as he looses everything, including his family and health.  We read the conversations between Job and his would-be-friends as they accuse him of getting what he deserves—punishment for wrong doing.  We read how Job holds on to his innocence and pleads with God who remains silent and never explains what  why all this is happening.

But, back to the prologue.  God calls a heavenly council meeting, with Satan in attendance.  God draws our attention to Job and the quality of his life and faith.  Satan wants to throw doubt on Job’s faith.  “Of course he is so good and faithful!  You protect him and bless him.  Withdraw your protection and blessing and he will curse you to your face!”  God’s desire is not to test and torment Job, but to give Job the opportunity to prove the genuineness of his faith.  

This is not a story about a spiritual chess game between God and Satan.  It is not a dual between equals.  God is Creator and Lord.  Satan is a fallen angel who is accountable to God.  It is about God’s confidence in our faith as humans even in the midst of darkness.  We live in a broken world.  We know that, but at times our idealism and romanticism of life cloud our thinking—and we forget.

Maybe you have watched “Fiddler on the Roof,” and remember Tevye’s cry to God, “why don’t You bless someone else?!” Down through the ages Jewish believers have echoed that cry, as if to say, “If that is how you bless your chosen people, chose someone else.”

Can Job trust God even in darkness?  What if God withholds His blessings and protection?  How does our faith fair when God seems silent?  or distant? or unconcerned about our welfare?  What if it seems that God has turned against us?  Will Job still trust God?  What about us?  Put ourselves in Job’s place.  That is easy to do.  How do we respond when things go south?

When things go wrong, when our health fails, when the darkness seems to crush the light can we still hold on to the idea that God is holding on to us?  When the world seems to be against us and we feel alone and abandoned, can we still trust the goodness of God?  

Job’s experience and story is not about a brutal test of faith where God and the devil play games with human lives.  It is about the genuine faith that clings to God even in the midst of this broken world.  It is about God’s confidence in us and in our faith even when we feel so weak, frail and vulnerable.

The closing chapter of the book show Job is healed and his fortunes and family are restored.  He had not sinned and was not being punished by God as his would-be-friends accused him of.  Satan was wrong.  God was right.  Job struggled and was in intense anguish.  Job questioned God and wanted God to explain Himself.  But Job never stopped believing.  Neither should we!

Maybe this little book in the Old Testament was written to help you and me see that we are not alone in our struggles of faith.  To help us see that God values our faith and believes in us!  

“I will never leave you, nor forsake you!”  (Hebrews 13:5)  

God’s promises are still trustworthy.  God will continue to hold us and keep us safe even in the midst of the darkness and night. 

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”  (Hebrews 11:6)

“And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”  (1 John 5:4)

Faith is our Spirit-enabled response to God’s grace—the God-given, Spirit-enabled ability to trust God’s goodness and love in the midst of life.  Claim it.  Live it.

In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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