Continued from Sunday . . .
Clearly the book of Job presents a huge problem to the Word Faith preacher who espouses the the idolatrous ideas that God's will is ALWAYS for us to be in perfect health, wealth, success, and free from suffering. I knew what God said about Job:
Job 1:8 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?" (Job 1:8)
And how Job responded to his loss of wealth, health, and family (that God had clearly appointed in His providence):
And he said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong (Job 1:21-22).
And how favorably Ezekiel and James referred to Job:
"Son of man, when a land sins against me by acting faithlessly, and I stretch out my hand against it and break its supply of bread and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast, even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord GOD (Ezekiel 14:13-14).
As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful (James 5:10-11).
With the knowledge of these passages of Scripture I sat there in disbelief as the prominent Word Faith pastor blamed Job's suffering on his Job's sin. It became clear to me that for this preacher to interpret the book of Job faithfully would totally devastate his precious "prosperity theology". I could smell the stench of fraud and needed to venture out for some fresh air.
The reason for my discussion on this issue is not primarily aimed at Word Faith heresies but to bring to light God's sovereignty over all things whether they be good or evil and that He will ultimately derive glory from everything that transpires in this world. It is a form of idolatry to embrace a theology that views God as a cosmic Santa Claus, and to claim that sickness, poverty, and suffering are foreign to God's providential will - because it amounts to embracing a god who does not exist, a god who is defined differently to the One True God of Scripture. Furthermore it is an explicit denial of His omnipotence (being all powerful), and omniscience (being all knowing).
In recent years I have been brought face to face with preachers at funerals who would rather embrace open theism (that God is not omnipotent and therefore tragedies can happen contrary to His will) than point to the ultimate comfort of resting in God's sovereignty. That God ordains all things according to His purposes and that all things, ultimately, work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes.
Think about it for a moment. Telling a parent who has lost a young child that it was not God's will or that the Devil took them. Making someone's healing entirely contingent on the level of faithfulness we can attain to in prayer for them. Claiming ambitious promises by quoting Scripture out of context. Initially these things may alleviate some pain from a tragedy. But what about the long haul of life - lying awake at night running endless permutations and scenarios through our human brains. Contemplating the "what ifs" - what if I prayed more, what if I didn't catch that plane, what if we went to the doctor 6 months earlier . . . Brothers and sisters, this thinking and understanding of God is not only wrong, it also wreaks havoc on our faith and understanding of Who God is.
The great evangelist and Bible Scholar AW Pink had this to say about God's sovereignty (extract taken from chapter 12 of his classic book "The Sovereignty of God" - please read it all the way through it is powerful and profound):
The doctrine of God's Sovereignty is one that is full of consolation and imparts great peace to the Christian. The Sovereignty of God is a foundation that nothing can shake and is more firm than the heavens and earth. How blessed to know there is no corner of the universe that is out of His reach! as said the Psalmist, "Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend up into Heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me. If I say surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from Thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to Thee" (Psa. 139:7-12). How blessed it is to know that God's strong hand is upon every one and every thing! How blessed to know that not a sparrow falleth to the ground without His notice!
How blessed to know that our very afflictions come not by chance, nor from the Devil, but are ordained and ordered by God: "That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto" (1 Thess. 3:3)!
But our God is not only infinite in power. He is infinite in wisdom and goodness too. And herein is the preciousness of this truth. God wills only that which is good and His will is irreversible and irresistible! God is too wise to err and too loving to cause His child a needless tear. Therefore if God be perfect wisdom and perfect goodness how blessed is the assurance that everything is in His hand and molded by His will according to His eternal purpose! "Behold, He taketh away, who can hinder Him? who will say unto Him what doest Thou?" (Job 9:12). Yet, how comforting to learn that it is "He," and not the Devil, who "taketh away" our loved ones! Ah! what peace for our poor frail hearts to be told that the number of our days is with Him (Job 7:1; 14:5); that disease and death are His messengers and always march under His orders; that it is the Lord who gives and the Lord who takes away!
The One seated upon the Throne of Heaven, the One who is Governor over the nations and who has ordained and now regulates all events, is infinite not only in power but in wisdom and goodness as well. He who is Lord over all creation is the One that was "manifest in the flesh" (1 Tim. 3:16). Ah! here is a theme no human pen can do justice to. The glory of God consists not merely in that He is Highest, but in that being high He stooped in lowly love to bear the burden of His own sinful creatures, for it is written "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself" (2 Cor. 5:19). The Church of God was purchased "with His own Blood" (Acts 20:28). It is upon the gracious self-humiliation of the King Himself that His kingdom is established. O wondrous Cross! By it He who suffered upon it has become not the Lord of our destinies (He was that before), but the Lord of our hearts. Therefore, it is not in abject terror that we bow before the Supreme Sovereign, but in adoring worship we cry "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing" (Rev. 5:12).
Here then is the refutation of the wicked charge that this doctrine is a horrible calumny upon God and dangerous to expound to His people. Can a doctrine be "horrible" and "dangerous" that gives God His true place, that maintains His rights, that magnifies His grace, that ascribes all glory to Him and removes every ground of boasting from the creature? Can a doctrine be "horrible" and "dangerous" which affords the saints a sense of security in danger, that supplies them comfort in sorrow, that begets patience within them in adversity, that evokes from them praise at all times? Can a doctrine be "horrible" and "dangerous" which assures us of the certain triumph of good over evil, and which provides a sure resting-place for our hearts, and that place, the perfections of the Sovereign Himself? No; a thousand times, no! Instead of being "horrible and dangerous" this doctrine of the Sovereignty of God is glorious and edifying, and a due apprehension of it will but serve to make us exclaim with Moses, "Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like Thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?" (Exo. 15:11).
To be continued on Thursday . . .
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Weekend A La Carte (December 16)
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