There are many lessons to learn from the book of Job, but this morning I was struck by the first chapter of Job.
The first thing that awed me was Job’s wealth. The Bible records, “this man (Job) was the greatest of all the people of the East”. Job 1:3
As a dad of four, I know how much joy and honor I feel for having four handsome and beautiful children. Job had 10 children: seven sons and three daughters.
Stace and I are working on financial stability. Paying down the mortgage over time, steadily building a ‘freed up in later life’ account (recently I have decided to not call it a retirement account any more, but more on that in a future post 🙂 Job had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a very large household.
In other words, Job was very rich. He had been blessed with ten children, he had physical wealth because he controlled thousands of animals and had could afford servants to take care of his property. Purchasing 14,000 sheep today assuming $150 each would cost $2.1 million. So his rough estate value in today’s equivalents might be around the $10 million range.
Within a short period of time (perhaps half an hour), Job learned of multiple losses:
- All his children died due to a house collapsing
- Multiple of his servants were murdered
- His oxen and donkeys were stolen
- His sheep and other servants were burned alive
- His camels were stolen
Whoa! I have heard of Christians upset for months after losing 20% of their retirement account value. Yes, that is a significant loss. Yet consider Job’s losses – all his children, many of his “employees”, much of his wealth.
Imagining today’s equivalent in your life might be this:
You are caravanning on the highway coming back from a Disneyland vacation. Your oldest son is driving a van with the rest of your kids about a thousand feet in front of you, and you are driving with your spouse and an au pair who helps care for your youngest kids.
You witness a semi truck with heavy construction equipment start to careen out of control. Before your eyes, the construction equipment rolls off the semi truck’s bed and you see the van with all your kids in it crushed.
Shocked and starting to weep out of control, you pull over to the side of the highway. You and your spouse get out of the car and start running towards your kids, but then you hear a loud crashing sound. You look back, and see evidence of a meteorite that has just crushed and burned your new car, also killing your au pair.
As you are wondering if this signals the end times and are thinking, “I am hoping the rapture happens before the tribulation!”, a man runs up to you with a gun and threatens your life. You give him your wallet and he runs away, soon after to find out you lost not only your wallet’s cash, but your debit card has drained your checking and savings account – and you won’t be getting any reimbursement.
And as bad as that would be in your life, Job likely had more children than you have now, more wealth, more house help.
Consider what your response would be to witnessing these losses in succession.
Would you break down crying? Would you curse at God? Would you accept the offer to be on the Ellen DeGeneres show to tell the world your story? (Ellen would likely sympathize with you, then flagrantly mock your God, as sadly is her practice.)
No, Job’s response is astounding. His response was much different than what I fear my response would be:
Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:20-21, NKJV
Why would you suddenly worship a God who clearly let something bad happen to you? Wouldn’t we be more tempted to be mad at God? Perhaps to think God was on vacation, or asleep, or perhaps was punishing you for something?
Yet Job realized that God had given him so much, and in his character Job realized that his wife, his children, his belongings did not define him. They were blessings that could be taken away. Job had an eternal perspective on life that put himself and his belongings in proper relationship to God. Worshipping God, being thankful for the time he had with his kids, not cursing God because he lost his livelihood and his loves.
Job’s wife, on the other hand, had a more typical response. After Job came down with painful, full body boils, his wife spoke up to him: “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” Job 2:9
But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Job 2:10, NKJV
We have a lot to learn from Job, because he responded correctly to adversity. He responded in worship. Job’s response was so pleasing to God that He said of Job, “there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil… and still he holds fast to his integrity.” Job 2:3, NKJV
This story hit me hard this morning. I have been reluctant for much of the past year in having another baby. I have seen God step up His provision for us in very tangible ways with each baby we have had. Yet, I hesitated and put our baby-making capability on “pause” because I wanted to let our kids grow up more to increase their ability to help and because I know the grief it gives my wife in labor.
Labor is painful, highly uncomfortable and a risky endeavor. This is one of the earliest curses – “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe” Genesis 3:16 With each birth, I pray more fervently than ever before, because with each labor I have the chance of not only losing the new baby, but also losing my wife. And why would I risk that if I did not have to? Why should I not take the safe road and not have more babies, or perhaps adopt so that we don’t have to go through birth again? I do not want to lose my wife.
The reason we decided to have another baby is that we are at the point we would enjoy having more. Yes, God originally said, “Be fruitful and multiply”. Genesis 1:28 And God desires godly offspring. Malachi 2:15 And children are a blessing and a gift from the LORD, like arrows in the hands of a warrior. Psalm 127:3-4
Strong families, God-fearing children who grow up to glorify Him (and marry other Christians) has always been God’s “plan A” for a world full of worship towards Him. Here is a free audio resource (MP3 file, session 2) that helped my heart in several ways about God’s plan for family, from visionaryfam.com. The complete series is called “Building a Home Centered Youth Ministry” and is linked to here if you want to listen to the whole series: Session 1, Session 2, Session 3, Session 4. And if you like that, Dr. Rob Rienow of visionaryfam.com mentions his book ‘Limited Church: Unlimited Kingdom‘ fully develops the concepts from this audio series.
Before I go back to discussing Job, we have a number of dear Christian friends who have decided to pause or permanently end their baby-making days. I do not judge you! I believe we have freedom in Christ, and are under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and not under the law – see Galatians 5:18. Also, “…we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7 If you came to peace with your decision with a contrite heart in prayer and humility, then I am excited to see how you lead and disciple your children to love the LORD, and to see the ministry your family can be to others! If you came to your decision out of fear, for the sake of convenience or without seeking God, can I lovingly appeal to you as a friend and brother in Christ that you pray and seek God on it? In twenty years, I would love to be friends with even one more person who loves the LORD and is honoring Him.
And now to wrap it up… if Job pleased God in his response to adversity – worshipping God in the midst of the sorrow, holding fast to his integrity – then how can you please God in the midst of what you are going through?
Give whole-hearted worship a try! Not just when you are happy or on an emotional ‘high’ with others at church, but also, and I would say especially, when you are in the pit of despair. Give your heart a change of attitude, whether you worship in thought, in prayer, in music, in writing in your journal or in your words.
May joyful worship become the norm in the place you live!