“THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF LIFE” By Pastor YAU
Text: Job 1:20-22; James 4:14-17 January 31, 2010.
1) In a national park: The geological features at the Yellowstone National Park had fascinated millions of visitors every year. When we walk along the geysers, it is a very dangerous act because we are walking atop of one of the largest and most active volcanoes in the world. The fragile earth crust may be broken into million pieces if and when the volcanoes underneath erupt that will bring unimaginable disasters to all people around. No one wants to see the consequences.
2) In the life of a man: If you read the first chapter of the book of Job, you will feel like walking in the Yellowstone Park and suddenly the volcanoes under your feet erupts without warning. Job was a good man, a very good man even God took pride of him. Job was enjoying life, good life peaceful life. He wasn’t aware that the only thing that separated him and his easy life from huge disasters was the thin hedge of protection God built around him. When God removed the hedge and allowed Satan to test him, Job’s life was like exploding volcanoes.
WHEN LIFE IS IN THE VALLEY: (Job 1:20-22)
1) It is not wrong to grieve: “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head.” (1:20) All these are acts of expressing his exceeding grief. Tearing of the robe and shaving of one’s head were signs of mourning the death in a family. Job suffered more than a death but deaths of all his children, on top of the loss of his wealth. Some people argued that Christians with strong faith should not grieve in the face of loss. But the Bible has many stories on grieving at the time of loss: Joseph mourned the death of his father Jacob. (Gen. 49:33-50:3) People of Israel mourned the death of Moses. (Deut. 34:7-8) King David grieved the loss of his best friend Jonathan. (2 Samuel 1:11-12) Just to list a few. It is biblical to grieve at the time of loss. God grants us love and emotion and He gives us the means to express them.
2) Acknowledge his nothingness: “He fell to the ground in worship and said: Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.” (1:20-21) This is one of the most biblical view of possession all Christians should have: we bring nothing into this world, and we can bring nothing out of it. (1 Timothy 6:7)If we are truly honest on possession, be it our family or our wealth, nothing is ours because we brought nothing here when we were born and we can’t bring anything out of it. Nothing we possess is really ours. If we acknowledge that we own nothing, there is nothing we could lose when they are gone.
3) Acknowledge God’s sovereignty: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken. (1:21)Many time, most of us, forget that we actually own nothing in this world: our ability, strength, education, brain power, hard work, achievements, family, children, possessions, jobs, positions and many others we enjoy everyday. All these and others is in fact God’s. He entrusted us with certain things for a certain time so we may use, feel happy and enjoy life. God has the ultimate ownership of things we feel proud to have. As Job said, He has the right to give and he has the right to take them back. In fact we should be grateful to God even when He takes back His own, either our family or our possessions because He has allowed us the time and joy of enjoying them.
4) Trusting the goodness of God: “May the name of the Lord be praised. In all this, Job did not sin by (foolishly) charging God with wrong doing.” (1:21-22) This is the most difficult thing to do at the time of great loss: holding the faith that God is and He never do anything wrong. It is much easier to believe in a good God and His wisdom of doing things when life is good and peaceful. But true faith should stay the same in good time and in bad time, unchanged. The most important and admirable virtue of Job in facing tremendous loss is his unwavering faith in God’s goodness and love. When he didn’t charge God of wrong doing, he didn’t know what God might do in his life much later. (Job 42:10-17) How true it is when Paul said, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) thousands of years later. Our true faith in God should never waver by our circumstance of life. God is much bigger and more than our life.
WHEN LIFE IS ON THE HIGHLAND: (James 4:13-17)
1) We may have our own plans: “Now listen, you who say: Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” (4:14)Even though this was written some 2,000 years ago, doesn’t it sound like what people say and do today? There isn’t much change in ways people making plans for their lives. It is nothing wrong that we all need to make plans for our life, but we also need to know that we have little control on our plans if they will work. Some 3,000 years ago, King Solomon said “In his heart, a man plans his course, but (it is) the Lord determines his step.” (Proverbs 16:9) Solomon suggested that we “Commit to the Lord whatever we do, and your plans will succeed.” (16:3)
2) The fragility of life and plans: “You don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are like a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (4:14)Looking at the sudden disappearance of the lives of Job’s children and the teaching of James on life as mist, we certainly see the fact of life we often refuse to see: life is so fragile and uncertain. It may be here now but disappears the next moment. Knowing the uncertainty of life is an important reminder: we live, plan and do things on the mercy and grace of God. The only thing that is always certain to exist is God and God alone.
3) Our total dependence on God: “Instead you ought to say: If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (4:15)We find two important lessons in this verse: a) It is not our will but the will of the Lord that allows us to live and to do things. b) Life is more important than doing things. If we can’t live, we can’t do anything. Both our wills and our existence to do things depend on the will of God. Acknowledging dependency in God shows our humility before Him. “He mocks the mockers but gives grace to the humble.” (Proverbs 3:34) No one may claim or act independently from God, especially among His people.
4) Be aware the sin of omission: “He who knows what is right and fails to do it, he is guilty of sin.” (4:17, TCNT)Most of the times, we don’t think pride or independence from God is a sin, but the Bible says it is. Most of the times, we see sin as acts against God and His laws. We call them sins of commission. But James reminds us there is another side of sin: we fail to do what we need to do is also sin: sins of omission. In fact, the original meaning of the word SIN is “missing the mark”, sin of omission. When we know something is good and right but fail or refuse to do it, we sin against God.
1) Face the reality: The fragility and uncertainty of life is a reality. Fail to recognize it may lead us into deep depression when it happens. We also need to recognize the sovereignty of God and our dependency on him for our life and all that we do. Jesus gave us a stern warning in John 15:5, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” We also need to remember, “God opposes the proud but give grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)
2) Prepare for eternity: Knowing is not the same as doing. We all need to be prepared to meet God someday in this life or the life to come. Be humble before Him, confess your sins to Him and ask Him to forgive you. Putting your life and all you do into His hands is a wise step to take for the New Year. Ask Jesus to be the Lord of your life so you won’t feel lonely or depressed when unexpected things happen to you. Better be safe than sorry. Be prepared with Jesus.