fruitage of the spirit's journal

Expressions from the Heart

God is with us


God is with us by Julie McAllen

11 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. (Job 2:11)
Their desire to comfort their friend was admirable. Their recorded attempts are confusing. When I read of God’s displeasure in the things uttered by his friends, I am not always sure which things were so bad. That tells me I really need to pray about my words of “comfort.” Take for example Bildad’s words at Job 8:20.

20 “Surely God does not reject a blameless man
or strengthen the hands of evildoers.”
(Job 8:20)
Isn’t that akin to something a well-meaning Christian might say today?
So, what if the problem continues? Does that mean I’m rejected by God and therefore not blameless? And why did my neighbor’s problem clear up when he’s not even a Christian? Why did the Lord strengthen his hands and not mine?
Surely God does not reject a blameless man…………..oh?
Or strengthen the hands of evildoers…………………………oh?
We pray, we search the scriptures for counsel, we pour out our lives for charity, and guess what folks? Our unscrupulous neighbor gets the cure, the big house, the promotion, and the respect of many friends and we’re left to ponder why we’ve washed our hands in innocence and begin to envy the prosperity of the wicked (Ps 73:3, 13).
Have we been misled in the belief that Christians are somehow immune to the same plagues as the world around us? Remember, God causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matt 5:45) The rains do fall on blameless men. And God does make his sun rise giving blessings and mercy to those who neither acknowledge nor serve Him. Should we doubt our own faith in God when we see no answers to prayers for relief? Did I displease Him somehow? Why has He forsaken me? I must be sinning somewhere, because the latest Christian author said I would be blessed with God’s favor if I worked the program. Hmmm….is there something familiar with those kind of thoughts?
Job struggled with understanding his trials and we struggle understanding our own. But don’t be fooled by the false comforters who teach that if a man is not prospering, there is something wrong with his relationship with God. In fact, the opposite is often the case.
2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
While going through a trial, it’s not our immediate response to be joyful. But looking back on trials is another story. Aren’t you thankful for trials through which you can now see the Lord was with you? But did you know He was with you at the time you were suffering? Pray for eyes of faith if you are currently in a trial or comforting someone who is.
How do we find comfort? In our modern era we have so many resources to lean on when we sense a weakening of our resolve to honor God with unswerving faith. You know the scramble. Just pop in that favorite Christian CD. Open your Bible to your favorite verses neatly categorized by chapter and verse. Call or email a friend. Attend another conference. Listen to the audio of the last one that inspired you. Search the web for topics about your particular struggle. Go to church.  While all of these are blessings and I can personally attest to their encouraging power in my own life, I am humbled by a man’s faith who had access to none of them. No, this is not another lesson on the suffering of Job.
Let’s look at Joseph.
Joseph’s story begins with his own jealous brothers hating him for having a dream and being loved by his father (Gen 37:4, 11). He was sold into slavery, tempted daily by Potiphar’s wife, thrown in prison on a false rape charge, and out of the only two friends we know of in that cell, one dies and the other forgets him for two years when Joseph specifically asked to be remembered. Some life! Put it in the context of the modern era:
This guy Joe comes from a dysfunctional family and ends up in prison for raping the boss’s wife and the inmates don’t even like him! Must be a bad dude, God’s forgotten him. Let him rot. Ya know that other guy Mr. Potiphar? He must be going to the right church because you can sure see the Lord’s blessing on his house! For we all know….”God does not reject a blameless man or strengthen the hands of evildoers.” (Job 8:20)
Oh?
5 From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. 6 So he left in Joseph’s care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate. (Gen 39:5, 6)
How about that! Joseph does the right thing and Potiphar gets the blessing! Not only Potiphar, but later Joseph’s presence in the prison gave the guard ease also (Gen 39:20-23). It says “the Lord was with Joseph” and that “he showed him kindness and granted him favor.” How’s that? Looks to me like the prison warden was granted the favor. What would Job’s comforters say to Joseph in this situation? Further more, how did Joseph maintain his faith in God? Was it those weekly church services that built him up? Did he find relief in the tranquil stylings of his favorite CD? I know, it was blogging with friends about that last faith conference! Really, what did Joseph have? Maybe you live simply without computer or stereo, but poor Joseph didn’t even have a Bible!! I’m left with the conclusion that Joseph was a man of intense prayer. And it explains a lot. I am thankful to have His word neatly bound in chapter and verse, but I am more blessed to know He speaks to me through His Spirit in prayer—even more so if I am left without the other modern methods of encouragement.
Through a prayerful relationship, God was with Joseph. It may not have been evident to the outside observer as he sat forgotten in prison by his family, employer, and friends, but Joseph had the peace of God which transcends all understanding (Phil 4:7). For how else could a man who lived through those trials come out forgiving his brothers with these words?
19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (Gen 50:19-21)
Joseph knew his place with God because he was a man of prayer. He understood that various trials were not an indication of God’s displeasure in him. He continued to pray through it without acknowledgement or comfort from others that God was with him. He simply knew.
Thank you Lord, you are with us.

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

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July 2, 2009 - Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , ,

2 Comments

  1. Julie, Thank You!! What a great post on the experiences of Job and Joseph. These are two bible characters that I’ve always considered when I’m trying to lift a friend – or even myself! But I never really gave much thought to the fact that neither Job nor Joseph had the resources we have today to help with encouragement. Every day I’m so thankful for my brothers and sisters in Christ, for our Pastors who minister to us with encouraging sermons and a wealth of resources through the internet – too cool, that’s how you and I met! Joseph had prayer! Isn’t that something?? The one (and only) availability Joseph had is the same supernational power that we have today, too! Thanks again for posting such encouragement for us. May the Lord continue to bless your ministry!

    Comment by Linda | July 2, 2009

  2. What a wonderful devotional! This was very encouraging. Thank you.

    Comment by Willie | July 3, 2009


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