I have been mulling over the story of Job in the Old Testament, yet again. I have more time for mulling these days! One of the lessons of that story, surely, is that we can so misread a situation and yet be very sure we are reading it right. I remember when I had a fresh experience of God in the mid 90’s. A friend was sure that the blessing in ministry that came from that day and has continued to this day could not be good fruit because he was convinced that I had been deceived and the blessing I had experienced was not in fact from God. In the following years, I continued to be apparently blessed whereas his health went from bad to worse. He actually wrote a story about a minister who departed from God through a counterfeit spiritual experience and was apparently blessed and a minister who remained faithful to God but suffered. Can that happen? Of course it can. Was it happening then? I humbly don’t think so. I think my friend read my situation wrongly and incidentally never showed any awareness that the greatest years of manifest blessing were the years of my biggest difficulties in ministry as well. However I found myself thinking today about what he would make of what has happened to me now? Would he afford me the same positive verdict he gave to himself, namely that I am suffering illness despite remaining faithful to God, or would he see it as vindication of his earlier view and a sign of divine displeasure catching up with me at last; that my illness and really retirement is the judgement of God resulting in me being deprived, whether for a time or for good, of my spoken ministry? Would he see me as an example of what Paul says is possible, something that Paul feared: that having preached to others, a preacher can disqualified from the race? I am not sure.
We can look at something that someone is going through and think we have got the inside view of God on it all and for that view we can probably find Scriptural backing; we could probably find Scriptural backing for a diametrically opposite view as well! Paul said to “Judge nothing before the appointed time.” It’s great advice; indeed it is stronger than advice! Only God knows our motivations as well as the secrets of our hearts; one day all will be revealed. That is both comforting and quite a fearful thought at the same time. The good thing is that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Are you someone who is too quick to presume you know what God is doing in your life and why he is doing it, or to make the same presumption about what is happening to someone else? One of the lessons in Job is that human beings are notoriously bad at making such a call, whether it is about our own situation or the situation of another, so let’s not do it. Let’s not lay a verdict about someone’s inner state on their shoulders or accept a verdict that someone lays upon ours as always being a true reading of a matter. Having come to the end of Job, I am as confused by it as ever in many ways, but I am pretty sure that what I am blogging about here is one of its truths and one of its applications.
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