“You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.”
That was the tag line for an old oil filter commercial from the 70s. The idea was that you needed to change your oil filter on a regular basis (with that particular brand, of course) and if you did not, you would face the consequences. It was implied was that your car would break down.
I've been thinking about that lately because we have begun an overview of the book of Job in our small group. This is not an easy book to look at. The book raises hard questions, but they are good questions to raise when it comes to faith. If we don’t let Job raise the questions, then life will.
The bottom line to Job is this – can you trust God? That's what Job struggled with, and that's what many of us struggle with as well.
Real life experiences of sickness, suffering, pain, disease, and death weave themselves into the tapestry of this question. And they certainly played a vital role in the book of Job.
Through the years I have seen church leaders and preachers try to steer people away from believing God's involved in this world. The views they advocate range anywhere from “God always leaves people on their own” to “anything that looks bad came from the devil or people—and God had nothing to do with it.”
I have seen leaders seek to comfort folks in moments of pain by explaining that God saw the bad things happen, and he felt awful for the people involved. Unfortunately, they portrayed God as caring but helpless.
Furthermore, the problem with those beliefs is this: through instinct, observation, or biblical knowledge, people recognize God’s power. God either involves himself directly in what happened in this world, or he voluntarily holds back his power to change an outcome —and, like it or not, that means God is unwilling to change an outcome we perceive as negative.
I am not saying it is our job to figure out everything that happens in this world. Scripture typically assigns credit (or blame) to one of three factors:
- God’s activity
- The Devil’s activity
- The consequences of sin and a fallen world
In the case of numbers 2) and 3), God withheld his fire and allowed the “negative” to occur.
Job teaches that it is our job to have peace with whatever happens in this world, and to trust God with it. For those who refuse to do so, they win in the short term because God allows them, in their free will, to have it their way—they get to hold their own opinion.
Here’s how that plays out:
- It is the parent who chooses not to trust a God who allows his child to suffer or die.
- It is the adult who chooses not to trust a God who allowed her to experience abuse as a child.
- It is the spouse who chooses not to trust a God who allowed her to experience a bad marriage.
- It is the worker who chooses not to trust a God who did not allow him to get the job he wanted.
You can freely choose to not trust God. You can choose to do so in an active and angry way, or you can choose to do so in a passive and angry (and hidden!) way.
But guess what? It doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because you are engaging in a decision and a life that is based on a lie. Your decision is based on the idea that God is not worthy of your trust. The TRUTH is… God is worthy of your trust. That is the message of Job.
Moreover, if you refuse today to recognize that God is worthy of your complete trust, you will recognize it someday. At the very least you will recognize it at the end of the world. This truth is behind Paul’s words in Philippians 2:
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
To put it another way: you can pay God (homage) now, or you can pay God (homage) later.
Some of you without realizing it will pay him homage out of your own flesh.
That mysterious pain you are experiencing is not a self-contained, organic physical problem. Rather it’s root is spiritual and rooted in the consequences of your lack of trust in God.
For some of you, that disease you are battling does not have anything to do with genes, or dank, or catching a germ or virus. Rather, it is rooted in your lack of trust in God and the avalanche of stress that created in your life.
For some of you, that depression that you are battling is not the result of chemical imbalance passed along by genes; rather, it is rooted in your refusal to trust in God and the way he has chosen to participate in this world.
People often cannot function well when they do not trust in God. They bodies and minds cannot hold up under the weight of distrust.
Believe it or not, I wrote the previous statements very carefully. Let me emphatically assert: what I said does not apply to all people and all pain. It refers to some people and some pain.
If it helps any, I have been guilty of the same sin myself from time to time. As a matter of fact, I’m thinking of forming a new support group and calling it “Trusters’ Anonymous.” Care to join?