Standing Before God
When I was diagnosed with cancer, friends came to see me and pray for me. Many of those who prayed told God—reminding Him—that it was His servant who was in need of healing. They seemed to hint that I somehow deserved healing because of my ministry as a preacher. However, our Lord said, “…when you have done everything you were told to do, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty’” (Luke 17:10).
Sometimes people who want to throw their weight around ask, “Do you know who I am?” No one standing before God’s throne of grace dare ask that question. Being someone from a prestigious family, or the son or daughter of godly parents, or having claims of having contributed much to God’s work will not get anyone any credit in heaven.
When we stand before God, we all stand on level ground as equals in need of grace and mercy. I am not special in any way because I have been a “servant of God”. I too need God’s grace—like everyone else—no less, but also, no more.
What has happened to me in life happens to lots of people—just because we live in a fallen world. Ills are a consequence of the Fall, not necessarily due to any personal misconduct. At the hospital I saw little kids (one who was less than two months old) who didn’t “deserve” to be battling cancer. My situation is not so bad, is it? My children are married and settled, and I have enjoyed love and friendship. The suffering infants have had none of my good experiences.
God has been marvellously good to me. I have indeed lived a “charmed” life because of God’s abundant and lavish grace. All I want now is grace—no more, no less. I don’t deserve grace any more than anyone else. In the end, we know God works for good—in all things (Rom 8:28).
To get back to Job’s story, while Job was in mourning, his friends came to visit and comfort him. They sat with him in silence for days (vv.11-13). That was the only time they acted wisely in the face of Job’s tragedies. When Job broke the silence, he wished that he hadn’t been born (3:1–26). His foolish friends decided that they needed to correct Job’s thinking. All their speeches argued that the bad things that had happened in Job’s life pointed to there being some evil in his life and that God’s justice and punishment had finally caught up with him.
Job was shocked that his friends, who knew him so well, had condemned him. He protested his innocence. His friends kept up their arguments that there must be some guilt in him, which is why disaster after disaster had struck Job.
While arguing that their judgement was wrong, Job forgot that his friends didn’t represent God. He got more and more aggressive in his protests of innocence, and, in a backhanded sort of way, ended up accusing God of injustice. He asked why God was picking on him. He also said that God hadn’t given him a chance to defend himself, not that anyone could withstand God.
Coming Forth as Gold
Even so, Job’s underlying faith shines through now and then as he rants against the God projected by his friends. Though he had said there was no one mediating between him and God Almighty (9:33), Job did affirm, “Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man, he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend” (16:19–21) and, shortly after that, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (19:25–27). Job asserted that all his troubles were not meaningless but served God’s purpose in his life: “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (23:10).
That is the point. Our troubles, sufferings, and sorrows may seem to be totally meaningless, but God will weave them into a pattern of beauty in our lives.
In the end, when God confronted Job, God didn’t answer any of his questions, but challenged him whether he had a right to question God when Job hadn’t been there when God was creating the world, and he wasn’t able to coordinate and sustain anything God had created (chapters 38–41). This side of death and eternity we may not have all the answers we seek.
“For now, we can only see a dim and blurry picture of things… I realise that everything I know is only part of the big picture. But one day, when Jesus arrives, we will see clearly, face-to-face. In that day, I will fully know just as I have been wholly known by God. But now faith, hope, and love remain; these three virtues must characterise our lives. The greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:12–13, Voice).