In reading Job this morning, I remembered something that happened not too long ago. I was meeting with a man who was inquiring about my vocational services. He is what you might call a church consultant and trainer. That is to say, that he makes some of his living by helping churches be more organized and effective with their efforts. (Other than that, I know little more of his work.)
After “work” related discussion, we were about to adjourn when he asked me how I was doing. I try to make it a point to really answer these kind of questions now since I know that so many ask it nonchalantly and without any real consideration in their hearts. This was not so with him. He really wanted to know, at least at this moment.
It just so happened that I was in the midst of numerous doctors visits and surgical procedures because my blood was showing abnormal activity. The visitations, meetings, discussions, needle pokes, camera probes and biopsies were rather uncomfortable. The pain I was feeling from time to time in my body also caused some suffering – some of which made me lie in bed for the day. But in all of this, I was finding my heart and will more disciplined and hopeful. I was experiencing a closeness with the Lord and enjoying a greater measure of grace than I would had I not been suffering.
As I was telling the church advisor this, his head slanted and his eyes cock-eyed. He looked at me strangely as if he noticed me being rather absurd. He quickly leaned over and said, “Can I pray for you.” I agreed. I cherish the prayers that are offered on my behalf.
He reached out and took my hands and began to pray. What he said was utterly shocking to me. “Lord, it is not your will that he go through this. It is not your plan.” I was taken back by this. And, although that might be the worst thing that I have head in a long time, he said more. He started to talk to my sickness like it was a person who hears. He rebuked it and commanded it to leave me.
I was stunned. I didn’t know what to say. Did he not hear me when I said that this suffering was bringing about my heavenly delight? Why would he pray against it and tell it to leave me? Moreover, how does he know what God’s hidden will is when no one else does? Is he more than a church advisor? (This is to say nothing about the strange way that he spoke to a sickness.)
Well, this is not so far from what I read this morning in Job. Of course, I don’t presume to be the perfect mirror of Job. He suffered far more than I have ever. He was a more righteous and wise man that I am. So the comparison is not one-to-one. But, the similarities in our dealings with the “church advisors” was the same.
Job’s friends advised him that his suffering was the penalty of his disobedience, “when [God] sees iniquity, will he not consider it?” (Job. 11:11). If not that, then it was the effect of Job’s sin. But it never cross their mind that maybe it was God’s sovereign plan.
In the first two chapters of Job, we read that Satan was before the Lord after “going to and fro on the earth, and from waking up and down on it.” Apparently, he was seeking those whom he would try to turn against God, but was finding none. God asks him to consider Job. Satan, after some more discussion, obliges.
The thing to point out is that God decided who was to suffer. He also permitted Satan to cause it with some limitations. He could not kill Job. This shows us God’s power over all things created and that nothing, even illness, slips through the hands of God. He controls even Satan.
The man who prayed for me, sincere and passionate as he was, didn’t consider that God is sovereign to this degree. In fact, he told God that my illness was not His will and by doing so, acted as God’s advisor and not just the church advisor.
This is what Job’s friends did. So he responded to them harshly asking, “Will you speak falsely for God and speak deceitfully for him? Will you show partiality towards him? Will you plead the case for God?” Also, he tells them, “Your maxims are proverbs of ashes; your defenses are defenses of clay.” (Job 13: 7-8, 12).
Let us be careful not to be God’s advisor or be a false advisor to His church – especially when we advise against His sovereign will. Let us be sensitive to the ways of God and see that He works all things to the good of those who love Him. Be watchful of your prayers and accusations lest you pray against another’s heavenly delight.