Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Pressure produces sponges ................ Parables 306

February 25, 1992

You have heard that old expression: “You can’t get blood out of a stone.” It is true about water too. An ordinary rock can lie on the bottom of a river for thousands of years but if you squeeze it, not a drop of water comes out.

Someone said the church in North America is like that. We sit soaking in spiritual things most of our lives, but when we get squeezed, nothing comes out  — just expressions of dissatisfaction that the pressure is making us uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t like pressure either. A little bit might make me more productive but huge problems come along and I’m right there complaining about my lot in life too.

Not like Job. He was a man who believed in God, prayed daily for his family and lived uprightly. For a while, his life seemed too good to be true. Like a rock in a river, he had been soaking up His blessings and may have spent the rest of his life enjoying every one of them but along came some pressures, considerable pressures, and Job was squeezed. What came is a surprise.

Oh, he did complain. In fact, when someone wishes they had “the patience of Job,” I wonder if they ever read his story. I didn’t see much patience the first few times I read it. He was quite vocal about his situation, his discomfort, and his friends who were falsely accusing him. (They thought he must have sinned or he would not be having all those problems.) Yet in spite of all his groaning and moaning, God says we are to “consider the patience of Job.” What on earth could He mean?

When I am impatient, I try to change things or somehow control what is happening. While Job protested, he did not press for change. What he did do, in spite of his grief and protests, was make two or three remarkable statements. These utterances proved that he was NOT like a rock in a river — the blessings of God had sunk in and made him different from the average person, even the average Christian.

In his suffering, Job said: “. . . the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all of his losses, Job did not accuse God of doing wrong or complain that He had no right to take away a blessing.

He also said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Even though he was hurting, his faith remained strong. Who else could he trust in such difficult circumstances? He had lost his wealth, health and family; why lose faith too?

Another of Job’s responses to the squeeze was: “He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” Job knew that the pressure would (not could, would) make him a better person. He also knew God was not oblivious to his problems, nor was He simply observing and not caring. Even though Job insisted he was not being punished for any particular sin, he knew God was using this pressure to purify his life.

Job also said, “I know my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth, and after my skin is destroyed... in my flesh I shall see God.” Job knew that his friends’ accusations had once been true — he was guilty of sin — but he had a Living Redeemer who had forgiven him and who he would one day see face to face.

Job was no rock in a river but a sponge. He dismissed any notion that God would not or should not allow pressure in his life. God is God. He can do what He deems best. Job also had a unique perspective regarding the purpose of pressure — it was not just reason to cry out with requests for restored comfort. Instead it was an opportunity to pour forth the faith that was in him.

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