Peace Under Pressure

April 19, 2020 – Rev. Donnell T. Wyche

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Preamble
We are grateful for you and the gifts of God that you represent. As a church we partner with the liberating presence of God to cultivate joy, hope & belonging as Jesus invites us into freedom, keeps us free, and helps us free others. We pray that whether this is your first time with us this morning, or you’ve been a part of our community for a while, that you will feel the invitation of the Holy Spirit to join in with our vision. If you are looking for a church home, we would love to be your church home, and I, in particular would love to become your pastor.

Many of us are experiencing increasing levels of anxiety, stress, and uncertainty.

There’s a lot to be anxious about, especially with the additional anxiety produced by the pandemic and shelter in place order we are living through. 

Today, I want to turn to the book of Job and focus on the peace that we witness in Job’s life. When we consider peace, I would invite us to consider peace as the awareness of God’s loving and active presence in our lives which allows us to trust God and to trust that God is good.

Background on Job:

  • Job is one of the oldest written biblical texts we have.
  • Job is a philosophical question about God and Evil in narrative and poetic form.
  • Job belongs to the wisdom/poetry writings of the Bible, along with Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.
  • Job is not a historical account of an event.
  • Job predates the Law that was given to Moses and the covenant God made with Abraham.
  • Job is a gentile, a resident of the Near East and worships the creator God.
  • In the story, the accuser is among a bunch of spirits. We would be cautioned for making this accuser the Cosmic Enemy of God.

With that, let’s start right at the beginning:

Job was a man who lived in Uz. He was honest inside and out, a man of his word, who was totally devoted to God and hated evil with a passion.  He had seven sons and three daughters.  He was also very wealthy—seven thousand head of sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred teams of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and a huge staff of servants—the most influential man in all the East! His sons used to take turns hosting parties in their homes, always inviting their three sisters to join them in their merrymaking.  When the parties were over, Job would get up early in the morning and sacrifice a burnt offering for each of his children, thinking, “Maybe one of them sinned by defying God inwardly.” Job made a habit of this sacrificial atonement, just in case they’d sinned. (Job 1:1-5 The Message)

In this prologue, we get our background information on Job. We learn that he was totally devoted to God, hated evil with a passion and was wealthy, and we learn about his possessions, his family, and his worship and honor to God.

Job lives in the a time before the Law was given, so he serves as a priest, a mediator, between himself, his family, and God. He stands before God sacrificially offering atonement for the wrongs done in his or his family’s life. 

Continuing with the text now:

One day when the angels came to report to God, Satan, who was the Designated Accuser, came along with them. God singled out Satan and said, “What have you been up to?”  Satan answered God, “Going here and there, checking things out on earth.” God said to Satan, “Have you noticed my friend Job? There’s no one quite like him—honest and true to his word, totally devoted to God and hating evil.”

Satan retorted, “So do you think Job does all that out of the sheer goodness of his heart? Why, no one ever had it so good! You pamper him like a pet, make sure nothing bad ever happens to him or his family or his possessions, bless everything he does—he can’t lose! “But what do you think would happen if you reached down and took away everything that is his? He’d curse you right to your face, that’s what.”

God replied, “We’ll see. Go ahead—do what you want with all that is his. Just don’t hurt him.” Then Satan left the presence of God. (Job 1:6-12, The Message)

God addresses this accusing spirit and asks if he has noticed his friend Job. We get a glimpse into God’s relationship with Job. God is pleased with Job. He considers him a friend, someone who is faithful and upright, someone who is honest and true to his word.

This accusing spirit asks the obvious question, “Isn’t Job’s devotion due to your protection and your care?” Take away all he has and your ‘friend’ Job will turn his back on you; he will leave you in a heartbeat.”

Many of us have a mindset that’s similar to this accusing spirit. As long as God is blessing us, we will praise him. Job is going to teach us that a relationship with God is built on faith, rooted in God’s character, and bounded by trust, which gives us the confidence to press through the challenges and difficulties that we experience in life. It allows us to worship, praise, and serve even in our weakness, in our pain, and in our suffering.

Learning how to surrender while trusting God provides us what we need to endure when we are facing uncertainty, pressure, and hardship.

The story continues in verses 13 -19 with Job receiving tragic news from messenger after messenger: attacks, robbery, murdered servants, natural disasters. Job suffers immensely.

How does Job respond the way he does? Where does he get his strength, his ability to endure? The answer is in his faith, his belief in God, which is his anchor.

He draws his strength from his relationship with God. We would benefit from know what Job knows: God is trustworthy. Job’s security is in God alone.

This allows Job to instruct us as he finally responds to the news:

Job got to his feet, ripped his robe, shaved his head, then fell to the ground and worshiped (Job 1:20)

Job knows that when faced with uncertainty the best place to be is facedown.

He laments. Remember what Pastor Vannae said about worry and fear, that they aren’t sin. It’s a human response we are supposed to bring to God in prayer, lament, and worship. Not just we are supposed to, it’s really what we need to do. Because we cannot go from fear, grief, loss, and pain automatically to peace. Job’s in between steps don’t get a lot of press in this passage, which makes him very difficult to relate to as a role model. None of us want the kind of peace that means calm acceptance of all our children getting killed. That’s why we see Job lament. He tears his clothes. He shaves his head. He doesn’t just hear all of tragic news and move stoically to peace. He grieves, deeply, in the presence of God.

And in so doing, he declares that he is not alone, he declares that God is present.

When Job finally speaks, he doesn’t include some examination of what he may have done to deserve this. Job does not subscribe to the prosperity theology that says you will be blessed if you live right. Here’s Job, God’s faithful, loyal, and blameless servant. We have to surrender this kind of thinking. Job knows better.

Not once through all this did Job sin; not once did he blame God. (Job 1:22)

The Accuser expected Job to respond differently, and we do too. Job doesn’t meet our expectations because he knows the character of God. Job’s relationship with God is deeper, much deeper. Don’t join the Accuser and falsely buy into the prosperity theology. We can experience peace when we exercise trust.

So, how we can tap into this inner quiet, this inner peace, this tranquility?

There are four insights that I draw from Job about peace. These insights will also serve as our Practical Tips for this sermon.

We can have peace when we

  • exercise patience
  • trust God and understand his character
  • worship God in midst of difficult situations
  • are quiet