Monday, October 15, 2018

“Job’s Depression” – Job 3

Just this week, I listened to a local pastor friend of mine describe going hiking a few years ago with some of his friends up to the top of a huge mountain. He said they got to the top but he did not describe the beautiful scenery or the fresh air or the sunlight. He said his only thought was wanting to throw himself off the cliff face so he could die.

He was a pastor. He had a wife and kids and a good church but he said there was such a darkness in his life and he didn’t know how to get out of it and he felt the only way out was suicide. He didn’t describe the darkness or any other reasons for his feeling that way…and he didn’t have to.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 300 million people worldwide have depression. One of their reports found that in many countries, people with common mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia routinely suffer gross human rights violations - including shackling, torture and imprisonment. Now, I’m no doctor but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t help. (

That same report said that cases of depression have been on the rise for years and have spiked in recent years and will cost trillions of dollars. While some of the costs will be the direct costs of healthcare and medicines or other therapies, most are indirect - in the form of loss of productivity, and spending on social welfare, education and law and order.

That’s just the financial aspect of it. What’s the cost to people’s lives and families and the cost of so many people living in that same kind of darkness my friend went through? What’s the cost to a person’s mind who lives without hope or reason for their suffering? What price does a person pay who feels like they are worthless or that nobody cares for them?

Maybe you have been there. If not, I bet you know someone who has. As we continue in our study of the profound book of Job, we see clearly that Job suffered from depression. And some may read this and think, “Well, of course he does. Who wouldn’t be depressed if they lost nearly everything they had?”

But if you excuse it in Job, then what is going to happen when tragedy hits you? And it will hit you sooner or later. Will you just excuse it in your own life as a part of the grief process and allow yourself to be pulled deeper and deeper into that darkness? Or will you use scripture, prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit to lift you out of that hole that so many fall into?

Turn to Job chapter three this morning, please. We have read the first two chapters and have seen Job lose his health and his wealth. He is left with a foolish talking wife and three well-meaning but foolish talking friends and not much else. He has literally been sitting on a pile of rubbish with painful sores all over his body for a week and now we hear his first real speech and it is not pretty. After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. 2 He said: 3 “May the day of my birth perish,
    and the night that said, ‘A boy is conceived!’
4 That day—may it turn to darkness;
    may God above not care about it;
    may no light shine on it.
5 May gloom and utter darkness claim it once more;
    may a cloud settle over it;
    may blackness overwhelm it.
6 That night—may thick darkness seize it;
    may it not be included among the days of the year
    nor be entered in any of the months.
7 May that night be barren;
    may no shout of joy be heard in it.

11 “Why did I not perish at birth,
    and die as I came from the womb?
12 Why were there knees to receive me
    and breasts that I might be nursed? “Why is light given to those in misery,
    and life to the bitter of soul,
21 to those who long for death that does not come,
    who search for it more than for hidden treasure,
22 who are filled with gladness
    and rejoice when they reach the grave?
23 Why is life given to a man
    whose way is hidden,
    whom God has hedged in?
24 For sighing has become my daily food;
    my groans pour out like water.
25 What I feared has come upon me;
    what I dreaded has happened to me.
26 I have no peace, no quietness;
    I have no rest, but only turmoil.”

One thing I have learned about depression this week as I have been studying is that reading about depression…is depressing. Everybody gets bummed out at times in their life and there are seasons of grief for anybody that lives any length of time because we are all going to lose people that we love, whether it is to death or divorce or something else. But some people struggle with depression more than others and there may never be any clear reason why that is.

The question we need to ask is how to get out of it as quickly as possible. This is not to say that we should try to hurry through the grief process when we lose a loved one. You are going to grieve, whether you want to or not. Everybody grieves differently and for different lengths of time and to different depths and none are necessarily wrong. You can put off grieving by getting busy with work or something else but at some point, you have to work through that grief. That’s just how God made us and it is ultimately good for us.

What’s bad is when we grieve to the point of such depression that we, like Job, wish we were dead. Or maybe years have gone by and the depression hasn’t gotten any better at all and it just overtakes a person and they just can’t get out of the darkness, the hopelessness or the feelings of unworthiness and so they stop trying.

Unlike Job’s friends, we need to know how to help people that we love that we see in this condition but we also need to know how to help ourselves. We have nearly all been attacked by Satan recently and we need to know the right way, the biblical way to respond to those attacks.

Let’s talk about our options. Just for instance, let’s say that God allows Satan to attack you physically. Maybe he takes away your health or your wealth in some way like he did to Job. People in the panhandle of Florida know what that looks like just this week after Hurricane Michael ripped through there. What are our options when something like that happens to us? What are some ways that we can handle that?

What did Job do? Well, the very first thing he did, as we saw a couple of weeks ago, was to fall down in true and peaceful worship as it says in chapter one verse twenty. He also tore his robe and shaved his head and went and sat on a dung heap. I guess those are some other options for us but I don’t recommend it.

Some people self-medicate with drugs or alcohol and I think we all know the consequences of doing that. Some people ignore it and just busy themselves with work like I said earlier and try not to think about it. The problem with all of those is that every time you try not to think about your issues, at some point they always come back to our minds. And isn’t that where almost all our battles are fought? In our minds?

When you are battling grief, the battlefield is in your mind. When you are trying to resist temptation, it starts in your mind. For the drug addict, the alcoholic, the murderer, the porn addict and even the one being attacked by Satan with physical issues, the battlefield is always in the mind.

In 1835 a man visited a doctor in Florence, Italy. He was filled with anxiety and exhausted from lack of sleep. He couldn't eat, and he avoided his friends. The doctor examined him and found that he was in prime physical condition. Concluding that his patient needed to have a good time, the physician told him about a circus in town and its star performer, a clown named Grimaldi. Night after night he had the people rolling in the aisles. "You must go and see him," the doctor advised. "Grimaldi is the world's funniest clown. He'll make you laugh and cure your sadness." "No," replied the despairing man, "he can't help me. You see, I am Grimaldi!" (

So many times, the despair is never known by other people because those in depression have gotten used to faking it. I think of people like comedian Robin Williams who killed himself a couple of years ago. His battle wasn’t on the outside. His battle, like so many others’, was mental. The physical problems may be bad but the mind is often the worst problem we can have. So, what can we do to get out of that mental darkness?

Well, I have the answer. But if this answer was my idea, I would understand your skepticism. Who am I to address anybody else’s grief? I’m no doctor or scholar about anything, including grief, but the Apostle Paul most certainly was. The apostle Paul – “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak?” (2 Cor. 11)

Yes, THAT Apostle Paul was also the same guy that said in Philippians 4, I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” The question is, how did Paul do it? And this is the point in the sermon where you might expect your pastor to say, “Just accept Jesus into your life to be your Savior and all your depression will go away.” Or I might say, “Just have faith in God and all your darkness will turn to light.” Or maybe, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” Or “Cleanliness is next to godliness” or “God helps those who help themselves” or anything else that sounds good but just isn’t true. None of that is how Paul overcame depression to have peace, joy and contentment.

Paul tells us that there is work to be done and decisions to be made. Since those dark thoughts are dark places in the mind and the mind is the battlefield and all those struggles start in our thought life, Paul first tells us to take every thought captive. Write this down in the flyleaf of your Bible. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says to take every thought captive. This is not easy to do and you have to make the conscious decision to do it but, as a true believer, you can do it with the help of the Holy Spirit.

What it means to take those thoughts captive is to take a mental picture of those thoughts. In your mind, make the decision to take a snapshot of that darkness, that dread or feeling of hopelessness if you are struggling with depression. If you struggle with temptation or sin or addiction, this works just as well for that. Take a mental picture of that struggle and here is what I do: put it in a mental picture frame. That’s right. Frame it. See how pretty my mental frame is with its gilded edges and crystal glass?

Now, with that mental picture of your depression safely behind that pretty frame…throw it on the ground and smash it! Stomp on it! Smash it to pieces because if you don’t, that picture will continue to take you captive, but God gives us the power to overcome our thoughts and feelings through Jesus Christ. So, take that thought captive and destroy it. That’s step one.

But what happens if you just stop there? That thought is going to come right back, isn’t it? So, you have to replace it with something else. Paul tells us what step two is in Philippians 4:8. Write that in the flyleaf of your Bible as well.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.”

I know some of us have done this before but we are going to do it again. I’m passing out a copy of this verse for you to keep handy and I want you to write on it. Where it says, “whatever is true”, write something that is true. Let’s all do it right now. Somebody tell me something that is true. How about the fact that Jesus is coming back? Maybe you would rather write that Jesus loves you or you love your spouse or dogs are better than cats. Whatever you want. Write that on the piece of paper. Then go to the next one. What is something noble? Right? Pure? Etc.

Here’s why I want you to write all that on there and to keep it handy. The next time you feel yourself getting depressed or tempted to sin, you might remember to take that thought captive but when you go to replace it with a thought of something pure or lovely, it is hard to do in the heat of battle. You have to have that stuff loaded up and ready to go and easy to find or your good intentions will be beaten down by Satan’s attacks.

As it is, you may have to do this every five minutes for a while. It’s a hassle. It’s hard to do. It’s way easier to just curl up in bed and marinate in the darkness and cry out like Job did that you wish you were dead. But it’s worth the hassle and you can do it. Let me read the last part of a verse I have already read this morning. In Philippians 4, when Paul said he could be content in whatever circumstance he was in, he ended by saying what has become a favorite verse for lots of people but is sometimes taken out of context.

Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Do you believe that? Of course you do, but too many people think that goes for anything they want to do. “I can win this race through Christ who strengthens me.” “I can get this job through Christ who strengthens me.” “I can win this lottery through Christ who strengthens me.”

That is not what this is saying. When it is God’s will for you to do something, He will empower you to do it. He is not going to ask you, command you or put you in a position to do something that will be impossible if the power of Christ is giving you strength.

A few years ago, on New Year's Day, in the Tournament of Roses parade, a beautiful float suddenly sputtered and quit. It was out of gas. The whole parade was held up until someone could get a can of gas. The amusing thing was the sponsor for this float…was Exxon Oil Company. With its vast oil resources, its truck was out of gas. (

That’s just what it is like when a Christian, a child of the Most High King, the Creator of the universe, struggles with depression. You have the power that rose Jesus from the grave at your disposal through prayer, scripture and the Holy Spirit living inside of you and it is not God’s will that you stay depressed. But you have to make the decision and you have to put in the work of taking those thoughts captive and replacing them with something of God and He will help you to do that.

Now, I don’t know what people do who don’t have that power behind them. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for them when they suffer loss. But when you humbly go to God and ask Him to forgive your sin and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness, 1 John 1:9 says He will do just that. Allow Him to change your life today if you never have. We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow.

Monday, October 8, 2018

“The Prosperity Gospel” – Job

How much is one plus one? It’s not a trick question. The answer is, of course, two. How do you know? It’s obvious, right? Anybody can see that if you have one and you add one more then you have two. Okay, good. Now, from what direction does the sun rise? From the east. How do you know? It’s obvious. We can see it if we get up early enough, right? It’s obvious. If I throw this ball straight up in the air, where will it land? It will come straight back down, right? How do you know? It’s obvious. We can see it. It’s easily provable.

Now, does God love you? Of course He does. How do you know? We can see it. It’s obvious. We can read John 3:16 and it says it plainly but all you have to do is look around. It’s obvious. Plus, He has to love us because we are so lovable, right? Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Is God, our Heavenly Father, wealthy? Yes. How do you know? It’s obvious but Psalm 50 tells us He owns everything. Genesis says He is the Creator. Everything we have is a gift from Him. We can see that.

So, if our Heavenly Father loves us and is inconceivably wealthy then He obviously wants us to be wealthy as well, right? He wants us to be rich. He wants us to be healthy and it just makes sense that the better life we live, the more health and wealth we will get. Isn’t that right? No??? Well, you love your kids and if they were good to you, then one of them asked you for something, you would give it to them, wouldn’t you?

If your seven-year old asked you, “Daddy, I want a new car” then you would get it for him, wouldn’t you? If you had the money, surely you would buy him a nice, shiny new chainsaw if he asked nicely, wouldn’t you? “Daddy, I’ve been good. Can I have a 30.06?” You surely wouldn’t deny your precious seven-year old, would you? Why not?

“Why not?” is because it doesn’t make sense. Everybody knows you don’t buy that kind of stuff for a little kid. It wouldn’t be good for them and yet, so many people believe that if we live a good life – you know, at least better than that other guy – that God will give us good things like health and wealth. I mean, it just makes sense.

So, what’s the problem with that line of thinking? Well, first of all, it’s not truthful and so when somebody has something bad happen in their life, their first thought is that they must be doing something that displeases God and that may or may not be the case. The problem is, you can’t associate one with the other. Jesus said in Matthew 5 that God causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

It’s sort of the converse of thinking that since your neighbor never goes to church and doesn’t claim to be a Christian and, yet, he has the nicest house and a new car and a nice boat and a pretty wife and his life is way better than yours so obviously God doesn’t care how we live or the neighbor would be punished. That is all incorrect thinking and is exactly what Satan wants you to think. Satan wants you to parallel God’s physical and material blessings with good, moral living. And that just makes sense to us. That’s how we would do it if we were God, isn’t it?

If I had to come up with a way to get to Heaven, my logic would say that you have to deserve it. Your good deeds have to outweigh your bad deeds. You have to work your way into Heaven. That is what every other religion says because every other religion is man’s logic and man’s thinking. Every other religion started with some guy sitting under a tree trying to figure out what he would do if he were God and it just makes sense to correlate good deeds with God’s physical blessings and if you do enough good deeds, you get into Heaven.

Let’s go to Job chapter one this morning and I want you to see that is exactly what Satan wants you to think. He wants you and expects you to think that this life is all about works and rewards. In Job chapter one, which we read last week, it’s just another day in the office for God as He has a meeting with all His angels and the deceiver, the liar, the accuser, Satan, also shows up.

It is my opinion, from reading Revelation chapter 12 that Satan and all his demons were kicked out of Heaven when Jesus was resurrected and so Satan no longer has access to God like he did back then but in the old, old, old days of Job, evidently Satan could come and go like the other angels. You know the story. God asks Satan what he thinks about Job and this is the response found in Job chapter one, verses 9-11.

“Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. 10"Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face."

Do you see that? Satan assumes and expects Job to be into this whole “God thing” for what he can get out of it materially. It makes sense to Satan. We’ll see that it also makes sense to Job’s friends but what’s scary is that it makes sense to a lot of preachers nowadays.

Hang on just a second while I try to find in scripture where “God promises to pay you back double for every unfair situation.” I want you to know that I watched quite a bit more of that because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t taking him out of context. I am not. Now, what he and many others like him are saying is that if you will just hang in there through the difficult times, that no matter what you lose, God will pay you back. Well, that sounds like a pretty good deal to me. And Job is a great example of that actually happening, so it has to be true, right?

In the book of Job, Job rants and raves for chapter after chapter about how innocent and upright he is and how he doesn’t deserve for God to do this to him so he obviously believes that good works equal God’s material blessings and sin leads to God’s anger. And his friends respond to every monologue of Job with each one in turn having their own monologue trying to convince Job that the only reason God would do this to him is because there is sin in his life.

It reminds me of the passage in John 9 with the blind man. Y’all remember this passage. It’s one of our favorites around here where the man says to the Pharisees, “I don’t know. All I know is I was blind but now I see.” But that passage started out with the disciples asking Jesus when they saw the blind man, “Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?”

They just assumed that sin was the cause of the blindness. Now, I have to say that this could also sound similar to what I preach a lot around here about BOOCOD (Blessings of Obedience and Consequences of Disobedience). Is that true? Are there really blessings when we are obedient and consequences when we are disobedient? Absolutely there are blessings and consequences.

The problem comes with a twisting of scripture that comes from a twisted way of thinking. So many people, including Brother Osteen there, as well as Job and his friends and even Satan himself have a view of God that is not quite correct. They take scripture and they take their view of God and mash them up to fit into a nice, pretty, manageable package that they can understand and when God doesn’t fit into that package, what happens? They blame God.

They take the verse in Genesis 1 that says we are made in God’s image and think that means that God is really, really smart but if we try hard enough, we can pretty much figure Him out. When God said in Isaiah 55 that, “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," that means He will always and continually blow your mind. You will never understand Him completely and I have found that the more that I try to understand Him in scripture and in prayer, the more that I need to understand.

Here is what I do know. What God promises is not health and wealth. He never promises that if you are a good boy or girl that He will give you stuff. He never promises that you will never get sick and He doesn’t promise that if you have enough faith that He will heal you when you are sick. I’m sorry but He doesn’t.

And when you think you have found a verse or passage that does promise those things then just ask the Apostle Paul why he prayed three times and wasn’t healed. Ask the disciples where their big houses and fancy chariots were. Ask Jesus Himself why He had no place to lay His divine head at night. No, God never promises that but here is what else I know. He does make some wonderful promises.

2 Peter 1:4 says, “And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.”

“To share his divine nature”? That sounds pretty good! What does that mean? Well, what is God’s divine nature? He is loving and forgiving, merciful and gracious, tender, compassionate and always there for us. I want some of that because that is not my natural self. That sounds like a good promise.

How about Matthew 11:28-29?

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Rest for your souls! What’s that worth? I’ll take some of that.

Oh! Here goes with Philippians 4! That Paul knew what to say! “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”

The Bible is full of God’s promises but let me give you just one more. One of the last things Jesus said to His disciples and to us before He left this earth is found in John 14. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Peace! What a great promise! Thank you, Lord, for peace in a world that does not know it. When we talk about BOOCOD and the blessings of obedience, peace is the blessing of obedience. It’s not health and wealth. It’s not even understanding. God gives peace when the world around you falls apart and it will fall apart for you and for everybody at one time or another.

Do you know what the main theme of the book of Job is? Do you want to know what God wanted Job to learn more than anything else? “Quit trying to figure me out and just trust me. And when you do that, I will give you peace.”

Jesus said in John 15, “Abide in Me. Remain in Me. Hang out with Me.” God wants you to know Him and to be more like Him. He wants to reveal Himself to you but you will never understand Him completely. He doesn’t expect that or promise that. What He wants is just for you to know Him better and better every day.

Years ago, I went with my family to New Braunfels to Schlitterbahn Water Park. Has anybody ever been there? Have you ever been to any kind of water park or even a public swimming pool? If you have, you know it can be kind of scary, not because of the wild rides but because there are some people…let’s just say, who need to cover up a little more than what they are covering. Know what I mean?

I was probably 30-40 pounds lighter back then but I would normally never take my shirt off even then. I’m sure not doing it now for any reason. But as we walked around, I started to feel a little better about myself physically as I compared myself to some of the other people walking around.

Let me just say that just because a bathing suit will physically go on your body, DOES NOT mean you should wear it. And you can’t go wrong with a dark t-shirt over whatever you wear. But I started to feel better about myself as I compared myself to others. The problem is, there’s always that one guy. Right? There is always the body-builder who shows up with his supermodel girlfriend to ruin the day because compared to him…where’s my shirt?

It’s the same way when I compare myself to other people spiritually. You know, compared to some people, I look pretty good. Even when I don’t do well at all, there’s always Hitler, right? I’m a superstar compared to him. I don’t feel so bad when I compare myself to Hitler or murderers or people who do mean things to dogs. God must really love me compared to those people!

But when I see God and see who He really is and compare myself to Him and I see who I really am, I am embarrassed. I’m ashamed. I pull my shirt over my head, wishing He couldn’t see me and I don’t understand how He could love me at all. The good news is that I don’t have to understand. I don’t have to understand Him at all. I don’t have to feel lovable. I just have to trust Him and He gives me peace.

I may go through great difficulties. In fact, I will and you will go through great difficulties and maybe God will answer your “Why?” question but maybe not. He doesn’t promise to make you understand. He promises to be with you and to bring you peace as you abide, trust, obey and follow Him and make Him look good.

Trust Him today. Ask Him to forgive your sins. Repent of those sins and allow Him to change your life, not just once, but continually, as He makes you more like Him. Do that right now.


- -----Mom’s Bible: My goal in life should not be to be happy or free from pain but to make God look good.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

“Job’s Grief” – Job 1-2

I have some questions for you. I promise these are not trick questions but I need you to make sure of your answer before you speak. Some are easy and some not so much. I’ll start with an easy one. Is God good? Of course He is. Now, is God perfectly good? I mean is everything He does good and meant for the good of His people and His Kingdom? Ok, now, is God just? Is He fair? Are you sure?

Is God all-powerful? Is there anything He can’t do? Ok, that is kind of a trick question. We know God can’t lie and stuff like that but do you think God is ever in Heaven wishing He could do something or change something or prevent something from happening and He just can’t? Of course not. God is all-powerful. Is He all-loving? Sure. Is He perfectly loving, meaning is everything that God does because He loves His people and His Kingdom?

Does God always punish evil? Does He always reward good behavior? Are you sure? Does God ever do anything mean? Evil? Wrong? Bad? Does He cause bad things to happen? Are you sure? Does your insurance company insure you against what they call, “Acts of God”? Those are things like earthquakes and lightning and flood. Those aren’t good things. Does God cause those or allow those or is He just not able to stop them?

These are all questions for the ages. Well, maybe not the insurance question even though that may be important if it happens to you. But as we go through the Book of Job for the next few weeks, I hope to help you answer SOME of those questions. I say “some” because some of those questions may never be answered this side of Heaven.

Job asked some of those questions and never got an answer even though God responded to Him personally. I find the Book of Job to be fascinating and difficult. It is fascinating because nowhere else in scripture or any where else are some things revealed like they are here. I find it difficult because it doesn’t answer all the questions and even brings up more than need answering.

It’s difficult also because it was written so long ago that the original language is hard to interpret. It uses some words and phrases found no where else in all of scripture. It is difficult because it is easy to get distracted trying to figure out the minor details instead of learning the reason it was written.

Who wrote it? Maybe Moses, maybe Moses and Job, maybe Bob from accounting. Who knows? Who cares? Where was it written? When was it written? In what language was it written is even a question and some people get too bogged down in all of that and might miss the reason the book was written. We know it was written very, very early; maybe even before Genesis and I believe it to be one of the deepest and most profound books in all of literature, not just the Bible.

I’m in good company. The great John Calvin loved Job so much he preached 159 sermons from it. I hope to preach something a bit fewer than that but I make no promises. I have said that you can preach through the Book of Job in five minutes and you might get the gist of it or you might preach all year on it and still miss the point.

You rarely hear preachers preach on it and my favorite version was told once while I was visiting in the local jail and I heard one inmate say to another that he needed to read the Book of Job. The inmate went on to tell, in detail, the story of Job but he was in the habit of using the foulest language you can imagine. It was just habit and he didn’t know he was even cussing but he went on to tell the story as colorfully and effectively as I have ever heard and did so in a way that the other inmate could really understand and that man was helped greatly by it.

So, my goal is to use the Book of Job to help us greatly as well. I will try not to cuss, even though that really seemed to work for that one inmate but hopefully we will be encouraged by the book and the story of Job as we see what he did right and what he did wrong when he was attacked by Satan. Have you ever been attacked by Satan? I’m sure you have.

Some people seem to see a satanic attack with every hangnail and flat tire that comes into their lives and some people never seem to see the spiritual warfare that is really happening in the world around them. We started off this year by getting ready for spiritual battle. We went through boot camp and battle training and we studied in depth the powerful passage of Ephesians 6 that told us how to put on the full armor of God and we did that and we were prepared for any temptation Satan could throw at us.

So, what did Satan do? Did he say, “Wow, that Christ Fellowship is tough. I better not mess with them.”? No. He just backed up, regrouped and hit us in another way. He attacked us physically. He hates this church so bad because he knows, as another inmate told me once, “that church is the church that helps people!” and do you think Satan is just going to leave us alone? Do you think he is just going to leave you alone?

2 Timothy 3 says that everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. I want to know how we can help people and help each other in the midst of being persecuted by Satan. What is the correct response and what can we say or do to help people who have been attacked and / or even while we are being attacked? And today I want to look specifically at how to help ourselves and others when grief is the overwhelming emotion.

Who better than Job to teach us about grief? So, turn, if you would please, to the Book of Job. Job is between Esther and Psalms in the Old Testament. It is considered a book of poetry, much like Psalms and Proverbs and some others. We will go into more and different details about how the book starts off later but today I want to specifically look at Job’s grief as we read chapters one and two of Job. I don’t remember ever using two whole chapters as a text for any sermon but we will today because it is necessary. I think you will understand why.

Let’s finally jump right in. Job chapters one and two.

In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East. His sons used to hold feasts in their homes on their birthdays, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom. One day the angels[a] came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan[b] also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.” Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” 12 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. 13 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, 15 and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” 16 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” 17 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” 18 While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 19 when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” 20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb,     and naked I will depart.[  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;     may the name of the Lord be praised.” 22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

On another day the angels  came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.” Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.” The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” 10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish[e] woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. 11 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12 When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

He owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys and he lost them all, but do you think he even gave them a second thought after he was told he had lost his ten precious children? Losing one child can mess up a parent forever. I hope you cannot imagine that kind of loss and never have to but losing ten in one day to “an act of God” is beyond comprehension.

All of them in the prime of the lives; their futures, their possibilities; the memories yet to be made with kids and grandkids, all gone from Job in the blink of an eye. Don’t you know he would have given every donkey, camel and stupid old goat to save just one of his children? But they were all gone and there was nothing he could do about it.

Doctors have identified five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. They say that almost everybody goes through some form of those stages after a great loss and everybody grieves differently and for different lengths of time but look at Job’s first response. Look at Job 1:20. Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship.

I read one commentary that said, This is the grandest scene that human nature has ever presented.” (Biblical Illustrator) And if you have never suffered a great loss, you will admire this and will rightfully want to emulate his response when grief comes to you. But if you have ever suffered and suffered big time; if you have ever had your heart ripped out of your chest by grief, you only have one thought: that’s ridiculously impossible. Right? Job might as well be a cartoon character with a response like that. Either he didn’t love as much as you or he isn’t being truthful.

I love that song we sang a few minutes ago, “It Is Well With My Soul.”  Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.

Can you honestly say that?  Can you honestly sing to God that whatever happens to you, in whatever state you find yourself, no matter how difficult, you have peace?  You say, “Preacher, it’s just a song.  Nobody can do that!”  Some of you may have heard the story behind the words to that song.  It was written by Horatio G. Spafford.  Spafford was a successful lawyer around Chicago in the 1870’s.  He had a thriving law business, a wife, four beautiful daughters and a young son.

Tragically, in 1871, their son died and the family was greatly grieved.  It was a horrible loss.  Then the Chicago fire consumed most of all their possessions. Not long after, Mr. Spafford decided to take his family on vacation to Europe where his friend D.L. Moody was preaching a revival.  Due to some last minute business, Spafford had to send his family on ahead to Europe without him.  Midway across the Atlantic the steamship the family was on collided with another ship and was sunk killing all four of Spafford’s girls.  His wife was the only one saved. Spafford then sailed to England, going over the location of his daughters' deaths and it was on that ship that he penned the words to the song, “It Is Well With My Soul”.  I can’t comprehend going through that kind of tragedy but I can picture him on the side of the boat going across the water watching the waves crashing all around him and feeling the words, “When sorrows like sea billows roll.”

What would your song be at that moment?  Would it be similar to Spafford’s; words that would encourage others from a hymnal for 150 years after you die?  Or would they be words of bitterness not suitable for anybody to hear?  How do you get peace like Spafford had?  Like Job had? How do you get to that point in your life that you can honestly sing to God, “It Is Well With My Soul”?

I want to ask you another question.  It is a question that is answered plainly in the book of Job and other scriptures but I have never really heard it preached on or even discussed but I believe if we can answer this question it will literally change everything!  It will either change everything for all of us here or it will just change everything for me because if I don’t make the case you will probably fire me for heresy.

So, here goes.  My question is: was it God’s will that Job suffer?  I’ll even go a step further and ask: Did God cause Job’s suffering?  Do you understand the implications of my questions?  I’m asking if all-loving God causes bad things and if so, how can we still call Him all-loving?

Now, I know what most of you are going to say.  It is the same thing I have been taught in Sunday School since I was a little kid.  God causes good things and allows bad things, right?  Well, is God sovereign?  Of course He is and if God is sovereign then that means He is in control of everything.  If God is in control of everything, then to say He causes some things and allows others is simply a play in semantics so that…we don’t hurt God’s feelings.

Well, I don’t believe that should be a problem here.  I don’t believe it because I believe God is ok taking credit and / or blame for whatever is going on.  In fact, I think He wants you to know it.  Turn in your Bibles to Isaiah 45:6-7.  I think it’s important for you to see this and not just take my word for it.  Isaiah 45:6-7 says, “That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, 7The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.”

Does that sound like somebody who is going to get their feelings hurt if they are blamed for something?  No!  In fact, I believe it is somebody that wants you to know He is the cause and I believe Job understood that.  I’ll tell you why I say that.  Read verses 20 and 21 again in Job 1At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

The very first thing Job did was worship God and he did it while admitting that it was God that caused it.  God gave…and God took away.  He didn’t say Satan took it away.  He didn’t say it was karma or bad luck or even that God allowed it to be taken away.  God took it away and Job was ok with that.  In fact, that word used here and translated worship means to worship truly and in great peace.  Job had peace!  He truly worshiped.  He wasn’t just going through the motions and he had peace while he was doing it.  He knew God caused his pain and even scolds his wife in the next chapter when she tells him to give up.  He says in 2:10, “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?”  How do we get to that point in our own lives where we can accept bad things from God in peace?  Todd, how do I do that?

Well, let’s fast-forward maybe as much as 2000 years after Job and let’s see Mary Magdalene at the tomb in John chapter 20 verses 10-16.  This is the worst day of Mary’s life. She has just seen not only her friend but her Savior die a cruel death on a cross.  She watched as all her hopes and dreams died.  Maybe you can relate to the feelings she is going through right now.  But not only all that but now she gets to the tomb of Jesus to anoint His body with spices and now His body is even gone.

How could God be so cruel?  Mary didn’t do anything to deserve this.  She had been obedient.  She had been loving and kind.  She was just doing what she knew to do.  But this is just too much.  Let’s read it in John 20:10-16.

Then the disciples went back to where they were staying. 11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

So…was it God’s will that Mary – an innocent woman – have such grief?  Did God cause the grief?  Well, let’s look at it this way.  Was it God’s will that Jesus die on the cross?  Of course it was.  Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  God did it.  It was His idea before the dawn of time that Jesus would leave Heaven, go to earth and die on the cross to pay for our sins and then rise again on the third day.

So, was it God’s will that Job suffer?  Yes.  Did God cause his suffering?  Yes.  He used Satan as a tool to do it but ultimately God caused it for Job’s sake and for the sake of God’s Kingdom.  In fact, at the end of the book of Job it says in Job 42:10-11, “10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the LORD had brought upon him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.”

Isaiah 55 says, “"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. 9"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.… Do you know what?  I’m ok with that.  In fact, it brings me great peace.  Do you know why I’m ok with that?  Do you know why Job was ok with that and why Mary was and Jesus was and Paul and David and so many others were ok with that?  It’s ok because God is love.  1 John 4:8 says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”  John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  Was it God’s will that Jesus die on the cross?  Yes. 

Was that fair to Jesus?  No.  Did Jesus deserve that?  No.  Because it was God’s will, did that keep it from hurting Jesus?  No.  Job never said it didn’t hurt or that it was ok because he deserved it.  Neither did Mary Magdalene.  It was ok because God is love.  Romans 5:8 says, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  So, if God is love and we know He would never do anything just to hurt us or just to be mean, then we know that all things – even the bad things - work together for our good as it says in Romans 8.

Let me go back and ask some of the same questions I asked at the very beginning. I need to make some things clear and I need you to have them clear in your mind. Is God good? Yes. Is God love? Yes. Let me ask a slightly different question. Does God cause all bad things to happen? No. Does He cause some things that we consider bad to happen? Yes. But we all know that some bad things happen because we make bad choices and have consequences for those choices. God does not cause us to sin or even tempt us to sin.

But sometimes bad things happen because we do live in a fallen world and ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, this world is not the paradise that God made originally. Some people are born into extreme poverty, some people are born crippled, sometimes you step on a sticker or break a nail coming home from the nail salon. Is all of that caused by God because He is trying to teach somebody a lesson? Not necessarily. And now you feel like Job felt because now you have more questions than when you started. Right?

So, fast-forward another 2000 years or so from Mary at the tomb.  Here you sit in Christ Fellowship with a hundred different questions and still wondering what you have to do to have the kind of peace that Horatio Spafford wrote about; the kind of peace that says, “Even when sorrows like sea billows roll, I can trust Him.”  Even when, like Job, I lose everything I have; even when a child dies, the doctor gives bad news, you lose your wife, your job, your church and your friends, even though I can’t understand it, it’s not fair, I don’t deserve it and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy…still I have peace.

Todd, what do I have to do to get that?  I’m going to tell you and then I’m going to ask you to do it right here and right now.  You first have to repent of your sins.  Sin is anything that displeases God and the word repent means to turn away from that.  When I was a new driver I drove downtown one night and went down a street the wrong way.  When I realized it, I quickly turned around and went the other way.  That is repentance.  Turn away from your sin and go the way God wants you to. Secondly, you put your faith and trust in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ and that what He did on the cross was enough to pay the price you couldn’t pay for your sins.  Thirdly, you must commit your life to being obedient to God including confessing Him publicly and living biblically the best that you know how.  Don’t wait another minute.  Do it now as the music plays.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

James 4:1-10

It doesn’t have to be a national holiday like Veteran’s Day or Flag Day or Patriot’s Day. I think our servicemen and women and veterans are to be honored every day. I’m not going to spend the whole service doing it but I want those who have served in the military to know that you are appreciated. I will state right up front that I never served in the military but I so appreciate those who do.  If you are a veteran you have my highest appreciation for your service, whatever branch and whatever job you had.  Maybe you have seen combat and maybe not but I don’t believe that anybody who has ever served in wartime in almost any capacity could say they were anything but disillusioned with war.

If you can go to war and not see how horrible it is then you are either shielded from the truth or delusional towards it.  Nobody faces real combat and says at the end, “Well, that wasn’t so bad.”  War is a horrible, horrible thing and I pray that our political and military leaders have great wisdom about placing our men and women in harm’s way.  I’m not saying it should never be done but if lives have to be risked and parents are taken from kids and kids from their parents, not to mention the financial, physical, and emotional burden it places on people, then you can expect war to be awful.

Whatever definition you look under you are going to find words such as conflict, battle, bloodshed, struggle and fight.  The very definition of the word assumes difficulty much less disillusionment.  A group of academics and historians has compiled some startling information: Since 3600 B.C., the world has known only 292 years of peace!  Think about that.  In all those years, there has been war going on somewhere on the earth with somebody killing somebody else, some parent is killed or some child is killed in war every year except for 292 years. And that is just figuring up the countries that are at war with each other.  That is not accounting for the minor skirmishes within a country, not to mention the families that war against families or individuals against individuals.  We even have companies that go to war with each other trying to put the other out of business.  Granted, most of the time nobody dies in those types of wars but they do include conflict, battle, struggle and fighting.

We sometimes even find ourselves at war with those we love the most.  Turn on the news any day of the week and you will hear how somebody got mad and killed a member of their own family.  Why is that?  It’s obviously not something that has happened just in this generation.  Evidently, it has always been this way.  But the question is, why?  And that is a question that people have asked since the beginning and that includes our beloved Pastor James in his New Testament book with his name.

So, turn to the book of James, if you will, as we continue our study of this powerful little book.  We are moving right along through the book, not coming close to doing it justice but seeing just the same some practical ways that mature Christians can become even more mature.   James is between Hebrews and 1 Peter and we are in the fourth chapter.  James was the pastor of the church in Jerusalem and was writing to them but every word seems like it could have been written to Christ Fellowship just last week.

Let’s start with James 4:1-10“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. 4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”  7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

Well, don’t look at me like that.  I didn’t write it.  Another pastor wrote it to his church some 2000 years ago.  But James was a pastor who loved his church just like I love this one.  And James felt like I do that he would rather risk offending somebody by using some very strong language like the words “adulterous” and “enemy of God” and warning against being proud than to tickle their ears and let them waddle out of there with lives unchanged.

Be mad at me if you will.  Be mad at James if it makes you feel better.  Say the 3 most popular words anybody says as they read through James: “But that’s hard!”  But know that you are hearing truth from the Word of God and know that if we can do what God tells us to do through His servant James then we will be more mature believers and we will look more like Jesus in the end.  And I hope that is our goal today.

James starts by asking the question, “What causes fights and quarrels among you?”  Now, if he were to ask any one of us that individually, we would probably say something along the lines of, “Well, he won’t do what I want him to do.”  Right?  We want to get what we want and somebody else wants to get what they want.  And they don’t understand that we are right and they are wrong.  And that is why there have been thousands of books written on how to get what you want. I literally just googled “books, how to get what you want” and there were pages and pages of them.  And do you know what the title of most of them was?  “How To Get What You Want.”  Somebody needs to write a book on how to give your book a unique title.  That’s what we need.  Because we don’t need to know any more about how to get what we want from somebody else.  We don’t need to know how to be a better debater or arguer.  In fact, James tells us that the problem is not between us and another person at all.  The problem is our relationship with God.

In fact, our real problem is not that we can’t get along with our enemies.  Our problem is that we are enemies with God Himself.  And realize again that James is not writing to a bunch of unchurched, unsaved heathens.  He is writing this to the first church in Jerusalem filled with believers.  And he is writing it to Christ Fellowship.  He is writing this to me!  How dare he!  Who does he think he is? Well, I don’t know who James thought he was but I know God thought he was the one to share this truth and so I am listening when James speaks here.  I am listening because I am tired of the fights and quarrels in my life.  Now, most of you have known me for quite a while and I would dare say that almost none of you have ever seen me in a fight or having a quarrel with somebody.  It takes a lot to get me mad and when I do get mad, most of the time it is short-lived and easily remedied.

But I am listening to James here because I am tired of the fights and quarrels that go on in my own mind.  Somebody else may never know that I am fighting with them in my thought life.  My mind is racing thinking of what I’m going to say next and what I should have said and how I should have done this and said that and next time I’m gonna…And pretty soon my joy and my peace, not to mention my witness, are gone. 

I may even pray for the other person.  And you know how that prayer goes.  “God please give them wisdom.”  In other words, give them wisdom to know that I am right and they are wrong.  “God give them the ability to give me what I want.”  That’s what I’m saying to God.  And James says in verse 3 that we do not have because we ask with wrong motives that we may spend what we get on our pleasures.

I warned some of you to wear your steel-toed boots as we go through James to protect your toes from being stepped on.  I want you to know I have needed my boots and a helmet and shoulder pads this week preparing this sermon.  But, thank you Lord, I have learned from James that there are 3 things I need to do to keep this from being a problem.  The solution is not being able to win friends and influence people.  Nor is the solution just allowing people to walk all over you when they want something. 

The solution is not being an enemy of God.  Now that sounds pretty simple.  I love God.  I’m not His enemy, right?  But James says that anybody that is a friend of this world is an enemy of God and there are 3 things we need to do to make sure that we are not friends of this world.  The first one we see in verse 7.  It simply says to submit to God.  Submit to God. “Submit” is originally a military term that means to put yourself under, as in ranking.  I have used my Uncle Bill as an illustration several times about different things.  He’s quite the character and it’s pretty easy to find illustrations from his life.  And most of the time I use him as a positive example of what to do and how to do it.  Not so today. 

As a young man my uncle had a problem submitting to authority.  And while that is a problem for anybody it is especially problematic for a private in the army.  Uncle Bill had only been in the army a short time but he had been there long enough to get bored, evidently.  So, when a batch of brand new recruits came to the same camp where he was, Uncle Bill decided to have a little fun. He went over to the barracks they were in, in the middle of the night, woke them up, screaming at them that he was Sergeant Klinglesmith, although he was only a private just like them.  He got them all up and outside and commenced to drill them, one, two, march, march etc.  Finally, the noise woke somebody up and lights came on and my uncle just walked off leaving the new recruits standing there to get in all kinds of trouble. The MP’s put all the new recruits in the big gymnasium and started to question them and they all told the same story.  Sergeant Klinglesmith had them out there but they don’t know where he went.  “Sergeant Klinglesmith?  We don’t have a Sergeant Klinglesmith!”  So they go looking for my uncle and finally found him and brought him into the gym where every soldier on base was now. They put a full-length mirror in the middle of the gym and made my uncle salute himself and drill himself over and over while every man in the place laughed at him.  And you would think that would have made him be more submissive but just stay tuned until next week to catch the next installment of Uncle Bill tales.

See, when a private tries to act like a sergeant there is going to be a problem.  Unless the private will acknowledge in his mind and in his actions that he is under the one who outranks him then that soldier is not only disobedient but he is worthless to the cause.  He can’t be used for anything.  He might as well be fighting for the other side.  And that is how James is describing us when we are proud. And some of you are right now thinking, “Amen Pastor Todd!  You preach to those proud people.”  But let me just say one more time that James is preaching to US proud people.  If you were to ask my uncle he would say that he was just bored; just wanting to have a little fun.  He wasn’t trying to hurt anything.  He knew he wasn’t a sergeant.  He was just playing.

But Psalm 10:4 says, “In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.”  We don’t want that to be said of us.  We don’t want to be at war with God.  And yet we all struggle with pride.  Pride is the root of all sin and until we submit ourselves to God and acknowledge in our minds and in our actions that we submit to Him then we are at war with Him.  We have to submit everything we have and everything we are to His will.

Next James tells us in verse 8 that we have to draw near to God.  “8 Come near to God and he will come near to you.”  Well, how do we do that, James?  How do I draw near to God?  The act of drawing near is just the opposite of the word James uses earlier in verse 4.  Drawing near is the opposite of “adulterous.”  You know what adulterous means.  Drawing near is the act of making yourself chaste and becoming clean.

Wash your hands, purify your hearts.  But do it completely.  Imagine this scenario. You hear a knock on your door.  You go to the door and it’s Jesus.  “Oh, hi, Jesus!  Come on in.  I just finished cleaning my house.  You picked a great time to come over.  Let me show you around.”  So Jesus steps inside but stops as you step over the pile of dead fish guts that is there in the hallway. 

He says, “Todd, my friend, there is a pile of fish guts on the carpet.  That’s gross.” 

“Oh, don’t worry about that little thing.  Just step over it and come see how nice the rest of my house is.”

“But, Todd, it’s nasty.  It’s a putrid, festering, maggot-infested pile of dead fish guts that is stinking up the place.  I’m not going past it.  In fact, I’m leaving.  I don’t care what the rest of the place looks like.  You obviously don’t want me here.  Your house is not clean.  It’s offensive!”  And He leaves.

And just like that pile of fish guts, your little pet sin is offensive to God.  You know that thing you like to do or that attitude you have.  It’s been there so long you don’t even think about it anymore.  And you wish God would just look over it.  Get past it.  Go on to the rest of your life but He can’t.  He can’t draw near to you if you are not clean and chaste and pure.  Almost pure is not pure.

A.W. Tozer has an essay called “Nearness is Likeness” and he says to be near God is to be like God.  And the more we are like God the nearer we are to Him.  Is God almost pure?  Is He nearly holy?  Does He tell us to be sort of holy as He is sort of holy?  That is offensive to God!  We pray, “God please help me!  Give me peace, joy and wisdom, grace and mercy, please!  Don’t mind that putrid, offensive sin right there.  Just help me.”  And then we wonder why our prayers go unanswered.

Submit to God in everything you do and have.  Draw near to God by exposing all of your sin and asking His forgiveness for it.  And lastly, we see in verses 9 and 10 that we are to humble ourselves before God.  “Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

As most of you know, King David is one of my favorite biblical characters.  I grew up reading about him growing up and now I feel like we are almost friends.  And since he is my friend I always hate to point out anything bad about him.  But I want you to turn to Psalm 51 for just a minute.  All I have to do is say, “Psalm 51” and most of you know it is the psalm of repentance that David wrote after his sin with Bathsheba was found out.

For almost a year David had been at war with God but he finally submitted when Nathan confronted him.  He drew near to God right after that and here we see him humble himself before God and before the world.  Look at verses 1-4:  Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
    and justified when you judge.

Verse 10: Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

And verses 16 and 17:  You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

He says he comes to God with a broken and contrite heart.  “Contrite” means to be repentant and deeply sorry.  If you are wondering just how sorry you have to be to qualify as “contrite” then I can assure you that you are not there yet.  But you will be.  Charles Spurgeon said, “Every Christian has a choice between being humble or being humbled.”

But I have good news!  “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:5-7).”

I even have more good news.  Not only should we humble ourselves but we can with the help of Christ.  And not only will we be exalted by God when we do but we also have a model for how to do it. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).”

When you realize who Jesus really is…and who you really are…then you will submit to Him, draw near to Him and humble yourself before Him.  Will you do that today?