Job 1:6-12, 2:1-10, 42:1-6
Hebrews 10:32-39

Sometimes it’s all about perspective.

A woman was exploring the waiting room at her first appointment with a new dentist when she noticed his full name on his diploma. Suddenly she remembered a tall, handsome, dark-haired boy with the same name had been in her high school class so many years ago. Could this be the same guy I had a crush on way back then? she wondered. She quickly discarded any such thought when she met the balding, gray-haired man with the deeply lined face. He’s way too old to have been my classmate, she thought to herself. Still, after he examined her teeth, she asked, “Did you happen to attend Morgan Park High School?”
“Yes! I’m a Mustang,” he gleamed with pride.
“When did you graduate?” she asked.
“Oh my, you were in my class!” she exclaimed.
“Really?” he said, looking at her closely; “What did you teach?”

Sometimes it’s all about perspective.

How many times have you been sitting in your living room watching a football game when the referee calls a pass interference penalty against your team. You yell, “Hey ref! Are you blind; that was interference!” And you are convinced the ref blew the call. Until the replay shows a different angle and suddenly you clearly see that the ref was right and you were wrong. Why? Because you saw the play from your limited two dimensional perspective. You were mistaken because you couldn’t see the entire picture from your limited perspective.

I bring this up because when we read the Book of Job we have this tendency to view the story from the perspective of Job.

But I fear this two-dimensional human perspective causes us to miss the real point of the whole book. I am therefore suggesting that there is much to be gleaned by viewing this drama from God’s point of view. In fact, I have come to believe that the key to unlocking the book is viewing it from God’s perspective.

Indeed, after a brief introduction to Job, the action quickly shifts to a heavenly scene where God and Satan engage in a conversation and at some point, God says to Satan, “Have you considered my servant, Job?”

Philip Yancey helps here by suggesting that God’s question seems to be a response to a question from Satan that is not recorded in the text, but which can be inferred from the flow of the story. Satan’s question that seems to precede God’s is, God, will anyone fear you for nothing? Is there anyone on planet earth who will remain faithful to you despite the fact that they don’t get anything in return?

And God responds, “Have you considered my servant, Job?”

And Satan says, “Of course, Job will; You’ve blessed him beyond measure, he’s healthy, wealthy and wise, great family, respected name what more could he ask for? But take it all away and see if he still follows you in the darkness.”

And God says, “Okay I’m willing to take that bet; take it all away from Job.” 1

And a hard rain begins to fall on Job as he ends up losing everything. The lights go out, the fog rolls in; and because it does, Job gets a chance to be a hero to be the focus of the great wager between God and Satan to answer one of the most profound questions of the ages: Will anyone follow God for nothing in return?

And all heaven looks on with bated breath to see how this high drama plays out; whether or not Job has the kind of faith it will take to enable him to become a hero and win the great wager for God.

We are talking about two kinds of faith here.

First, there is ‘child-like faith;’ baby faith, beginning faith. It’s the kind of faith David had when he took on Goliath. You remember the story; how all the soldiers in the Israeli Army cower in fear because the Philistines have this big weapon called Goliath. And here comes this little kid, with his child-like faith says, “I’ll handle this.”

That’s child-like faith. It’s wonderful to behold and the bible is full of examples and many of us exhibited that kind of faith when we first heard about the free gift of eternal life by faith in Christ and we dove in with eyes wide open.

However; please note that child-like faith is almost always dependent on God doing something on our behalf; that is, meeting our expectations.

But Job’s child-like faith based upon his expectations that God is going to bless him is not going to win the great wager . . . it’s not going to make Job a hero. For Job to be a hero for winning the great wager for God is going to take another whole level of faith that we might call ‘persevering’ faith.

Persevering faith is faith in God not for what He does or doesn’t do, but just because He is. And it is almost always forged in the crucible of trials and temptations; pain and suffering.

What wins the wager; what makes Job a hero is his persevering faith; when in the midst of the darkness, out of his pain and anguish and hurt, he still chose to trust in God. It didn’t come all at once; seldom does, but in the end Job’s cry of victory was: “Though He slay me, yet shall I trust Him” (Job 13:15).

This is the kind of faith that the writer of Hebrews is encouraging his readers to cling to. Chapter 10 serves to remind us of something we know but sometimes forget: that God’s people are not immune from trials and heartaches, pain and suffering. God never promised us a rose garden, rather, Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). And the writer of this letter is saying God deserves to be trusted even when it looks like the world is caving in around us. “Do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord, no matter what happens!” (10:32).

In other words, the Bible invites us to respond to pain and suffering with unshakable faith and trust that God is.

If you still have wide-eyed, child-like faith in God who only blesses you, that’s great, you can still live a wonderful Christian life, but the wager never gets put on your head. You can only have persevering faith when you’ve experienced heartache. The bet is placed on our heads the day we are deeply hurt and disappointed in God and Satan asks, “God will that person follow you for nothing?”

That’s when, like Job, we have a chance to walk out onto the court and step up to the free throw line with the game on the line. That’s when God and Satan place the wager on our head and all the beings in the universe hang their heads over the edge and watch and wonder whether you and I will love God for nothing.

And when we do, we enter ranks with those heroes listed in Hebrews 11, where it says two thing about those folks: First, “The world wasn’t worthy of them” (11:38). And second, “God wasn’t ashamed to be called their God” (11:16).

Don’t you want that? For God to look down while you’re standing on the free-throw line and say, “I’m not ashamed to have you on My team.”

God has already said that for many in the congregation. Many of you have experienced trials and tribulations, pain and suffering. And you walked out to the free-throw line and God placed a bet on your head when he said, “I’m betting that person continues to follow me for nothing in return.” That’s when you stood tall and you refused to be shaken in your faith. And God wasn’t ashamed to be called your God.

Yesterday Gail and I flew back from Florida. The day was partly cloudy. The take-off was uneventful. But as we were going up through the clouds the going got pretty rough and my apprehension rose a little as the turbulence had its way with the plane. But within a few minutes, we had risen above those storm clouds the turbulence disappeared and the sun was shining brightly. From up above we could look down and could see those clouds
and they were beautiful soft and billowy clouds where a person could just lay down and rest on those ‘pillows’ in complete contentment.

Then I thought about the experiences of life. So many times we are in the midst of a storm. It is cold and miserable and the wind is blowing. There will be times when the storm lasts for a long time. And there are times when the band of clouds is very thick and it will take some time to get through it. We long to be in the bright sunlight again where it is peaceful and beautiful. But the truth is that the way to that bright sunlight often entails going through some real bumpy times . . . it can get pretty rough. That’s when we simply must put our unswerving trust in the Pilot and let Him take us up and beyond.

We are talking about the great wager the one from God’s perspective, but there’s a secondary wager here too, the one we are more familiar with: it’s the one Job engaged in; should he choose for God or against Him? In the end, after much kicking and screaming, he decided to place his trust in God for nothing in return.

Let me tell you about another friend of mine that you have never had the privilege of meeting.

Earl and Edna LaRonde were friends of mine as Earl was the custodian of the first church I pastored full time in North Fairfield. Earl had joined the US Army and fought in Europe until the war ended. After the war, he married his beloved wife, Edna. They had their first child, David, in 1957. In the years that followed two girls came along.

In 1967, on David’s 10th birthday, tragedy struck. David was riding around town on his new bicycle. He happened to be sitting on his bike in the front yard of a friend’s house when he spotted his dad driving home from work on New State Road. He was so excited to see his dad that he began riding down a slight hill from the house to the road. However; he got going faster than he realized and before he or his father could stop, David steered directly into the path of his father’s car and David breathed his last while his father cradled him in his arms.

I still remember when Earl told me his story. How the hardest thing he ever had to do in life had nothing to do with fighting Germans during WWII, but rather to drive on home and tell his Edna what had just happened a half mile down the road. I asked him, “How did you deal with that . . . how do you deal with that? How were you able to maintain your trust in a God of love?”

And Earl said to me, “How could I ever give up on the only One who has made it possible for me to see my son again?”

Expectations; I have learned not to hold God responsible to fulfill any expectations that I might place upon Him. I do have high hopes that through the merits of His Son, Jesus, all that have faith in Him will have gain everlasting life.

1 Yancey, Philip. Disappointment with God. [New York: HarperPaperbacks, © 1988] Pages 185-189.