You Know Your Faith Is Real When

ou Know Your Faith Is Real When

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Job’s wild ride through the crucible of suffering was coming to an end. The devil was nearing defeat, the Lord was receiving glory, and Job was changing. I knew the first two things would happen: Satan would lose, and God would win. What I did not expect was all the Lord wanted to do with my friend, Job. I did not even know he had a problem. He seemed to be a good man, going about doing good (Job 1:1, 5). After Satan turned his world upside down, he refused to sin or charge the Lord with any wrong (Job 1:22). I suppose I did not understand how to discern a person’s faith.

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God Knows

Leave it to the Lord to go deeper than what the human eye can see or mind discern. He always goes farther than anyone else and does more than we expect (Isaiah 55:8-9; Ephesians 3:20). It’s a good thing when God peers into the thoughts and intentions of the heart, albeit it can be painful, too (Hebrews 4:13). We all know of His ability to pierce the darkness, which is why it strikes fear to sober souls. Think about those early days after God regenerated you and the long path you have been on since that time. If it has been for any length of time, it did not go as you expected. The double gift of salvation and suffering is complex for mere mortals (Philippians 1:29). There have been many toils, dangers, and snares. Of course, there was amazing grace, too.

What we anticipate Him to do is not always what He does. What we do not conceive as a possibility, He brings to fruition. Though it was assumed He would win the bet with the devil, I did not expect an even more radical and profound transformation of righteous Job. If the extent of the story was about a wager, there was nothing more to write after the first chapter. Job was laid low by the Lord; he responded with humility and praise (Job 1:20-22). Game over! The devil lost. What Satan said would happen did not happen (Job 1:8-12). But God knew more than the devil, Job, and the rest of us. The good Lord is a multitasker: He can shake on a bet with “old smutty-face” and use that bargain to work something deeper in Job’s life, even stretching that work to our day. I’m writing a book about how God changed my life through that old story.

The story of Job was not just between the Lord and Satan. The Lord loved Job and wanted him to have a broader faith experience than sacrificing daily for his children. Being a good man was not good enough. Do you remember what David said when he thought about these things? “You will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:16-17). There was something amiss in Job’s heart, and the Lord would adjust it, even using Satan to bring it about. We see it now. Just before the final curtain fell, we learn why the Lord needed to do one more piece of work for our friend—the time to put up or shut up had come. Job claimed that he had changed (Job 42:5-6). He testified how he was of small account (Job 40:4). But the reality of his testimony needed validating by a practical exam.

One More Thing

After four years of crawling through the dirt with Job, I felt I had also changed. I had heard about Him through the rigor of Bible college, but now my eyes were beginning to see Him differently. Before God radically and terribly imposed Himself upon me, I lived a decent, knowledgeable, Christian life. Then, without warning, I was crushed beyond my worst fears. I crumbled and grumbled, eventually giving up on God. Mercifully, He would not let go of me. God is a persevering God, especially when His children are not. He loved me through thick and thin, allowing the suffering to continue until it changed me. The Lord slowly and carefully whittled me down to size. He even tolerated my manipulative praying. Toward the end of this horrible experience, I finally repented. I, like Job, had heard of the Lord by the hearing of the ear, but now I could perceive Him in a new and transforming way (Job 42:5-6). Still yet, there was one more thing to do.

Was the Lord’s “internal heart-work” complete, or was I trying to manipulate God—again—and others by saying I was fine when I was not? Had I been truly and effectually changed? There was only one way to tell. I needed to “road test” my supposed transformation. Enduring through horrible circumstances is good, but the most authentic assessment of the Lord’s work is how we respond to life’s challenges after the supposed change. The test the Lord gave me was straightforward. It came in the form of a few questions He proposed. The design of His query was to reveal my practical awareness of the gospel and my willingness to live it out before Him and others. He asked me two specific questions; the first focused on my heart, and the second was about its natural outworking. The heart question was about my willingness to forgive those who had sinned against me (Luke 23:34). The outward-facing question was my cooperation with the Lord to serve those who purposely hurt me (Mark 10:45).

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Love Your Enemies

And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends. And the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before (Job 42:10).

It was a straightforward test: would he pray for those who did not bring their best care to him? It’s not a stretch goal to love those who do good things for you, but loving those who persecute you authenticates your religion as nothing else could (1 Peter 2:19-20). The most accurate test of a person’s faith is when the Christian can demonstrate the love of God toward the person who has sinned against him (Romans 5:8). This kind of demonstration is an authentic replication of the gospel—Christ becoming a man to die for those who had sinned against Him (Luke 23:34; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 2:5-11). You can imagine why some folks walked away from the Savior after hearing how wrong it was for them to live a victim mindset. It’s easier to love ourselves, even if it means further enslavement into victimization.

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who abuse you…. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same…. But love your enemies, and do good…and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:27-36).

God’s Word is amazing. It’s archaic and past its prime for so many, but as you ponder the passage about loving your enemies, the perceptive person recognizes its relevance today. Job knew what he had to do; he had to reject his formerly embraced victimization while donning a new person that resembled Christ (Ephesians 4:22-24). He passed this test, and his reward was great (Job 42:10-17). The narrative flipped. It was a new day for our old friend. I recall reading how God turned Job’s captivity, and it convicted me. I had to do what he did. The Lord blessed me with an absurd amount of personal suffering and called me to steward it biblically. He asked me to prove to Him that I had learned to walk in His Son’s steps (1 Peter 2:21). Like an unending game of Monopoly, I knew if I would not humble myself and forgive those who hurt me—at least in my heart—and attempt to serve, my captivity would continue.

Who Do You Love?

Have you learned the lesson of Job? Can you love the person who annoys you? These are self-assessment questions that not only point you in the right direction but can set any captive soul free. Your answers will reveal to what degree the gospel has affected and changed you. The call to love the unlovable is more than a biblical truth we should affirm. It is the gospel. The King James Bible says the Lord “turned the captivity of Job” when he prayed for his friends. Job was in captivity. His world had fallen apart, and his soul had torn asunder. The purpose of this divine-inspired, human rigmarole was to change Job. To not change is to choose unending captivity. Are you aware of how ongoing bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness toward someone will prolong your captivity? God never intended us to be sin-bearers. He gave us the gospel so we could cast our burdens on Christ.

Do you know how a bad attitude toward any person who has hurt you, no matter how legit the hurt was, will push you deeper into your captivity? The Lord wanted to release Job from his captivity, but it was up to Job to experience release. God will set the table, but we must decide whether to pull up a chair to enjoy what He has prepared. The possibility of emancipation after such an arduous journey is stunning news. Now let’s see if Job will turn the key to experience the emancipation that he has been looking forward to for forty-two chapters. He did, and he was set free. I finally learned the lesson, too. My incarceration ended after I repented my self-righteous anger toward those who hurt me while seeking their forgiveness. My freedom was not in their hands. I was not a victim of my circumstances. I was a victim of the anger and self-righteousness that I carried in my heart.

But When?

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves (Philippians 2:3).

The authentication of our Christian maturity is not how we cope with our problems but how we love and serve others—particularly those who have hurt us. Some could wrongly surmise Job had transformed because he had been through the gristmill with God and had come out on the other end seeing God differently. Enduring suffering and loving God is not the best assessment of a Christian’s maturity. The comprehensiveness of Job’s total makeover would be determined by how he responded to the Lord’s request to love others more than himself (Matthew 22:37-39). Will he practicalize the Royal Law? The power of the gospel is useless if we don’t effectually apply it to those who need it, especially those who hurt us.

Job’s friends hurt him. As you read their dialogue, your heart aches for him. Much of what they said made them careless and unkind counselors. The relational tension between them is what makes the Lord’s request for Job to pray for them all the more powerful, purposeful, and practical. It was showtime, and Job had an immediate opportunity to put his newly reframed theology to practice. And he did not disappoint: he prayed for his friends. Job humbly and obediently went from being a disputing Christian to an interceding Christian. This transition from being incarcerated by self-righteousness to being freed through genuine humility happened when Job prayed for his friends. The word “when” is an element of time.

You can pray for change until you are blue in the face. You can talk about all the Lord has done for you until the cows come home. You can return from your latest Bible study with three new golden nuggets in your gospel sack. You can affirm the many principles of the Bible to all those within earshot. But the proof is in the pudding. It is only “when” you act upon what you know that you will experience the liberating power of the gospel. In the Broadway musical, “My Fair Lady,” Eliza Doolittle stews in agitation because her potential beau takes his sweet time in showing his affection for her. He was doing more talking than doing. At the end of her wits, she finally blurted:

Words! Words! Words! I’m so sick of words!
I get words all day through;
First from him, now from you!
Is that all you blighters can do?
Don’t talk of stars burning above;
If you’re in love, Show me!

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Show Me

James, the half-brother of Jesus, was a little more direct than even the sharped tongue of Eliza Doolittle. He said it this way: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him, it is a sin” (James 4:17). It will not do to merely give intellectual affirmation to what you know you need to do. As Eliza says, “Show me!” As James says, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17). You will not benefit from the blessings of the Lord if you are holding unresolved conflict in your relationships. This hard truth makes “when” a big word. It cannot be faked, manipulated, or contrived. God knows every thought and intention of your heart (Hebrews 4:12-13).

I had to ask myself if I could freely pray for and actively serve those who hurt me. I’m not suggesting those who hurt me would let me serve them or that it was appropriate, but was I willing to cross all necessary barriers to be Jesus to them? The question is not theoretical. It is practical, striking at the heart of understanding and applying the gospel. If we cannot forgive, or if we persist in holding resentment, anger, and hostility toward others, we will marginalize our religion, assuming it is real at all. The point of Job’s journey and the accusation of the devil was whether or not he would prove his faith—would he love God regardless of his circumstances? The devil did not believe his faith was legit. He assumed the good things he received from the Lord produced the strength to support his religion.

What if we turned Satan’s questions onto ourselves? To what degree is our faith governed by what we get from the Lord? Suppose we lost a few precious items; would we bless the Lord regardless? (See Job 1:20-23) It would be worth our time to reflect on these heart-probing thoughts. When it was time to “show me,” I failed. But that was not the end of the story, but the beginning of my book. Like Job, most of us begin our journey with God with failure. But is it a failure or part of the process of getting to a better place? Parents understand this as they train their children to walk. The kid did not fail when he fell. He got up. He tried it again and again. Failure eliminates the things that don’t work, and if we fail enough times, we’ll have trimmed down our efforts to those essential things that permit us to succeed.

True Test

Will you take a moment to think about your friends? Maybe it is a spouse, parent, child, relative, co-worker, church friend, or former friend. Have any of them hurt you? If so, are you free from what they did to you to where you can be practically and measurably redemptive toward them? God did not build us to carry sin. We’re awful at it, whether it’s our sin or others. There is only one effective sin-bearer, and if someone has sinned against you, the most courageous thing you can do is cast it on Christ. Ask Him to take that sin from you to free you to be Christ toward the person who hurt you.

Think about it this way. We offended Christ, but what we did to Him did not manage Him. He knows how to handle sin; we can’t do what He can do. Christ, the offended, engaged the offenders so He could transform them. He did this for you and me, which is our calling. A willingness to model the gospel this way is Christian maturity. I’m not suggesting the offenders in your life are mature enough for you to engage them. Perhaps some of them are too dangerous, and it would be foolish to approach them. It’s not about what you can do but what you are willing to do to imitate Christ. The test is your desire to be like Christ, whether or not you act it out. God will release you from captivity when you can actively love those who hurt you to whatever extent you can.

Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does [put your name here] fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face” (Job 1:9-11).

Call to Action

  1. What was the main thing the Lord pinpointed in your life from reading this chapter? Will you write out your specific change plan? Be brief but detailed.
  2. Will you share what the Lord taught you with a friend, asking your friend to help you in whatever way that will better align you with the purposes of the gospel?
  3. Suppose you are still captivated by unresolved bitterness, anger, cynicism, or unforgiveness. What if you returned to the beginning of this chapter to reread, asking the Lord to release you from the captivation of your heart?
  4. Do not put undue pressure on your life. Change is a timing thing; sometimes, it’s not the right time. It took Job forty-two chapters to get to that spot. It took me four years. You’ve heard of baby steps. What is one simple thing you can do today to move forward in your sanctification? Will you start there?

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