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Worship Theme: The Savior in conflict with the cross
Sermon Theme: When You Fall
You just sat down and you’re ready to relax and enjoy a wonderful meal that is sitting before you. As you’re bringing up the first bite to savor, your phone starts buzzing and ringing. You’re really tempted to just let it go to voicemail and enjoy your dinner, but your curiosity gets the best of you. It’s your credit card company. They are canceling your credit and sending your debt to collections.
While you try to make sense of this surprising and confusing news, another call comes to your phone. It’s your bank. There was a security breach and all of your accounts have been lost: checking, savings, retirement, it’s all gone.
While the banker is explaining to you what happened, another call comes to your phone. It’s your boss. Your work had to make some drastic cuts and you’re one of them. You don’t have a job anymore.
While she is explaining how sorry she is, another call comes to your phone. It’s the police. Your loved ones were in a horrible car wreck and they didn’t survive. While the officer is still speaking, the phone falls out of your hand, crashing to the floor and you follow. You just collapse.
I know that this scenario seems pretty extreme and far-fetched that all of these things would happen to you at one time. But they could, and even the smaller, fewer troubles that come into your life can pile up or even one big shock can knock you to your knees. Then what? How do you react when your life is rocked? What happens to your faith, your trust in God? How do you get back up when you fall?
Today’s reading from God’s Word takes us to the Old Testament book of Job where we follow the servant of God by that same name. As far-fetched as the scenario I described a moment ago seems, it was the reality for Job. Let me set the stage here. The Bible describes Job as “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8), in other words, he was a stand-up Christian. One day, Satan came before the presence of God and it was actually the Lord who initiated the idea of Satan being allowed to test Job. Satan saw this as a prime opportunity to prove to God that Job’s righteousness was actually self-serving and, in the end, Job would curse the Lord. God gave Satan power to afflict Job, but limited that power to not laying a finger on Job himself. Do you notice this? Satan is limited in his power because God is greater than him. God can and often does limit Satan. In this setting we also see a glimpse of the intense battle that takes place behind the curtain in the spiritual realm. Satan is at war with God. Yet since Satan cannot win in a hand-to-hand battle against the Lord, Satan resorts to frustrating God’s creation and driving a wedge between God and man. That’s what he hopes to do by bringing great trouble into Job’s life.
The reading for today starts right after that. Job was a man blessed by the Lord with ten children, seven sons and three daughters who were close to one another, and he was blessed with much wealth, which in that time was determined not by gold but by animals, flocks and herds. One messenger after another came to Job with news, each message more tragic then the prior. First, a band of traders came and stole Job’s oxen and donkeys and killed the servants. While this news was being shared, another messenger came. The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up all of Job’s sheep and servants. Meanwhile another messenger came running up. A group of nomads raided Job’s herd of camels stealing them and killing the servants. If that wasn’t enough, one more messenger came with the most tragic news of all. All of Job’s children had been gathered together for a feast when a mighty wind struck the house and it collapsed killing everyone inside.
How would you react if you were the one receiving this news? Really think about that. Would you fall to your knees overwhelmed with grief and sorrow and go into a deep depression? Would you cry out to God in confusion and accusation, “Why?” Would you begin to curse out God in anger and hate? You may not have had a day as piled up with tragedy as Job, but you’ve had the news of horrible tragedy hit your life. You’ve failed an endeavor, you’ve lost a job, you’ve been in deep debt, you’ve been struck by failures of the body, you’ve been hit with a loved one’s unexpected death. You’ve had the days where nothing seems to go right and the news is always bad. And you’ve wondered with a pleading heart, “How can I go on? Does God even care? Is he there?” Satan wants nothing more in those when you fall in grief than to fall from God.
How did Job react? Listen again. “Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 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.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” Take a moment to just let that settle in. Job mourned deeply as seen by his actions of tearing his robe and shaving his head (Note, I’m not grieving anything. This is just my lot in life). But he didn’t grieve without hope. He fell, but he fell to the ground in worship. He cried out to God not with a defeatist attitude, but with a heart that recognized that his life and everything in it was in God’s hands. He didn’t blame God or accuse him of wrongdoing. Instead, Job praised God during his deepest sorrow. How could Job respond in such a way? Job didn’t see the spiritual battle that was taking place in heaven, but he saw the Sovereign Lord’s hand and in faith, he yielded to God’s perfect will.
But the point of this lesson is not to tell you to just be like Job. That’s like saying to someone who is truly hurting to just suck it up. But I encourage you to look beyond the example of Job to the reason that he had the attitude that he did. Look to the one who yielded to God’s will perfectly and selflessly, setting aside even himself when it came to the greatest suffering ever experienced. Look to Jesus. Jesus lost everything for you. He lost his dignity. His disciples deserted him; so too did the Lord God. He was alone on the cross as he bore every sin and shameful and wicked act and thought that has ever been thought, uttered, or carried out in this world upon his shoulders. He took the punishment that came with it. He suffered hell. Why? It was God’s saving will so that you could be set free from your sins and have the certain hope of life free from the tragedies and sorrows of this life.
Because Jesus bore this cross, it means that no matter what cross you may be called on to bear in your life, whatever trouble may come your way or trial of faith confronts you, you can be certain that your eternal salvation is secure and that God is faithful.
The Apostle Paul expressed that very hope as he wrote to the church in Rome. “Since we have been justified through faith (declared not guilty and forgiven of our sins), we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Which means that for the person who has this faith, “we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And this hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:1, 3-5).
I’ve been watching a show on Netflix that has a number of seasons of episodes. In the final episode of season two, there is trouble after trouble that transpires for the main character to the point that it seems like the main character is going to be killed off. But here’s the benefit of knowing that there are three seasons of episodes still to follow. As I watched, I knew that they couldn’t kill off this character because I’d seen his picture on the promos for future seasons. And sure enough, in a dramatic way his life was spared.
Your life is still playing out and I’m not going to pretend that I know all the challenges and heart-breaking moments that you are still to have in your story here on earth. But I do know, because of Jesus, that after this earthly life ends, there is still another season of life to come, one with God in heaven. And no matter what troubles may come your way, and no matter how many times you fall in grief, or guilt, or weakness, the end is written in the blood of Jesus and secure because of the empty tomb.
So, what if, when you fall in life, you fell in worship like Job? What if you looked ahead, like Job, to the future glories that will far outweigh the greatest troubles of this life? I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25–27). What if you grieved with hope in Jesus who bears with you under the crosses of this life? What if you praised the name of God instead of cursing? My friends, when you fall, you can fall in worship praising the Lord even in the midst of the storms of life because our Lord and Savior picks you up in love and forgiveness. May the Lord give you this strength of faith and build you up in it daily. Amen!
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