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Eight days ago I published a blog post titled, “Getting Unstuck,” which has to do with an absolutely crucial element in a Christian’s life–perseverance. And it’s not just a perseverance that comes and goes, but a perseverance that sticks around and keeps on growing right up until the day we die. It’s a perseverance that is neither timid nor shy. And it was Jesus who told us to “always pray and never give up” in the Parable of the Persistent Widow no matter what comes our way in life (see Luke 18:1-8). “Getting Unstuck” is about perseverance in the midst of a bad situation that seems totally unsolvable from human perspective. However, with God, absolutely nothing is impossible (see Job 42:2, Matthew 19:26; Luke 1:37, 18:27; Mark 10:27). Nothing. . . .
There is another absolutely crucial element in a Christian’s life that we often only give a surface glance at in our day-to-day lives. It is not so much about our circumstances and situations as it is in our attitudes and our focus in life. We tend to think (especially here in America) that we are on the right track with God if we are outwardly successful; have a cadre of Christian friends around us; live in a nice home in the suburbs; attend church regularly; sing worship songs on Sunday morning; and wouldn’t it be great to add “New York Times Bestselling Author” (or “fill in that blank” with something you really, really, really want) to that list, too. We judge others by their outward appearance; how successful they are; how they dress and what kind of car they drive; maybe how wealthy they are or at least appear to be, too; who they know, and how we can rub shoulders with those who are seen to be important. Never do we look at the homeless person on the street corner with such admiration, and maybe we even wonder (if we wonder at all when we see them) what happened in their lives to cause them to be homeless. And we might wonder how they could possibly be Christian given their circumstances. We judge by outward appearances and success, and if someone doesn’t look successful or has little in the way of earthly possessions or value in our estimation, we just ignore them. After all, we often equate God’s favor with outward success (material and professionally).
Enter Job. Job was one of the wealthiest men in his day back in the Old Testament. Let’s take a look at how Job’s life is described in the first couple of chapters in Job (Job 1:1-3:1):
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 came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan 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. “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. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
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.
One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, 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!”
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!”
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!”
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, 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!”
At this, 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.
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!”
He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
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. 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. 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.
After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.
One day Job was one of the wealthiest men on earth, and he had everything he could possibly want or dream of having: a wife, many children, servants, cattle, his health, many possessions; and in very short order, he lost everything except for his wife (who, as we read above, was no help at all) and he was, in a word, homeless. And clearly from what we read above, it was God who allowed all of it to happen to Job. Yes, God allowed it to happen to Job to fulfill His purpose in Job’s life (but it did not happen by God’s hand but by the hand of Satan).
Let that sink in for a moment. . . .
This battle is between God and Job, and it took Job a long time to see what he needed to see about God, and about himself, before God finally resolved the situation in Job’s life. For many chapters (Chapters 3-31) there is dialogue between Job and his three friends mentioned above that essentially goes nowhere, then a young man, Elihu, enters the picture in Chapters 32, and in the first few sentences he points out Job’s error (Job 32:1-5):
So these three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. But Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became very angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. He was also angry with the three friends, because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him. Now Elihu had waited before speaking to Job because they were older than he. But when he saw that the three men had nothing more to say, his anger was aroused.
Job was righteous in his own eyes, and he justified himself rather than God. Ehilu speaks on God’s behalf for five chapters (Job 32-37), but Job still doesn’t get it. And then God speaks to Job out of a storm for the next three chapters (Job 38-41), and Job has a brief response about two-thirds of the way through God’s speaking to Job (Job 40:3-5). Here is Job 38-41:
Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:
2 “Who is this that obscures my plans
with words without knowledge?
3 Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
8 “Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
9 when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,
11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt’?
12 “Have you ever given orders to the morning,
or shown the dawn its place,
13 that it might take the earth by the edges
and shake the wicked out of it?
14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
its features stand out like those of a garment.
15 The wicked are denied their light,
and their upraised arm is broken.
16 “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
Tell me, if you know all this.
19 “What is the way to the abode of light?
And where does darkness reside?
20 Can you take them to their places?
Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
21 Surely you know, for you were already born!
You have lived so many years!
22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
or seen the storehouses of the hail,
23 which I reserve for times of trouble,
for days of war and battle?
24 What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed,
or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?
25 Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
and a path for the thunderstorm,
26 to water a land where no one lives,
an uninhabited desert,
27 to satisfy a desolate wasteland
and make it sprout with grass?
28 Does the rain have a father?
Who fathers the drops of dew?
29 From whose womb comes the ice?
Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens
30 when the waters become hard as stone,
when the surface of the deep is frozen?
31 “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades?
Can you loosen Orion’s belt?
32 Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons
or lead out the Bear with its cubs?
33 Do you know the laws of the heavens?
Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?
34 “Can you raise your voice to the clouds
and cover yourself with a flood of water?
35 Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?
Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?
36 Who gives the ibis wisdom
or gives the rooster understanding?
37 Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?
Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens
38 when the dust becomes hard
and the clods of earth stick together?
39 “Do you hunt the prey for the lioness
and satisfy the hunger of the lions
40 when they crouch in their dens
or lie in wait in a thicket?
41 Who provides food for the raven
when its young cry out to God
and wander about for lack of food?
39 “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn?
2 Do you count the months till they bear?
Do you know the time they give birth?
3 They crouch down and bring forth their young;
their labor pains are ended.
4 Their young thrive and grow strong in the wilds;
they leave and do not return.
5 “Who let the wild donkey go free?
Who untied its ropes?
6 I gave it the wasteland as its home,
the salt flats as its habitat.
7 It laughs at the commotion in the town;
it does not hear a driver’s shout.
8 It ranges the hills for its pasture
and searches for any green thing.
9 “Will the wild ox consent to serve you?
Will it stay by your manger at night?
10 Can you hold it to the furrow with a harness?
Will it till the valleys behind you?
11 Will you rely on it for its great strength?
Will you leave your heavy work to it?
12 Can you trust it to haul in your grain
and bring it to your threshing floor?
13 “The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully,
though they cannot compare
with the wings and feathers of the stork.
14 She lays her eggs on the ground
and lets them warm in the sand,
15 unmindful that a foot may crush them,
that some wild animal may trample them.
16 She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers;
she cares not that her labor was in vain,
17 for God did not endow her with wisdom
or give her a share of good sense.
18 Yet when she spreads her feathers to run,
she laughs at horse and rider.
19 “Do you give the horse its strength
or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?
20 Do you make it leap like a locust,
striking terror with its proud snorting?
21 It paws fiercely, rejoicing in its strength,
and charges into the fray.
22 It laughs at fear, afraid of nothing;
it does not shy away from the sword.
23 The quiver rattles against its side,
along with the flashing spear and lance.
24 In frenzied excitement it eats up the ground;
it cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.
25 At the blast of the trumpet it snorts, ‘Aha!’
It catches the scent of battle from afar,
the shout of commanders and the battle cry.
26 “Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom
and spread its wings toward the south?
27 Does the eagle soar at your command
and build its nest on high?
28 It dwells on a cliff and stays there at night;
a rocky crag is its stronghold.
29 From there it looks for food;
its eyes detect it from afar.
30 Its young ones feast on blood,
and where the slain are, there it is.”
40 The Lord said to Job:
2 “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
Let him who accuses God answer him!”
3 Then Job answered the Lord:
4 “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
I put my hand over my mouth.
5 I spoke once, but I have no answer—
twice, but I will say no more.”
6 Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm:
7 “Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
8 “Would you discredit my justice?
Would you condemn me to justify yourself?
9 Do you have an arm like God’s,
and can your voice thunder like his?
10 Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor,
and clothe yourself in honor and majesty.
11 Unleash the fury of your wrath,
look at all who are proud and bring them low,
12 look at all who are proud and humble them,
crush the wicked where they stand.
13 Bury them all in the dust together;
shroud their faces in the grave.
14 Then I myself will admit to you
that your own right hand can save you.
15 “Look at Behemoth,
which I made along with you
and which feeds on grass like an ox.
16 What strength it has in its loins,
what power in the muscles of its belly!
17 Its tail sways like a cedar;
the sinews of its thighs are close-knit.
18 Its bones are tubes of bronze,
its limbs like rods of iron.
19 It ranks first among the works of God,
yet its Maker can approach it with his sword.
20 The hills bring it their produce,
and all the wild animals play nearby.
21 Under the lotus plants it lies,
hidden among the reeds in the marsh.
22 The lotuses conceal it in their shadow;
the poplars by the stream surround it.
23 A raging river does not alarm it;
it is secure, though the Jordan should surge against its mouth.
24 Can anyone capture it by the eyes,
or trap it and pierce its nose?
41 [h]“Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook
or tie down its tongue with a rope?
2 Can you put a cord through its nose
or pierce its jaw with a hook?
3 Will it keep begging you for mercy?
Will it speak to you with gentle words?
4 Will it make an agreement with you
for you to take it as your slave for life?
5 Can you make a pet of it like a bird
or put it on a leash for the young women in your house?
6 Will traders barter for it?
Will they divide it up among the merchants?
7 Can you fill its hide with harpoons
or its head with fishing spears?
8 If you lay a hand on it,
you will remember the struggle and never do it again!
9 Any hope of subduing it is false;
the mere sight of it is overpowering.
10 No one is fierce enough to rouse it.
Who then is able to stand against me?
11 Who has a claim against me that I must pay?
Everything under heaven belongs to me.
12 “I will not fail to speak of Leviathan’s limbs,
its strength and its graceful form.
13 Who can strip off its outer coat?
Who can penetrate its double coat of armor?
14 Who dares open the doors of its mouth,
ringed about with fearsome teeth?
15 Its back has rows of shields
tightly sealed together;
16 each is so close to the next
that no air can pass between.
17 They are joined fast to one another;
they cling together and cannot be parted.
18 Its snorting throws out flashes of light;
its eyes are like the rays of dawn.
19 Flames stream from its mouth;
sparks of fire shoot out.
20 Smoke pours from its nostrils
as from a boiling pot over burning reeds.
21 Its breath sets coals ablaze,
and flames dart from its mouth.
22 Strength resides in its neck;
dismay goes before it.
23 The folds of its flesh are tightly joined;
they are firm and immovable.
24 Its chest is hard as rock,
hard as a lower millstone.
25 When it rises up, the mighty are terrified;
they retreat before its thrashing.
26 The sword that reaches it has no effect,
nor does the spear or the dart or the javelin.
27 Iron it treats like straw
and bronze like rotten wood.
28 Arrows do not make it flee;
slingstones are like chaff to it.
29 A club seems to it but a piece of straw;
it laughs at the rattling of the lance.
30 Its undersides are jagged potsherds,
leaving a trail in the mud like a threshing sledge.
31 It makes the depths churn like a boiling caldron
and stirs up the sea like a pot of ointment.
32 It leaves a glistening wake behind it;
one would think the deep had white hair.
33 Nothing on earth is its equal—
a creature without fear.
34 It looks down on all that are haughty;
it is king over all that are proud.”
A few commentaries I have read in past years on Job have stated that Job never had any sin in his life as God commended Job to Satan at the very beginning of Job’s troubles. Yet, we learn in Job 32:1-5 that Job was righteous in his own eyes, and he justified himself instead of God during his dialogue with his three friends (a very long dialogue that spans Chapters 3-31). It was Job’s own self-righteousness and justification of himself instead of God to his three friends that created a wall between Job and God.
After God spoke to Job, Chapter 42 opens with Job’s response to God (vv. 1-6):
Then Job replied to the Lord:
2 “I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.
4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”
And that’s when the wall came down. . . . Job humbled himself before God, and he came to understand the depth and gravity of his error. The rest of Chapter 42 (vv.7-16) tells “the rest of the story”:
After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the Lord told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.
After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 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 on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.
The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters. The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.
After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. And so Job died, an old man and full of years.
May the name . . .
Of the Lord . . .
Be praised . . . .
I had an issue with my blog and while working on it I accidentally hit “publish” (re: the notice of a post titled “Testing” that was just sent out to my followers). It’s fixed now. 🙂 No new post at the moment. 🙂
However, I must say that I like the thought of a “Work in Progress.” Hmmm… maybe a new blog post will be coming out soon after all…
Please enjoy the following YouTube video while waiting for the next blog post to arrive:
YouTube Video: “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” sung by Annie Lennox and Al Green:
Getting stuck. . . grinding to a halt. . . immovable. . . trapped. . . . Stuck. It could involve a situation we find ourselves in, or being trapped in rush hour traffic and unable to move, or being required to do something we absolutely do not want to do but we have no choice in the matter. Whatever the case may be, it’s usually not a pleasant situation to be in. It could have to do with a relationship ending or a job loss. The kind of “stuck” I’m writing about isn’t about getting stuck in the past, getting stuck in a poor self-image, or getting stuck in a bad attitude. It’s about getting stuck in situations we didn’t see coming; it’s about getting stuck in something happening in the “here and now.” And we aren’t looking for “ten steps to acquiring a better attitude.” We want solutions. And we just want to get “unstuck.”
Given the world we live in today, with all of our technological wonders and “sleight of hand” negotiations, it is almost trite to say the solution to our “getting unstuck” relies totally on us and acquiring a more “positive mental attitude.” I’m not discounting the need to have a positive mental attitude in the midst of being stuck, but this blog post isn’t just another “be positive” bandaid to cover a cancerous situation. And, our focus should not be on a “woe is me” attitude because of our situation, either.
Most of us have been through enough battles in life to know that nothing goes our way all the time. Or even most of the time. Perhaps not even much of the time. And in any battle it is a given that we need to be positive and hopeful even in the worst of it. After all, Jesus opened his parable about the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8 with these words (the parable is included):
One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’”
Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”
Jesus used two main characters from opposite ends of the continuum of power and privilege: a corrupt Judge and a persistent widow.
The picture Jesus gave of the persistent widow breaks significantly with the script expected of her in an unjust world. The courts were a man’s world. But this widow did not have a man to represent her so she persisted up against seemingly insurmountable odds.
Remember that this parable is presented to teach us that we “should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1).
Evidently the long view of the parable reaches to the time when Jesus returns. Jesus said, “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:7-8). Yet this does not discount the immediate applications we should all make about God and prayer.
Look closely at the Lord’s purpose for this parable.
“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1).
Although the parable itself contrasts a corrupt Judge and a persistent widow, the opening purpose statement implies two kinds of people:
- Those who always pray
- Those who give up
Jesus obviously advocates persistence in prayer.
When it feels like the odds are stacked against you, keep on praying! I know what it’s like to persevere in prayer, but I’ve also been guilty of giving up. To give up is to become wearied or dis-spirited. Sometimes we give up praying because we become impatient for answers. Other times we allow doubt to discourage us.
In his application of the parable, Jesus connected giving up on prayer with lack of faith, “…when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). This is important to recognize because Scripture teaches that the trials of this life are used by God to produce perseverance in us, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-5).
As we persevere in praying, we learn a lot about ourselves and God.
Prayer offers an opportunity to grow in maturity. In his book, “Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?” Philip Yancey confessed, “Prayer has become for me much more than a shopping list of requests to present to God. It has become a realignment of everything. I pray to restore the truth of the universe, to gain a glimpse of the world, and of me, through the eyes of God. In prayer, I shift my point of view away from my own selfishness…. Prayer is the act of seeing reality from God’s point of view.”
Scripture repeatedly encourages us to persevere. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9; cf. II Corinthians 4:16; II Thessalonians 3:13; Hebrews 3:12-13). “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36). “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…” (Hebrews 12:2-3). (Quote source here.)
We live in a society where is it fashionable to spend years on a counselor’s couch trying to sort out the issues going on in our lives instead of taking the words of Jesus (for those of us who believe in Him) and doing exactly what He told us to do. That, of course, is not to say that counseling is a negative and shouldn’t be considered. But as Christians, we have a power in our lives that we can turn to for help, and too often we ignore it. And that power is prayer.
In the parable above, the widow was in dire straights and had an enemy who would not leave her alone, and her situation may have gone on for years as the judge ignored her for a while (the NIV states “For some time he refused”). But she never gave up even though her situation never changed for a very long time, and her enemy continued his assault. She persisted, and, in fact, she repeatedly hounded the judge to grant justice for her from her enemy. And the judge finally relented and got the justice for her that she was seeking.
“Always pray and never give up.” By turning first to prayer in any situation we find ourselves in, we take the focus off our ourselves and place it where it belongs–on the One who is able to change any situation in His timing and not ours (and our timing is usually “please do it now”). For reasons we may never know this side of heaven, God’s timing in our situations is never what we expect it to be, and we usually want immediate relief. Perhaps it comes from living in an instant access 24/7 society, and patience is not one of our virtues.
James 1:2-8 (verses 2-5 are mentioned in Cornell’s post above) states:
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.
When our faith is tested (and we don’t fall away in the heat of the battle), our endurance (perseverance) has a chance to grow and develop. Our faith isn’t genuine faith without being tested, and when we hold on to our faith even in the midst of the most severe of troubles, we acquire endurance and perseverance. It also makes clear to an unbelieving world Who we believe in, even though that world is often not receptive and does not want to hear it. It also is a testimony to other Christians to hold firm to their faith when trials comes their way, and to “always pray and not give up.”
James 1:12-18 continues by stating:
God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.
So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.
There is much in our society that pulls at us and causes us to live with divided loyalties when it comes to Jesus. Money and materialism, fame or accolades, prestige, power, sex, not to mention anger, jealousy, revenge, and a host of other emotions we let get in the way. . . the list is endless. Sometimes even friends and family can try to divide our loyalty. Christianity is not a playground to get what we want in this world, but a battleground where we must clearly choose whose side we are on by the way we live our lives and the decisions we make (see blog post titled, “This World: Playground or Battleground” by A.W. Tozer). Too often, as James noted above in James 1:8, “Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.”
Getting back to the topic at hand–“getting unstuck”; even in the midst of “being stuck,” we (as Christians) should be some of the most winsome people on the planet. If the God of the Universe thoroughly knows our situation and He is intimately involved in all our ways and our lives (and He is–see Psalm 139), the joy described by James in the verses above comes from knowing that God is fully in charge no matter how “stuck” we might feel in any situation, and regardless of how long we’ve been stuck in that situation. And we should still always pray and never give up.
We can only see a tiny glimpse of what is really going on behind the scenes regarding any trial that we go through. Far more is actually involved then we can even comprehend. In a devotion by Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) in “My Utmost for His Highest,” titled “The Faith to Persevere” (May 8), Chambers states:
Because you have kept My command to persevere… —Revelation 3:10
Perseverance means more than endurance—more than simply holding on until the end. A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, but our Lord continues to stretch and strain, and every once in awhile the saint says, “I can’t take any more.” Yet God pays no attention; He goes on stretching until His purpose is in sight, and then He lets the arrow fly. Entrust yourself to God’s hands. Is there something in your life for which you need perseverance right now? Maintain your intimate relationship with Jesus Christ through the perseverance of faith. Proclaim as Job did, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
Faith is not some weak and pitiful emotion, but is strong and vigorous confidence built on the fact that God is holy love. And even though you cannot see Him right now and cannot understand what He is doing, you know Him. Disaster occurs in your life when you lack the mental composure that comes from establishing yourself on the eternal truth that God is holy love. Faith is the supreme effort of your life—throwing yourself with abandon and total confidence upon God.
God ventured His all in Jesus Christ to save us, and now He wants us to venture our all with total abandoned confidence in Him. There are areas in our lives where that faith has not worked in us as yet—places still untouched by the life of God. There were none of those places in Jesus Christ’s life, and there are to be none in ours. Jesus prayed, “This is eternal life, that they may know You…” (John 17:3). The real meaning of eternal life is a life that can face anything it has to face without wavering. If we will take this view, life will become one great romance—a glorious opportunity of seeing wonderful things all the time. God is disciplining us to get us into this central place of power.
“I have chosen you” (John 15:16). Keep that note of greatness in your creed. It is not that you have got God, but that He has got you (quote source: “My Utmost for His Highest,” May 8).
If you find yourself feeling stuck in a situation that seems immovable right now, I hope this post gives you some inspiration to keep praying and never give up, no matter what. And, may “the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26); and, as stated in Romans 12:12, remember to . . .
Be confident in our hope . . .
Be patient in trouble . . .
And keep on praying . . . .
YouTube Video: “Revelation Song” by Phillips, Craig and Dean: