Prosperity for the Righteous?
We are told early on that old man Job had it all. He had a big happy family, a prosperous business, and was obviously a public figure in that he was “the greatest of all the people of the East.” Along with that, he never missed going to church.
From what we know, he was conscientious regarding the spiritual state of his children, he had built strong friendships with others, and he was charitable toward the needy. To top it all off, the Lord Himself, said of Job, “there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil.” If ever a man could think of himself as insulated from harm and safe from loss, it had to have been this guy.
But we all know the story; Job lost it all. Actually that’s not exactly true, he didn’t lose everything; it was taken from him. And here is the hard part: Job’s tragedy was God-approved.
One important truth we learn from the book of Job is this: no one is safe with God. This truth is displayed all through the Bible where stellar saints are thrown in jail, or beheaded, or both.
Now this has no effect on your eternal salvation. You can be assured that through the grace given to every believer by Christ Jesus that your soul is secure, your eternity set, and that your heavenly Father loves you more than you can understand, but, everything else is up for grabs. This means in regard to your physical and mental health, plans for this Friday night, gardening success, business venture, marriage, and credit card on-line password, there are no guarantees from Heaven. None.
Deep down we Christians all know this. The best among us lose jobs or get cancer or have trouble in our homes. And of course this can be disconcerting because we all want to be safe. We lock our doors to keep out the “bad guys” and yet the one who holds our lives in His hands, who is always welcomed at our table and talked about in our living room is ultimately the One who chooses how our lives are going to play out and, more often than not, it isn’t according to our plans or our comfort.
Why does God have to be this way? Why is it that the very best Christian in the world who did everything that the Lord told them in the Bible to do cannot have expectations of being safe from harm or pain or loss? Why doesn’t it work this way? Why do bad things happen to good people? People like Job and struggling and striving people like you and me?
We know why bad things happened to Job: his love for God was being tested. In a fallen world where everyone is a sinner and no one can truly be sure of their own heart motivation, testing those motivations is a kindness, a goodness, and mercy.
We find ourselves rushing impetuously into that heavenly palace before the Throne of Grace like children so upset that we cannot speak through our sobbing hysteria. Our world is collapsing and we have rushed in with a self-righteous sense of being betrayed by our Provider and Protector. We have one demand that must be met before we withdraw: Why?!
This was Job’s demand. Job, like you and I, wanted—demanded—to know, not so much why the loss, the grief, and the pain, but why God allowed the loss, the grief, and the pain. Job thought that he and God had a deal and that God wasn’t holding up His end.
Safety vs. Security
And here is where we need to understand the difference between safety and security. Security is, in Job’s own words:
“I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God”
This declaration isn’t about being safe in this life; it is all about the confidence of being secure in the life to come.
Years ago I met a wonderful family who lost a precious child. The loss was slow, over time. The parents are of the most faithful I have ever met. The Lord has blessed them with a large family and prospered them financially. They are great Christians who serve others; they are hospitable and giving.
But the loss of their child was evident in their face. Despite all the other children around them, they still struggled. In recounting their story I just listened and tried to soak up as much of the pain as I could. You know what I mean, you know and love people like these.
The wife said something that has stayed with me to this very day: “Why did God take our child? Why us?” She wasn’t asking me and I knew that. She was still having the same reoccurring conversation with God. Her talk with Him was not over. I just happened to be in the same room as she transitioned from talking to me to entering the middle of her Psalm again.
As I have thought about that family and how good that they are. I think I know “why them.” If I were God, I would have chosen them too.
They can bear it. They still love me and haven’t walked away. In fact, they love me more. They understand more than most of my followers what it meant for me to send my precious Son to die. My Son, who unlike everyone else who has ever walked the earth was innocent and sinless.
Bitterness or Trust
Yes, even Jesus wasn’t safe from God’s plan. But He, being sinless and therefore having a perfect understanding and acceptance of the pain, loss and suffering that God had planned for his life, he embraced it with joy: “Jesus . . . for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Note the absence of safety but the presence of security.
The bitter soul can correctly say, “God killed my cousin” or “I lost my job because of God” because it is true. But the trusting soul says the same, but with a different spirit, the spirit exhibited by Job,
“The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
The Great Hope
There is coming a day when safety and security will be one and the same. Have you ever noticed that among the glorious descriptions of the new heavens and new earth found in the book of Revelation where gates of pearl, streets of gold, and river of life are listed, that among those descriptions are precious assurances: no more tears, no pain, no death, and nothing that corrupts? What is God telling His people here? He is promising that we will forever be not only secure, but also, safe!
The first world, the world that we presently live in, fell, but in the new world there will never be another Fall. That is better news than knowing what building materials were used or how the new place is landscaped.
No, I don’t think that we can fully understand the how and why of God’s design in a fallen world populated by sinners other than being told the truth that all things work together for our good and ultimately for God’s glory. The intricacies of pain and loss remain a mystery and therefore, when they become personal, are very hard to handle. So this is where we must strive to trust our Lord who has, and is, saving us from this world, from the devil, and from ourselves.
Seeing then the scope of God’s great salvation, may we expect safety no longer and move on to enjoying the security that is promised.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written:
‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35–39).
“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10:28).
Brothers and sisters, encourage one another.
This article was first published in Every Thought Captive magazine. Subscribe HERE.