In the first three chapters of the book of Job, Job was going through a hard season. His business had all been destroyed. His property had been stolen. His children had all died at once in a horrible tragedy. All this came at him on one day. As a result, He understandably just collapsed in a heap. Then, a short time later, his health began failing him as well. He was surely the most tortured man on the earth at that moment in time.
Even though we don’t all go through seasons quite as disastrous as these events in our lives, we can all identify to some extent with Job as he laments his situation at the end of Job 3:
For my groaning comes at the sight of my food, And my cries pour out like water. For what I fear comes upon me, And what I dread befalls me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet, And I am not at rest, but turmoil comes. v. 24-26
When our answers are slow in coming, and God seems silent to our pain, what can we learn from Job that will help us? Many times, these challenging seasons come to us to expose the state of our hearts and souls to us. God always knows where we are, but sometimes we do not! And often, God reveals these things to us through tests and trials, not to cause us to fail, but to encourage us to grow and receive more of who He is for us in those seasons.
Let’s look at the first state of Job’s heart.
Job thought he understood God’s character and that he could earn God’s favor by doing good. He thought his relationship with God was “transactional” in nature. When Job was finally at the end of himself and completely questioning everything he thought he knew, God showed Job Who He really is. Funny thing is, the things God showed Job were around Job the whole time, but he had just never actually “seen” them. Job had heard about God from other people and through his own experiences, and thought he knew Who God was based on that incomplete report – that God was transactional and that Job could earn God’s favor for him and his family with his sacrifices and worship.
This idea about God comes from the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden – when Adam and Eve believed Satan’s lie that they weren’t like God.
We can see clearly in Job 1:9-11 that Satan himself confirms this idea when he says,
Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about 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 put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.
That’s how Satan thinks, so that’s how our unrenewed, sinful minds naturally think as well. We only get what we earn. “Do good, get good. Do bad, get bad.” Job’s friends were also convinced of this principle and accused Job numerous times of hidden sin in his life while they were “comforting” him. It just didn’t make sense to their natural minds that Job would be suffering if he were in fact the blameless man he claimed to be.
Job’s perception of God had to change in order for him to be able to receive what his heart longed out for.
At the beginning of the book of Job, we see Job paying his “service” to God in exchange for the blessings of God for himself and his family.
There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. Seven sons and three daughters were born to him. His possessions also were 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and very many servants; and that man was the greatest of all the men of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When the days of feasting had completed their cycle, Job would send and consecrate them, rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, “Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually. Job 1:1-5
Job was so convinced of the “transactional” aspect of his relationship with God, that he took his sons and daughters to repent and consecrate themselves before God even after they all attended each other’s birthday parties. Job was so fearful that any of his family had “sinned and cursed God in their hearts,” that he constantly sought to mitigate the damage by his own service and worship of God.
Unfortunately, this tendency to try and earn the favor of God is pretty universal. When we live our lives based on the same fruitless attitude, we wonder where our joy and peace in Christ has gone.
A “transactional” attitude towards God means looking for God to do something for us because we have done something for Him. If we find our faith in our prayers waxing and waning like our own ability to obey God, then we have fallen for this wrong attitude somewhere.
A “transactional” attitude towards God doesn’t want to come to God in a time of need because we haven’t “earned” the answer to our prayers by Bible reading, doing good works, praying for others, or even obedience to God in all areas of our lives.
A “transactional” attitude towards God looks toward self – our own behavior and our own character or lack thereof – to determine the likeliness of a positive answer from God.
A “transactional” attitude towards God can even turn “faith in Christ” into a work, as we measure our maturity in Christ on how many miracles we have received or how many prayers we have had answered.
A “transactional” attitude towards God measures God’s love for us by our positive experiences. When we have a challenging season, as Job did, we can fall for the lie that God no longer loves us or that His plans and character have somehow changed. Some believers will fall away from their faith in Christ when their circumstances become challenging because their faith wasn’t in God’s character and love extended to us through Christ, but instead on their experiences in church and the love they “felt” from God at the time.
In my own life, I have been guilty of all of these things. Even as I write this blog, I am convicted that there is still a part of my mind that is afraid to trust that God is actually as good as His word says He is, or that He is “able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20-21) for me. I just cannot fathom it. My natural mind can’t comprehend a love so strong and so good, that it doesn’t require my sacrifice or worship or anything like that to qualify for it. God only requires faith that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those that seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). Of course, that faith leads me to the perfect sacrifice: Jesus. He is our sacrifice and the pleasing aroma of worship to our Father’s throne. Jesus is the ultimate transactional payment on our behalf. Once and for all, qualifying us to receive all of God’s goodness, love, peace, and every blessing He rightfully earned on this earth in our place.
Have you treated your relationship with God as a transaction? Are you still trying to earn His love for you? Do you believe His blessings are yours because of Jesus, or your own works?
Change takes time
There is some debate on how long the events that occur in the book of Job extend. The smallest amount of time suggested is around 9 months, but it could have taken as long as 40 years from start to finish. Either way, to Job I’m sure it seemed like an eternity.
When we are going through seasons of Job in our lives, they can seem interminable. Our prayers go unanswered for days or weeks, months, or even years. We may not even be able to form the words of a prayer and only sigh our way through our days of suffering. I can’t possibly know why some seasons last longer than others, but I do know that change takes time. And honestly, it seems to always take more time in reality than we think it should!
When Job finally comes to the place where he “sees” God’s unconditional goodness and love, he finds that he has no more questions. God has revealed His wisdom and loving character and nature to Job through His creation. As Job finally gets the revelation that God’s character is only good, he has no more questions and can move forward in his relationship with God based on the truth of God’s character instead of his own experience. He has discarded the “transactional” nature of the fallen man, for the unconditional nature of God’s enduring love for him. Even though Job never gets the answers to his questions, his heart is satisfied in the Presence of God.
Let us also meditate on the unconditional nature of God’s love for us, so that we can fully embrace it and enjoy it! Let us embrace the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the “transactional,” broken relationship we once had with Father, and now embrace the new unconditional, renewed relationship we now have through Christ! We no longer have to earn our way to favor with God, hallelujah! Let’s fully receive and believe it.