Leaning into God

By July 24, 2016Church

I’m sure at some point you’ve seen one of those “God is My Co-Pilot” bumper stickers. The idea sounds good … “Me and God, we’re in this together.” If bumper stickers aren’t your thing, you can also get the same slogan on coffee cups, trucker hats, and baby outfits. I even found it on a Koosie for your beer can, but I’m not sure I could recommend that in good conscience.

The idea of “God is My Co-Pilot” sounds good.

But let me just say this: if God is your co-pilot, then we’re both in the trouble – because that plane is going to crash somewhere. And it’s not God I’m worried about – it’s you!

And for good reason …

Raise your hand if you have ever thought you had a situation or a relationship completely figured out only to find out you were wrong. Wives, you have to let your husband raise his own hand.

This summer at Mountainview we have been looking at the life of Job – this great example from the Old Testament of a man who endured tremendous difficulties in a way that honored God.

Dan Simundson, a long-time professor of Old Testament studies at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, describes the tension in Job this way:

“Job is advised to recognize human limits and trust that God will take care of what Job and others cannot know or do.”

“Human limits.” We don’t like to believe that we have limits. We want to believe we can have unlimited power, unlimited resources, or unlimited wealth.

Which brings me to this: at the heart of faith are two characteristics: recognition and reliance. We must recognize our own limitations and we must learn to rely on God for what we cannot know or do.

Up until God begins speaking in chapter 38, Job and his friends have been describing a pretty miserable existence. Job has lost his children, his income, and is quickly losing hope that life will ever get better. Listen to what Job says to his friend Eliphaz …

“1 Then Job replied: 2 “If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales! 3 It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas — no wonder my words have been impetuous. 4 The arrows of the Almighty are in me, my spirit drinks in their poison; God’s terrors are marshaled against me … 8 “Oh, that I might have my request, that God would grant what I hope for, 9 that God would be willing to crush me, to let loose his hand and cut off my life! 10 Then I would still have this consolation — my joy in unrelenting pain — that I had not denied the words of the Holy One. 11 “What strength do I have, that I should still hope? What prospects, that I should be patient? 12 Do I have the strength of stone? Is my flesh bronze? 13 Do I have any power to help myself, now that success has been driven from me? — Job 6:1-13

A few observations …

When person is hurting, it’s hard for them to see outside their pain. Our pain and suffering become like a filter that we run every experience through. That’s not selfish or ungodly – it’s normal!

It’s also very difficult for the rest of us to see into another person’s pain. You might mean well when you say, “I know how you feel” but you really don’t. When you have to choose between speaking or listening, you can never go wrong with listening.

After all he has been through, it’s not surprising that Job casts a vision of a world overshadowed by pain and suffering.

What might be surprising is how God responds. When God finally speaks to Job, he responds by showing Job the beauty and hope of the same world.

I’ve been thinking a lot about these two views lately. On the surface, they appear to be competing views.

The reality of living in a fallen world is ever present. Just last weekend, one of our Mountainview families lost a son. Another family lost a wife and a mother. I helped conduct two funerals just this past Friday.

Yet, I know they are not alone in their suffering.

  • We have marriages that are broken and falling apart.
  • We have parents who are estranged from their children.
  • We have spouses of police officers who are worried about the safety of their husband or wife.
  • We have systemic problems that foster continued oppression and discrimination.
  • We mourn when a truck bomber kills 84 in France.
  • We weep when a shooter kills 49 people in Orlando.

And these are just the things that have already happened!

We look ahead to Tuesday, November 8, and think “God help us.” Either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be president!

Larry Waters, from Dallas Theological Seminary, once wrote: “While God is just, it is wrong to assume that the fallen world, under the rulership of Satan, is fair.”

Life is not fair. Life in a fallen world can never be truly fair.

In that sense, Job’s vision of a world overshadowed by pain and suffering was true. Life in a fallen world will have pain and suffering.

But for person of faith, the fallen world IS NOT all there is. For the person of faith, there is hope and it’s not based on your circumstances.

We are a people of faith — not in ourselves but in God. I don’t have any faith that the world will magically correct itself. But I do have faith that God will never leave or forsake me.

It’s in times like these that certain psalms must be listened to. One of those is Psalm 61 …

1 Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. 2 From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. 3 For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. 4 I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. — Psalm 61:1-4