With the start of the new year, my wife, Jess, and I have decided to read through the entirety of the Bible together. We are following a chronological plan so that we get a true sense of what’s going on in the lives of the Israelites and the early church as we read about them. I imagine a lot of my writing for this year will come out of the readings. We started in Genesis, obviously, but quickly ended up in the book of Job because most theologians and historians place him to have lived around the time of Abraham.
I don’t know if you know much about the book of Job. I will sum it up for you just if you are unfamiliar. God considers Job to be an upstanding, righteous man. Satan contends that the only reason that Job is faithful is because God has blessed him abundantly. So, God allows Satan to affect Job’s life to see if his faith will remain steadfast. Immediately, Satan destroys pretty much everything Job owns and even causes his children to die. I don’t know if you know this, but Satan is not a good guy.
The bulk of the rest of the book is Job talking with three of his friends and another man. Job is unbudging in his belief that he has done nothing to deserve what has happened to him. His friends, on the other hand, believe that Job’s calamity is the result of his sin and wickedness. This argument goes back-and-forth throughout the book, and neither side is willing to concede. The book ends with God stepping in and having a conversation with Job, but that is another story for another time.
What I want to discuss today is the belief system that led to the arguments that stream through the entirety of this Biblical book: the idea is that God blesses you when you do good and punishes you when you do bad. While the book of Job is thousands of years old, this mindset has yet to dissipate. We see it throughout scripture, in both the Old and New Testaments. It still exists today; maybe you believe it.
This belief, however, goes against one of the core aspects of God: his grace. Grace is his unearned favor. At the root of God’s grace is his love for all of us. God has chosen to bless all of us, and many of his blessings go unnoticed. James 1:17 tells us, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above.” Think about how much goodness is in your life. That all comes from our Heavenly Father. What have we done to earn it? Absolutely nothing. If we cannot earn the good things that God gives us, then why in the world would we ever think that we can earn the bad?
Now, I do want to offer a caveat. Scripture does clearly lay out the way in which God desires us to live our lives, and I do believe that living such a way will lead to a better, more blessed life. That is simply because when we aren’t making bad life decisions, life tends to go better for us. Most of the time, we get in our own way of receiving blessings. Choosing sin always leads to destruction, but that is because there are earthly ramifications to our choices. I do not believe that God is sitting up in heaven ready to smack us down with every mistake that we make. Romans 5:20 says, “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” Even when we are making bad decisions, God is still there to offer us love and forgiveness. How you live your life matters, but not because God is punishing you or blessing you with each choice.
We must get out of the mindset that God leads our lives like an angry school principal with a paddle in hand. When life gets hard and bad things are happening to us, it’s not because God is out to get us. Life just stinks sometimes. We live in a fallen, broken world that is inhabited by fallen, broken people. There will forever be hurt and pain because of that.
We also must do away with the idea that a God-honoring, faithful life will be an easy one full of only blue skies and sunshine. There is not a single line in all of scripture that promises that life will be easy once you become a Christian. That is a lie that is too often fed to people. If that was the case, then why would Jesus, Paul, and the Disciples (besides John) all get murdered? Hardship doesn’t go away whenever you place your faith in Jesus. In fact, it sometimes can be the root of suffering. What we are promised is that God will be with us and walk alongside us through whatever it is that we face.
Don’t fall into the trap that bad things happen in your life because God is mad at you. Sure, there are times when he will not be thrilled with each of us. That does not negate the fact that he is our father who loves us above all else. He is the perfect father who only desires good for his children. So, the next time that you’re facing adversity, don’t cower in fear that it is God punishing you. Instead, reach out your hand to take his, and ask him to walk with you as you go through it. That is a request that he will be most delighted to fulfill.
If you liked this, then I think that you’ll enjoy my book. You can buy it by going here. Also, I have started a His Kingdom/ Our Good podcast. It’s available on Apple Podcast, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Stitcher, and Anchor.