Miserable comforters

What does misery and comfort have in common? Those two words are so incompatible that you could never use them together.

But Job is forced to use “miserable” as an adjective to describe his friends’ attempt at being comforters. They tried to comfort their friend Job, but it was a failed attempt.

They were busy trying to show how he is to blame for his own troubles. But Job claims innocence. He said he has done nothing to deserve such deep and horrible troubles.

When Job’s friends first came to visit, they did the right thing. They saw the horrible condition of his friend and sat with him in silence for seven days.

“And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great (Job 2:12-13).

That’s the right way to respond to someone facing tragedy.

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Right at the wrong time

Yes, you’ve made your point. You are right. You’re absolutely right but at the wrong time.

Considering the present situation, and the emotions of the poeple you’re dealing with, it’s best to keep your “right” perspective to yourself.

Often, when the value of being “right” is so high, you forget people and their situations, emotions, and their pain. Frankly, you don’t care. You just want to be right.

Hold your thoughts. Keep your “right” perspectives and ideas to yourself for now. The person before you is just not ready. Give them time. Give them grace.

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Are you impatient with God?

It’s one thing to suffer. But it’s entirely a different story when some suffer in silence. When pain prolongs, our patience wanes.

Sometimes we become impatient with people in the course of our pain. That impatience hurts the people who are closest to us. These are the people who reach out to help us in our desperate condition. But our impatience may even drive them away from us.

Job’s friends were also offended with his impatient attitude (Job 4:5). They said that he instructed many people in the course of their struggles. But now, when problems came to him, he became impatient. They were upset with his attitude. They expected him to act differently.

Later, Job clarified that his impatience is not with people but with God (Job 21:4). Job said, “Why should I not be impatient?” Because God knows every aspect of the situation. He also understands us thoroughly. He even understands us better than we understand ourselves.

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Past success, present hinderance

Don’t get me wrong, I love success. Who doesn’t? But success comes with a danger. It has the potential to endanger future success. Or, it may simply hinder progress.

Constantly looking back to the success of the past has the potential to glorify that past. “The good old days” become so glorious that you can’t move forward.

You may even begin to pattern your suture according to your past successes. But you future has challenges and situations that you’ve never had in the past. You’re actually setting yourself up for failure.

By all means celebrate your past successes. But face the future with new patterns of thought and action – to face the newer challenges.

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God’s gain?

If God were to gain something, it implies that he has a lack. It suggests that he needs something. This would also suggest that he is out to get something for himself.

One of Job’s friends asks some important questions:

“Can a man be profitable to God? Surely he who is wise is profitable to himself. Is it any pleasure to the almighty if you are in the right, or is it gain to him if you make your ways blameless? Is it for your fear of him that he reproves you and enters into judgement with you? (Job 22:2-4)

The answer to each of the questions above is “no” God is not trying to get anything out of us. The fact is that he is all sufficient and needs nothing.

But God’s purposes are beyond our understanding. For our own good, we need to be in a right relationship with him. Our love for him needs to be genuine. The reason for our relationship with God needs to be genuine. Our trust in him needs to be firm even in difficult times.

God is not out to get something from us. We are the ones who get all the benefits of this wonderful relationship.

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The blessing of obscurity

For leaders, obscurity is one of the most difficult aspects of life. As leaders they gravitate towards people. They are thrilled by activity. And yes, they enjoy getting some exposure.

Paul the Apostle was a prominent figure in Judaism. But when Jesus met him, he changed the direction of his life. One of those important changes was to take him into obscurity. The text is not clear, but for about 14 years, Paul was not in the limelight. He was unknown to the prominent apostles in Jerusalem. He was in obscurity.

God does some important things within us while we’re in obscurity. He works on our self-identity and our ego. It becomes a time of learning and growth. Another difficult task is to build obedience into our character. Then, we get the privilege of drawing close to Jesus. When we have no one else, we learn to lean on Him and to love him more. I’m sure he is doing plenty more while we’re in obscurity. Are you there now?

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When the wicked prosper

It doesn’t seem to make any sense. We don’t like it. We can’t imagine it. But we’ve got to accept the reality that they do prosper.

Jesus taught the disciples to love their enemies, “so that you may be sons of your father who is in heaven. For he makes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt 5:45). So good things happen to everyone. Settle that in your mind and leave it.

But shouldn’t they get what they “deserve”? The Bible is clear that we are to leave that to God. We are told to love everyone and to bless them. But we want to settle the accounts right now! God says that he’ll do that at the right time. For now, we are to love them.

Jesus also told the story of the man who sowed wheat but an enemy came and sowed weeds along with the good seed. When the wheat came up, the weeds also appeared. Although the workers wanted to pull up the tares, the owner said,

“Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”

God has a plan.

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Failure as a prerequisite for success

Really? Then, Success takes time, effort, and more time. No quick fixes.

Without allowing time for development, training, and refinement, leaders may falter. They may have knowledge, but lack the refinement that comes through experiences – especially failure.

I recently heard a church planting consultant list some of his requirements for church planters. On the top of his list was an age requirement of 35 years. When questioned about it, he said he could go down to 30, but still prefers church planters to be at least 35 when they begin the planting process.

He specified the church planter needs a certain level of experience in life that only comes through time. Time allows for experiences. Those experiences allow for failures. Then those failures bring refinement that can only occur through failure.

So don’t set aside those who have failed in life. They may be just the right person for success.

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Mission and compassion

Mission for the sake of doing mission becomes dull and mechanical. But when mission is driven by compassion, it comes alive.

Jesus was driven. He was driven by compassion for people who were hurting and troubled in life.

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).

For us, mission may have begun with a sense of compassion, but things change over time. the mission becomes a movement and then eventually it becomes an establishment. Then later, when the establishment grows, it becomes difficult to maintain it. Ultimately, the mission changes from being driven by compassion. It becomes driven by the establishment. Maintaining the establishment becomes the primary aim and in effect, the mission becomes the establishment.

Jesus refrained from developing an establishment to support his mission. His disciples followed his example and kept compassion as the driving force for mission. Thus the mission stayed as the mission.

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Censure that insults

Common knowledge says that you reap what you sow. If you sow evil, you’ll reap evil. But when people who have sown good things all their life begin to reap evil, we have a problem. That common knowledge becomes the problem.

This was the conflict with Job and his friends. Job hadn’t sown evil, but he reaped evil. His friends couldn’t make sense of such a thought. How could good people suffer evil? That’s only for people who have done evil things in life. Therefore, they concluded that Job must have done evil things in life.

Job objects and says he is innocent. He has done nothing to deserve this lot in life. He speaks against their accusations. He cuts it down with a force.

His friends couldn’t understand this. They were set on their one-track idealistic thinking. Job’s resistance was insulting to them.

“I hear censure that insults me, and out of my understanding a spirit answers me” (20:3). It’s time to put our understanding to the side. Life is too vast for our understanding. We must cling to God and his unfailing love for us.

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