Politicians are saying "The crisis is over" but there are no new jobs and official unemployment is at a 70 year high in some places, like California. The rise in the stock markets seems to be largely based on emotion.
It seems the only hope for society's deeper problems, beyond just the financial ones, is for God to download a spiritual awakening. But is the Church in a position to see this today? Is the Church doing anything to hinder it? The book of Job deals with the meaning and purpose of suffering, but the theme of Job’s awakening is also a timely message that seems to apply to the Church today in general.
The Role of the Church
Leo Tolstoy once wrote “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” This seems to have been true of Job. He prayed for all his various relatives but basically seemed to have it all together himself. Even God was bragging on Job. But by the end of the account, after all his trials, Job has an encounter with God and then an epiphany. He realizes he has been off and he needs to repent. Job was actually called “perfect and upright,” in the beginning of the book (Job 1.1, KJV) as compared with others. But as Job is tested, he understands his need to repent, to get right with God. Scriptures such as 2 Chronicles 7.14 show that revival begins first with God's people before it spreads out.
Like Job, the Church is considered perfect and complete in Christ (Col 2.10) for He is our righteousness (Rom 3.22) and He paid the price in full for our sins on the cross (Jn 19.30). But even as Peter and the Apostles needed some foot washing, the Bride of Christ, the Church is washed by the word of God: “…that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5.26-27 NKJV)
Today, things may appear to be fine on the surface of the Church, at first sight, but spots and wrinkles are only noticeable close up. It seems there may be a need for the kind of deep soul searching and repentance Job experienced. It may be that the Church will go through some purifying trials, as Job did, before Christ returns for His Bride. The name Job means "persecuted" and "afflicted" and God allows these types of things for His people. I do not believe the Church will go through the Great Tribulation because this is defined as a judgment in the book of Revelation while scriptures such as 1 Thessalonians 5.9 state "For God hath not appointed us to wrath..." But Jesus hinted at persecution when he talked of "the beginning of sorrows," (Mat 24.8) which in the original Greek means "birth pangs."
Job had insight into the purpose of his trials: He said “When he has tried me, I shall come forth like gold.” (Job 23.10) Even as fire purifies gold of its impurities, trials can do the same. As the life of Job points out, repentance is for believers, as well as non-believers. However, repentance unto salvation is a one time event.
As Job is tested, his first reaction is self pity and he desires to take his own life. Later, he maintains a sense of self justification and self righteousness. Only after His encounter with God does he experience true humility and repent. 2 Chronicles 7.14 begins “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray…” The Church today may sometimes have a sense of self pity, as rights of free speech and freedom of religious expression are gradually removed by society. But the increased injustices and persecution may actually be a good thing spiritually. These types of things tend to bring ephinanies and spiritual growth, as Job's life testifies.
When Job’s three friends came to comfort him, for seven days they sat in silence with him, as a kind of gesture. But when they opened their mouths, all they could do was accuse Job. There were three waves of three people simply accusing Job. They really didn’t’ want to listen to Job. There is sometimes silence or slander in life but how much better would it be to have edifying communication and the beauty of people reaching out to meet each other's practical needs.
Many of the things the three friends of Job stated were true. They emphasized the justice of God and fairness of God over and over. Though God is just and fair, we won’t really know the final accounting of things until heaven. We won’t know the reasons why God allowed certain things to happen on earth until then. Though the friends tried to get Job to repent, it wasn’t until he had his own encounter with God that he repented. Job’s friends missed some key ingredients of God’s character, His mercy, love and kindness. Kindness is key for repentance and perhaps also for a widespread revival: “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?” (Romans 2.4, NIV)
It's easy to become self righteous and judgmental but difficult to show agape love expecting nothing in return. Job’s encounter with the Creator completely reorients his thinking: “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know…” “…My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42.3, 5-6, NIV) After Job had his encounter with God and repented, he prayed for his friends. His own experience with God gave him great kindness. How we need to spend time with God. I'll be the first to admit that I need to do this more.
After these things God restored Job’s riches twofold: “And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.” (Job 42.10, KJV) It was at the time of prayer for others that Job’s own captivity was undone. Prayer is a key to freedom. Even before Job was free from his own trials, he prayed for his friend’s needs. Job’s personal awakening helped him to lose his self-righteousness and his self-centeredness. His experience with God gave him the kindness and tenderness to reach out to his friends, even after all the negative things they said against him.
Job’s illness was healed and his life was restored through prayer. James 5.16 says “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” In a verse I previously mentioned, 2 Chronicles 7.14, you see revival and the healing of the land through prayer. James 5.16 states you "may be healed" not you "might be healed" and there seems to be a need for deeper types of praying today, considering the condition of society. I previously wrote about an “Ancient Paths Seminar” which deals with a lot of the deeper issues of family and society today. Although it was helpful, I believe separate men’s prayer meetings and women’s meetings can offer even more potential, in terms of going deeper.
Scriptures show that God's people lead the way in terms of national revival. Verses also show that men are to be the leaders in the home and in the church. Is it possible that God wants to see men coming together with each other to get right with God and help build each other up? Proverbs 27.17 says “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” It doesn’t have to be a “Promise Keepers” type structure, just some guys getting together to worship and pray. I recently began meeting with some guys from different churches, just getting together to pray and see what God may do in our lives and in Simferopol. The turnout has not been great but the meetings, with just a few of us, seem to be a blessing for those involved.
Unity in Christ
Jesus said there would be revival when the world sees love and grace in the church (John 17.21). Ultimately, unity comes from uniting in the person of Jesus Christ. In the act of worshiping and exalting Christ in Spirit and in truth, it’s impossible for an argument to break out. An amazing aspect of the book of Job, as the oldest book in the Bible, is the fact it contains powerful prophecies about the Messiah: as Mediator (Job 9.33, 1 Tim 2.5), as Advocate and Intercessor (Job 16.19-21, 1 John 2.1 and Rom 8.34), and as Redeemer (Job 19:25, Mark 10.45). The trials and revelations of Job softened his heart. It may be that trials for the Church today will reveal what's in the heart of confessing Christians. It may separate the wheat from the chaff, those who really love Jesus Christ and are willing to take a stand versus those who are simply going through the motions and are not true believers at all.
Do you believe the church will go through a time of persecution before Christ returns? Do you believe the Church is prepared to see a spiritual awakening at this time?
Photo courtesy of Robin McMillan