At some point in their life, I believe every Christian will face a trial or temptation that tests his or her faith to the point where that person considers leaving the faith altogether and even cursing God in anger over the difficult challenge to their faith.
The story of Job is a good illustration of this. It’s a book that has always fascinated me because, even though it’s the oldest book in the Bible, the questions Job and his “friends” discuss throughout the book are questions that we still ponder today; questions about God’s love and justice and why He allows suffering and heartache etc.
In the beginning of the story, Satan comes to God and tells Him that Job is only serving Him because God blesses him. In other words, that Job’s love for God is conditional love, which of course isn’t love at all. Satan isn’t merely making this accusation against Job; he’s making it against everyone who claims to love God. And, like Job, our claim of loving God unconditionally will be tested at some point in our journey.
After making this harsh accusation, Satan then proposes this wager; if God would allow him to take away all of Job’s blessings (Satan claims), Job “will surely curse You to Your face.” (Job 1:11)
For reasons we cannot fully understand, God accepts Satan’s wager and allows him to take away virtually everything Job possesses and loves. However, the result was not as Satan had predicted; the penniless and depressed Job announces, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be stripped of everything when I die. The LORD gave me everything I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!” (Job 1:21 NLT)
After hearing this declaration from Job, I imagine Satan with a puzzled look on his face; a look like the Grinch had on his face Christmas morning when he heard all the Who’s down in Whoville singing after he had stolen all of their Christmas gifts and decorations.
Satan isn’t one to give up easy; he then doubles-down on his bet with God by predicting; “A man will give up everything he has to save his life. But take away his health, and he will surely curse you to your face!” (Job 2:4-5 NLT)
Again God accepts Satan’s challenge and allows him to inflict Job with horrible pain and suffering. Satan is so desperate to win his bet with God that he recruits Job’s wife to relay a message to him; “His wife said to him, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9 NLT)
Nice wife! Maybe she’s the reason they came up with the wedding vows, “For better or for worse and in sickness and health…”
As most people know, God won the bet with Satan; Job never cursed God or said anything against Him. The story ends with Job’s health being restored and his wealth and other blessings being greater than they were before. The lesson is this; whether it’s in this life or the next, “God blesses the people who patiently endure testing.” (James 1:12 NLT)
As I said, all those who claim to be followers of Christ, will eventually have their claim tested by trials, temptations and/or doctrines that are difficult to accept. It is the challenges to our faith that strengthens our faith.
Like Job, the crowd following Jesus had a difficult choice to make when their faith was tested by Jesus’ challenging teaching. The Bible says (after hearing Jesus’ words); “At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you going to leave, too?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You alone have the words that give eternal life. We believe them, and we know you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:66-69 NLT)
If there is one advantage to my trying everything except Jesus before committing to follow Him, it’s that, like Peter, I know that Jesus alone has the words of life. And, like Job, even though I don’t know what’s going on “behind the scenes” and, like him, I too have many questions, but even in the midst of a difficult trial, I can still maintain a sense of joy, peace and hope. I’ve discovered that I can maintain this joy, peace and hope (to some degree) even in the emotional down times and the times of spiritual confusion by focusing on the following three simple truths;
- God is good (Mark 10:18)
- God is love (1 John 4:8)
- God has good plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11)
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)