Where Were You?
Where Were You?
The story of Job has several of the deepest lessons in all the Bible. One big lesson from the example of Job is to step back and look up. It will always help us get perspective.
My wife is in the habit, like many of you, of reading through the Bible every year or on an annual Bible reading program. And she's been doing this for several years when she... First couple of years she was doing this, she would be going along and when she would get to the Book of Job, she would start reading through Job, and she'd read one day, two days, three days, four days in Job. And I remember the first time she did this, she just kind of looked up at me. I was having my coffee and doing my reading, and she says, "What is the point of this book? This is negative. This is bad," she said. And I said, "Hold on, stay with it." I said, "Wait till you get to Chapter 38." Get through the first 37 chapters, keep going. And she did. And the second year, I think she did the same thing. But anymore now, she just reads through it. She's primed for this now. She doesn't ask me any more questions about what's the purpose of this book. I think we all know that Job is one of a kind book in Scripture. It's not really a history. It isn't really a book of wisdom, even though there's wisdom there. It's not a Psalm. It's not like the Psalms. It's not a book about prophecy, but it's just unique in the story and what happens there. It is a great story.
Who is Job? Well, we don't know. I've heard a lot of interesting ideas through my years in the church as to who Job might have been. But the best guess is that he lived before Abraham probably somewhere east of the area of the Land of Promise. Some of the books say that somewhere between Damascus and Edom as to where that land of Uz was. Got that one out right? Didn't I? Where the land of Uz was, but that's about all we know. We don't really need to know anything else other than what we're told in the story, which is a great story about a man who got caught up in a conversation between God and Satan. That's what happened.
We know that story. There was a scene in heaven. The Sons of God came together and Satan comes among them. And don't ask me today what that means, that's a whole other topic to discuss. And I think there is an explanation for it, but not for today that Satan was there. Job becomes the topic. Satan accuses Job, and God says, "Do what you want." Gives him carte blanche. He takes away his livestock. And he had a lot, took away his source of wealth, took away then his 10 children. And all of it in an instant.
And then because Satan's not satisfied, God says, "All right, do what you want to do, but don't take his life." And so he strikes him down with boils, and a physical affliction that we now have to deal with. And so all of that occurred to one man. It seems to most of us when we read it, and my wife when she was going through it to be unfair, illogical, something like that visited upon a person, a good man, a righteous man. Gave sacrifices not only for himself were told, but for his children. What it says about him. And everything swept away. And then to top it off, his wife sits there and just berates him.
I won't say any more about that. Here's what I think about Job, you know, as an overall statement, I think is a one-off story. And it tells us God will not do that again. But He did it once. He did it to bring out in one life some very deep lessons about humanity's existence in this godly order, this creation of God. There were many lessons. I could just name a handful here.
One is life is not fair. Life isn't always fair, but the corollary to that is God is just. Another lesson is God's way may not seem fair to us, but God is merciful. Another lesson is that evil abounds, evil exists, but God's righteousness drives it away and endures forever. The righteous do suffer. The true believer does suffer. Those in God's church, if you want to put it that way, they're prone to suffer and are susceptible to any malady, illness, sickness, trial, difficulty of this life. And the evil can prosper while the righteous suffer. But God knows our state.
There are many more lessons in this, but Job's story tells us all of this and more that occurs in the created order. And the story tells us how to navigate what happens when we do encounter trial, difficulty, and suffering. Evil, when it smacks us in the face, whether in the society as we look and read and see what happens in the world and moan and groan for the suffering of the world, or when it might even be visited upon us. Sometimes I've had evil visited on my family, literal evil. And you have as well in cases where you have had someone do something literally evil to you. That is no fun to be in.
The most recent time that happened, I had to talk to three lawyers. And I'd never talked to a lawyer in my life until that happened. But sometimes evil happens to us. So, it's a story, Job’s is, of how God brought one man through this trial and God did it His way, which isn't always our way, nor is it what we might design for ourselves in a life or for anyone else, for that matter. God does not do it our way. That's a big, big lesson. God doesn't even do it the cowboy way. He does it the God way. And that's a completely different way.
But I don't think we should expect, God would let us get caught between another conversation between He and Satan. I don't see that. I see what he said to Peter on one occasion, what Christ said to Peter, that Peter, Satan wanted to sift you and I prayed for you. It didn't happen. Didn't happen. I think this is a one-time story, but we have it there and we have some lessons to learn as a result. You know, you can't cover the Book of Job all in one sermon, obviously. I'm going to fast forward here.
I've kind of given you a synopsis of what happens, and you know kind of in the middle part, there's a number of those chapters where his friends come on the scene and they begin to try to sort it all through with Job. And you read about those friends and you wonder, wow, with friends like those in those cases. I've read through those many times and the latest conclusion I have about all the friendship chapters is choose your friends well, sift their advice, and don't think a Facebook friend is a friend. Truly on that one.
But my point that I want to bring across to us here this afternoon and spending a few minutes with Job is one big lesson that we get to and I think we must all come to and remember as an overarching lesson is this, step back and look up. One big lesson, step back and look up. When we encounter a period of stress, we need to step back and look up. When we think no one's on our side as Job did, step back, get a perspective, take a deep breath, and look up. When we see evil, seem to win, step back and look up.
When we might be anxious over something in the state of the world, and there's a lot to be anxious about in our world today, step back and look up. When we might think that it all depends on us that we are indispensable, the only one that could do it, nobody can do this job but me, but you, step back and look up. When we think that because we are God's chosen, God's people, and God's church, true believers, that we think that we are immune from any of life's mishaps, step back and look up.
To step back in what I'm talking about and to look up is to pause back away from the moment, back away from the person, get focused on the power and the greatness of God. It's what God brought Job around to after 37 chapters of life and trial, I think, that can be summed up in that way. So, let's turn to Chapter 38, and let's spend a few minutes looking at this.
I'm going to be reading from the New Living Translation. I opted for that one. You can read it along in whatever translation you have in your Bible. And I guess if you've got your cell phones turned on, you could probably bring up the New Living Translation. That's just fine too. But that's where I'll be reading beginning in verse 1 of Chapter 38. After all the friends, after all the discussion, God then enters the scene.
Job 38:1 Job 38:1Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,
American King James Version× “And He answered Job from the whirlwind, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words?’”
I love that. That's not an insult that God's given to Job. I always like to say, "Ignorance can be cured, but there's no cure for stupid." Think about it. Ignorance can be cured, and God's not insulting Job.
None of us can claim to be God's counselors. God doesn't really need our counsel. He wants our obedience. He wants our love. He wants our worship. But He doesn't need our counsel. God wants to hear our heart. He wants to hear our needs. He does want us to hear us cry out to Him as a loving father, a child to a loving father asking for His help. But He doesn't want us to question His overall purpose, His wisdom, or to counsel Him in His way. This is what He's saying.
Job and his friends, a lot of just ignorance have been put out there. And sometimes with a lot of words, that's what happens. In verse 3, He says, "Brace yourself like a man because I have some questions for you and you must answer them." Stand up like a man. The vernacular for that is put your big boy pants on, put your big boy pants on, Job, because I have some questions for you. And that's what he then begins to do is ask these questions. And there are many of them that he just rolls right off before Job.
Thirty-seven chapters of life and opinions from his friends, from Job's own comments. It's all well known. It's all well documented. It's all orchestrated. God's been listening to that discussion up to that point. And finally, He just pulls the plug, enough has been said, everyone's opinion has been registered. Now, God has some questions. It's good to be God in a situation. It's good to be king. It might be good to be supervisor, boss, or whatever it might be in a situation where you are. You get all the counsel, you get all the input, you listen to everybody's story, and then it comes, "All right, what are we going to do? Here's what has to happen." And you're the boss. You're the king.
You're not God, but then as a parent, mom and dad, this is what's going to happen. This is what must happen. And hopefully, you know, you might even put that into some questions here. But God now had some questions, and it came from out of a whirlwind, pretty dramatic. There's no still voice here like it was with Elijah. There's no backside of God, the glory of God passing by with Moses in the clift of the rock. Not on this one. This is coming full force out of a whirlwind. And it must have been dramatic what swept over Job.
Job 38:4-7 Job 38:4-7  Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if you have understanding.
 Who has laid the measures thereof, if you know? or who has stretched the line on it?
 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;
 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
American King James Version× "Where were you?" He asks. "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me if you know so much." You're so smart. "Who determined its dimensions and stretched out the surveying line? What supports its foundations, who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?”
So, God just lifts a little bit of the curtain of the prehistory, "Who laid all the foundations and did all of this?" We understand the importance of a foundation, don't we? If we watched a house go up, if you've ever been a part of a building project like that, you know it is essential to get that foundation right on a house. And the work...you know, the bulldozers come in, the backhoes, trenchers, lay that...is all laid out. It's surveyed out like God says here. The holes are dug, concrete footers are poured, or the basement walls, whatever it is going to be. If it's a huge office building, it goes really deep down into bedrock. The foundation has got to be right for everything to be built on top of it to be secure, to hold together. But God's talking about this in regard to the earth.
What do you mean foundations of the earth? We've all seen the pictures taken from space of earth hanging out there. Incredible pictures that began to come back when we sent our spaceships out into the world. It's beautiful. The blue and the white clouds of earth swirling around. Fascinating pictures my jaw drops every time I see is that Earthrise over the moon taken by the first men to set foot on the moon. And they have that picture of the Earthrise, but it all stands there. And here's this orb spinning around on its axis, rotating, revolving around the sun as we know that it does. The axis tilting back and forth with the seasons.
The Earth has been called the privileged planet. Jay Richards wrote a book a few years ago. I think we have a copy of it in our library here. And a video has been done on the privileged planet to show just the unique aspect about Earth and its position in the galaxy and in the universe. The positioning of the Earth is perfect for carbon-based life as we know it to exist. Any variations of its distance from the sun, its orbit were it to change or even the tilting on the axis as it rotates, any change from what exists would render life impossible on this planet. It would be too hot or too cold. We would not be here to talk about it. It is a privileged planet that we know is by the design of God.
The foundation, He asked Job, "Where were you when I laid a foundation? Well, in Colossians 1, we read that, "In Him, all things consist." And what keeps the Earth hanging there? Well, we call it gravity, don't we? All right. And they're gravitational pulls, and we know how the moon works with it and all the other planet structures in our solar system, but God says that He is the foundation. We call it gravity, and we look at it, and we have to marvel when we read a verse like this with what we do know about the universe, the cosmology, and what it has told us it is.
You know, when it was discovered that the Earth is not the center of the solar system, the sun is, and then it's not itself even the center of the entire galaxies in the universe, there's many, many more others out there. It get away with all the ancient ideas. You know, there was an ancient idea that the Earth was rather kind of flat and it rested on the back of a turtle. You ever heard that one? It rested on the back of a turtle.
Sometime in the 1800s, there was a scientist philosopher named William James that was giving a lecture someplace, and he was talking about what science then did know that Earth was not the center of the galaxy and of our universe. And what it did know that it was rotating with the other planets around the sun and just hanging there even without the pictures. And William James was approached after his lecture by a little lady, sincere lady, that said to him, "Mr. James, your theory that the sun is the center of the solar system and the Earth's the ball which rotates around it has a convincing ring to it, but I've got a better theory," She said.
And William James said, "Well, what is it, madam?" She says, "We live on a thin crust of Earth, and it's on the back of a giant turtle." So, William James being the scientist that he was sought to gently educate her otherwise that there's no turtle. And to kind of change her mind, he said, "If your theory's correct, madam, what's the turtle stand on?" And she said, "Oh, you're a very clever man, Mr. James." "And that's a good question," She said, "but I have an answer to it. It's this." She says, "The first turtle stands on a second turtle directly under him."
But then Mr. James said, "But what does the second turtle stand on?" She looked at him with her hands on her hips and triumphantly said, "It's no use, Mr. James. It's turtles all the way down." You can hold onto your idea, but some turtles were the foundation of the Earth, but we know it's God that does hold it all together. God asked the question of Job, but Job had no answer. Here's what we should apply. "Where are you? Where were you?" He asks. Put your name in there. Where were you, Darris? Where were you, Tom? If we have any Toms here, I'm not trying to single any Toms out.
Put your name in there as God is asking you the question. Put your name in there and say, "I wasn't there. God did this without me." Whenever we might start thinking that we are indispensable, think again. We're not. No one's indispensable. I've talked a lot over the recent years about generational change in the church, and things are inevitable. And I've lived through one. We're going to live probably through another. And I've come to a point where I don't worry about it anymore.
One day I kind of had a revelation. It wasn't a voice, certainly not in a whirlwind, but the thought just...you know what? The Scripture says, Christ is the head of the church. Christ has been at this juncture many, many more times than I have. He knows exactly what's going to happen. He knows where it's all going. I don't have to worry about it. I can work and do what I might be asked to do and have a part, but I don't have to worry about it. And I don't. Christ has been here before. Nobody's indispensable. No individual is indispensable. No generation is in indispensable. God's work has been here before us. God's work will be here after us. It will go on and it will be done. Back to verse 12 of the chapter here, God ask another question,
Job 38:12-15 Job 38:12-15  Have you commanded the morning since your days; and caused the dayspring to know his place;
 That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it?
 It is turned as clay to the seal; and they stand as a garment.
 And from the wicked their light is withheld, and the high arm shall be broken.
American King James Version×"Have you ever commanded the morning to appear? Have you caused the dawn to rise in the east? Have you made daylight spread to the ends of the earth to bring an end to the night's wickedness? As the light approaches, the earth takes shape like clay pressed beneath a seal. It is robed in brilliant colors. The light disturbs the wicked and stops the arm that is raised in violence."
Questions, but then a bit of poetry, if you will. And really, Job is a lot of poetry. Just as an aside here, Job's one of those books, Psalms is another one, but try reading it out loud. Try reading many of these sections out loud, slowly with whatever emphasis you want to put on it. But it does help to give you the force of what is being said. To hear that spoken in your own words, do it yourself and pause and think it through, but read it out loud. It is I think a tool or an aid to help appreciate what is being said here in the poetry of this.
God talks about the darkness and the evil of darkness and the light chasing it away. We understand metaphorically that darkness represents evil in the Bible, light is God. Light is truth. We are to be lights Christ tells us. Not to be hid. But as darkness here is personified or represented as evil, what is being said in these few verses is that evil has a limited place in God's order. In the created order, evil has a limited place. It's there and it works, but it's limited. Darkness, death, and evil do break out. They do lash sometimes over the flood wall or out of the channel, out of its course. And it can wreak havoc and it can seem to be rising to engulf everything, but it has its limitations is what God is saying here. There are limits.
And He basically tells us that because every day the sun rises, darkness is driven away. The power of darkness is broken every single day when the sun rises. My favorite part of the day, I'm sure for many of you as well. I like sunsets as well, a beautiful sunset, but really to see that sun come up... You know, when I go to Jekyll Island for the feast or wherever, you know, other location, I love to just watch the sun come up every day. I've got tons of pictures of sunrises on the beaches of the places we've kept the feast through the years. And they're all different.
And the light against the clouds and the sky and whatever, it's all different, but it is just a beauty to watch. God is light. We're children of the day. And God is working to hold back the forces of darkness. The day will come at Christ return when darkness and evil will be banished when His kingdom is set up. We're told even later at the end of the Book of Revelation in the New Jerusalem, there will be no need of the sun or the moon because the light comes from the lamb and the glory of God. And so it's a beautiful passage here to understand the limitations of darkness.
Job 38:19-21 Job 38:19-21  Where is the way where light dwells? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof,
 That you should take it to the bound thereof, and that you should know the paths to the house thereof?
 Know you it, because you were then born? or because the number of your days is great?
American King James Version×He says, "Where does light come from and where does darkness go? Can you take each to its home? Do you know how to get it there?" The obvious answer is no. And then God does something in verse 21 with Job, "But, of course, you know all of this for you were born before it was all created, and you are so very experienced, Job."
You were born before it was created. I forgot is what God is saying. It's a touch of cynicism. Job wasn't born before the creation, but, you know, Job, in his righteousness, which there was nothing wrong with his righteousness, God didn't condemn him, but Job, like all of us at times, thought the world began the day that he was born. Don't tell me you haven't thought that. You know, an appreciation of history and everything that went before is one of the mellowing, humbling aspects of an educated mind, we've all at times had that thought that the world began the day we were born, but there was a lot that happened before that.
And to contemplate that sometimes, well, it is humbling. It truly is. Anyone who studies history, even on, you know, just a cursory examination of it recognizes this has all been done before. And what I am doing and what I am creating or what I am a part of has been done before. Maybe it's a little better now, and certainly it's our experience and it's our life, but that's the message of the Book of Ecclesiastes. It's all been done before and it will all vanish. Make the most of it. Learn to fear God. The next passage here is really a very encouraging one and it's comforting.
Job 38:22-30 Job 38:22-30  Have you entered into the treasures of the snow? or have you seen the treasures of the hail,
 Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?
 By what way is the light parted, which scatters the east wind on the earth?
 Who has divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder;
 To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is no man;
 To satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth?
 Has the rain a father? or who has begotten the drops of dew?
 Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who has gendered it?
 The waters are hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.
American King James Version×It says, "Have you visited the storehouses of the snow, or seen the storehouses of hail? I have reserved them as weapons for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war. Where's the path to the source of light? Where's the home of the east wind? Who created a channel for the torrents of rain? Who laid out the path for the lightning? What makes the rain fall on barren land in a desert where no one lives?" Verse 28, "Does the rain have a father who gives birth to the dew? Who's the mother of the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from heavens? For the water turns to ice as hard as rock, and the surface of the water freezes."
Storehouses of snow, storehouses of hail, what God is doing here in these verses up to verse 30 is showing Job and us that He controls all the elements. Now, Job's already had that experience because he was a victim of storms in the opening scenes of the book that took his wealth and his family. So, he knows what a storm can do and the power that is there. But now God is telling him that He, God, controls it all. And we need to understand that as well. Storehouses of hail and snow, whole warehouses. God is sovereign and in control, total control of all of the elements of the earth, of water, of wind, of snow. God is sovereign over the climate of the earth and everything about it.
Here's what we should understand. When we read these verses, we are told there is no climate crisis. God has storehouses of all of the elements, and He controls how they are released and where they are put. There is no crisis. Man does not have the ability to destroy earth through climate manipulation. And it's the height of folly to think so, to think that it can be done through the use of fossil fuels. A lot of talk about that today in big conference wrapping up in Glasgow, Scotland about all of that as everybody flew in on their private jets to discuss climate, global warming and everything. But it's very real crisis of anxiety that has been discussed and talked about. And frankly, it creates a lot of anxiety, especially among young people, thinking that it could actually happen.
That in 10 years, life as we know it would be gone. The earth as we know it would be destroyed. And at times, I see that creeps into our young people as well because it is considered accepted science, at least as it is taught, presented when it really isn't accepted science. There's no science in the whole history of the world that has ever been accepted. Science is an ever-growing, evolving discipline. But that's getting deeper into it than I want to. We should be good stewards and we should understand what Scriptures tell us. And when we read something like this, anxiety and fear can be dealt with, can be taken away.
Anxiety and fear can be manufactured by a false crisis in the world based on evil agendas and bad science. And it's those agendas that can harm mankind. But the earth and its bounty, God assures Job and He assures us that He not only is in control of the elements, but we can rest assured that mankind will not engineer a climate crisis that ends the world. We should not be caught up in that. That is one big lesson that we can understand from the Book of Job because there's enough anxiety as there is in the world today, but God controls the storehouses of all of the elements of the earth, and He knows what's going to happen.
Revelation does talk about plagues and problems, but those are the judgment of God. And it's the spiritual sin of mankind that brings that, not something else. That is something we should understand. Let's go into verse 40 here.
Job 40:1 Job 40:1Moreover the LORD answered Job, and said,
American King James Version×“The Lord said to Job, ‘Do you still want to argue with the Almighty?’"
You're God's critic, but do you have the answers? Another challenge. And at this point in 40:4, Job answers.
Job 40:4-8 Job 40:4-8  Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer you? I will lay my hand on my mouth.
 Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yes, twice; but I will proceed no further.
 Then answered the LORD to Job out of the whirlwind, and said,
 Gird up your loins now like a man: I will demand of you, and declare you to me.
 Will you also cancel my judgment? will you condemn me, that you may be righteous?
American King James Version×"I'm nothing. How could I ever find the answers?" It's a moment of clarity. And he says, "I will cover my mouth with my hand." The southern vernacular is shut my mouth for that. I've said too much already. I have nothing more to say. “Then the Lord answered, Job from the whirlwind,” "Brace yourself like a man." The same thing again. "Brace yourself like a man because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. Will you discredit my justice and condemn me just to prove you are right?"
That's how far sometimes our questioning if we get into a mode of questioning God, we will question His justice and condemn Him. I've seen that happen. I have seen bad things happen to children that the parents cannot accept and understand, and then they condemn God and they become almost atheistic as a result. I have seen that. It's one of my experiences in the ministry that I wish I could have said better words, done better things to have a better explanation, argument, whatever you want to call it to help someone in a crisis of faith over an illness with a child not go to the point where they condemn God. Any minister that's had to deal with that probably lives with that for the rest of their life as what else could have done better? What could I have said? And each of us have to make our decisions, but it's something that lingers with you.
Job 40:8-14 Job 40:8-14  Will you also cancel my judgment? will you condemn me, that you may be righteous?
 Have you an arm like God? or can you thunder with a voice like him?
 Deck yourself now with majesty and excellency; and array yourself with glory and beauty.
 Cast abroad the rage of your wrath: and behold every one that is proud, and abase him.
 Look on every one that is proud, and bring him low; and tread down the wicked in their place.
 Hide them in the dust together; and bind their faces in secret.
 Then will I also confess to you that your own right hand can save you.
American King James Version×God says, "Will you discredit my justice and condemn Me? Are you as strong as God? Can you thunder with a voice like this?" All right. He says, "Put on your glory and splendor. If you think that that is the case, your honor and majesty. Give vent to your anger. Let it overflow against the proud." In other words, you become, you take on My mantle. "Humiliate the proud with a glance. Walk on the wicked where they stand. Bury them in the dust. Imprison them in the world of the dead. Then even I would praise you," God says to Job. "Even I would then praise you for your own strength would save you."
But Job, by that point, I think was getting the point that he couldn't do that. He couldn't clothe himself with anything near the glory of God. This is what God had challenged him to do. And Job, of course, knows that it couldn't happen. I think by this point, Job is pretty well deflated. He's out of gas. Another way to understand it is his pride has about come to an end. It's deflated. Really God with this has pushed Job against the wall and there's no other defense, no other justification, no other thing that Job can say. And he must acknowledge that supreme power and majesty of God to not only do what He wants to do and what He wills, but to know that in the doing of it, He is just, He is righteous.
Now, that is a harder realization to come to. And it took Job 37-plus chapters to come to this, to where yeah, he knew God, he knew God was right, and God was powerful, but that God was just, and that even in these awful things that had happened and his own personal suffering, God was sovereign and God was right. And he accepted that. And I think that that can only come when we step back and look up. At this point, Job with his back against the wall has been stepping back in a giant way and looking up.
For us to apply this, I think we should understand as hard as we work, as talented as we might be, as gifted in whatever God has added to us through His Spirit, through the generosity of working with us and developing us as His children and through character and through the development of the sunlit days of our life, we cannot lose sight of the fact that it is God who builds the house. It is the Lord who builds the house. We contribute. We can have a valuable part and we can develop talents as we do so, but whatever we do, we must always check ourselves that we are in alignment with God. We are in alignment with His purpose and what He's working out.
You know, we go to a lot of work to make plans in our lives. We plan a career. We plan someone to marry. We plan to have children. We plan how we're going to raise those children. And we make a lot of plans. Businesses make plans. The church makes plans. We are in the midst...that time of year and every three years, we take a good look at our strategic plan in the United Church of God. And a lot of hours have gone into that with the strategic planning committee of the council to do that in recent days.
And we do what we feel led by God to do. And we've had our plans and we then set about with the operations of the church to carry out an overarching strategic idea and plan. But in all my exercises with it and all of my thinking about it, and all of us that work there, we realize that our plans are nothing unless they're aligned with God's as wise, capable, and talented as any plan might be. And that's the same goes for you and what you might design and plan as to where you're going to go, what you're going to do, where you will live, and how you will live your life, it is the art of aligning it with God and His overall purpose, His word, His law, and really feeling and knowing that it is as we read the Word of God. Not because we feel it is, we think it should be, and it's what our will tells us and drives us to do, but because we are literally lining it up with the Word of God.
In my years of experience working with the council of elders, the council has done its best work when it seeks to put a Scripture in the middle of its policy and get it centered-focused on scripture. Then we have to carry it out, then we have to live it like all of us do. But that's been an ongoing process. Every one of us are subject to pride in our wealth, our abilities, the degree on our wall, the credentials that we might have, what we've done, where we've been, who we are. All of us have our pride and God's plans for His church and for His people, they're relentlessly moving forward.
We move faster sometimes and more efficiently when we are aligned with God's plan and seek to do so. One of the best conversations that I've ever had in the ministry was leaving the meetings over here to Holiday Inn probably about 17, 18 years ago. And it was on a Monday. We were wrapping up the general conference of elders meetings and there was one good friend that I hadn't talked to all weekend, the late Roger Foster, one of our longtime elders in the church. And Debbie and I ran into him as we were just literally about to go out the door into the parking lot there to Holiday Inn and drive at that time back to Indianapolis.
And we ran into Roger Foster and we said, "Hey, we need to talk." So we sat down. And we thought it'd be five minutes, it turned out to be about an hour. And Roger Foster was one of our early mentors in the ministry at a critical moment in the church in our development. We crossed paths with him and he was a very, very vital, important mentor. But we got to talking about the church as it was 17 years ago and whatever we were doing, the plans that we in the ministry come together and talk about, you know, in our annual meetings and all of this.
And he had some sage advice because Roger was a sage. And he said, "It's very easy for us to look at what we've accomplished in our strategic plan and where we are budget-wise and what we hope to do and the work that we're doing in the church." And it is an important work with a detail taken to it. And he was talking about us in the ministry collectively thinking that we've done it all...we're doing it all ourselves. And he said, when we do that, we forget about Christ and we ignore the central truth that Christ is the one who deserves the credit. We're merely instruments in His hands. He said, We're setting ourselves up for a fall if we have that. And whatever we do is not going to be accomplished.
Roger Foster on that day was stepping back and looking up in the words that he gave me. And I have a lot of conversations, and you do as well, and you remember some that are critical to you in your development. And that was one that was formative and is still with me to this day because it helps to cause us to step back, take off another layer of pride thinking we're indispensable. We're the only ones that can do whatever it might be. And this is tailor-made for us. My friend stepped back that day and he looked up. When we began to think of ourselves too highly, we're full of pride.
Job was coming to the end of his rope here and the pride was just about gone, when in Chapter 42, he replied and he said this.
Job 42:1-2 Job 42:1-2  Then Job answered the LORD, and said,
 I know that you can do every thing, and that no thought can be withheld from you.
American King James Version×"I know you can do anything. No one can stop you. You ask, 'Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?' It's I."
It's me. It's Job. "I was talking about things I knew nothing about." Sometimes it's pretty good for lesson to take that verse or that thought and say, "You know, I don't know what I'm talking about." Take it to God and ask God to help us get aligned more with His ways.
Job 42:3-4 Job 42:3-4  Who is he that hides counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.
 Hear, I beseech you, and I will speak: I will demand of you, and declare you to me.
American King James Version×"I was talking about things I knew nothing about," Job said, "things far too wonderful for me." You said, "Listen, and I will speak. I have some questions for you and you must answer them." And He had then a lot of questions and I don't have the time even to read all the questions. Then he says the famous words that we know verses 5 and 6.
Job 42:5-6 Job 42:5-6  I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye sees you.
 Why I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
American King James Version×"I had only heard about you before, but now I've seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said and I said in dust and ashes to show my repentance."
Job took his biggest step back at this point and his longest look up to God and finally saw God as He is. This book is not about Job. This book is about God. Job's name just happens to be on it. It's really a book about God. It's how the Godhead, the Father and the Son, govern their creation. How all the elemental forces of water and wind and storms are managed. How the spiritual forces of evil are harnessed even to work within the purposes of God. The book is about humility. It's about the removal of all pride in the presence of God.
When we read it with that approach, when we put ourselves in the question, where were you, Darris, Susie, Tom, Ellen? Put your name there. Where were you? The answer comes back to us. We have to admit there's much in the world we do not know. Wisdom begins and ends with God. We presume we know too much when we think that we're in control or know more than God or have a better way for something to be done that doesn't always match with what God is doing.
If we think God is going to suspend the laws of creation for us, that's not proper thinking. We're all subject to them. Humility is being an honest and true man. No pretensions. Someone who's genuine. Many ways when you look at Job in the first chapter, who gave sacrifices twice a day, was a righteous man, considered righteous in that way, he's genuine. He's a worshiper of God. He's in the Church of God as we want to use our terminology. He's blameless as God says, without sin. And he was showing...he was seeking even the grace of God. Job knew he was a sinner. In God's eyes, he was blameless by grace, but Job knew that he needed the experience of grace for him and his family, which is why he was sacrificing as he was doing.
Job came to a point where he was bowing before God in true respect, and he was turning away from evil. He feared God and he turned away from evil. When we come to that, that is the essence of the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, to repent, to fear God, to have faith. Job comes full circle in this whole story. He starts with faith and in the end, that faith is deepened because of everything that he has experienced. And that's the story that we have to put ourselves into and appreciate out of the Book of Job in that part.
If we can read Job with our eyes on God and the perspective of a step back from ourselves, of a step back from a time of stress or anxiety, of a step back from a time of difficulty and trial and looking up to God, we're in a position to learn from this magnificent story. And so I hope all of us will take that to heart and think about it from that perspective. And as we face what is happening with our lives, whatever at this point in time, big or small, good or bad, when we need to do it, let's be sure that we step back and look up.