Late September shadows. Image credit: Ian Greig

Verse

As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
James 5:11 NIV

Reflection

The Christian life is about love — knowing we are loved by God, recycling that agenda-free, condition-free love to others and helping to build a spiritual environment where the value of love is dominant. A definition of the kingdom of God to mull over!

The Christian life is about some other things as well — telling others about Jesus, fellowship as a body, coming together for praise and worship, learning to be disciples of Jesus, discerning what God is saying to us now through words of Scripture spoken and written long ago — and not giving up, but stretching our faith at times.

This is what makes Christians the people who keep on, keeping on.

Perseverance in the face of difficulty is following a Saviour who faced constant, bitter opposition from those with the education and tradition that made them the best placed to understand who He was and what He was doing.

He spoke God’s word in the synagogue to family and neighbours he had known for years, and they rose up in a riot and tried to push him over a cliff. After He shocked His hearers by telling them they should accept Him totally in a flesh-and-blood way, the crowd, failing to grasp the spiritual sense of what He was saying, said it was a hard teaching and “At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted Him”, John 6:57-66.

Opposition that also feels like a betrayal is a particularly deeply-felt pain. So is false accusation and the denial of justice. And we have not yet got to the whipping post, the Cross and the shame of a very public and Gentile execution. Jesus said that disciples of His had to be prepared to pick up their own cross of dishonour and punishment.

Job is referenced as an example of suffering and perseverance. He is an outstanding example of the paradox of bad things happening to good people. The world wants to see reward for our good works. The spiritual world knows that Satan, the accuser, targets those who others look up to and works hard to bring them down and so nullify their example.

Job is recorded as a righteous man who Satan obtained permission to test. He experienced an extreme stretch of faith, a severe and prolonged testing, in which those close to him were advocates for the devil’s deception, not the encouragers Job needed.

“You... have seen what the Lord finally brought about” and Job gained more than he had lost and stands for all time as one of the most high-ranking and decorated officers of the army of faith God uses to bring His order and values into the world.

“You... have seen what the Lord finally brought about” and we are told that Job received twice as much as he lost, and he also was a person who influenced heaven by his prayers: “My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer”. A person who has had their faith stretched, and who has persevered through it with God, is the person you want standing with you in prayer!

Job stands for all time as one of the most high-ranking and decorated officers of the army of faith God uses to bring His order and values into the world.

Did Job earn favour with God through his perseverance in trial? That would overturn what we learn about God’s grace elsewhere. There is a blessing of obedience, but it’s more about how this changes us, than how it changes God. Job persevered, through extreme difficulty experienced God in a deeper way — and in the final analysis, was profoundly blessed through this experience.