I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks. I’ve been sick, travelling and trying to catch up. Today, I want to share a commentary from Dr. Harold Sala of Guidelines International.
In his book, The Bible Jesus Read, Phil Yancey contends that the Old Testament book of Job is not really about suffering any more than flour, eggs and shortening are about cakes. Yes, he acknowledges that suffering and pain are the ingredients the book of Job is made of. But the real message, he contends, is about faith–the kind I think of as raw, naked faith.
Job did have this kind of faith, the settled kind which says–“though he slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Raw, naked faith doesn’t have all the answers but it does have an unswerving commitment to God which never looks back. Job’s kind of faith–unlike a lot of our thinking today–doesn’t have all the answers before it believes, nor does it hold God responsible for what we dislike or cannot change.
Strangely enough, a vast number of people today can’t seem to get beyond the brokenness of our world to see how great or good is God, the Father and Creator. In one of his essays, C. S. Lewis said that ancient man “approached God… as the accused person approaches his judge. Simply put, He approached God humbly and gently, begging for mercy.” But, believed Lewis, “For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock… The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that Man is on the Bench and God is in the Dock” (C. S. Lewis as quoted by Phil Yancey, The Bible Jesus Read, p. 53).
Raw, naked faith is much different from what I think of as contract faith, the kind which says, “God, let’s make a deal. I know you are a gentleman so if you give me your word that you’ll do this for me, then here’s what I will do for you.” Contract faith is the kind advocated by scores of people today who are convinced that the Bible holds the key to your personal wealth, health and prosperity, and that if you keep your end of the bargain, God is going to honor His contractual obligation and pour out His blessing on your life.
Contract faith isn’t new. Reading the book of Job, you realize that it was the basic attitude of Job’s friends, who said, in effect, “Look, Job, you’ve blown it. Something is wrong with you, so take responsibility for your problems, confess your failure, and get on with your life.”
In my middle 20’s, I visited an old man in his 80’s who was dying in the hospital. Looking into my eyes, he asked, “Why does God allow me to suffer as He does? Why won’t He just let me die?” I think my brow must have burst with beaded sweat. I still remember the frustration bordering on panic as I searched for an answer. That hadn’t come in my preacher classes.
But what I have learned is that naked, raw faith is the only kind that will take you through the dark hour when things happen that make no sense. A baby is born who will never be completely normal and run and play like other children. A mother of three children dies with cancer. A dad is struck by a truck as he changes a tire while his wife and children are waiting for him to change the tire so they can all go to church.
Raw, naked faith is the kind that the writer of Hebrews wrote of, saying, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Resource reading: Romans 10:1-17