Life Stinks, Then You Die

Out of all the classes that I took during my undergrad time at Oklahoma Baptist University, one of the most impactful was Basic Counseling Skills. I use what I learned in that class more than most of the others in my day to day life in vocational ministry.

One thing that was repeated over and over in that class was the fact that the counselor is supposed to listen intently and ask gentle questions that get deeper into the issue at hand. What you were not supposed to do was start projecting your beliefs onto the person you were counseling, much less berate them.

That seems like some pretty common sense in my opinion.

In the case of Job and his friends, Eliphaz did not have any common sense. Sure, he started well, by simply sitting with Job in his suffering. But then he had to go and open his mouth.

Today we’re talking about Job 4. If you want a crash course in how not to counsel someone in suffering, just read it. In the previous chapter, Job has poured out his heart to the Lord and within earshot of his friends. He bemoans his suffering and despairs of life itself. Then comes Eliphaz.

Eliphaz starts strong. He reminds Job of the ways that Job himself has been an encouragement and counselor to many, how he has strengthened the weak with his guidance (vv. 3-4).

Let’s jump down to verse seven. It’s Eliphaz’s crucial mistake in my opinion.

“Remember: who that was innocent ever perished?
    Or where were the upright cut off? – Job 4:7

This is the central tenant of Eliphaz’s argument (condemnation against Job really).

In his mind, the innocent never perish. The upright, morally upstanding men and women of the world never get cut off from the blessings and prosperity of the Lord.

Eliphaz’s world is black and white. Do good, get good. Do bad, get bad.

If we are brutally honest with ourselves, many of us basically adhere to such a version of Christianity in our own lives. We convince ourselves that God is ready to bless us when we’re in his Word and when we’re actively seeking His face in prayer. It gets messy though when we believe the opposite as well. That if we snooze six times and barely make it to work, skipping personal time with Him altogether, then we are going to face curses from the Lord.

This is the world of Eliphaz.

He looks at the immense suffering of his friend Job and jumps to the immediate conclusion that Job is at fault. Some secret sin in Job’s life has led to his entire world imploding.

If I was Job,

I’d have punched Eliphaz in the face.

Eliphaz had a high view of God, this can be seen through much of what he says in this first speech. Consider these verses with me.

By the breath of God they perish,
    and by the blast of his anger they are consumed. – Job 4:9

‘Can mortal man be in the right before God?
    Can a man be pure before his Maker? – Job 4:17 

Eliphaz believed that God was powerful, that His anger consumed the wicked, that His purity and holiness was such that no one could stand before Him. I would agree with all of these assertions.

But Eliphaz got it wrong when He jumped to the conclusion that only the wicked suffer.

That’s where Eliphaz’s argument begins to break down for me. He simultaneously says that all are unable to stand before God in purity and that all who are not pure before God are punished accordingly on earth.

His view is quite depressing actually.

When I was a kid, one of my friends would say basically all the time: “Life sucks, then you die.” I think he was mostly joking, but there’s some who deep down believe that version of viewing the world.

Bad things happen perpetually and consistently, and then you die.

I feel like this was the belief system of Eliphaz.

Look at how he concludes his first counseling session with Job.

Even in his servants he puts no trust,
    and his angels he charges with error;
how much more those who dwell in houses of clay,
    whose foundation is in the dust,
    who are crushed like the moth.
Between morning and evening they are beaten to pieces;
    they perish forever without anyone regarding it.
Is not their tent-cord plucked up within them,
    do they not die, and that without wisdom?’ – Job 4:18-21

That’s one of the more depressing things I’ve ever seen.

Eliphaz says God trusts no one. We are crushed like moths. We are beaten to pieces. We perish and die without anyone caring. We die without wisdom.

No hope.

No grace.

If you believe in a black and white world, you are forgetting the cross.

You see, we get to view the world from the other side of the cross.

We don’t get what we deserve.

Yes, the wicked seem to thrive while the righteous suffer.

But at the end of the day, Eliphaz was right. We’re not pure. We can’t stand before our Maker. We deserve punishment.

But we don’t get it.

Not in the way that we deserve.

Truly.

Now, again, this is not the words you say in direct response to someone’s first venting against God in the midst of suffering. If someone came to me in the hospital bed that I was laying in after my surgery and told me “I know you’re hurting, but at least you’re not in hell”, I would have not been very happy.

But this is what you can do if you have a family member or friend in the midst of suffering.

Listen and pray.

Listen.

And pray.

Don’t give a speech.

I know that the Lord works in the midst of suffering. He did so in my life (Why The Long Face?). Let Him do it in his own timing.

The world isn’t black and white for the Christian.

For the Christian, there is the cross.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

The Beauty of Conviction

The Bible is convicting.

I think we start to believe a falsehood over time that we are always to leave our time in God’s Word feeling encouraged, equipped, overjoyed. While these experiences and moments in God’s Word do take place, that’s only one piece of the puzzle. Throughout the last couple years, I keep turning to the same well-known verse to remind me of this fact.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, – 2 Timothy 3:16

Paul is describing to his mentee, Timothy, the role of God’s Word in the life of a follower of Jesus.

Notice how it includes rebuking and correcting! Now, when I’ve been corrected and rebuked throughout my life, it doesn’t normally come with a warm fuzzy feeling in my heart. So, there will be times where we go to God’s Word and get smacked in the face with conviction, with the need for repentance and turning from our sins.

This has been happening to me today.

There’s an aspect of conviction, of repentance, that I forget sometimes still. It’s what blew me away during my time in God’s Word this afternoon.

It’s the following truth.

God is with me in the midst of conviction.

Do you feel like God is distant in the midst of you recognizing your sin? When the Bible confronts your anger, lust, pride, gossip habits, fear, worry, hate, do you feel abandoned, condemned, less-than?

That is the enemy’s way of stealing what is truly a gift, the process of repentance, and replacing it with self-loathing.

Don’t give into his tricks.

God is with you in the midst of conviction.

This came out of a very unfamiliar passage for me, Haggai chapter one.

In the first chapter of Haggai, the Lord speaks through the prophet Haggai to call the people to repentance (which is really what all prophets in the Bible were called to do).

The reason for this prophetic word of repentance is because the people of God were building houses for themselves while the Lord’s house laid in ruins.

Side Note: I’m sure churches have used this passage to tell people to contribute financially to building plans. No. That’s not what this is about at all. According to Acts 17:24-25, God doesn’t dwell in our modern churches anyway. So, don’t fall for that baloney. 

After this convicting word from the Lord, one that likely didn’t bring much happy feelings for the people, there is a powerful verse. Let’s look together at what happens when Haggai is done bringing this word.

Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord. Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, gave this message of the Lord to the people: “I am with you,” declares the Lord. – Haggai 1:12-13

Bam.

Boom.

That’s some good stuff right there.

Side Note: I will likely end up naming my firstborn son Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel Roach has a nice ring to it. I’ll see if I can convince Jamie. 

God hasn’t permanently abandoned the people to their sin.

God hasn’t abandoned you to your sin forever.

Now, Scripture does make it pretty clear that there are times in our lives where God lets us pursue the sins we keep choosing over Him until we see that they are empty.

But when conviction comes to you, that’s a wonderful thing!

It means that the Spirit of God is moving in your heart!

When the conviction comes, remember that God is near. That God is drawing you out of your sin and into a renewed relationship with Him. If conviction never comes into your walk with Christ, beware. You likely have strayed. I’m not saying that you need to be convicted every day you read God’s Word. By no means. But a lifestyle devoid of conviction is likely a lifestyle that is hardened to God’s Word.

Let’s go back to Haggai.

After this profound statement from Haggai, we see that God truly is with them, truly is moving after this word of conviction. In verse 14, we see this:

So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God, – Haggai 1:14

God is moving in the hearts of the leaders of God’s people, as well as each individual follower of God as well!

What we see here then in this:

God brings conviction, is present in conviction, and gives them the ability to respond to this conviction.

Have you ever felt convicted over your sin and then set out on your own to change?

How did that work for you?

If you’re like me, you probably were repenting over and confessing the same sins not too long after this.

God is present in our conviction, but He also provides for us the grace and strength necessary to respond to that conviction.

Instead of trying to modify your behavior, lay your heart bare before the Lord. Let Him slowly but assuredly cleanse your heart of that which leads to the sin in your life.

Also, rely on your brothers and sisters in Christ! None of us are strong enough to resist sin on our own!

Man, this one really put the rambling in Roach Ramblings.

I hope you see the truth of God’s Word!

You haven’t been abandoned or forsaken in your conviction!

He is with you and will give you the strength to move forward!

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

Wounded By The Church

Since I’ve become a pastor on staff at a great church, I’ve found myself in the midst of many conversations about the church and about faith. Heartbreakingly I’ve heard many stories from those who have been hurt by and hindered by their local body of believers. The wounds brought about by the people of God can cut deep and leave long-lasting wounds on the hearts and psyches of many.

We’ve all seen it, haven’t we? There are church splits, church politics, church cliques, and  ungodly church leadership. All of us to some extent have been hurt by the church, hurt by the people of God.

One thing that baffles me at times is that God allows such horrible behavior in the lives of his servants and followers. If God is all-powerful, and loves the church so deeply (Ephesians 5), then why do such acts of ungodliness perpetrated by the people of God exist?

Why do I hear of men and women who are jaded towards the church, refusing to step into our buildings because they “love Jesus, but don’t love the church”?

Why do I see people turned off to religion because of the sins of prominent church leaders who allow greed, sexual desire, pride, hatred, or the lack of gentleness to take root and bloom in their lives, destroying their ministries?

Why does God allow ungodly men and women to be in positions of leadership in His church?

These are questions I have asked time and again, especially that last one.

My honest answer is that I don’t know.

I don’t know why this stuff happens.

That being said, through my reading of a couple chapters of Genesis last night, I discovered some light that I want to shed on the darkness of these travesties.

Now, if you haven’t read Genesis I would encourage you to. If you haven’t read it in a long while, dive back into it. It truly is a book of beginnings, of answers to our deep questions, a foundation upon which the rest of the Bible sits. Regardless of what you believe about creation, etc. there is still much for you to glean from this book.

One scholar I was reading said it like this,

The first part of the Bible (Genesis) has rare blessings for every person who will study it in seeking to understand the gracious ways of God’s dealing with mankind. 

That in my opinion is a wonderful quote. Many think that the gospel, or grace, shows up simply in the New Testament. That there may be allusions to it in the Old, but it doesn’t really burst onto the scene until the time of the nativity. That’s false. God’s grace to wicked men and women is woven throughout all of Scripture, even this very first book of the Bible.

That being said, here’s what I believe to be Biblical truth.

God can right the wrongs of His people. 

I get this belief out of the story in Genesis 20.

In this chapter, Abraham is moving with his wife Sarah throughout the land. They come into a place called Gerar, which was a region that was overseen by the king Abimelech. Abraham, out of a desire to keep himself safe (v. 11) lies to Abimelech and says that Sarah is in fact his sister, not his wife. One, weird. Two, how very sinful.

Abraham was a man who had seen God, who had heard from God, who had watched God do the miraculous in his life. Yet here he is, lying, walking in sin, to save his own skin. How disdainful. How honestly wretched.

You may be telling me to hold up, that lying is not all that bad.

Well, look at the consequences of Abraham’s actions.

In Genesis 20:18 it says that the wombs of of the household of Abimelech were all closed due to the fact that Sarah was in their midst as a single woman and potential suitor. Abimelech brings Sarah into his court, thinking that Sarah is Abraham’s sister. This leads God to close off the wombs of his family.

Deep consequences inflicted Abimelech’s family due to Abraham’s sin.

Now trust me, I know. These are much different circumstances than what most of us would think about when it comes to sins perpetrated against non-believers by the people of God.

I don’t think there is a family in Vernon, TX that is unable to have children because of the sins of our church members. At least not that I know of. I’m not intending to make light of infertility struggles, I’m merely saying this story in Genesis 20 is quite unique.

Here’s the kicker for me though.

Here’s why I (not an Old Testament scholar) believe the above truth.

God can right the wrongs of His people. 

Because God appears to Abimelech.

In verses 3 through 7, God appears to Abimelech and basically tells him that he’s a dead man for taking a married woman into his household. Abimelech cries out and says that he didn’t know, that his nation didn’t deserve to be punished due to the lie of God’s servant Abraham.

Verse six is cool.

Then God said to him in the dream, ‘Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also kept you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her. – Genesis 20:6

If Abimelech touches Sarah, the just wrath of God comes upon his family because of the sins of Abraham.

But God intervenes.

He prevents Abimelech from sinning.

Now, there are intricacies to this story and plenty of other questions. But in my humble opinion, the truth still stands. God is able to right the wrongs of His people.

If you have been hurt by the church, hurt by followers of Jesus, I sincerely apologize.

I pray that God will do for you what He did for Abimelech.

I pray that God will right the wrongs that have been done towards you by those who bear His name.

I pray that you would find healing.

I pray that you would find the trust to join a church community.

I’m grateful to serve a God who is bigger than my foolish mistakes.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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