As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast.
You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
~ James 5.10-11, ESV
Welcome to mile-marker 16 of our #encourage marathon! (If you missed the previous post, you can read it here.)
Someone out there is barely holding on. It might even be you.
Walking on a boat in the middle of the ocean takes some getting used to. The constant rise and fall of the waves, however gentle, rocks the boat to and fro. In a storm, however, that rocking turns unpredictably turbulent. People and objects become projectiles. Walking demands deliberate effort. Sometimes, the best you can do is hold on tightly to something solid until the storm passes. Passengers with nothing to cling to are violently thrown overboard and lost at sea.
When the storms of life assault us, what are we holding on to? Is it something solid?
The following dialogue is from the film The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Sam’s discussion of stories reminds me of those really strong people who came before us in the Bible:
FRODO: I can’t do this, Sam.
SAM: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened?
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.
FRODO: What are we holding on to, Sam?
SAM: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for!
What are we holding on to?
We have been preceded by thousands of faithful men and women, and their stories are worth reading. The prophets the scriptures didn’t live in comfortable palaces with a retinue of slaves; they were not well-liked; few people actually listened to them. Their hardships did not prevent them from proclaiming the message of the Lord. They were steadfast. Those are the stories worth reading—Joseph, Moses, Elijah, Daniel, Hosea, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul and countless more—the ones that never gave up.
Today’s passage from James also lists Job as an example of steadfastness. There are not many who can claim to have lost everything of value in a single moment. Job was so devoted to God that God took pride in Him (“Have you considered my servant, Job? There’s nobody like him…”). The devil certainly had. He sought to attack Job in order to wound the Lord. Satan wanted God to lose this prized servant.
Consider what happened to Job for a moment:
- The Sabeans killed his servants and stole his oxen and donkeys
- Fire fell from the sky and burned up his sheep and servants
- The Chaldeans stole the camels and killed more of his servants
- All his children were killed at the same time when their house collapsed under a “great wind.”
- He was assaulted with painful sores from head to foot.
- His wife told him to curse God and die.
- His three friends asserted that some hidden sin brought about his calamity.
What a brutal, painful and lonely place to be! Not only had he lost all of his stuff, the people who were supposed to support him had turned on him!
It isn’t a great shock to see Job question God as the story progresses. The Lord could have struck down Job for impertinence. Yet, the Lord is compassionate and merciful. He knew more about the situation than Job did. He knew the words that Job had uttered from the outset—“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” God knew what was in his heart.
How often do you say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord” when calamity strikes?
After being rebuked by Elihu and then by God, Job repents of his errors and the Lord restores his health and his fortunes beyond what he had possessed before.
There is nothing saying that God will give us health or wealth in this life. It could be that, like the prophets, we will meet a dark and painful end here. The great truth is that we will be rewarded far beyond that in the life to come. If our end is not yet to be, God will often send what my friend Ida calls “a season of refreshing” to revive us for the long journey yet to come.
I do not know what storm is assaulting you this day. You may be in your season of refreshing or you may be losing your grip under the relentless pounding of the waves. You have every opportunity to let go and turn back, but remember the stories; the true stories. The ones that matter. The faithful ones could have given up too, but they didn’t. They were holding on to something.
Hold fast to your faith. Hold fast to truth. Hold fast to the Lord.
Please continue to join me on Facebook, Twitter and here at Elihu’s Corner for this marathon. Share the image or verse reference on your Twitter feed or Facebook page with the hash tag (#encourage). Take time today to copy down this verse for yourself. Send an email or text to someone you know who would benefit from this encouragement.