Could there be any greater honor than for God to place our name at the end of the title above? Most of us likely recognize the source of the heading as coming from the book of Job, and we would clearly hesitate to write our name in place of his. And yet, we would all desire for God to see us as he saw Job: “There is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil” (Job 1:8). We would have to re-examine our view of “fiery trials” before we could willingly place our name in place of his. How do we look at the hardships of life?
It is our human nature to think that God’s blessings are only in the form of health, comfort, and prosperity. When trials and afflictions come upon us, we (like Job) have our moments of confusion and frustration. Why is this happening? What am I doing wrong? Is God punishing me? How long will this go on? These are all questions that want to dominate our thinking when we face hardships on almost any scale. Satan’s desire is for these questions to persist. We know that life on earth must sometimes involve pain and suffering, and we try to console ourselves with the thought that there are others worse off than ourselves, and we naturally pray for God to let the cup pass from us.
Is our aim to simply endure hardships until they are removed? The book of Job would be a much different book if Job had prayed and received an immediate deliverance. Yes, we would still likely hear him say, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” I am quite certain, though, that a speedy deliverance would have cost us that priceless gem that we find in the thirteenth chapter: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Perhaps one day we will ask Job if he would have chosen to avoid the entire experience and not have been able to say, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.”
So what does this mean for us today? There are numerous dear brethren who go in and out among us who seem to have their names written in place of Job’s. Is it wrong for them to pray for deliverance? I think not. But, like Jesus, we must all look for God’s will to be done in our lives. And, as in Job’s case, we must realize that our earthly actions add to or detract from God’s honor.
An example of courageous Christian living that is worthy of our consideration is found in John Bunyan’s second volume of Pilgrim’s Progress. Here the reader is presented with a fascinating character called Great Heart. He is the seemingly fearless guide and protector to Christiana and the little band of heaven-bound believers. We find it easy to relate to Christian (the main character of Bunyan’s first volume). Christian’s mixture of fear and courage, doubts and faith, despair and persistence seem to meet most of us right where we are at. Great Heart, on the other hand, is always courageous, always faithful, and always pressing forward. Speaking of the Valley of Humiliation (where trials and afflictions often lead us), Great Heart says, “It is the best and most useful brave piece of ground in all those parts…Behold how green this Valley is, also how beautified with lilies…for indeed it is a very fruitful soil, and doth bring forth by handfuls.” Is this how we feel about the Valley of Humiliation? Probabl
y not. But there are many brethren throughout Christian history that viewed their fiery trials as fruitful ground. Do we realize that we could have the same vision?
We can learn more about the spirit of Great Heart as we consider his replies to Christiana’s questions following his fierce battle with Giant Maul:
“Christiana asked the guide if he had caught no hurt in the battle. Then said Mr. Great Heart, No, save a little on my flesh; yet that also shall be so far from being to my detriment, that it is at present a proof of my love to my Master and you, and shall be a means, by grace, to increase my reward at last.
“‘But were you not afraid, good Sir, when you see him come out with his club?’ It is my duty, said he, to distrust my own ability, that I may have reliance on Him that is stronger than all.
“‘But what did you think when he fetched you down to the ground at the first blow?’
“Why, I thought, quoth he, that so my Master himself was served, and yet he it was that conquered at the last.”
Oh, that we could fight our giants with that selfsame spirit! Can our wounds and suffering of the flesh be proof of our love to our Master? Can we let our fears melt into reliance on Him that is stronger than all? Can we accept being served as our Master was served, knowing He can conquer all?
A few months ago I fought a giant in the form of a physical infirmity. As I learned of my condition and began to see what the road ahead might involve, I had many fears, questions, and conflicting thoughts. I felt like the Sabeans had already taken the oxen, the fire had already consumed the sheep, and I just didn’t understand why the Chaldeans needed my camels! And then my thoughts fell to Great Heart. In an act of childlike faith, I asked God to give me the spirit of Great Heart to slay this giant. There was a persevering grace given to me that I will never forget. In the weeks and months that followed, God gave me abundant courage. It wasn’t just courage to endure but courage to joyfully slay the giant! The Lord gave deliverance, and it has become an experience I would not trade. My part in the battle was in that small act of faith to ask God for the spirit of Great Heart.
There are many Great Hearts among us. Brothers and sisters are facing cancer, chronic pain, lifelong depression, and the aftermath of strokes, diseases, accidents, and injuries. For reasons far above us, they face the heat of the “furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated” (Dan. 3:19). And for reasons far above us, they daily slay the giant of despair and find joy in pressing forward. Not even the smell of fire passes on them.
I cannot promise that I will not pray for deliverance the next time I see the Sabeans coming over the hill (and they will come), but I do hope that I will ask myself if God is asking Satan, “Hast thou considered my servant Darren?” I hope I will think of the joy Great Heart would have in slaying another giant. Pray for an escape route? Maybe. Maybe not!
From Messenger of Truth, Vol. 110, No. 14, July 11, 2012