Job answered God: “I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’ I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head. You told me, ‘Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.’ I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears! I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise! I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.”
Job no longer had to say things in theory about God because he now had experience with God. Instead of having a sermon, Job had a testimony. While the sermon may be the weapon of the preacher. The testimony is the weapon of the foot soldier. Foot soldiers are always being strategically positioned for the kingdom’s expansion. All they need is armament.
No one is located better than you and I are within our relational networks. But, if when we meet people, all we have to say is, “Pastor says this or the Bible says that. Would you like to go to church with me?“, we are shooting with plastic bows and arrows. Our world is filled with Christian materials that the faithful regularly gorge themselves on but the world wants to know what all this knowledge has done for you and I. “Is your God real. Please show me.”
In the midst of a message I was sharing a few years ago a light came on; I had the keen awareness that I was an accomplice to a great crime. I had had a rich time in preparation. I had gained real nourishment from it. But, here I was, momma bird regurgitating what I had digested to many who should have been kicked out of the nest a long time ago – having learned to feed themselves. To be fair, some were self-feeders. But many had been conditioned by the year-after-year, week-to-week servings from pastor. Pastor would have better equipped these baby birds to not grow up dependent on him. The true equipper would make sure the babies learn to feed themselves. He would personally demonstrate how babies grow up to have their own first hand stories of God’s involvement in their lives. He would teach them how to think and dream and live in the light of Truth – enabling them to bend a bow of bronze and enter into the battle in their own strategic theater of operations with their own strategic God-given resources.
The church I was a part of called itself a sheep-shed. GIven the importance of identity, I think that was unfortunate. I believe status quo cultures and routines condition us would-be warriors to remain as sheep. If we are an army someone is going to have to impart a greater identity to us than dumb witless creatures who are dependent on another to feed us and tell us what to do. Granted there are some who will remain babes and may always need bottle fed but for most of us, our passivity and lethargy are due to the second-hand food we consume. (And we complain, we are not being fed well?) Its not that the food may not have been excellent fare when the pastor chewed on it; but he got the lion-share of benefit – not the flock.
When I see what transpired in Job’s life to silence the babbler and encourage the listener I tremble. How many of us would sign up for personal testimony class if we had to pay the tuition Job did? It might be a very small class since much of our spiritual diet has been laced with cheap grace. We have been preached a gospel in the west that says salvation is a free gift and it will cost you nothing. The bible portrays the gospel of the kingdom which is free yet, mysteriously, will cost us everything.
Not only are sheep conditioned by preachers but preachers are conditioned by sheep. If sheep hear a regular barrage of Jesus’ hard sayings they will begin to complain of the diet. Giving and attendance may even fall off. When the amen’s die out most pastors can project where this will lead and steer back to the words that are more pleasing to the ear which indirectly stabilize the cash flow.
Once in an adult Sunday school class where I was teaching on Job, a sincere believer suggested that the book of Job should not be taken seriously because it did not fit well with the theology of the rest of scripture. He said, After all, its only one book! He could make this statement because his personal reflection had been flavored with pastor’s words which focused on blessings, power and intimacy. The possibility of suffering and any redemptive purpose in it had been surgically removed from the gospel in this setting.
Father….I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have firsthand knowledge – from my own eyes and ears. I’m sorry – forgive me. By your grace, I’ll never do that again, I promise. I’ll never again live on the crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor. Deliver me from trivializing Your majesty and mystery with my speculative babbling. Continue to teach me to let you do the talking and ask the questions. Help me to simply listen. Amen