WHEN FAITH FALTERS
1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said: 2 "Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? 3 Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. 4 "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. 5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? 6 On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone- 7 while the morning stars sang together and all the angels [a] shouted for joy? 8 "Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, 9 when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, 10 when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, 11 when I said, 'This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt'?
(Appointed church readings for 5th Sunday after Pentecost, Series "B")
35That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." 36Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" 39He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"41They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"
INTRO: Some say man, not God, is the measure of all things, and many Americans have fallen for this illusion of self-sufficiency. We're proud of our discoveries concerning the atom and nuclear power, putting people into space and our technological advances. There are those who claim we'll eventually surmount every limitation, kind of like the people of Babel. - It is not we, of course, who will bring about world peace, or an end to hunger with prosperity for all, or healing for every kind of disease or illness. Nor will humanity's future generations! There are aspects of creation that will ever be beyond our grasp, and humanity's sin-fallen state sets limits on our power.
There are, on the other hand, many who are trapped in a sense of helplessness. All of us can be prone to it. Our dismay over the ever-worsening disintegration of our society's living by Biblical values is an example. It looms like a monster before us, and we may feel there's little we can do to influence the world around us with right values. - We should beware, though, lest we project our finite weakness onto God and begin to suspect that even He is powerless to act against the world's sin and chaos, or is perhaps uncaring.
The listed Scripture readings highlight two cases in which individuals essentially called God's authority and power into question. Both cases are examples of failure in regard to FAITH. - It's important that we recognize the nature of Job's and the disciples' failures cited in the readings, but even more instructive for us is to take note of God's response to those particular situations!
Most Christians are at least slightly aware of all the calamities that befell Job. Through some natural disasters and the evil designs of some barbaric, robbing raiders he suddenly lost all his children, along with all of his livestock and servants, and yet he humbly acknowledged that God had given them in the first place and now was Who had really taken them away. Later his whole body broke out with painful, itching sores, but Job tenaciously refused to heed his wife's frustrated advice to just "Curse God and die."
That's the very thing Satan was trying to lead Job to do:-- "Curse God to His face," Scripture says. God had actually permitted Satan to attempt such a thing and afflict Job so miserably, so long as Job's own life was spared. Satan and his power are "for real," and he was the hidden agent behind Job's trials.
(WHERE JOB FAILED)
People sometimes speak of "the patience of Job," perhaps not fully realizing that he really exhibited no such thing! While he never came to a point that he actually cursed God, he didn't just meekly tolerate his physical and emotional pain, either.
A parade of speeches given by several of his acquaintances all counseled Job that he should examine himself and face-up to whatever he must have done wrong to deserve such harsh treatment at God's hands. - Job steadfastly refused to accept such arguments and maintained that he was innocent and righteous. He asserted, for example, that God Himself could testify that he didn't let his eyes or heart wander or be enticed by forbidden things. He helped feed and clothe the poor, widows and orphans, and had never placed his trust in gold, he said.
In such things Job really did have a good "record" with God, but all his musing about his OWN righteousness finally led him astray. He issued a challenge to God, demanding, "Let the Almighty answer me... Where is He?" - Job developed a real "attitude," as we might put it, and it wasn't a positive one!
(GOD'S RESPONSE TO JOB)
There's the old saying that would fit Job here:-- He got "too big for his britches," didn't he? And that's essentially what God finally showed up to address--- "All right, Mr. Know It All, stand up like a man and answer ME! I'LL be the One who asks the questions here. If you're so wise, surely you can explain all the secret details of creation. Do you want to argue with ME? Will you condemn ME that you may be justified?"
Job was stunned and, perhaps needless to say, wasn't so proud with himself any more after God finished with him. - His faith had been transferred from God to himself. He thus arrogantly questioned God's power and sense of justice, so God "let Job have it with both barrels," so to speak. - Let US therefore learn the reverent fear of the Lord that Luther taught in explaining the Commandments!
(WHERE THEY WERE REGARDING FAITH)
As with the calamities that wiped-out Job's family and property, the storm that struck the disciples at sea was sudden and violent. There is no hint that any of the disciples had caused it to come upon them as some kind of chastisement for any particular misdeed or act of neglect. Jesus, God's Son in the flesh, was in fact right with them.
This incident is reported in each of the Bible's first three Gospel books, and it's clear from each account that the boat the disciples were in was filling with water. They were in real danger of sinking. The disciples were in honest fear for their lives.
We're also given a very telling example of Christ's humanity in that He was asleep as the violent danger increased. - Perhaps that's how the disciples viewed Him at that time; just another man, but whose help bailing would be appreciated. - But Jesus sleeping actually shows us what perfect trust He had in His Heavenly Father!
What a contrast with the disciples' fear and lack of faith! Such fear as they displayed is a clear indication of how imperfect their trust was, and it was sin. Scripture teaches that "...whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." (See Romans 14:23, for example.) - Mark's Gospel account aptly stated the disciples' consternation:-- "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?"
(CHRIST'S RESPONSE TO THEM AND US)
(To the Disciples)
Whereas God approached Job in a strong wind and aimed His authority at JOB, now the scene is a direct contrast. Jesus "arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, 'Peace, be still!' And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm." - The human Jesus sleeping in the boat is in fact the Divine and Almighty Ruler of wind and wave!
Jesus asked the pointed questions exposing the truth about the disciples:-- "Why are you so fearful?" and "How is it that you have no faith?" - But the upshot of the whole situation is that Jesus did not let them perish. He SAVED them in their distress!
Isaiah had predicted about the Promised Messiah:-- "A bruised reed He will not break, and a dimly burning wick He will not quench." Jesus showed the same compassion when Peter faltered in the attempt to walk on water, and when Thomas had such a hard time believing that Jesus could be alive again.
We are weak, but HE is strong! And WHEN we're weak, His power is made perfect. He treats us tenderly and SAVES us in our troubles!
There is of course no stronger proof than Christ's Cross and Resurrection! - Our sin and unbelief heaped all the abuse on Him, and we condemned HIM that we might be justified. Yet, under the cover of the great shame and weakness of public crucifixion on a perverse instrument of death, Jesus earned salvation for us! He wasn't just some kindly man who died for a worthy principle centuries ago, but HE is Ruler of wind and wave and Conqueror of sin, death and the devil! He rose to life again, after paying for our sin with His own blood and death, as the sign and guarantee of our eternal life through faith in Him.
CONCL: What things might we conclude, then, by looking at Job's encounter with God together with the disciples' experience with Jesus? - Perhaps first is that Job asserted he was strong, while the disciples openly acknowledged their weakness.
Jesus Himself was stern and severely scolding whenever He encountered pharisaical pride and hardened unbelief. He was capable of overturning tables and chasing money-changers out of the Temple. - Tender compassion was His consistent pattern, though, for all who had a sense of their true need for Him.
Job's questioning was an arrogant challenge, whereas that of the disciples was a true plea for help. And that, ironically, is the very thing that characterizes true faith!
In the end Job repented and was restored, of course. The end result of BOTH events was people's awe of the power of God, but now WE can additionally see that such power is the possession of the Crucified and Risen CHRIST!
Here we've seen two very different ways in which God responded to faltering faith. He humbled the proud to bring about repentance, but He also rescued the perishing. The picture is of God's HELPING people in "weakness" of faith (and we should also note that what Job ultimately received was also God's HELP, despite the seemingly harsh way in which it was administered)!
The final thought, then, is the truth expressed by the Psalm writer:-- "Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me," God says. - May the Lord now strengthen our faith and grant us the grace to call on the power and authority of His Name--- the power that stilled the storm and power that brought Him back from the dead!