Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Patience of Job

If you are pure and upright, even now He will rouse Himself on your behalf and restore you to your rightful place” (Job 8:6).

The verse above was spoken by Bildad the Shuhite, one of Job’s comforters. Bildad’s point was that God does not punish innocent people. Job had prayed for vindication, but no vindication had come. According to Bildad, if Job was innocent, God would have vindicated him immediately.

Bildad was right that God doesn’t punish the innocent, but wrong in suggesting how quickly God vindicates. For His own reasons God often allows His people to be slandered and to live with slander for long periods of time before vindicating them. Sometimes vindication does not come until after death.

We should not be surprised at this, because it is what our Lord Jesus Christ experienced, and we servants are no better than our Master. It is our privilege to walk in union with Him and to carry our crosses as He carried His. He was reviled, but He did not answer back a word. He died without being vindicated, as the crowds assumed He was a phony and the Romans assumed He was a criminal. It was His resurrection that vindicated Him.

The same was true of the apostle Paul. We think of Paul as a hero of the faith, but during his life he was regarded as a criminal and a heretic, often by people inside the church. Paul’s reputation was poisoned throughout the length and breadth of the Roman empire.

God promises a future vindication for His people, but He has never promised an immediate one. Christians must be patient in the face of slander, as Job was. And that’s the hard part: waiting. As time goes along, we are tempted to despair. We are tempted to give up and stop praying. We must remember the parable of the persistent widow, which Jesus told His disciples “to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1–8).

When we hear of the patience of Job, we are not to think of Job sitting stoically, silently enduring his suffering. That is not how Job’s patience was manifest. Rather, Job cried out to God continually, vigorously arguing his case before Him. He actively maintained his personal relationship with the Lord being also patient in prayer.

Many Christians are confused about the virtue of patience. For the Greeks, patience meant silent, stoic endurance. Scripturally, patience involves active prayer and trusting God, such as we find in Job and in the Psalms. Which kind of patience have you been exercising in the midst of your problems?