Summary: It is one thing to know history and theology; it is another entirely to understand our own hearts. Job’s pilgrimage into self-understanding led to self-hatred, but in Christ that can be redeemed.
I’ll ask you to repeat with me this wonderful, ringing affirmation from the New Testament:
But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.
I know. I know the one in whom I have put my trust. I know.
Several years ago I mentioned that I was planning to offer a course in church history on Wednesday nights. I was going to indulge one of my own interests, and fill in the gaps in your knowledge by romping through twenty centuries of Christian history. But my balloon was deflated quickly when one of you said, “What good does it do us to know history when we do not know our own hearts?”
Wow! What a thing to say! The only thing worse than telling the pastor that what he is about to do is off in the wrong direction is telling him that what he has already done was off in the wrong direction! It may be true, but it doesn’t feel good! But that’s the point. That is exactly the point.
For sometimes, you see, we give ourselves to a host of good things and ignore the one thing that is most crucial – that is knowing who we are and how we stand before God. We do a lot of good things. We stay busy. We pour ourselves into a mountain of work and a flurry of activity. But we miss the one thing that matters most: knowing who we are and how we stand before God. We do the “feel good” stuff, but we miss the point.
“What good does it do us to know history when we do not know our own hearts?”
We’ve just finished a wonderful celebration of Black History Month. I think it was one of the best we’ve had. We had music, we had liturgical dancers, we had poetry, we had moments in history, and, most of all, we had gospel messages. Not just historical treatises, but gospel messages. Not academic exercises, but sermons that probed our own hearts. Did you notice that? The speakers didn’t spend a lot of time rehearsing history; they put our focus on the Lord and on what He has done. And that’s exactly right. For that reason alone it was one of the best celebrations we’ve had of Black History Month.
In fact, I guess you could say that February was “all kinds of history month”. There is more than one sort of history that was celebrated in that shortest month of the year. The first Sunday of the month is always Baptist World Alliance Sunday, and some years, when I get to preach on that Sunday, I do something with Baptist history. I have felt it was good to know who we are in the great sweep of the Christian movement. It’s good to know some history.
And then somebody let out my own secret and revealed that February is the pastor’s birth month, so we ended one of our services with that great hymn of the church, that glad anthem, that stirring gospel chorus, “Happy Birthday to you!” Not exactly liturgical music, but it was fun. And made better by the fact that you did NOT sing the next verse, “How old are you?” To that burning issue I will simply respond that I’m too old to be afraid of being unemployed and too young to quit my job. Amen! That feels good. My history.
Black history, Baptist history, pastor’s history. We did it all in February. That’s good. But is it possible that in the midst of all that history we missed one critical thing, one basic issue? Is it possible that we know our history, but we still do not know ourselves? “What good does it do us to know history when we do not know ourselves?”
Job arrived at a place in his life that was not pretty. Job is frightening as you watch his heart and mind wobble on the brink of disaster. Job is really a mess, at many points. I know you’ve heard about “the patience of Job”. Well, put f that aside. Forget that. Job is no plaster saint, sitting sweetly, slurping soothing sayings on a garbage pile. Job is a tortured soul. He is a mess. He is in trouble. Let’s not forget it. Let’s not pretty him up. You and I would not want Job in our living rooms or across the back fence, because he is a mess.
But he is a hopeful mess. He is a mess that might get fixed, because, here in Chapter 9, he opens up, and we see him as he really is.