Summary: The second of a series through the book of James
Soon after we returned from vacation last Sunday the boys were on the computer playing baseball. (The game was a father’s day gift to me and they let me play occasionally.)
One of the things that I have heard over the years about good pitching and good pitchers is that they have a variety of pitches and they learn how to move the ball around the strike zone. However, a good pitcher also learns how to mix up his pitches so that the hitter is kept off balance with the hope and the goal that the batter strikes out.
There are several kinds of pitches used in baseball. There are two kinds of fastballs, called the two-seam and four-seam because the pitcher holds the stitched seams in his fingers two different ways. Another pitch is a called a change-up because it changes speed as it approaches the batter. A good change up will have the batter swinging well before the ball gets to the plate because it dramatically slows down.
Finally, there is a curve ball. A good curve ball ‘curves’ suddenly when you least expect it. And, like the changeup, will have you swinging through the air and hitting perhaps nothing.
As I watched the boys play (I also served as umpire when they started getting upset with one another), I noticed that one of the computer pitchers had a mean curveball and the one who controlled that pitcher had the hitter at his mercy. The pitch was used on a regular basis.
Has life thrown you a curve ball lately? If it has, you are not alone! But as followers of Jesus Christ, as we allow the Lord to strengthen and mature our faith through difficult and challenging circumstances and to help us stay away from the temptations that arise from within, we show the world our faith, hope, and commitment in Jesus Christ!
In a recent article from Christianity Today.com songwriter and author, Michael Card reminds us of the four ‘successive curve balls’ that Job had thrown his way. There were the three ‘curve balls’ of financial destruction as Job’s wealth was taken away in a string of attacks on his property and possessions. Then a final ‘curve ball’ of tremendous pain came through the tragic death of every one of his children.
Card notes, “Everything a person could imagine losing, Job lost. He was the target of practically every sort of pain and loss a human being can know. He was the successful businessman who experienced sudden and total financial ruin. He was the AIDS patient, hopeless and beyond all cures, full of sores, abandoned by his friends. He was the victim of a senseless terrorist attack. He was the parent who lost not one but all of his children in one unthinkable catastrophe.”
But Card goes on to point out that while Job “made the motions of entering into mourning” he did something unexpected, “he fell to the ground in worship.” Here is what is said in Job 1 verses 20 through 22:
“Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground before God. He said,
“I came naked from my mother’s womb,
and I will be stripped of everything when I die.
The LORD gave me everything I had,
and the LORD has taken it away.
Praise the name of the LORD!”
In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.
Why did Job worship God in the midst of all the pain and grief? Why didn’t he, as his wife suggested, ‘curse God and die?’
He worshipped God in the midst of great loss because he was a man of great faith and confidence in the Lord. I believe that we can say with a good deal of confidence that ‘Job showed what he had’ during the deep trial of loss and the refusal to turn away from a quiet confidence in God and toward the great temptation to ‘curse God and die.’
Job illustrates the opening of the book of James. He shows what he had within himself when faced with terrible tragedy and loss – a strong faith and ability to grow in the midst of terrible pain.
We need to first look at verse 5 and following because it forms a foundation, upon which the ability to preserve, as Job demonstrates and how that assurance and confidence is described in verses 2 through 4, is built.
Two weeks ago I shared with you a bit of the controversy regarding the book of James that took place in early church history. I noted that Martin Luther had trouble with the book because of the very open link between faith and works that concerned Luther because of his fear of ‘salvation by works’ instead of ‘salvation by faith’ as the way to a right relationship with God through Christ.