Reverend Dr. William H. Curtis

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Job 2:1-8 AMP

The day started for Job just like any other day. There were duties to perform. There was family to enjoy. But Job’s life changed in an instant. All of a sudden Job’s life was turned upside down over a conversation that he knew nothing about.

Job’s faith was about to be tested. Satan was about to throw his trilogy of torment – the ability to steal, kill and destroy – against Job with all of his force and with all of his might. “Test my servant Job. Only spare his life.”

How do you react when hardships and suffering and tribulation unexpectedly come? Most of us are tempted to do absolutely nothing.

Job sat down in the ashes. He sat with a piece of broken pottery and began to scrape his sores. The action and direction that Job decided to take would make no difference in his life at all. Job was caught in a state of emptiness, an emotional abyss, a moment of paralysis. He found himself stuck somewhere in the middle of the desire to not feel pain and the decision to move beyond the pain. Job wallowed in the ashes of unforgiveness.

It has been said that unforgiveness is like taking poison and expecting someone else to die. Unforgiveness is usually not a purposeful negative reaction. It is a failure to take any action. Unforgiveness is to sit in the ashes and do nothing.

Forgiveness requires you to act. God is not going to impose the ability to forgive upon you. It is not a gift you can receive from Him. It is not a virtue that will be miraculously bestowed upon you. Forgiveness demands that you exercise the discipline necessary to make the decision to forgive.

What brings us together as a people of faith is not our ecclesiology; it is not our eschatology; it is not our soteriology; it is not our demonology; it is not any aspect of our theology. What unites us and brings us all to our knees before the throne of Almighty God is the understanding that every single one of us carries the revelation that the only reason we are alive today is because a good and loving and gracious God forgave you of your sin.

I fight to forgive because I live forgiven.

Unforgiveness? I can’t sit here.

Then I came back down the mountain and put the tablets in the ark I had made, as the LORD commanded me, and they are there now.

Deuteronomy 10:5 NIV

While Moses was on the mountain in the presence of God, he received two stone tablets that God had written the law upon. This law would feed Israel’s ethical exchanges, but the people became so restless, rebellious, and self-absorbed that they forced Aaron to build them golden calves to worship.

Moses saw these calves as he came down from the mountain carrying the tablets that held the law of God. His nation was living recklessly. They were worshipping the gods of their own creations. So Moses threw the tablets to the ground in anger and they crumbled at his feet.

This was not how the plan was supposed to unfold. The plan had deliverance from slavery, a hard journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land—to a future of freedom and fellowship with God. Their borders would be protected. Their fields would produce crops. Their children would be taught about the God who delivered them from Egypt. That was the plan.

Instead, Moses looked at his people worshipping and dancing around golden calves. The plan was shattered and was in crushed pieces on the ground.

We all know this feeling well. We’ve all been in situations where our plans didn’t turn out how they were supposed to. Things that happen that we can’t control, and the clashing of competing agendas rear their heads. Then, our plans slip out of our hands—or we threw them down to the ground. If we’re honest, we do this often because we cannot believe that life and other people wouldn’t protect our plans or protect us in our attempts to fulfil our plans.

Moses teaches us that when plans haven’t worked out like we wanted them to, we still serve a God of such abundant grace that He makes sure that we have two new stones available to us. We don’t have to waste our lives standing over our crushed, shattered plans. God is waiting for and expecting us to grab two new stones and meet Him where it all began.

Plans don’t stop where they fail. We must use failure as a part of the plan. Failures don’t frustrate God’s grace, so our reaction must become different. When we survive a season when our plans don’t unfold as we imagined them, we have to mature from that place. We should emerge from that place and start asking different questions. We shouldn’t ask whose fault it is. We should ask how we could do better and what we should do next.

We cannot succeed without a plan. When we have the conviction to walk out our plans, even when our planning includes having a plan for when our plans have failed.

The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.

Proverbs 21:5 NIV

The chapter that this verse is a part of asks us “How do we live with purpose and on purpose in our homes, with our possessions, and as we prepare for battle?” The writer says that if we want to do all of this, we have to offer to God surrendered planning. If we want to live our lives happily, purposefully, and ethically, we have to have a plan—a plan that is combined with diligent work.

If we don’t have plans for our lives as we walk with God, our lives may produce something, but it may not lead to profit or prosperity. The writer of this Proverb invites us to understand what God’s more perfect will is. His will for our lives is to enjoy a harvest of plenty, but whether or not we have a plan can separate us from that.

There are many ways that living life without a plan can lead us to devastation, but when we are living a diligent life we will feel secure, and we will have a purpose. We will wake up every day knowing that our steps are intentional and ordered. We will find fulfillment in what we do because we will know our plans are connected to God’s purpose for our lives.

This is what the writer intends for us to consider, but this Godly profit only applies when we surrender to the well thought out plan that God has for our lives. Many of us think that we deserve to live light, unplanned lives, but we still want to reap from a heavy harvest. God honors our planning far more than he honors our excitement to reap a harvest. We cannot go around sowing no seeds and then blame God that there isn’t a harvest.

Living happy is a result of a plan. Living with purpose is a result of a plan. Changing our circumstances requires a plan. Living healthy requires a plan. Growing spiritually requires a plan. None of these things come by accident; they are a result of intentionality. We cannot let our lives drift because we are managing them without a plan. We walk by faith and not by sight, so we must exercise our ability to plan to ensure that we don’t stumble.

When we are surrendered to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to help us plan our lives, He creates a capacity in us to anticipate the action steps that we need to take to achieve the goals that God has revealed to us.

“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”

John 4:23-24 MSG

The woman at the well was a Samaritan, but as we know Jesus was a Jew. There is both a cultural and gender tension as they encounter each other. However, the woman understands that Jesus is a prophet. He knew her deep and painful past—the reason she was at a well alone.

She takes advantage of this situation to raise one of the cultural tensions between the Jews and the Samaritans. Jesus responds to her and redefines the meaning, practice, place, and priority of worship. God is always more interested in the worshipper than in the place where one worships.

Mountain or temple, the place is not the issue. God defines the worship of a person by who is courageous enough to worship with their true and whole self. The sound, style, space—none of these mean anything unless the worshipper is being authentic.

This is the power of worship. It is the honest offering of the authentic self before God. Unfortunately, far too many people bring to God their perceived self or even their invented self. However, true worshippers are the people that God is looking for. He is looking for those who honestly present themselves.

When Jesus says that God is looking for “those who are simply and honestly themselves before Him in their worship,” He opened a connection between himself and the woman and between the Jews and the Samaritans. He gives her the beauty of acceptance, the privilege of connection, the affirmation of identity, the strength of human bonding, and the liberation of spiritual connectivity.

This all means that not only do we belong to God, but He belongs to us. This is what Jesus means in John 14 when He says, “I am in the Father and My Father is in Me.” This bonding creates undeniable proof of spiritual connection. There is no style, space, sound or space that makes us worshippers.

To be true worshippers, we must bring our honest selves. When we do this, God accepts the honest worship that we bring, not the perceived worship that we fashion.

Job 2:2-8 (AMP)

Have you ever been the victim of circumstances out of your control? Anger that comes from nowhere against you. A crime. A breach of trust. That’s what happened to Job. He did not know he would be a sacrifice to show the goodness and power of his God.

Satan is on a mission to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). He wants to steal your life, kill your spirit, and destroy your faith. He’s convinced that if a righteous man like Job is hit hard enough, he would curse God to his face.

But God called Satan’s bluff. He knew Job trusted Him and that His love can’t be manipulated.

So, Satan kills off all of Job’s children, all of his livestock perishes, and his entire body is covered with boils and sores.

Our main character goes to sit on a rubbish heap (a pile of ashes and dung) and begins to scrape his sores with a broken piece of pottery. He’s trying to absorb it all. An important point here is that Job is not thinking about next steps. He’s not cursing God.

Stuck at the Top of the Ash Heap

He’s in a place many of us get stuck—pain and unforgiveness. He is the portrait of spiritual unforgiveness. He’s stuck trying to decide to not feel the pain or to move forward. This may be the hardest decision you’ll ever have to make.

But there’s a secret you need to know about Job and about you. If you are one of God’s special treasures, one of His children, you can’t sit on that ash heap. You can’t decide not to feel. Job hasn’t done that. He’s still scraping. He’s still got some fight in him.

How to Get Off the Ash Heap

The key to getting up from the ash heap is forgiveness. You have to make the choice to forgive. Forgiveness is not a spiritual gift. It’s the ultimate gift and it was given to you when Jesus died on that cross. God wants you to wake up in the morning and exercise forgiveness. We live with His undeserved forgiveness.

That’s the truth that brings all Christians together - we all carry the revelation that the only reason you’re alive today is because a good God forgave you of your sins.

Did you hear that? You’re alive. Satan attacked Job. Satan attacked you. But he didn’t take you out. You’re still alive.

That’s why I’m inching up next to you on that ash heap, to share some good news. You have no business on this heap. You’re allowing your unforgiveness to steal precious time from an otherwise blessed life. You’ve got too much to live for.

The Grace of the Ash Heap

Pain is real. Job’s pain is real. We have to acknowledge that. The grace on the ash heap is Job scraping his sores. He still wants to feel. That’s the grace. He decides not to check out. And if you’re there—angry and stuck—know that you can come back. Own the grace that you still have fight in you. If you have passion enough to be angry, you can make the choice to forgive. And remember, pain is a season. You will not be here forever. God wins.