Our Need For Awe
“Listen to this, Job; Stand still and consider the wonders of God.
Job had every reason, humanly speaking, to doubt God’s goodness and power. His life had been turned upside down, and his friends blamed him for his problems. But into his pain God spoke. God said in effect, “Hey, Job, pay attention. I know you’re hurting, but your faith can be refreshed by looking at the wonders of all I’ve made.” When our faith is shaken, we, too, can look at that awesome creation God has made and our faith can be rekindled.
In More Than Meets the Eye, Dr. Richard Swenson describes in vivid detail the macro- and the micro-wonders of God’s creation. The size of the universe is beyond comprehension. Light we see tonight from the nearest star has been in transit over four years…..at 186,000 miles per second! And the universe contains hundreds of billions of galaxies, each containing one hundred to two hundred billion stars. But God’s creation isn’t only vast. The intricacies of DNA and the complexity of the nervous system and all the other parts of our bodies tell us that God is concerned about the minutiae as well as the big picture.
To notice God’s power and delicate hand in Creation, we have to “stand still” and look. If we’re rushing around in a panic trying to fix everything, we’ll be focused only on our problems. Even in the most difficult times in our lives, faith is built by stopping and looking at the wonder of God’s power and grace in the expanse and intricacies of nature.
The size of your success is determined by the size of your belief.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca
There is an old saying that sometimes we miss the forest for the tree. In other words we can get so focused on a single thing that it occupies our every thought and we miss the blessings God has for us. I recognize that pain and loss are powerful attention getters. Anyone who ever had a tooth ache knows how that pain literally makes your whole body hurt and it becomes the center of attention. Job suffered an incredible amount of loss and experienced suffering in a way that few if any other humans have. When God speaks to Job, He tells him that the solution is to see the wonders that God had created. As you read the book of Job you will find it describing the wonders of creation and it’s apparent that somewhere in the midst of Job’s pain he began to see the wonders of creation and it restored his faith. We read that in the end God fully restored Job and all he has lost.
Our lesson in this is that we as the people of God often become fixated on a single thing and it drowns out everything else. I’m aware that many of us have fell into this very trap. Without minimizing the effects of the pandemic, it appears that as a single thing it has captured our attention. It is true that we’ve had to make some adjustments, many of them painful and difficult. It is true that many of the things we enjoyed pre-pandemics are not available to us now. We all remember hanging out with friends, having dinner at a restaurant, being involved in group activities without any thought of becoming ill. Perhaps the church of all institutions suffered the greatest for it is by and large an extremely social place. Over a year and a half ago we were forced to give up those treasured gatherings and connections in the way we had gathered and connected for years. We lost the connection of sitting together in a auditorium, hearing choirs sing together, having a time to shake a hand or hug a neck. We gave up a lot of fellowship times with carry-in meals and sitting together in the fellowship hall sharing food together or being able to have in-person Love Feast and passing offering plates and the like- observances of many years. It could be easy to focus on all these losses but if we do we will miss all the ways God provided for us to continue to connect and worship together. I realize for some a parking lot drive-in service was no substitute for the indoor in-person service but over this last year and a half those who chose to be flexible and participate have expressed many times how God touched them in wonderful ways. When our early service group could no longer gather in the auditorium at 8:30 it moved to a virtual format and again those who chose to connect have testified how awesome it was that they could still connect even if they were out of town. I could go on an on about how despite the challenges the pandemic created, the creativity and activity of God has more than overcame. I know it’s different and perhaps it will be different from now on but let us not concentrate on just what we lost but also what we have gained.
As Job begins to focus on the magnificence of all that God had created it put his suffering into perspective. As he began to behold the majesty of creation, his faith and confidence in the greatness and graciousness of God was renewed. We read that God gave Job more children but they were not the same children he had lost. Even though he had more children, life was different for those children lost would forever remain in his heart. I’m sure he enjoyed the new children as much as he did those he lost and while they were not replacements but new creations and his relationship with them was different I don’t think he didn’t appreciate and love them as much as he loved the former children. His sheep and camels and possessions were restored but they were not the same one he had lost. They were the same and yet they were different. Job and his wife’s relationship was permanently affected. You can’t suffer loss and remain the same. But you can learn to enjoy the new blessings of God. The challenge for believers in the pandemic world is to be able to release the old to gain the new. Some of the things lost may be regained in time. Others will be lost forever. We may regain some of our former activities and life practices but we will never be the same. If nothing else our view of things have permanently changed. How we perceive life and work and church has shifted, but it’s not all bad. I hope we are learning to value each other, to value time with family and friends in whatever format it comes in and I hope the church will have its view and vision enlarged to see that even when life changes we can still find ways to connect to God and each other. I pray that each of us have the eye-opening experience of Job and we are able to see the vastness of the universe and the minuscule details of God’s creation and realize that God has not abandoned us nor forsaken us nor left us on our own to figure it all out. I pray we find the patience, the trust, and the peace while we wait on God to guide us through the pandemic world of change and challenge.
Maybe you’re struggling today adapting to all the change. Maybe you are living with the pain of loss or isolation. Maybe life feels disconnected and upside down and you are floundering trying just to keep your head above water. Maybe life feels uncertain and somewhat scary right now or you feel like a boat adrift in a storm that lost its anchor. Let me give you hope. Refocus. Go outside and take some time to see the beauty and glory of nature. Take a moment to look at the mighty trees but also to see the tiniest flower. Sit on your deck or porch tonight and look at the stars in the vastness of the sky and remind yourself that the God who had the power to create all this also has the power to move in your situation. Remind yourself that the God who designed that tiny flower in detail has not forgotten the details of your situation and with His power and with great detail He will bring you through what you are going through. Don’t miss the future He has for you because you are focused on the past that no longer exists. Be like Job. Mourn those children lost but don’t to forget the children that are born. Recognize that change doesn’t have to be only regretted but it can also be embraced.
I share with you today something a very dear friend and minister colleague gave to me some years ago. I was going through a transition in ministry. The things I had been involved in had come to an end. At that time they were the only things I knew. Since they ceased to exist, I felt that my ministry was at its end. So this dear pastor friend said to me, “John, whenever God closes a door, look for an open window. Don’t just keep beating at the door. If God wanted you to go through the door it would be open. If it’s closed He has other plans so look for an open window.”
What a change that made in my life. I ceased to focus on that closed door and began to look for the activity of God and may I tell you that over the years loving that way has been an exciting journey. Do I miss those old things. You’d better believe. Sometimes I reminisce about them with longing. Some days I can still smell the sawdust of tent meetings or hear the sounds of the market place in Kenya. But I’ve learned that when you look for a window, God gives amazing opportunities to serve in His kingdom. Perhaps instead of mourning our loss or sitting in sadness or frustration wishing for the day of the return of all we knew, we ought instead to behold the majesty of God and look for the window He has opened for us in a new and better future. Hear the end of Job’s story:
“The Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before came to him, and they ate bread with him in his house; and they consoled him and comforted him over all the [distressing] adversities that the Lord had brought on him. And each one gave him a piece of money, and each a ring of gold. And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. He had seven sons and three daughters. And he called the name of the first [daughter] Jemimah, and the name of the second Keziah, and the name of the third Keren-happuch. In all the land there were found no women so fair as the daughters of Job; and their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers. After this, Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons and his grandsons, four generations. So Job died, an old man and full of days.”
Because Job chose to focus on the majesty and glory of God, he inherited a greater future. May that be our story!
Dr. John Thompson