Friday, October 07, 2016

The importance of context

The importance of context
A man dressed as a pilot and sporting dark sunglasses is seen leaving the airplane into the tarmac with a dog walking by his side.   Someone inside the terminal waiting to get on the same airplane sees this man with what seems to be a guiding dog and frantically yells out, "The Pilot is blind!"  In an instant, most of the crowd, also waiting for the same airplane went to the window, where they saw the man dressed as a pilot sporting dark sunglasses with a guide dog by his side.  Suddenly the eyes of the waiting crowd turned from the window to the airline employee; fearing for her safety she calls her superior, who immediately dispatches security and launches a frantic investigation. 
Security struggled to calm down the crowd, but it succeeded with minor difficulties.  As soon as the crowd was quiet, an airline employee showed up with the news.  "The man you saw is our pilot.  He is not blind.  The dog is not his.  The dog belongs to a blind passenger in our plane.  Our pilot offered to take the dog for a walk." 
When we do not have the complete and or correct information, we can reach the wrong conclusions which can lead to bad choices leading to severe consequences.  The same thing happens when we have incorrect and or incomplete information about God.
Let us use the story of Job as an example.  The author of the book of Job introduces Job in verses 1 through 5 of the first chapter,
 Job 1: 1There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.
 Job 1: 2And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters.
 Job 1: 3His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.
Job 1: 4And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.
 Job 1: 5And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.
Job was a fortunate man, and he seemed to credit God for it.  He also constantly interceded with God for others.  Starting in verse 6 there is a switch in scenes where we are made privy to background information that neither Job nor anyone else in the story has.  The Devil attacks Job while God permits it and seemingly observes and waits.  The rest of the story shows us how this moment in Heaven plays out on earth, specifically in Job and his acquaintances. 
Without the context we have, Job struggled to understand why God would do this to him.  Job's friends, also lacking this background, reached the wrong conclusions about Job and accused Job of suffering the consequences of his iniquity.  Job defended himself while pleading to God for an answer.   But, at the end of the story, we find that because of this experience Job knew God better and trusted Him more. 
It would behoove us to remember this story and what we learn from it when we go through our struggles in life. 

What does James 1: 2 – 4 tell us about trials,

"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and com­plete, lacking nothing" (James 1:2–4, NKJV).

'The Greek word for "trials," sometimes translated "temptations," is the word peirazo, which has the broader significance of "proving" or "testing." The devil tries us or tempts us to do evil. The tests and trials that God allows to come into our lives are for the purpose of developing our characters.'  Ellen G. White talks about this,

"The trials of life are God's workmen, to remove the impurities and roughness from our character. Their hewing, squaring, and chiseling, their burnishing and polishing, is a painful process; it is hard to be pressed down to the grinding wheel. But the stone is brought forth prepared to fill its place in the heavenly temple. Upon no useless material does the Master bestow such careful, thorough work. Only His precious stones are polished after the similitude of a palace."—Ellen G. White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 10.

However, not every trial is in God's providence. Often we bring suffering upon ourselves through disobedience; often, too, trials and suffering are just the results of what it means to live in a fallen, sinful world where we have an enemy who hates us (1 Pet. 5:8). What this does mean, however, is that through a complete surrender of ourselves to the Lord, to grasping hold of Him in faith and obedience, no matter what we go through, we can come out better or more refined if we allow God to work in us. No one said it would be fun. Life here often isn't fun, but Paul gives us this incredible promise: "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6).

Job never understood why he suffered. His cry to God was, "Why?" However, Job never stopped trusting God. In the middle of his crisis, Job cried out, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him" Job13:15. 

The lesson is for us. Many Christians think that they will find in the Christian life freedom from all difficulty. But everyone who takes up the cross to follow Jesus comes to trial in his experience. Life is not all made up of pleasant pastures and cooling streams. Trial and disappointment overtake us; privation comes; these bring into trying places. Conscience-stricken, we reason that we must have walked far away from God, that if we had walked with him, we should not have suffered so. Doubt and despondency crowd into our hearts, and we say, The Lord has failed us, and we are ill-used. Why does he permit us to suffer thus? He cannot love us; if he did, he would remove the difficulties from our path. Is the Lord with us, or not? {RH, April 7, 1903, par. 2 - 3}

Perhaps this is why Peter admonishes us 1 Peter 1:6-7,

1 Peter 1:6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
1 Peter 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

This verse tells us that trials are neither random nor chaotic. Trials have a purpose. One of them is to produce genuine faith in those who will persevere through all kinds of tests. In other words, trials teach us to depend on God to overcome temptation and to endure the pain and suffering that Sin brings to us until we die (or are translated). We can trust that God's will fulfill His promises.  We may not see it now. Only in retrospect, God may allow us to see a glimpse of the purpose of trials. For many of us, it will be until we reach eternity before we see clearly God's purpose in letting us suffer. We will also see that God was in it with us all the way. We were not alone. And, in fact, our faith grew stronger, and our character became more Christ-like because of the suffering God put us through.

Raul Diaz