4 July 2020 – Whole-life discipleship

There is so much in the world that we cannot change. Even in our own locality there are so many things over which we have no influence. We have all felt a sense of powerlessness in the face of the Covid-19 virus pandemic. Our lives feel like they have been put on hold until this invisible enemy is vanquished. For those in work and able to continue their daily routine as close as possible to normal the last few months have been in some ways less challenging, but for the majority of us we have been in a very different place seeking to adjust to a ‘new normal’ way of life for a period of months. Of course it is always better to focus on what we can do rather than what we cannot do. Job in chapter thirty-one of the book named after him, in his final comments on the way he has been living, draws attention to the factors over which we have control in our lives. He appeals to Almighty God to examine his life and to pass judgement fairly on him. What topics does Job highlight for us in Job 31?

1. Job as a human being (Job 31:1-12) In verses 1-4 he focuses on how as a man he has viewed the women he has encountered in his daily life. In essence, he is addressing the subject of lust and declares that he made a self-conscious decision to discipline himself to always view a woman respectfully and honourably and not in a manner for self-gratification. Given that the audience to his words are his friends who have known him for many years, they would know the kind of person Job was. Therefore, Job could not pretend to be someone different to the man they had known. In verses 5-8 he moves on to declare he has never deceived someone, by contrast on this subject I am blameless (Job 31:6); then, in Job 31:9-12, he states he has been faithful to his wife and not engaged in any inappropriate relationships. I have control over my attitudes, words and actions as a human being, says Job, therefore, I have honoured God in each area of my personal life. Can you and I state before God that we are people of integrity? Our country needs more people like this in all walks of life and within all types of communities.          

2. Job as an employer (Job 31:13-15) Job was a wealthy businessman who had a lot of employees. How had he treated them over the years with respect to their working environment? Had he been fair in settling their terms for pay and conditions?  Our witness to other people as a Christian consists of so much more than our words of testimony. People want to know how it works in our conduct.  Am I the same in my attitudes or actions on a Sunday in church and Monday to Saturday in all manner of other places? If not, why not?

3. Job as a neighbour (Job 31:16-23, 29-32) Did I have time for other people when they requested assistance? Was I willing to make some time to build good relationships with the people who live nearby my home? ‘Yes’ said Job. I have done this consistently. He had not engaged in a public relations exercise. It was genuine care for the needs of other people. This was not just local people who lived in his area, but also travellers passing through and others who needed food to eat. In current times our movements are restricted, but we can write messages to others on paper or online to encourage one another. We can make phone calls or possibly hold conversations across the garden fence. In the recent past during this pandemic in our city so many people have looked out for their neighbours doing shopping, collecting prescriptions, mowing lawns and so much more where that was required. It doesn’t have to be a big commitment, sometimes it may simply be a willingness to listen to a person going through a tough time.         

4. Job as a worshipper (Job 31:24-28) What comes first in my life? Job was clear that money and possessions did not have first place in his affections. Nor did he worship other gods. Instead he was a dedicated and committed worshiper of the one true God. There was no-one or no thing that received a greater allegiance than Job had promised to God. He was faithful to the God who loved and cared for him – is that true of you and me as well?

5. Job as a steward (Job 31:38-40) did he care for the environment in the land where he lived? Was there appropriate crop management to maximise the yields at harvest time? Did he treat his tenant farmers fairly as he issued guidance on how to maintain fertile and productive land? It is interesting that environmental concerns were being mentioned here several thousand years ago,  

In summary, Job was outlining his attempt to live for God each day of the work and in whatever location he found himself. Like him, our focus should be primarily on what we can do for God and for other people in their times of need, rather than on what we cannot do.  As we live God-honouring lives, let us ask God how we may best serve Him and other people at this time, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.

Our song for reflection today is: ‘As the deer pants for the water’

Brian Talbot