Onward Growth

I taught high school English years ago.  I taught British literature  to Freshman and Sophomores and Shakespeare to Juniors and Seniors.  They were, at the time, Great Expectations, Silas Marner, Julius Caesar, and Macbeth.  I loved all English literature, and I thought the teaching was good, because I was passionate about it.

Years later, I have become wiser about life.  I could now hit upon the pride in social class in Great Expectations because I have been to England and have a much greater understanding of it.  I could point out the eccentricity of Silas Marner, a very British characteristic.  I now see the fear of the Romans of losing their precious republic that would cost Julius Caesar or the pattern of many kings who usurped the throne who made MacBeth a fool.    I know more now about human nature, and I have traveled and have a far greater understanding of cultures and the particulars that exist in countries and cultures.    I didn't do a bad job, but I could have done so much better.

I was thinking about givers and Job, and I realized some things that I didn't give enough weight to in my mind about givers.  First, Job is a Jew.  That is hugely significant, and I don't think I thought enough on that.  He is a giver and a legalist.  He is a good Jew who does everything he believes God wants, and he even compensates for his children's lack of obedience, should there be any.    He believes in the law's ability to protect, if it is obeyed; and he has a healthy respect for God.

He doesn't know God, except through the reality of Judaism, and by that measure, he knows God.  In fact, he fears Him and he obeys Him and though limited, he has some true knowledge.  When Satan suggests that God test Job to see if he would stay obedient, God is not tripped up by the devious suggestion, or interested in seeing his beloved humiliated.  Rather, I think he is about to give to Job a new depth of understanding that goes beyond his law abiding good Jew mentality.  The experience, when Job is on the other side, is a gift.  He is going to put a real heart of mercy and forgiveness and compassion in the giver's heart that has once been calculating, exacting, opportunistic, and self righteous.  

Throughout the experience, Job is challenged in his deep giver belief system.  Does God let the just suffer, and if so, why?  To what end?  And is God worthy of devotion without the perks?  Is God fair and just?  Does it pay to serve him?  

Job was not just a giver himself, he was from a nation of givers.  These folks often griped and wondered out loud if it was worth it to serve God?  Were leeks and onions better than manna?  Was slavery better than being homeless and wandering?  Did tithes and offerings have a good return?  These are not ideological questions.  They are giver questions about dividends.  They are practical and they regard service, supply, and reward as the plumbline of good business practices.  

How does God move Job from accounting over into relationship.  How does he reward Job with intimate knowledge of himself and  move him out of a business partnership?  How does He empower him to become a man of prayer that changes things and people, instead of a good friend who is generous?  It was the path of suffering.  

Our gifts make us rich in some ways, but they are not a complete package without growth and understanding.  We can not bridge the gaps without help at times.  Our strengths often become a liability somewhere along the way, and we are willing to surrender them in exchange for a better way.  Job was better in the end.  He was more compassionate, less self assured about his own righteousness.  He was not in business with God in longer.  He was a more mature individual who partnered with God in a new way.  That is our life time goal.

If there are things about your redemptive gift that you know need to be tempered, fortified, or overcome, think about Job.  He didn't even know and yet God "fixed it."  

The "situations" or problems in our lives are often the pathway to growth.  An exhorter may believe that nothing is impossible, like Paul, and still find himself ship wrecked or beaten.  It will take character and perseverance and renewed faith and hope to get back up and do it all again.  The exhorter doesn't succeed on his gifting alone, but by overcoming and following the direction he is being led.  He has gifts to accomplish his purpose, but like the great William Wilberforce, it may take almost forty years to see it done.  That is a life of starting over and preserving.  One passionate speech did not catapult a nation to abolish slavery, but the day after day work did let England give up a lucrative, sinful trade without war.  

The exhorter, Winston Churchill was used to inspire a nation in WWII.  His passionate words helped a nation hold steady, but Winston had made many mistakes in judgment and wisdom before those years that prepared him for the task.  

A prophet can be full of faith and then despair, like Elijah did after his triumph against the prophets of Baal.  Condemnation from feeling like he has "got it wrong" can devastate the prophet.  He is so concerned with getting it right, hearing God, declaring truth, that to believe he has missed it can be crippling to him and paralyze him.  John the Baptist felt the same way when he was imprisoned after baptizing Jesus.  It can take a prophet a life time to trust the sovreignity of  God and to be able to accept that his faith is not the only component in God's plans which are mysterious at times and beyond us.   It is a work in progress for a prophet to grow, just like every other gift.  

The gifts, our redemptive gift, is not for us, it is for the world.  It is meant to be our greatest return on our investment in life.  It is where our design will lead us to be the most successful.  It is what we do with ease, what we grow better in, where we have a God given design to thrive and  where our greatest challenges and overcoming for good exist.  




New Thoughts on the Giver