What Grace Can Do
Satan would have none of it. The Lord had said to him, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.’ But Satan thought he knew better. He had Job all figured out: ‘Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything that he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.’ The goodness that the Lord so admired in Job was only skin deep. Job was careful to keep in with God simply because it paid him to do so.
What is more, Satan would prove it! ‘Stretch out your hand,’ he said, ‘and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.’ But Job didn’t curse God. When God permitted Satan to afflict him so fearfully his response – amazingly – was to give praise to God. And though he certainly had his struggles afterwards Job kept on clinging to God until his time of trial was over.
It is a beautiful picture of what grace can do. Job’s holiness wasn’t rooted in mere self-interest – as Satan cynically alleged. He was what he was because God had changed his heart. And if in the same way God has changed our hearts, the result will be the same. Let our temporal blessings all be taken away. We will still love God.
The Rev. Henry Venn (1724-1797) told his children one day that he would take them that evening ‘to one of the most interesting sights in the world.’ I give the story in the words of his son:
They were anxious to know what it was; but he deferred gratifying their curiosity till he had brought them to the scene itself. He led them to a miserable hovel, whose ruinous walls and broken windows bespoke an extreme degree of poverty and want. ‘Now’, said he, ‘my dear children, can anyone, that lives in such a wretched habitation as this, be happy? Yet this is not all: a poor man lies upon a miserable straw-bed within it, dying of disease, at the age of only nineteen, consumed with constant fever, and afflicted with nine painful ulcers.’ – ‘How wretched a situation!’ they all exclaimed.
He then led them into the cottage, and, addressing the poor dying young man, said, ‘Abraham Midwood, I have brought my children here, to show them that it is possible to be happy in a state of disease and poverty and want; and now, tell them if it is so.’ The dying youth, with a sweet smile of benevolence and piety, immediately replied, ‘Oh yes, Sir! I would not change my state with that of the richest person upon earth, who was destitute of those views which I possess. Blessed be God! I have a good hope, through Christ, of being admitted into those blessed regions where Lazarus now dwells, having long forgotten all his sorrows and miseries. Sir, this is nothing to bear, whilst the presence of God cheers my soul, and whilst I can have access to Him, by constant prayer, through faith in Jesus. Indeed, Sir, I am truly happy; and I trust to be happy and blessed through eternity; and I every hour thank God, who has brought me from a state of darkness into His marvellous light, and has given me to enjoy the unsearchable riches of his grace’ (Letters of Henry Venn, pp.39-40).1
Venn’s son adds, ‘The impression made by this discourse upon his young hearers will never be effaced.’
What had the children seen? What Satan, apparently, did not believe possible – that a believer can be stripped of all the good things of this life and still bless the Lord. But such is the power of grace. Believers have known it in every age. We may trust the Lord that it will be equally sufficient for us.
Satan would have none of it. The Lord had said to him, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.’ But Satan thought he knew better. He had Job all figured out: ‘Does Job fear God […]
David Campbell is pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Living in the World 6 November 2020
This article is the contents of an address first given in February 2020 at the Westminster Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Newcastle, UK. * * * LIVING in the world. How are Christians to live in the world? The question can be answered in many ways. The topic is potentially vast in scope — that becomes more […]
When coming to consider plagues throughout history and some Christian responses, it is appropriate to begin with this extract from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer: O Almighty God, who in thy wrath did send a plague upon thine own people in the wilderness, for their obstinate rebellion against Moses and Aaron; and also, in […]