Sermon 11.21.18 Thanksgiving

Job 1:21                                                                                                                                                                                     Rev. Kenneth Frey
Thanksgiving                                                                                                                                                                                             11/22/18
 
Job 1:21  “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”
 
The Name of the Lord be praised
1.  Life is a journey from nothing to nothing
2.  Accept what comes in life
3.  Thank God for it all
 
One of the great questions in life is one that people have been asking ever since Adam saw the first sunrise.  It’s a question that all of us will have to answer at some point in life because we will all experience things and circumstances that will provoke us and give us pause.  The question is this:  Is God good?  As Christian in a Christian church on a Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving, our automatic answer is yes.  On Thanksgiving we thank God for food, clothing, shelter, faith and more.  We acknowledge God’s blessings to us.  But would we do that when we experience loss and tragedy?  Would we thank God even for those things?  Could we say with Job at all times, “The name of the Lord be praised”?
Let’s recall the story of Job.  Job probably lived before the time of Abraham or around his time.  He was a very wealthy man.  He had flocks, herds and servants.  Plus he had a large family.  And he was a devout man.  He daily offered sacrifices to God, just in case his children had sinned.  God told Satan that there was no one like him. 
Satan, however, had a different take.  He presented fake news.  He said that Job was so good only because God had so richly blessed his life.  Take it away, he said, and Job will curse you to your face.  To prove Satan wrong, God allowed Satan to have his way with Job.  In one day Job lost everything:  crops, flocks, herds and even all of his children.  Later Job would also lose his health. 
And it was painful.  We are told, “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head.” (Job 1:20)  Have you ever lost a child?  The closest I came to that kind of grief was when my oldest son, Luke, was six weeks old.  I was a Vicar in Bloomington, Minnesota.  Luke got really sick one night.  If you moved him, he would scream.  We had to just hold him on a pillow and he would just moan. 
We knew something was wrong so the next morning Connie took him to the doctor.  I was taking the new pastor around to meet some of the shut-ins of the congregation.  We were at the Veteran’s home when the pastor was paged – this was before the days of cell phones – and I knew it was about Luke.  He went to the nurses station and quickly returned to tell me that they had sent Luke to children’s hospital in downtown Minneapolis. 
They admitted Luke immediately with what they suspected was meningitis.  If you know anything about meningitis, you will know that there are two kinds of meningitis:  bacterial and viral.  Viral meningitis is not usually lethal and will go away once the virus has run its course.  Bacterial meningitis often is deadly.  The only way to tell for sure is to do a spinal tap.  They tried three times to do a spinal tap but he was so small and he fought so hard they never got a clean tap. 
We spent that day at the hospital not knowing if our only son was going to die.  And it was the worst feeling in the world. 
Job lost all of his children – the children he had raised, played with and prayed over.  They were all gone.  He tore his clothes and shaved his head.  Signs of deep grief. 
But what’s amazing is how that verse continues.  “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:  “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”  In his grief he responded by worshiping.  He praised God.  Job understood that life is really a journey from nothing to nothing. 
Do you ever wonder what Satan has in store for you?  You can be sure that Satan would like to bring all kinds of hardships into your life.  You can be sure that Satan would gladly do everything he can to get you to doubt God’s love for you and lose your faith.  The only reason it hasn’t happened is because of God’s protecting hand.  God has put a hedge around us.  So every day we ought to fall into bed with prayers of thanksgiving to God for his protection and love. 
Satan thought Job would curse God, give up on God, and doubt God’s love.  What would you do?  When you lose your job, your car breaks down, or your child dies of cancer, how would you react?  Would it be to complain?  Whine, pout, stomp your feet?  We probably wouldn’t admit it, but underneath the complaining is the attitude that we deserve better from God.  God owes us and if God is not going to follow through on his end, why should I make time for him in my life?  That’s the reaction of many and that’s what Satan expected from Job.  Is that what he can expect from us? 
Another reaction we may have to such problems is to demand an explanation.  “Why God?” we say.  We treat life like a card game.  To win at most card games, you need a little luck, some skill and a good partner.  So when you lose, what do you do?  You blame your bad luck or you blame your partner.  That’s what we do with life.  In the game of life, we don’t like to be partners with God.  We don’t like the way he plays his cards.  So we want God to show us his hand and explain why he would play such a card in our lives.  We want him to explain how this problem is benefiting me.
But the truth is, God doesn’t owe us an explanation.  God doesn’t owe us anything.  We need to first see that anything good we have is a gift from God.  And let’s not forget that the source of our suffering is not God, but Satan.  Satan was confident that Job would curse God when all this happened.  So God let it happen – for a purpose.  The purpose was not to punish Job or even discipline him.  And it was not a test so much as it was an opportunity.  God was giving Job an opportunity to show his faith and to show that his love for God was genuine. 
Job didn’t know that was the purpose, but he did believe that God had a purpose.  And whatever happened, Job saw it as an opportunity to glorify God for God’s own sake and not just for what he gets from God.  He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” 
If you ever go to a fitness center, you will see guys lifting weights.  For example, they will get on the bench press and press a number of times.  Then they will add more weights and press some more.  Then they will add more weights and press some more.  In this way they get stronger.
Do you want God to make you a stronger Christian?  You may have to bench press some weights.  You may have to bear up under loss, sickness or poverty.  You may have to endure more than you want and more than you think you can.  Do we take the good things from God that make life easy but not the bad things that make us stronger?  Let’s learn to accept whatever God allows into our lives with humility. 
How did Job show that humility?  First, he didn’t accuse God of doing wrong.  In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.   Even though he didn’t know why this happened, he trusted that God always does what is right and best.  We need to trust that God always does what is right and best, even when things seem really bad.  That’s why it is so important for us to listen the gospel of God’s love in Christ.  That’s why we keep before our eyes the cross of Jesus who loved us so much he died for our sins.  The Apostle Paul promised, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)  We need constant affirmation of God’s love for us and his forgiveness for our impatient moments.  Then we will be ready for those moments when God’s love is hidden under a cross.
God’s love was indeed hidden that day in the hospital with Luke.  Oh, he was fine in a couple days.  It was probably viral meningitis.  But I don’t know that I could have accepted that loss the way Job did.  “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”  He praised God even for the losses in his life. 
On this Thanksgiving Day will we praise God just for being God, even if our lives are not great?    Will we praise God even when God takes the hedge away and let’s suffering come?  Will we see those times as opportunities to bring glory to God? 
Life really is a journey from nothing to nothing, so let’s accept whatever God allows in our lives and thank God for it.   In all circumstances of life, may we say, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised?”