Does God Owe Us Something?
May 20, 2019
There is a common misconception that when we come to faith in Jesus, we are entitled to certain benefits, comforts, and opportunities in this life. It is true that our lives change when we walk with the Lord, but that doesn’t mean that life will become easier and more comfortable from a worldly perspective. God’s promises are eternal and spiritual in nature. Therefore, while God promised peace, satisfaction, prosperity, blessings, victory, and rest, that doesn’t mean that God will give us everything we want, and remove us from life’s trials to appease us in this world. God promised peace, but that peace is not as the world gives, which means that it won’t come in ways common to human understanding. God promised satisfaction, but for our souls as He equips us by His Spirit to fulfill His purposes unto His glory as His servants. God promised prosperity and blessings, but through the conduit of the children of Israel, specifically the Messiah Jesus Christ, ruling and reigning according to His righteousness and holiness in His kingdom. God promised victory, but that victory is in regards to the destruction of sin, death and hell. We are overcomers, but that means that we are able to escape the judgment and wrath of God against darkness and corruption on account of faith that He implants in us. As a result, the curse and labor of sin is done away with, giving us rest for our souls.
So, what do these promises mean for this life? Jesus promised that in this world, we will have many troubles, but we are to rejoice because He has overcome the world. Nevertheless, God’s people are not exempt from trouble, trials, challenges, suffering, and pain. Jesus actually promised that His people would suffer for His namesake. The Bible does not teach that God has made us righteous in this life when we got saved. The Bible teaches that God declared us righteous on account of faith, which means that we still make mistakes. Proverbs 24:16 states that even those declared righteous will fall seven times in a day (a perfect and complete sinner), but God will raise them up. This shows that, just because we have faith, doesn’t mean we suddenly have the ability to live in accordance with God’s perfect righteousness on our own. Yet, as God’s children, we receive God’s mercy, not condemnation. We receive God’s gentle chastening and instruction because He loves us. He doesn’t burry us for our shortcomings. The Lord refines us into His image; but that refinement comes by purging corruption in fire. God prunes us to strip the things from our lives that consume us and prevent us from bearing fruit. While it is a miracle that we have been forgiven of sins, past, present, and future, there is still work to be done, and it is important that we approach God with thanksgiving and humility, not self-entitlement.
The testimony of Job shows that Job fell into the temptation to respond to God’s sovereign control of life with self-entitlement. Job, looking at the quality of revelation and extent of service God brought to his life, recognized that he was approved by God. God used Job in profound and miraculous ways, and Job cherished the relationship that God nurtured in him. However, when Job’s life changed and he experienced suffering, Job felt that the extent of his suffering was excessive. Job felt like he had somehow become an enemy of God and that the pain of being an enemy of God was too much to bear. He desired to die, figuring that death would activate God’s mercy to restore his relationship with God. When Job spoke of death, he spoke of it as a glorious release from the trials of this life into the eternal grace and promise of God. However, Job spoke of death in such a way that he felt God should make his death swift and immediate, taking him away from the pain of his suffering.
While Job’s attitude might seem spiritually mature, to look at death as a benefit to be in the presence of God, the testimony of Job 34:31-37 shows that Elihu saw Job speaking with a self-entitled attitude. Why should God meet Job’s demands? If God is supremely right, just, and pure, why should God yield to Job’s desires, even for death? Why should God honor Job’s request to die and escape suffering – was God’s suffering unwarranted? Why should God change His course if He is indeed perfectly righteous in every way? Is God bound to meet our expectations just because we feel we have a spiritual basis for them?
The testimony of Job 34:31-37 presents some tough things for the children of God to digest. Elihu stated the following:
“Has anyone said to God, ‘I have born chastening; I will offend no more; teach me what I do not see; if I have done iniquity, I will do no more?’ Should He repay it according to your term just because you disavowed it?”
This is a hard thing to consider. This principle of life stings the flesh for the Christian. Consider Elihu’s premise. When Elihu referred to chastening, he was speaking of those who deal with God’s correction patiently. To bear chastening, means to receive God’s correction. God convicts by His Spirit, and the Bible explains that those who receive His correction are wise. God chastens those who He loves. Thus, those who bear God’s chastening are those who receive His love. This is a good thing!
When Elihu said, “I will offend no more,” he referred to confession of sin. Notice that this situation shows the admission of offense, and also the desire to refrain from it. It is necessary to confess our sins. The Bible requires the people of God to confess our identity as sinners and to continually confess particular offenses that God brings to our awareness. In this scenario, a person accepts their guilt and desires to make God’s chastening effective to keep them from further offense. It is good to despise sin and evil. It is good to hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness rather than living comfortably in sin as an offense to God.
Elihu referred to an attitude that depends on the Lord in humility Notice that in this scenario, the person desires to be taught by God. The person desires to know and understand God’s righteousness, which cannot be known apart from God. This person desires to know the hidden things of God and depends on the Lord to reveal those things. Notice that the person requires God’s instruction and is no relying on their own experience to learn, or their own ability to pursue. This attitude reflects that there are hidden things of the heart that we cannot know, that are an offense to God, but this attitude desires conviction unto refinement and correction. This is a good thing.
When examining this scenario, the heart condition that Elihu described is a good one. In fact, it would be safe to say that Job had this same attitude for the most part. This description matches the standards that God set out for his people, so that this attitude reflects someone who has faults, but endures obedience to God’s Word. What could be wrong with that?
The error comes when we expect God to alter His treatment of us because we are walking by faith. Elihu’s point is this: Are we entitled to extra benefits, beyond that which God has promised, because we do what God said? Are the promises of God according to His grace not sufficient to satisfy us, that when we do good by His Spirit, we expect more? Consider the flaws in logic here. Why should we expect God to remove us from trials and suffering if we are repentant and submissive to His correction? Doesn’t the need to repent and receive correction show that we are at fault in some way? Doesn’t that fault disqualify us from God’s favor? It is easy to think that the mercy God shows, the restraint He expresses to keep from destroying us in our flaws, is a sign that God wants to “bless us.” God has already blessed us! He has already made promises that He took upon Himself to fulfill to preserve our souls from hell. Should He repay us for repentance according to our terms? Just because we admit our fault, pray, read the Word, go to church, tithe, and sing to Him, have we impressed Him so much that He should remove us from discomfort, frustration, and problems in this life?
Elihu explained that this is the attitude Job had. It was true that he was righteous and blameless. Job was a man of faith. He received God’s revelation and Word. He confessed his sin. He served the Lord with the provision that God gave. He focused on addressing the spiritual needs of others. Job repented when necessary, and even in the midst of his complaints, pleaded to the Lord to show further fault so as to repent from that. However, if God would have exposed more fault, and Job repented of that fault, does that obligate God to change Job’s life back to the way it was? Jesus addressed this point perfectly in Luke 17:10:
“So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.' "
Elihu put truth on the table and let his audience digest it. Job spoke out of turn with an attitude of self-righteousness and self-entitlement. Just because Job served the Lord well didn’t mean that he was exempt from certain hardships in this life – he had already been forgiven of sins to escape hell. Just because Job served the Lord well didn’t mean that he was entitled to certain benefits – he was already made an heir of God’s eternal blessings. Was God’s treatment of Job not good enough that He needed to give Job more? This is what Elihu meant when he said that Job spoke without knowledge. It was as if Job forgot the extent of mercy and grace he had already received as a child of God. This is why Elihu said that Job spoke as a wicked man. Job spoke as those who cheapen or devalue the mercy and grace of God as if it is insufficient to please us. Elihu explained that Job got caught up in applauding his life before his trials, speaking as if he was worthy of a certain quality of life, and that God wasn’t meeting that standard. When Job grew tired of this life, he expected God to meet his demands to just end his life, and usher him into the kingdom so that Job could enjoy himself again. Even though Job wanted to die to escape pain, is God obligated to yield to his terms? When we remember who God really is, it becomes clear that this self-entitled attitude is wicked indeed. If we recognize the need to repent, and do so, let us not then adopt the thought that God owes us something for it. We are merely unprofitable servants that God does miracles to get profit out of us. We are only doing our duty, and should appreciate the eternal nature of God’s promises and blessings more highly.