As Christians we ought to carry with us the single most important principle for an intimate attachment with God. It permits us to freely move in His presence. To be precise, we can go to God’s throne at any time without fear and receive freely from Him. Again, it allows us to freely act, react and carry out a wide range of activities with utmost liberty and courage. Because of it, God gives us the license to please and honor Him. His love is sustained in us by it; His commandments ingrained in us. Furthermore, our spirit is constantly tested for purity. It is the one principle that puts a healthy fear of God in us. We can be confident that God will bring forth the things He willed and promised. On the other hand, sorrows arise for failing to keep it. And the principle is this: “Be careful, do not turn to evil, for you have preferred this to affliction” (Job 36:21).
A different and yet, a true representation of the principle would be the following: turn to righteousness, for you have preferred it to your joy. What man is not incumbent for joy? Yet, when we seek it with our own ways, we more likely turn to evil and bring sorrow upon ourselves. Many waste their time, energy and resources to find joy rather than turning to righteousness. In fact, the mystery of finding joy is turning to God’s righteousness. Our ultimate goal is to be with God eternally and it should be that way throughout our days on earth. Take any man or woman of God in the Bible and the only thing they went after is righteousness. For some reason they knew it to be the best way for absolute, everlasting joy. And I tell you that reason – it is the only obsession that pleases the God Almighty to uphold, control and provide all things. He, like none other, upholds everything we have; He controls all things pertaining to us; He provides everything we need and desire according to His will. So, they did not find any other reason than pursuing righteousness. This was their way to turn away from evil.
We can always know the reason for our affliction. It is a privilege of being a Christian after God’s purpose. It is God’s favor to us that we know where we stand in relation to Him. If we turn to evil and see affliction, He works to convict us of sin, righteousness and judgment so that we know the reason for it. It is for this reason also He sent His Holy Spirit. As His children, we cannot escape from this system, which ultimately does good than when we succeed in ignoring it. For the Spirit works through the Word in such a way we are pecked back into His presence. It may take time, but He finds a way that we face His Word. It almost depicts Him an autocrat. On the contrary, the only reason I can say He is not one is that He gave His only begotten Son for us to proclaim His love toward us. I do not know how else to describe it, but to say that with the unfathomable love He has toward us He does not intend to lose us. He has every right to act and bring us to Him. Moreover, we should even expect and want Him to exercise that right so that we experience true joy.
Job knew the reason for his sorrow. It was for being righteous. For this reason, he thought he should not be tried by God. Nevertheless, he went on to understand that it will end up giving him the absolute, everlasting joy. When in righteousness we too can know the cause of our affliction and it is by the work of the Spirit who indwells us; for He does not testify falsely. The only question is of bearing the affliction, i.e. how long and how much. At times it appears there will be no end to it, but there will be. It is by the attribute that was earlier the cause for affliction. In pursuing it we eventually see the end; we understand that God has cleansed us and equipped us for more intimacy with Him. Then, we can measure its length and magnitude. This is the secret we discover from Job’s testing. How does the pursuit of righteousness end an affliction born of righteousness? Since God bears it along with us. To be facing such affliction avails benefits that open the doors for glorifying God.
The first benefit is this: Christ will always be on our side working for us and against the devil. We see Him do it for Peter. “But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32). Peter was one of the twelve that suffered affliction by deciding to follow Jesus. We know this when he remarked to the Lord that they left everything to follow Him. The sorrow he faced allowed him to develop an intimate attachment to the Lord. The Lord knew him and his passion for Him. So, He took note of his sin that is to appear and prayed for his faith. Peter eventually stood up, but more importantly, he understood he had a Savior that stood by him and secured his salvation. Satan will work and demand to destroy us further. But, the affliction we faced in righteousness allows the Lord to pour His mercy on us that we are not lost through sin. Peter was also given the work of strengthening his brothers after returning. The Lord put him back in the place He purposed for him. He will never remove the purpose He gave us, but will see to it that we fulfill it.
The second is this: God uses us in order that His Holy Spirit does His work. “And concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged” (John 16:11). It is through us that He intends to convict the world concerning judgment. So, Jesus said the Helper will come to you. The Spirit leads us in word and deed for the world to understand His judgment. He makes them know that sin will be judged, because their ruler has been judged. In other words, God demonstrates through our turning to righteousness that Satan has been judged. Then, the world can perceive that which is keeping them in sin. He uses our life to put the fear of judgment in their hearts that they may come to know Him. He wants them to know they will be judged for every act and word they do.
The third is this: In all that we do for God and for ourselves God will keep us blameless. We will be reassured over and over and again of our eternal place with Him. Because He chose us to turn away from evil, i.e. turn to righteousness, He has purposed it for us. Therefore, of Him Paul said, “who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:8). God will make sure that our affliction in righteousness does not go waste.
The fourth is this: Because we are being reassured, we press on to keep our duty toward God and Christ. Our hearts dwell on the persuasion of the Word. “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Phil. 4:8). The Spirit will prompt us to make the right choices that indicate our dwelling on the things that please God. When this is our work day in and day out, week in and week out, it is proof that we did not turn to evil to prefer affliction. And now if we face affliction, we know the reason for it.
Listen brethren, the Spirit of God called us for greater examination. “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble” (2 Pet. 1:10). And by being in possession of the benefits that glorify God, we succeed. We ought to practice righteousness that we do not stumble. We ought to believe in God’s desire that we excel greatly in the things He called us. Then, we become stalwarts in faith. Though the devil prowls to see if there is any weakness to make us feel ambiguous about our calling and to fail us in His purpose for us, we will not yield.
God has great vision for us through Christ Jesus. If He did not, He would not have called and chosen us. If we believe Him to be perfect, we ought to believe that nothing of His goes to waste – His plans, choices, works or power. When He has put us through something, it is that we obtain the best from Him. As long as we do not turn to evil, we resemble His Son Jesus. And all who resemble Jesus fill up the measure of righteousness that is lacking by His absence in the flesh. “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life’” (John 8:12).