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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Paradigm Shift

Remember the story of Job? First, he suffered the loss of all he had -- his livestock, his servants, even his children. His response, while tearing his robe and shaving his head in anguish, was, "The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." (Job 1:21) The author of Job says, "In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong." (Job 1:22) Next, it became personal. Sitting in ashes, he scraped at the "loathsome sores" that covered him from head to toe (Job 2:7-8). His wife asked, "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die." (Job 2:9) Hear Job's response. "Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil?" (Job 2:10)

We naturally and even rightly go to God for help. We ask Him to fix things, to sustain the good and put an end to the bad, to make things right, to rescue us in our troubles. All well and good, as we ought. Even Jesus did it in the garden. "Let this cup pass from Me," He prayed. But what is our response when God does the unexpected? What is our reaction when He allows the unpleasant to occur? What do we say when He does not do as we ask? I'd venture to guess that it's a rare one of us who says in that moment, "Blessed be the name of the Lord." We do not believe that we can receive evil from God and let alone that it would be right. God does not do the unpleasant. Furthermore, He would be morally unsound if He did. It would be wrong. At this point, some leave the faith. "If this is what God is like, I want nothing to do with Him." Others are sorely injured, wondering if they can trust Him again. Many are dismayed. How could God do such a thing? An extremely popular approach is to absolve God. "Well, you know, God didn't want that to happen, but ... Free Will ... you know. He couldn't do anything about it. Bad things happen. Bad people, bad circumstances, natural disasters, diseases ... all that stuff. God is not to blame." Lots of responses, but it is the extremely rare one that says, "Blessed be the name of the Lord."

Note that Job didn't do it cheerfully. That would be insane. He tore his clothes and mourned the losses. He even struggled with his own pain. As the book of Job progresses, Job, faced by "friends" who assure him that the only reason he is enduring such great pains is because of his great sin, begins to ... get testy with God. "Let the Almighty answer me!" he cries (Job 31:35). No, it's not mindless glee we're seeing. But Job recognizes at the core of it all two truths -- that "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away" and "Blessed be the name of the Lord." Job agrees that we should expect both the pleasant and the unpleasant from God. No excuses for God. No recriminations. No moral outrage at God. No despair.

How do you get there from here? It requires a paradigm shift. A paradigm is the structure of a given discipline, the philosophical framework upon which the discipline is built. A paradigm shift would be a change in the underlying assumptions of that discipline. Getting from where we typically are to where Job was would require this kind of radical change -- a change of the basic principles, the underlying assumptions ... of life.

There is the shift from "I'm okay" to "I'm not." We call it the sin nature and most of us ignore it even though all of us have it. Instead, we assume people are innocent until proven guilty, so to speak. We assume "basically good" which is basically false.

There is the shift from "It's all about me" to "It's not." It's not about us. It's about God. But we can't seem to grasp that. Even when we think we do, we can't seem to hold it for very long at all.

There is the shift from "God owes me" to "He doesn't." Or, perhaps, the admission that "He owes me judgment." He doesn't owe us anything pleasant. I remember a recent discussion with a Christian where I pointed out the the doctrine of Election is biblical and it cannot be disputed. How we get chosen may be up for debate, but not that there is the elect. He said to me, "But, everyone gets the chance to be chosen, don't they?" Because, you see, God owes us. We have all thoroughly earned God's wrath, but we somehow think He must be gracious and merciful ... to all.

There is the shift from "I'm pretty important" to "God is Sovereign." A huge step. Because on one hand we don't wish to surrender control as sinful human beings and, on the other hand, with our sinful, self-centered, over-inflated sense of our importance, we feel the need to absolve God of any wrongdoing ... as if He was capable of wrongdoing.

There is the shift from "I know what's right and wrong" to "I don't." We find that our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked. We find that we are a people blinded by the god of this world. We find that He speaks truth and we're far more closely related to the father of lies. We judge Him by our own faulty standards as if we have that right or that capability. We miss that God is always good. This is a radical shift.

These are just several of the radical shifts in thinking -- in renewing our minds -- required to get us from "How dare God do that?!" to "The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." How do we get from "God owes me" to "Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil?" Clearly, since Job had that mindset, it is possible. The real question, then, is whether or not we want it. Perhaps we're perfectly happy in our sin-sick, deluded thinking.


Craig said...

Is it safe to say that the common thread in your last two posts is that we should be centered on God and who He is, rather than on man and what we want?

Stan said...

Radically so.

Craig said...

That's what I thought. You could probably just focus on this every post and not run out of material

Stan said...

Since our primary sin problem is self-centeredness and our primary goal as believers is the opposite -- focus on God and others -- I think you're right. Lots to be said there in lots of areas and lots of ways.

Craig said...

Can't argue with that at all.