UPCOMING SURGERY IN SEPTEMBER!

We have just received some great news, even as I write these closing remarks of this letter. The surgeon had noticed a spot on my pancreas, during the surgery in Florida, which resulted in a temporary colostomy. Both of the wonderful doctors, who cared for me in Florida, urged me to get an endoscopic ultrasound of my pancreas, once I made sufficient recovery from the surgery. A specialist in Mobile conducted that exam a few weeks ago. We have just received the results of those biopsies’. We are so grateful to report that there is no cancer, either in the pancreas or of the esophagus. They did discover another issue upon this exam, which was the reason for the additional biopsies of the esophagus. I have been diagnosed with “Barrett’s Esophagus”. However, this is being treated with medicine; and will be examined annually, to make certain that nothing else more serious develops!

I am now at the “half-way” point to my next surgery, to re-connect the colon. This is scheduled for the first week of September. I must have this 2nd surgery before I can begin a full schedule of preaching again. But as followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, Dianne and I have purposed to worship our Lord in this next valley of adversity. If our brother Job worshipped God and accepted adversity from our loving Father, then why shouldn’t we follow in his footsteps? For he was also a man of flesh and blood just like us. It was the all-sufficient grace of God, which enabled Job to walk through all of his adversities. That same mighty grace is available to my precious wife and I, during these difficult days. When we consider Job, we are reminded that he was given the assistance of our Lord and God, even when he did not have all of the answers to why all these things were happening in his life. And of course, we have available to us, far more illumination that Job had; for we can learn from Job’s life testimony and God’s gracious sufficiency! Our Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever. So, by the power of the Holy Spirit and the mighty grace of God, we have as our passion and purpose to continue to worship our Lord, in the valley of adversity.

WILL A MAN WORSHIP GOD FOR NOTHING?

Job 1:9 - “Will a man worship God for nothing?” This was the vile accusation that Satan made against a man, whom God called, “the most godly man of his era”. The accuser of the brethren could not imagine that any human being who would worship and serve God, simply and solely because of “Who God is, in all of the majesty and glory of His being”! For Satan is so poisoned with his sinister pride, that when he observes a believer who is serving the Lord, in a life of authentic worship, he wickedly assumes that this believer must have some ulterior motives. So the “wicked one” simultaneously charged God with buying Job’s worship; and accused Job of worshipping the Lord for selfish reasons. Lucifer was making the iniquitous implication that, ‘Job was not worshipping the Lord, because of who He is. Rather, Satan was implying that Job was only worshipping God because of all of these benefits’. He was also insinuating that Job would not continue to worship the Lord God, if all of the physical blessings were removed. This was an accusation that Job would not continue to wholeheartedly worship, if he were to plummet into the pit of catastrophe and crisis! He advocated that in adversities, Job would prove to manifest that God was not the supreme love and preeminent treasure of his life. Since Satan could not bring any accusation against Job’s character, he attempted to impugn Job’s motives.

On the one hand, this is an abominable accusation against Job and a heinous insinuation against God. But on the other hand, it is also a challenging proposition to each of us today. May I ask you, “Would you worship God for nothing? Would you worship the Lord your God, for the eternal worth of His person, even if everything and everyone else was taken away?” This is always the great challenge for our lives, when we must walk through the valley of adversity. Will we continue to worship the Lord, as our preeminent treasure of our lives, throughout the trials, the tribulations and the tears? Will we be faithful to exhibit the consecration sacrifice of worship, solely because our King and Redeemer is absolutely worthy of our true and spiritual worship? Or will we prove the accusation of the enemy, that we only worship conditionally, according to the benefits, which we receive?

Dear friends, as I am writing this letter, I am reminded that 8 weeks ago today, I was in a Florida hospital suffering with diverticulitis, perforated bowels, and a stomach filled with peritonitis. If I did not have emergency surgery, I would be in a life-threatening situation. Just 24 hours previous to that, I was preaching the Word of God to a packed church, in Lake City, Florida. And now, I was in the midst of a medical emergency over 500 miles from home! As I lay in that hospital bed digesting all that was happening, I was immediately reminded of a profound truth that Dianne and I had been taught many years ago. “Every adversity that comes to my life is a ‘call to worship my Lord’!” Every fiery trial, which I fall into, is a summons from my Master to put the authenticity of my faith on display to a watching world.

One of the major truths that the Book of Job teaches is that, ‘the sworn enemy of our souls is on a divine chain, which is firmly held by our sovereign and omnipotent Lord’. This fallen angel could not bring any adversity to Job’s life, without receiving both divine permission and divine limitations. Satan could not lay a hand on Job, unless God let down His hedge of protection.

Of course, Satan desired to use these adversities to tempt Job to exit the path of worship in the valley of adversity; contaminate his testimony for the Lord; and rob God of glory! However, God possessed a overarching purpose to these adversities, which was ‘to put the authenticity and the quality of Job’s faith on display’! God was going to demonstrate to the accuser of the brethren and to the entire universe, that a person who possesses saving faith in the Lord will still worship God, even when everything else has been taken away!

So God permitted the hedge of protection to come down. The omnipotent Lord allowed Satan to attack Job, with the most calamitous adversity that a man can experience. Job lost all of his possessions; he lost most of his servants to a series of vicious murders; and finally, near the conclusion of the first phase of his wicked assaults, Job lost all of his 10 children in a horrible, natural calamity. Later, Job would lose his health and suffer accusations from his wife and closest friends. Job’s former life of health, wealth and prosperity had abruptly come to a dead end! How would he respond, in the midst of the fiercest possible storms? Would his faith fall to pieces? Would he curse God and die? Or would he magnify the “infinite worth of his Lord”, in the midst of the valley of adversity?

Have you ever closely noticed Job’s response, when the final messenger brought the tragic news of the culmination of this first series of adversities? Verse 20 declares, “Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and WORSHIPED”. The true character of a person is revealed in the hour of sudden adversity. On the one hand, Job did not attempt to hide his profound grief, for he had plummeted from prosperity to poverty. But then, upon hearing the most devastating news that a loving parent can possibly hear, he openly mourned over these disastrous heartbreaks. Oh but friends, even in his deepest anguish, he did not attack or accuse his God of wrongdoing. He did not curse his Lord. He did not turn away from his faith. Instead, he responded in the most amazing manner; for Job sanctified his mourning with worship! Yes, he was bowed down in deep grief; but he also bowed down in devoted worship of the Lord his God! Instead of allowing Satan to lure his heart away from God, Job pressed-in even closer to His God! He worshiped the One who is a very present help in time of trouble. Job’s testimony teaches each of us “to worship the Lord our God”, even when there are no apparent answers for the trials and troubles that we are walking through.

While Job was in this heart attitude of worship, He reminded himself of the brevity of life. And he said “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I shall return there”. Just a few hours before acknowledging this reality, Job was the wealthiest man in his nation. He had been extremely blessed with a loving family, material prosperity and good health. Now, everything is gone! However, he reminded himself that he was no poorer on the day of tragedy than on the day that he entered into this world! So Job refused to be bitter and angry with God, over the loss of the things, which he could not take with him, when he leaves this planet!

While Job was in this heart attitude of worship, he also reminded himself of the sovereignty of His Lord in his storm. “The LORD gives and the LORD takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” He did not say that, “Satan takes away”! For Job knew that it was the Sovereign Lord, which had allowed him to be a temporary steward of all this prosperity. He also knew that his children were a gift from the Lord. So since all of these gifts actually belonged to the Lord, this means that the Lord had the ownership rights to take them all back, in His wise and perfect timing.

Friends, as I lay in that hospital, with my precious wife closely by my side through this valley of adversity, the sovereignty of My Lord and Savior became the pillow on which we could lay our heads, in the midst of this most severe health crisis. The sovereign control of our Savior was our solid foundation for worship, in the midst of this great difficulty. Both Dianne and I could testify, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Our Lord and Savior is absolutely worthy of worship, simply because of Who He is, in all of the majesty of His glory; whether we are walking on top of the mountain of blessings and the wind is at our back; or we are walking through the valley of adversity and the winds of affliction are howling in our face!