The Issues of Life

There is a fine balance of mind and spirit that the redeemed can find, when contemplating the issues of life.

From the reading of Job 1:21, a saying developed and is shared as common wisdom: “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away”. The usual venue for the recitation of this extra-biblical phrase is the funeral, where the uncertainty of earthly life is recognized, in spite of death arresting families and livelihoods seeming in a harsh way.

The source of the verse is the remembrance of Job’s tragic loss when he was attacked by the powers of hell. Though Job’s losses of children and properties was painful, Job remembered to recognize that nothing happens without God’s permission.

Tragic things occur in this world, and though the theologically immature would cast blame on God, it is best to recognize that there is more to this life than what we can or do control, and a realm of existence beyond. Indeed, around the time of Job’s life, the length of life appears to have been shortening from previous generations, in general. Contemporary Abraham lived 120 years, but the catching away of someone in their prime reminded the patriarchs of Enoch, who was *taken* in an act of God, not simply “terminated”. So likewise we are wise to recognize that, when Jesus “gave up the ghost”, on the cross, it was in fulfillment of His purpose, and ultimately not the violent and sinister act of his death. That was the agency which rendered our Savior as the bread and drink of life for us, but not the authority.

To recognize one’s purpose brings the conflict into focus, and reminds a person that God controls the gateways of life and death. Not only the final exit from this life, but also the intermediate steps which prepare the soul for eternity. Have you had experiences which presented the occasion for some sobering, wizening and humbling changes in your life? God provided them, despite what agency they came by.

The writer of Ecclesiastes in chapter 3 brings us face to face with the reality of loss and gain, they are left and right hands of experience, and the times of the course of this life. Being born means dying, planting means uprooting, tearing means mending, love means hating, all in its own time. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.

To live in harmony with God is to know His purpose, and Yours also. There is a time for loss, and it comes from God, but there is a time when the thief simply does what thieves do, and seeks to break in and destroy. There is a time for pain, but there is also the pain of wrongful decision, and self-destructive action.

Because we have free will, we are also provided weapons of warfare, a means to determine how we live life, deal with enemies, and enrich the world around us, and it is incumbent on us to pick up those tools, and use them.

“Is any among you afflicted, let him pray” (James 5:13). “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (vs 16). Prayer doesnt alter the supreme authority of God, rather it is GIVEN of God to transform the life to which it is given AND RECEIVED, and incorporated into our destiny, making our purpose shine all the more. The person who does not appreciate and defend life is sure to lose it in battle, and battles will come to all. The person who fights and is taken, like John the Baptist for example, projects God’s purpose, so long as his fight is to defend righteousness and truth, in love.

“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it come the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). The Hebrew can be read “Keep your heart above all other keeping”. Here keeping is maintaining, preserving, guarding, as one who defends a city on the wall.

We too often think of loss as destiny, where as, all too often it is simply a failure to defend. This will strike some people in a way that produces angst and disturbance. But then, that’s what preachers do. 😉

What makes life valuable and worthy of defense is the nature of He who gave it, and the holiness of He that can take it, at the right time.

—MWB