Chapter 21. Sermons and Fellowship About God’s Word “God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II” (VI)
Those Who Fear God and Shun Evil Do Not Cling to Fleshly Pleasures
“Evidently, then, Job was disciplined in his lifestyle, and was not greedy or hedonistic, nor did he fixate upon quality of life, as a result of God’s blessings to him. Instead, he was humble and modest, and cautious and careful before God, he often gave thought to God’s graces and blessings, and was continually fearful of God.” This touches on several aspects of Job’s personality. So what can these aspects of his personality be summed up as? What did God sum up these external expressions of his as? They reflected his perfectness and uprightness. What do these expressions represent? They represent that Job was perfect and upright in his humanity, that he was an upright person. An upright person loves the truth and he is not greedy or hedonistic, so is that “is not greedy or hedonistic” from some kind of constraint, is it learned, or is it inborn? It cannot be denied that his nature and his natural traits are inborn, not learned, not from any constraints, and not from practice. If they did come from practice or were learned, it shows that he would have had the problem of being greedy and hedonistic before and later corrected it. Does it say here that Job had that problem before? It doesn’t. Job was born as someone who loves the truth and who is upright. He naturally possessed that character. When a naturally good person like that experiences very good conditions in his life or has an extremely wealthy household, he will not cling to fleshly enjoyments. If a person doesn’t naturally possess that kind of character, it goes without saying that when he experiences those conditions or has such a wealthy household, he will cling to fleshly enjoyments—even if he does not, he will be attached to those things and try to think of any way to get them, to achieve that goal. Job was not innately attached to fleshly pleasures, he innately did not revel in greed or like ill-gotten gains, and he was not greedy—his character was innate. This was not a change that occurred in him after he hit a wall, was pruned by others, or underwent God’s discipline. He was born that way. Because he was naturally that kind of good person, “Job … was not greedy or hedonistic, nor did he fixate upon quality of life, as a result of God’s blessings to him. Instead, he was humble and modest, and cautious and careful before God, he often gave thought to God’s graces and blessings, and was continually fearful of God.” Since that was who he was innately, when God later bestowed great blessings upon him and his household became wealthy, he did not take great interest in that. In fact, if someone had a lot of sons and daughters, he would think, “Some abundance in life is better.” Would he have this kind of requirement? (Yes.) Did Job not have this kind of requirement after having ten children? If his material conditions had been too poor, if his family had eaten one meal but hadn’t have the next and he had been anxious every day, not knowing where the next meal would come from, that would not have been a good way to live. Job didn’t want to live that way. He worked very hard, and through God’s blessings and the price that Job himself paid, he became prosperous in life. After that, because he did not have a natural propensity for hedonism, he had no thoughts of greed for material things. He didn’t have any particular emphasis on quality of life because of his prosperity. Especially, he did not show off to others because of his wealth and his family’s prosperity. On the contrary, he was very low-key and did not boast at all. He was cautious in front of God and frequently gave thought to God’s grace and blessings. He always wanted to repay God and kept a heart of reverence for God, and was sure not to offend God in any matter. What can Job’s personal qualities be summed up as? Perfectness and uprightness. Did he embody them? He did—he was very upstanding. He was upstanding in his conduct, in his behavior! When he got to his twilight years he did discover one problem that he hadn’t anticipated: Because his children had grown up in a prosperous household they would often feast together and did not fear God. How old was Job when he discovered this? Probably after the age of 50. At that age, his oldest children would have been in their 20s and they had started to feast and make merry in splendor and they did not pursue the path of faith in God. Realizing this problem in his 50s, he became distressed and concerned: “Will my children disown God after they grow up? Will they lose their faith and be like unbelievers?” Job was concerned that his children would disown God and would sin frequently and offend God because he feared God and shunned evil. Do most believers worry about it if their children do not have faith in God after growing up? (Yes.) If you ask some people in their forties or fifties, “Who in your family believe in God?” they may say: “Ah, just us two old folks.” “What about your children?” “They don’t believe. They seek worldly things.” They don’t want to talk about it; they feel it’s not honorable. Are there some people who genuinely believe in God and pursue the truth who are sad and distressed because their children don’t have faith, and thus frequently pray to God for them? These people are not very inferior to Job; they do have a bit of fear of God. God has a place in their hearts! When they see their children, they think: “These children have gotten married and have careers but they do not believe in God. They’re just like unbelievers. This is terrible—they’re not on the right path!” They often pray for them. Some people frequently exhort their children: “You should have faith in God! It’s the right path! If you seek the things of the world, then no matter how much wealth you have, it is useless. It’s not the true path in life and in the end you will perish!” Some people do believe in God themselves, but when their children seek things of the world, they are indifferent to that. The children of some of them have made their way in life, and they are very filial even though they don’t believe in God, so they are satisfied, saying: “It’s good enough to have such filial children. It doesn’t matter if they believe in God or not; as long as they are filial that’s fine with me.” So, they maintain a really good relationship with their children and never advise them to have faith and take the right path. Does that kind of parent have a heart of reverence for God? They just long for their children’s filial piety, the benefits it brings them—they do not fear God. Aren’t they far inferior to Job? Aren’t they and Job two different kinds of people? Since they do not fear God they do not require their children to believe in God. Some of them go through the motions and say, “You should believe in God!” Their children say: “I won’t believe in Him, you have your faith and leave me alone!” “Fine, I’ll leave you alone.” Then that’s it. They never pray for their children, they don’t dwell on their unbelief, and it doesn’t disturb them. That kind of person does not have a heart of reverence for God. Compare them with Job and you will see that this exposes them as ones who are corrupt, do not fear God, and do not have a place for God in their heart. Some parents long for their children’s filial piety and the benefits their children can bring them. They are afraid of being poor and feel the more enjoyment they have the better, so they prefer whichever child is most filial and brings them more material things. They don’t prefer any child that is not as filial. Does that kind of person have good character? (No.) What is true character, then? Not clinging to fleshly enjoyments! There are some people who are not attached to fleshly enjoyments when they’re poor, but as soon as they are prosperous it becomes important to them. They put on airs and show off, they go around wearing nice clothing and putting on nice things for people to see: “Look at me, I’m doing well in life and my children are filial to me. Look at what I’m wearing, look at my jewelry.” What do you think of that kind of person? Do they have a heart of reverence for God? Don’t they come far behind Job? If someone isn’t attached to material enjoyments only when they’re poor, can this show anything? You can only see whether they have a good character once they have means, right? If a wealthy person donates a lot of things to poor people, what does that mean? Doesn’t it mean that they really don’t cling to fleshly enjoyments and can give to the needy and help them? Isn’t that person nice? They are really nice, that’s a fact. Not only do they not cling to fleshly enjoyments, but they frequently give their excess to poor brothers and sisters. This is a kind person and they are not very far inferior to Job.
Since Job innately possessed a perfect and upright character and he later pursued the true way and had genuine faith, he was able to reject all material temptations, not cling to fleshly enjoyments, and not indulge in a life of the flesh. He did not participate when his children feasted—this revealed that. That’s not something an average person could do. An average person may not cling to fleshly enjoyments, but if their children are feasting, they would join sometimes to make them happy and to satisfy their own heart. That’s very normal. However, Job did not do that because he feared God and shunned evil. This is rare and commendable, and something that the average person cannot do. Why is this something that is taken from the Bible to prove that Job was perfect and upright and that he feared God and shunned evil? It’s because average people can’t do that, and just Job could; it shows that Job’s fearing God and shunning evil was not just in name only and it was not an exaggeration at all. In his later years when he saw his children frequently feasted and that they did not have God in their hearts, he really felt at a loss. This gave him a particular thought and he said, “Have my children developed these kinds of habits because our family has received very great blessings from God and is too prosperous? If the family were poor, how would they feast this way? Without material possessions they wouldn’t be able to feast.” At that time Job came to feel: “There’s no benefit to a person if they are too well-off. It’s not a good thing—people should be content with having food and clothing.” Did he have that kind of thought? He certainly did; he was not a simplistic thinker. When he had that thought, he wasn’t interested in having such material richness or so many things, that is, he did not treasure his material wealth much, and he didn’t really care anymore; it was no use to him. Once people get to the age of 50 to 60, they no longer have such great desires regarding material needs. When are their desires the greatest? When they’re about to get married. When someone comes of age they develop an ideal about marriage, and that includes what kind of home they’ll have and what their home living conditions and environment will be so that they can have a happier, more joyful life. This is why people’s desires and requirements for material wealth are the strongest at that time. So why do those desires fade once people reach their 50s or 60s? Because they’ve almost experienced everything they’re going to in this life. They have basically experienced how much they really need, how much enjoyment they can have, and all other matters such as eating, drinking, and the pursuit of pleasure. They have come to see through those things, and those desires fade. They think: “They’re meaningless, and empty!” No matter how big your house is, how much space will you occupy when lying down? One by two meters. No matter how nice of a figure you have or how good-looking you are, you just need a few articles of clothing. And no matter what kinds of requirements you have, you just eat things made of the same ingredients as simple, homemade food—no one goes outside of that. No matter what kind of appetite you have, can you really eat the portions of several people? You’re still just one person. In one person’s lifetime there are limits to what can be eaten, worn, lived in, and used. So having more things is insignificant, which are just burdens and are useless, and it leads to worry. That’s why people have totally experienced, seen through, and fully tasted matters concerning fleshly needs, the necessities of life, when they get to the age of 50 to 60. They find those matters meaningless and it useless to have too many of those things. Most people, ordinary people, have that kind of thinking, so their requirements for these things taper off when they get to their 50s or 60s. They have an initial insight into human life: The things that people have—children, parents, loved ones, and wealth—are not important at all, and what is most important is taking the right path of human life and gaining the truth; if a person can gain the truth and have a new life and enjoy some of the blessing of gaining the truth and enjoying God, this is the true happiness. Now we have felt that gaining the truth is the greatest happiness, and by gaining the truth one can follow God, know Him, fear Him, and obey Him. Wow! This is such a great comfort and it brings such a great blessing, such great enjoyment to people. Therefore, following and worshiping God is the greatest blessing in a person’s life. When we are able to enjoy this blessing, are we still interested in those worldly possessions? Doesn’t that interest fade? Some elderly people say: “Enjoying my children’s filial piety doesn’t match up to the happiness of enjoying God’s grace; enjoying material wealth or a comfortable and peaceful environment doesn’t match up to the happiness of enjoying God. Enjoying God is the happiest thing.” Once we have gotten to this level of experience, will we still aspire after money? Will we still have extravagant requirements of our children? Will we still be constrained by our spouse’s feelings? All of that will fade away and we will have a closer and closer relationship with God. We have this kind of experience. Then let’s take a look at Job. Did he have that kind of experience when he got to the age of 50-60? What was his experience? It must be deeper, not inferior but superior to ours. He was able to achieve the ultimate reverence for God. We have that kind of feeling and understanding, but our reverence for God has not reached a zenith—it is too limited. When he was in his 50s or 60s Job discovered that his children indulged in pleasures of feasting and did not fear God, because of their rich material conditions. So he felt that material items are meaningless—they just tempt people to sin, and he held them in low regard. That’s why in the midst of such a wealthy household and exceptional circumstances, he was disciplined in his lifestyle, simple, and humble in his life. He did not indulge in pleasures, but focused on pursuing the truth and pursuing to know God so as to be able to fear God and shun evil in all things. He hardly offended God at all. What does it show that Job was able to achieve this in his actions? He fully saw through the emptiness of human life and felt that fearing, obeying, and worshiping God was the best thing, and that nothing else was meaningful. No matter how many children he had or how filial they were, he felt it was meaningless, and that an abundance of material wealth was also meaningless. All things were empty, only fearing God, shunning evil, and satisfying God were the greatest enjoyment to him. So, once Job got past the age of 50, his life gradually became abundant and he reached the point of being perfect and upright, fearing God, and shunning evil.
Only by Understanding the Truth and Having True faith Can One Make the Most Rational Choices and Judgment When Trials Occur
It’s mentioned here: “Job’s actions are unlike those of any ordinary man. They confuse many people, and make them reprimand Job for his ‘cold-bloodedness’ in their hearts. At the sudden loss of their possessions, normal people would appear heartbroken, or despairing—or, in the case of some people, they might even fall into deep depression. That is because, in their hearts, people’s property represents a lifetime of effort, it is that which their survival relies upon, it is the hope that keeps them living; the loss of their property means their efforts have been for nothing, that they are without hope, and even that they have no future.” This is how average people see possessions, but Job had true faith in God, and his attitude toward property was not the same as that of an average person. He believed: “All of this was given to me by God and He may take it away at any time. When He gave it to me I thanked Him, and if He takes it away, I will also thank Him.” This was Job’s rationality. Why did Job have such extraordinary rationality? What is the difference between Job’s rationality and an average, ordinary person’s reason? This requires seeking the truth; there’s a mystery within this. It’s mentioned in the next portion of the text. How did Job’s rationality develop? Is it something that an average person possesses? Is it innate? The reason that corrupt human beings innately possess is very limited. People only have a little bit of reason when they have yet to undergo anything upsetting and when their conditions are very normal. Once they do go through something upsetting, particularly when a trial befalls them or they suffer a terrible blow, everyone becomes emotional. Such a great trial befell Job—it was very upsetting and it was a terrible blow—so why did he display such extraordinary rationality? Can you figure out the answer? Does it not have anything to do with the results he achieved in his pursuit of the truth? Without the truth, can people have true rationality? They can’t! The reason that a person who lacks the truth possesses is very limited. We’ve seen so many intellectuals, academics, and high-level officials who are impulsive and emotional when they encounter something major. They say some very disappointing things or behave abnormally. Some even develop mental illnesses, jump from a building, or kill themselves in other ways—there are all sorts of reactions. So, does knowledge have anything to do with rationality? Knowledge can bring people a little reason that they should have under normal circumstances, but when a great trial befalls someone, when they are seriously hurt, knowledge cannot give people true rationality. Only the truth can do that. That is, the truth acts as true life for people and then they can live out true rationality. Isn’t that right? So how did Job’s rationality really develop? Do you have the answer yet? (“Such rational choices were inseparable from his daily pursuits and the deeds of God that he had come to know during his day-to-day life.”) This is a good passage on this; it contains the answer. Let’s give a deeper interpretation of true rationality. Putting it into modern terms, only those who display true rationality when tribulation arises have achieved results in pursuing the truth. Only those who have gained the truth are able to fear God and shun evil amidst tribulation. Only those who know God, who have genuine faith in God, can first come before God and reflect on themselves when a great trial befalls them. By seeing this clearly we can understand how Job’s rationality did come about. We can see that when such great trials befell Job, what he did first was to go before God and reflect: “Have I done something wrong? Why are these things happening to me?” He first tried to seek God’s intentions; he did not try to reason with other people. This was Job’s faith. If someone, when encountering a great trial, reasons and argues with others instead of praying to God, what does that show? That they don’t have faith in God, that they think it has nothing to do with God. But Job was completely the opposite. He believed: “This is something that God allowed to come upon me, so this is directly related to Him. It has nothing to do with human beings.” That’s why he was able to come before God first—wasn’t that his faith? Is it easy for people to attain this in their faith in God? Do average people have that kind of faith? (No.) So what would those without this kind of faith have done? They would have sought out that gang of robbers to reason and argue with them, and take them to the judges. They would not have let them off, and would have gone look for them to settle accounts with them. Did Job have a lot of friends at the time? He certainly did. Would it have been easy for him to get a group of people together to go look for those robbers to settle the score? It would have been very easy; the case would have been cracked very quickly. But did Job do that? (He didn’t.) Wasn’t that his faith? His faith was so great! Can an average person achieve such great faith? (No.) So people feel confused by this thing that Job did—coming before God. “Why did he do that? At such a critical moment, why didn’t he get some people together to chase after the robbers and get his possessions back?” Job did not do that. There are probably various explanations for it. Some people say: “Job was in a daze at the time. He didn’t know to look for them and settle the score. He was just crazy and stupid; he still prayed to God!” Do some people say that? (Yes.) Isn’t that absurd? Was Job actually crazy? That’s being extraordinarily rational! No one else possesses that kind of rationality—he was very rational! What does it represent? Why is everything he manifested always connected with fearing God and shunning evil and connected with having true faith in God? It’s related to these two things. Right? Didn’t he possess the reality of the truth? The humanity that he lived out was really perfect and upright, which was so prominent, so clear. His faith surpasses that of an average person, and no one can compare with him in fearing God and shunning evil. This is totally convincing.
At ordinary times, when a couple of cows died or a few sheep got sick and died, if Job had done this, would that have proven that he was someone who feared God and shunned evil? He did this after encountering such great trials—that is the most apparent expression. Everyone must be convinced of this. It’s written in the Bible. Haven’t you begun to pursue the truth? Haven’t you begun to seek to become a perfect person? Job’s testimony is right here! See, who could surpass Job? Who could come before God to pray, reflect and know themselves, and repent, and seek to grasp God’s will when such great trials have befallen them? Great trials are what most expose people. He truly is the model of fearing God and shunning evil. That testimony is so genuine, no one can remain unconvinced.
Let’s continue reading, “Job’s actual experiences and his upright and honest humanity meant that he made the most rational judgment and choices when he lost his assets and his children.” What does this mention? “Job’s actual experiences and his upright and honest humanity” enabled Job to fear God and shun evil, right? What do those actual experiences refer to? They refer to the fact that his experiences were deep enough that they allowed him to understand many truths, have genuine faith in God, and develop the real stature of fearing God and shunning evil. That is why “he made the most rational judgment and choices when he lost his assets and his children.” God’s words are very clear, aren’t they? Some people say that they only understand the truth, but does that mean they can make the most rational judgment and choices when a great trial befalls them? Just understanding the truth isn’t necessarily enough; here “his upright and honest humanity” is also mentioned. Why are these two things mentioned here, and not just one? It’s because, as we’ve seen from our experiences, understanding the truth is one thing, but being able to put it into practice is something else entirely. What kind of humanity is the humanity of someone who understands the truth and who is also able to put it into practice? It’s a perfect and upright humanity, an upright and honest humanity. A person who understands the truth but does not put it into practice does not have a perfect and upright humanity—his humanity is a corrupt humanity. So what is mentioned here, that Job made the most rational judgment and choices when experiencing the great trials, was the outcome achieved through his actual experiences and his upright and honest humanity. This touches on an aspect of the truth. Some people’s humanity is not up to standard but they are of good caliber. They can understand the truth, but when trials befall them, sometimes they cannot stand firm. For example, some people say: “I’ve been listening to sermons for all these years, so I understand all the truths, but I just can’t put them into practice.” Are there people who say this? What does the fact that they understand all the truths show? It shows that they are of good caliber, they are really good at understanding things, and they are perceptive. This is certain, but they cannot put any truth into practice. What does it show? Their humanity is bad. What’s another way to say that someone’s humanity is bad? They lack humanity. No matter how good the caliber is of someone who lacks humanity, and no matter how many truths they understand, it’s all useless because they can’t put any truth into practice. So what kind of people are those who are able to stand witness when great trials befall them? First, they have humanity. Second, they understand the truth. It is inseparable from these two things; only those who possess these qualifications are able to stand firm. Did Job possess these qualifications? First, his humanity was perfect and upright. Second, he had true faith in God and had already reached the point of fearing God and shunning evil. This is why he made the most rational choices and judgment when he encountered the trials. We can see into a fact through this, which is that those who are able to bear a good testimony for God are certainly people with the best humanity who possess the reality of the truth. There are many people who understand all the truths to some extent. They understand the truth quite a bit, but they can’t put any of it into practice, because they are not someone who truly pursues the truth. That is, we can see that there are some people now who are able to point out whatever evil things others have done or whatever mistakes they have made, but they can’t practice the truth themselves at all. They can do all sorts of evil. Would that kind of person bear a beautiful and resounding witness for God if trials came upon them? Absolutely not. Why not? Because their humanity is terrible, they have never put the truth into practice, and they don’t have any fear of God. Therefore, there’s no need for them to face a trial; even when no trials come upon them, they are always doing evil. They do not do any good deeds. If they encountered a trial all they can do would be betray God and bring shame to God. If they can’t put the truth into practice without facing a trial, would they be able to do that if they encountered one? This is why I am really repulsed by some people. After many times of being pruned and dealt with, they still do not repent at all and continue to frequently do evil to this day. They secretly do evil, and when they pick at other people’s faults, they do so quite accurately and specifically. They know that all they do is evil, but they still do it, just as much as always. That kind of person is utterly worthless! God hates that kind of person the most and He has no mercy for them, no salvation for them. What is the fact that I’ve spoken of? It is that a person who lacks humanity cannot change their nature and essence of doing evil no matter how much of the truth they understand.
What does “having rationality” mean? Isn’t it achieved through obtaining the reality of the truth? If you possess the reason that a normal person should possess, will you be able to make the most rational choices and judgment in a trial? You won’t. Only having the normal human reason, you cannot make the most rational choices and judgment after encountering a trial. This is why people must pursue the truth. Many people, because of having some knowledge and learning or having received some education, believe: “I am very reasonable, and my mind is very clear and sober. My judgments are very accurate and I will not be in error no matter what happens to me.” Do you dare to boast this way now? In normal times, when nothing befalls you, you think that you are reasonable, but when trials really come, you’ll be the first to become confused, you’ll be the first to be impulsive, and you’ll be the first to fly off the handle. That is why you must possess the truth in order to make the most rational choices and judgment when a trial befalls you! You must have genuine faith in God and clearly know that God rules over all things. On top of that, fear God and shun evil, and do not carry out your affairs impulsively. First come before God and reflect. This is critical. This is the rationality that a person who understands the truth should possess.