Editor's note: Femi Aribisala, a scholar, international affairs expert and iconoclastic church pastor in Lagos, in his latest piece, explains why the Lord wants Christians to surrender their lives and like Jesus lay down their lives.
"The Lord wants us dead. He wants us to surrender and like Jesus, lay down our life."
Something terrible happened to Mr. Job. Something happened that made him despair for life. Most people celebrate their birthday, but Job cursed the day of his birth. He wished he had never been born. Job longed for the peace of death: “Let the day of my birth be cursed,” he said, “and the night when I was conceived. Let that day be forever forgotten. Let it be lost even to God, shrouded in eternal darkness.”(Job 3:2-6).
How did Job come to this predicament?
Life happened to Job. The life Jesus came to deliver us from happened to him. The life many cling to tenaciously and rapaciously happened to him. Imagine you are suffering from a terminal sickness and when you consulted your doctor he simply tells you: “You are suffering from life.” How can you be cured from life? Jesus is in that business. He is in the business of delivering men from counterfeit life to eternal life.
Life became deadly to Job. Life became sickness to him. Solomon, in his wisdom, reached the same conclusion. He lamented: “Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:17).
Therefore, Job too hated life. At that stage, Job was ready for Christ. Job was a prime candidate for death, and for resurrection to newness of life by Jesus Christ.
Job is everyman and he is every believer. Many Christians do not like to read the book of Job, afraid that his adversity might rub off on them. Most Christians would like to know Christ, but without the fellowship of his sufferings.
But the dynamics of the kingdom of God indicate that God needs to take us to that place where we despair for life. He needs to take us to that place where we are convinced that it is better to die than to live. Only when he does this are we likely to relinquish counterfeit life.
Have you ever reached a point where you despaired for life? That is what life does. Life suddenly comes up with a problem for which you have absolutely no solution. Life suddenly throws you a curve. Everything was smooth sailing and you were blessing God and giving him thanks and then, “straightaway,” a major crisis of insoluble proportions shows up unannounced out of nowhere, and it completely changes your theology.
Suddenly somebody close and dear dies. It might be a husband, it might be a wife, it might be a child, it might be a relative, and it might be a friend. Suddenly, there is a catastrophic accident, and somebody is hospitalised. Suddenly, there is a business failure, or a failed bank, or an armed robbery. Suddenly you lose your job.
It has nothing to do with how righteous you are. It has nothing to do with how faithful to God you are. God himself testified that Job was righteous. And yet in one day, Job lost all his children, lost all his business and all his wealth, and then he lost his health. Then we are faced with the million-dollar question: will Job lose his faith as well?
Why does this happen?
Knowledge of good and evil
It happens because we live in a fallen world. We live in a world that God was determined to shield man from. It is a world built with knowledge from the tree of good and evil. It ensures that everything man-made combines the good with the bad.
Electricity provides light and it powers all kinds of useful gadgets. But the same electricity can shock and kill. The airplane is a wonderful means of transportation. It can take you from Cape Town to Cairo, or from Buenos Aires to New York in a relatively short time.
But at the same time it can have blow up or come hurtling catastrophically down from the sky. It is only the blessing of the Lord and of the kingdom of God that enriches and adds no sorrow. The “blessings” of this world are prone to failure and can bring sorrow at any time.
We live in a world under the sway of the evil one where the good, the bad and the ugly are intertwined. All are exposed to calamity. It is only in the future world where the good will be happy and the wicked will be punished. In the world to come, all that is irregular on earth will be regularised. “Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low.” (Isaiah 40:4).
But here on earth, the sun shines on the good and on the evil. The wind blows, the rain falls, the storms come on the good and on the evil.
Appointed to suffer
The righteous actually obtain fewer blessings from God than the wicked in this world. The wicked are happier and more prosperous: “The truth is that the wicked live on to a good old age and become great and powerful. They live to see their children grow to maturity around them, and their grandchildren too. Their homes are safe from every fear, and God does not punish them… They are prosperous to the end.” (Job 21:7-12).
The psalmist concurs: “Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.” (Psalm 73:12).
I woke up one morning to find the Lord singing a Roberta Flack song to me. The song goes: “Killing me softly with his words.” “But Lord Jesus,” I thought, “Why would you want to take my life? Why are you so determined to see me dead?” You may well ask if it was Jesus after my life. Would Jesus kill his beloved? Don’t ask me: ask Moses.
Killing to make alive
God called Moses to deliver the children of Israel from the hand of Pharaoh. But on the way, the same God met him and wanted to kill him: “It came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the LORD met him and sought to kill him.” (Exodus 4:24).
Does God want you dead? Don’t ask me. Ask David. He was promised a kingdom and anointed as king. But instead of going straight to the throne, he spent years running for his life. I know you thought he was running from Saul, but David was in no doubt it was God he was running from. He knew Saul could not succeed unless God allowed him. He knew only God could take his life.
Therefore, David pleaded: “What will you gain, O Lord, from killing me? How can I praise you then to all my friends? How can my dust in the grave speak out and tell the world about your faithfulness? Hear me, Lord; oh, have pity and help me.” (Psalm 30:9-10).
The Lord wants us dead. He wants us to surrender and, like Jesus, lay down our life. Then, and only then, can we receive the abundant life he has in store for us. Protestations will not change God’s will. If we want to live, we first have to die. God kills before he makes alive. (1 Samuel 2:6).
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