There is something majestic and romantic when you see an old wooden vessel. As it regally stands at attention in the harbor, imagine the life and experience of such a ship. Envision the exotic scenery, the splendid moments of valor it witnessed. Capture in your mind’s eye the torment of struggle in the squall of the terrifying sea storm. As some of these ships were eventually retired and dismantled, a writer documented how exquisite the lumber of these ships appeared. He tells of an oak beam from one ship which had been on the high seas for eighty years exhibited such coloring and distinctive grain it attracted the attention of many passerbyes in a local furniture shop. A mahogany beam which had sixty years experience with colors deepened and grain defined was compared to the artistic value of a Chinese vase.
What conditioned this timber into such a spectacle? It was not age alone. The “straining and wrenching of the vessel by the sea, the chemical action of the bilge water, and the many kinds of cargoes” transformed the original bright fiber into something of esteemed value.
James said, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience” (James 1:2-3). You are that ship sailing on the seven seas of life. You face the hurricanes of tragedy, the gnawing of old age, the burdens of cares all which contribute to your exquisite character.
Suffering cannot be avoided. Eliphaz had that much right when he said, “Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7).
Suffering should be endured because it identifies us with Christ: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (Philippians 3:10).
Suffering fashions you into a vessel of honor which will one day be a display of God’s marvelous works (Job 5:9).
“The Lord trieth the righteous. In the Lord put I my trust” (Psalm 11:1, 5).
“Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:12).
Which is heavier: a pound of lead or a pound of feathers?
Technically neither is heavier. They are both a pound, but we naturally attribute density to lead and lightness to feathers so lead seems heavier. When you consider one compliment versus one complaint, which is greater? They both total one. Considering they both come from valuable sources, our tendency is to ascribe more weight to the one complaint. All of a sudden, one complaint drowns one or one hundred compliments.
Crisis, Chaos, and Complaints always loom larger. They are the huge shadowy figures that cause us to duck our heads under the covers of safety. If we flick the light on, however, we will see the shadow is not the true form. The shadow was from a small figure in our life that appeared to be monstrous.
When the psalmist exclaims, “I will show forth all thy marvelous works,” he is instructing us in a lesson of counting. You see, we often forget how to count. Job knew how to count. “Shall we receive good from the Lord, and shall we not receive evil?” What Job experienced was traumatic. Let’s not trivialize it, but his response to his wife was a lesson of counting. In effect, Job was expressing, “If we ‘shew forth’ or number all of the Lord’s blessings to us, does none of it count once tragedy strikes? Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Nothing Job had was of his own power. He came into the world naked! Anything he enjoys in this life is simply the marvelous works of God. Job didn’t let the handful of crises reduce his balance in the bank of blessing to zero. There wasn’t a run on the bank in Job’s life.
In all this Job did not sin with his lips. What is the key? “They that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.” Job, more than most, had the grounds to feel forsaken. Forsaken is a zero balance in the bank of blessing. Because Job knew how to count his blessings, his initial response was to bless the name of the Lord. Which is greater: one blessing or one blow? When you count all the marvelous works of the Lord, you will realize God has not forsaken you.
“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as he have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).
God’s ways are not our ways. In these early chapters of Genesis, two men are given similar compliments regarding their relationship with God. It is said they both walked with God. It is understood they both found grace as well, yet the way God works with one person is seldom the same as the next person. They say an adult makes more than ten thousand decisions a day! Imagine the possibilities if you were to alter only one hundred of those decisions. Now imagine, God, although not bound by any finite limitations, makes that many decisions and more for your life every day. However, it grows exponentially because your actions impact the lives of others which may inhibit or liberate their decision process. It is impossible for us to grasp the mechanics involved with God holding the world together!
Therefore, you have Enoch who walked with God and Noah who also walked with God. The grace they found from the God of heaven was as unique as their fingerprints.
The grace of God took Enoch; the grace of God left Noah.
The grace of God translated Enoch; the grace of God enabled Noah.
Enoch escaped by God’s grace; Noah endured by God’s grace.
It wasn’t that one was necessarily better than the other. They were both accepted by God. It was only that they were more useful to God in different ways. While the family reunions always had the hushed mystery when Uncle Enoch came up in conversation, Noah’s message of warning by word and deed was accomplishing the same thing. They both, in their unique way, directed the world’s attention to the God, sovereign and supreme over all men.
Those who compare themselves among themselves are not wise. Your responsibility is to walk with God close enough to clearly hear His call on your life. It is His wisdom which chooses how you would best serve Him. God’s grace makes you useful.