Absolute Thanksgiving with
an Empty Heart
Job from today’s scripture reading is a person who emptied his heart, just like an empty can. He did not seek for rights or compensation, but emptied out his heart with complete thanksgiving. Although this is easy to say, when we go through suchhardships like that of Job’s, everything in our future seems dark. Can we confess just like Job did, who fervently loved God and unconditionally trusted in Him? Imagine Job, who daily worshipped and prayed in tears, for the sake of his children who might sin before God.
Our archenemy Satan came to present himself before God. God asked him, “From where do you come?” to which Satan replied, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” It was a brazen reply, talking as if he knew all matters of the world. Then God mentioned the name of a man. “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless?a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.” ( Job 1:8 New Living Translation). Satan replied, “Yes, but Job has good reason to fear God. You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!” ( Job 1:9-11 New Living Translation).
It sounded plausible. God told Satan that He will put all that Job has in Satan’s power, excluding Job’s life. From that point forward, distressful news rushed in like a flood: heart wrenching news, loss after loss, misfortune on top of misfortune. Lastly, he heard the news that all his seven sons and three daughters had died when a great wind came and struck the pillars of their house during a feast. After all of this misfortune, what did Job do? He fell to the ground and worshiped God. Who among us can bow before God in prayer and worship in thanksgiving, when even a single child dies of an unexpected accident, let alone seven sons and three daughters? We can not just read the Bible and easily pray, “give me faith of endurance like that of Job’s.” Job arose, tore his robe, shaved his head and fell to the ground, worshiping God and saying, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked I shall return there The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” And through all this he did not sin with his mouth or blame God. If Job were any average person, he would have said, “I lived a life of faith with a fearful heart, and gave all my tithes and offerings. But God, this is too much!” Instead, Job confessed, “Blessed be the name of the Lord” and did not sin nor foolishly blame God.
Jesus was someone like this who completely emptied out His heart (Phil 2:5-6). He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but laid down all His glory to become an empty can because of our sins. Job obeyed completely, saying, “I know that His commandment is eternal life.” If He had even the smallest doubt, He would have said, “Why must I carry the cross and die?” Instead, Jesus completely emptied Himself. We must also do this. Once a can is completely empty, the owner can fill it up with whatever he desires.
Job was truly a person that we should feel bad to even preach about, or read about, in the Bible. He is made of legends, but was an actual historical figure. There is no other instance in either the Old or New Testament where the absolute God regarded mankind so highly and boasted of him. Job was the purest of men, a man of perfection without the slightest fault, the greatest man of integrity and holiness. There was no disarray in his heart or in his life and he did not sway to the right or to the left. He looked only at God.
Job was able to live such a life because he had a faith of not expecting anything. He revered God with pure intentions. His faith was not one that requested blessings while thinking, “I did this much, so I should receive this much.” Someone who has the faith of requesting blessings will only give thanks when things go well, but turn away when things do not. This is a conditional faith with relative thanksgiving. But Christians must have unconditional thanksgiving, giving thanks in all circumstances.
Giving thanks in all circumstances is to give thanks in every moment, for every second that passes by. It’s to give thanks when things to well, and even when things do not. Daniel’s three friends had such a faith. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, the most powerful authority in the world, threatened to cast them into a furnace of blazing fire heated sevenfold if they did not bow to the image of gold. But they declared firmly that God will deliver them from the furnace of blazing fire, that even if He does not they still won’t bow down to the king’s golden image. They said that such a cause was worth dying for. They had completely emptied out their hearts. It was not thanksgiving with a good condition; it was absolute. Through this, even King Nebuchadnezzar repented and believed in the one true God (Daniel 3).
Daniel was also a person of absolute thanksgiving. Even when he knew that there was a royal command to throw people into the lion’s den if they prayed to God, he did not cease to pray. Even at the face of death, he held onto thanksgiving. Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den, but God sealed the mouths of the lions. We must also learn to have faith like this. We will all stand before God after living in this world for 70 to 80 years. We must not forget that we will reap according to what we believed.
There was nothing Satan could do because Job did not have even the slightest bit of doubt in his heart. Of course his heart felt inexplicable sadness. The entire world couldn’t comfort he who lost all his sons and daughters. Yet even during such circumstances, he continued to worship and bow to God. As a pastor, this brings me to shame. There was an eldress who, for over 15 years, always sat up front during dawn prayer service. Her son had died serving in the Vietnam War and she blamed God, saying God does not exist. I reproached this eldress with the Word of God. I asked her why she claims that God doesn’t exist just because her own son died, when countless soldiers and countless sons of other parents have all died in service to their country. The eldress realized her mistake repented before God.
Many people think they will be blessed because of all offering they gave to the church. Of course this is correct, and God will bless them. But as the saying goes, “all things being equal, choose the better one,” try giving unconditional thanksgiving. How great were the blessings that rained down on King David because of his confession, “For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given to You” (1 Chron 29:10-14).
Job’s heart did not change when he was abandoned by his wife or mocked by his friends. His heart didn’t change even when his body was smote with sore boils, suffering to the point that he couldn’t even open his eyes, scraping himself with a potsherd to alleviate the torment. He gave thanksgiving just as he had when he was healthy and rich. He did not blame God by saying, “Why is this happening? This is too much! You killed all my sons and daughters, took all my inheritance, and now my body is like this. My wife and even my closest friends have abandoned me.” See how Job holds onto the hand of God with thanksgiving. Holding onto God’s hand enabled Job to give unconditional thanksgiving. At this point, a spring of blessings of heavens and the earth will be given to the descendants, by the name of Jesus. Picture Job’s heart living and holding onto the hand of God even though he was at a point of complete death, physically. Put this image deep in your heart. I pray in the name of the Lord that you will look back at your life and pray, so that you can walk a path of faith like that of Job for the remainder of your life, by thinking of Job who did not leave the Word of God, but endured and persevered to the end. Job’s wife told him to curse God and die and then she abandoned him. We must not be like Job’s wife, who only saw the wretched situation in front of her eyes, unable to understand the providence within God’s heart. We must not burn up easily like twigs. We must not move according to our emotions, becoming happy easily and grumbling easily. We must not live with a foolish faith, unable to cry with those who cry because our mercy has dried up, or not bow in prayer for the family of those who are in hardship, even though we say how pitiful it is. Do not be interested in only receiving blessings and gaining wealth. When you meet calamities and hardship, go closer to God and dive deeper into Him, just as Job, Daniel, and Daniel’s three friends did. You will meet God in the end. If you run away, you will not be able to meet God but instead fall deeper into the hardship. It may be dark passing through a tunnel, but the tunnel doesn’t go forever. Eventually you will make your way out and your eyes will see the light. Job such a faith. The tunnel of hardship he went in was so disconcerting and wretched that even his three friends who came to see him were unable to recognize him. They sat down on the ground, not even able to say a word to him, just embracing him and weeping for seven days and seven nights. Yet even when his friends comforted him, Job looked towards the providence of God, not towards the words of comfort from men. He earnestly admonished his friends and gave out his hand to his foolish wife, holding on tightly only to God with the right hand of his heart. Although he had met with pitch-black darkness, just like how railroad cars tightly link to one another, Job linked himself to thanksgiving by strongly holding on to the hand of God. God must have been amazed with Job. Isn’t he truly worthy of God’s boasting?
Dear saints. Even when your children worry you and people at work cause you trouble, just pray, “I give You thanks, for I know You gave me this blessing so that I can hold on to the hand of God.” No matter what happens, you must not let go of God’s hand. If you give thanks, a great blessing of abundance will be given to your children. God said the blessing He gives to the children through their parents will last for a thousand generations. Blessings of prosperity will be given, even if you do not ask for things or request certain conditions. It is written, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa 55:8-9). Apostle Paul stated that we must rejoice always, pray without ceasing and give thanks in everything. We must as such, saying, “I will never let go of the hand of God. I learned through Job and I will not let go even when I am in the midst of pain, trials and suffering. Even if I am to the point of death and someone tells me to let go, I will not let go.” If we can do this, I believe that God will be amazed with us, and give us a blessing according to the desires of our hearts. Look at the blessing that was given to Job, who endured patiently until the end, and who and emptied out his heart. He received a double blessing in all things. His daughters were the most beautiful women in the world. When hardship comes your way, spread out your wings like that of an eagle. Just like how the eagle will calmy use the strong winds to soar up above the storm, have faith. Just like Job, when we empty ourselves completely and look only towards the Word of God, not separating from love or thanksgiving (Col 4:2), and when we tightly hold on to God’s right hand with our own, God will take care of all our problems in the end.
A thanksgiving of pureness without any faults. A thanksgiving of honesty. A thanksgiving that comes from the conscience. A thanksgiving that is full when seen from any side. I believe that all of these will be in the hearts and families of the saints of Pyungkang.
Sermon by Huisun Rev. Abraham Park during 3rd service on Lord’s Day, July 23, 2006