Tuesday, April 9, 2019 -
I have read Job many times in my life, and have read through it since I’ve been in prison at least once. But yesterday and today, I read it again. However, this time I read it with a renewed perspective. Let me explain why.
But first, a disclaimer: I in no way compare myself to Job. Perhaps, and I trust, through the transformation of my mind and heart, but more importantly through the blood of Christ, I am coming closer to the point where God could say of me, as He said of Job, that I am “a blameless and upright man, fearing God, and turning away from evil.” But I believe I have a long way to go! Nor have I suffered as Job has suffered. Not even close! He hasn’t taken my children, nor my health, and Response Unlimited, which by the grace of God, continues to function.
Yet Kathie and I have faced considerable affliction - - her health, along with exceeding pain, my trial, imprisonment, not to mention the two ongoing lawsuits against me. All of this, along with the cost of clients who have walked away from their invoices due to the fact I am now incarcerated (because they feel justified), have cost our family and the business close to, if not exceeding two million dollars. These funds could have been used to further God’s kingdom and help the poor because that is how we have dedicated our lives and used our resources.
And through all of this, we have tried never to blame God. And unlike Job, all of our friends and most of our relatives have prayed and supported us in amazing ways, for which we are so grateful. Nor have I cursed the day of my birth, as did Job (Job 3:1). But again, my purpose here is not to compare myself to Job, for I am completely unworthy!
The bottom line is that I couldn’t really compare Job’s predicament to my own, because there were so many lack of similarities. Besides, Job was a contemporary of the patriarchs, and he and his contemporaries did not have the benefit of the Scriptures and the ability to read the history of God’s providential hand on His people during their tribulations, that we have today.
So why did my reading of Job this time cause me to relate, when in the past I really felt no significant connection? It is because of an incident that happened back in January, while I was working in the dining room. I would often have to wait between the time food service workers ate lunch, which was a little after 9:30, till the rest of the inmates ate lunch, which was close to 11:00 before I could help clean up the dining room. So I’d sit at a table and read a book while waiting.
On this particular day, a man came and sat across from me, and immediately recognized my last name. And so he asked me if I was related to Spiros. I am used to this, as people have asked that my entire life. But I didn’t expect it in prison. So I assumed the man was a believer, and I told him the story of why I was in prison. He got extremely angry, saying I would not be in prison unless I had done something else I wasn’t telling him about. He accused me of either being in denial or lying, raising his voice as he continued to chastise me with angry verbal rhetoric. My defense was the Scripture, how we as Christians are to expect suffering, and even Paul and the apostles were thrown into prison. And that got him even angrier, as he quoted Scriptures condemning the proud and those who refuse to acknowledge their sin, demanding, “How dare can you compare yourself to Paul?” I was hurt, humiliated, shaken, and frankly, angry. But I went back to my cell after doing my job and searched my heart. But what he told me simply did not bear witness with my spirit. He had told me that nobody in the United States goes to prison unless they have committed a crime, and I had to have done so, that there must be something I am not confessing. He told me he was here for robbing a bank, but he is willing to admit it and do his time. But God confirmed to me I had done no crime, and I was indeed suffering for righteousness sake. I really prayed over this, because the man, who claimed to be a Christian, hurt and grieved me considerably.
So this time, as I was reading Job, I could relate to the agony he was going through because of the accusations of his friends. These men tried to convince Job that the innocent do not suffer because God is just. And Job, as did I, defended himself. Initially, the conversation between Job and his friends was fairly amicable. Job complained to his friends of the agony God was allowing, even admitting to the iniquities of his youth (Job 13:26), asking God why He seemingly had not pardoned his sin and taken away his iniquity (Job 7:21). But like the man who verbally attacked me, these men insisted there had to be more Job was refusing to confess. Job goes on and confesses his bitterness (Job 9:18), and continues in chapters nine and ten, why and for what reason God had chosen to afflict him in such a manner. And back and forth it goes, becoming increasingly hostile! Job finally in chapter 13 calls his friends liars and tells them he prefers to argue with God, and answer to Him about what is happening, saying he will never stop hoping and trusting in Him. Job says, “Behold now, I have prepared my case; I know that I will be vindicated.” I, like Job, have said similar words. I, like Job, have pleaded with God to show me what I should repent of, and I know He has forgiven me and set my slate clean. But still, I remain in prison for an alleged crime that wasn’t a crime, in fact, the government was violating Virginia and federal law by prosecuting me! By the middle of Job, the attacks become increasingly hostile and personal. Accusations fly, Job is gravely insulted, and it feels like the world has now also turned against him. Even his wife couldn’t stand to be around him (Job 19:17). His friends go on to accuse Job of being self-righteous (chapter 22), but Job goes on in the following chapter to say that God has a purpose and eventually He will deliver him (23:4-7). He affirms this again in the last six verses of chapter 28, exclaiming that God knows what He is doing! In chapter 29 Job recalls the many ways God has honored and blessed him, but in the following chapter, he compares his accusers to be no better than dogs (30:1). He goes on in chapter 30 to verbalize his frustration with what God is allowing, and how great his agony is. In chapter 31, he searches his heart with diligence for things that may have caused God grief, making his case to God as he goes along. He did not lust after women, he was fair in his business dealings, he honored and treated his workers well, he helped the poor and the orphans, did not put his confidence in wealth, did not worship anything but God, never sought extinction of his enemies, did not allow vile things or lies to come from his mouth, was hospitable, and always confessed his sins.
In the final verbal lashing Job gets from his friends, he’s told he has no knowledge or wisdom, he answers like a wicked man and has added rebellion to his current sins (34:35-37). He adds pride to that in the next chapter (35:12).
Finally, in chapters 38-41 God directly answers Job, expressing His awesomeness and power. The result – Job confesses that he could not begin to fathom the purposes of God, for they are too wonderful for him to understand (42:2-6).
In the end, God verbally chastises Job’s friends, and they repent and seek Job’s forgiveness. Job forgives his friends (42:10), and the Lord restored Job and doubled the blessings that Job previously had.
My story is not over, but God gave me a glimpse and a confirmation that my accuser was wrong and out of place, once I forgave him. I never had another encounter with him, as I’ve avoided it. But I did on at least three occasions observe his interactions with others which confirmed the fact that his spirit did not bear witness with me. On each of these occasions, only vile, filthy language and hateful speech spewed out of his mouth. His demeanor was one of exceeding anger, as it was with me. Yet this accuser of the brethren could quote Scripture after Scripture to me.
And this confirms what I’ve seen over and over again, especially here in prison. Many know in their minds what it is to be a Christian. They understand it, as they’ve heard it over and over again. They believe it to be true in their minds. But they’ve never accepted the transforming power of salvation by grace through the blood of Jesus Christ with their whole heart, making Him Lord. For even the devil, when he tempted Christ, knew the Scriptures. I tell men this here in prison. We must accept Christ with our whole heart and not merely believe in our minds. Only then, will God begin to change us into His image. The transforming power of Christ, evidenced in Romans chapter twelve, should mark each and every genuine Christian.