From “And Jesus Wept,” by Pastor K. David Oldfield
A Perfect Ten
I must assume that most of us have never been criminals, so we can’t speak with authority in this area, but it’s reasonable to assume that even thieves want to be the very best that they can be. They certainly don’t wish to be failures, and most would like to be a part of “the perfect” crime.
What that perfect crime may be depends entirely on someone’s point of view. To the criminal, it presumably would involve the biggest “take”, the least effort, and perhaps the greatest thrill. So in a sense there never will be the “perfect”, the superlative crime, for there will always be a bigger take, less effort, and greater risks. Inflation will demand it, if nothing more.
On the other hand, to the victim a “perfect crime” would have to be no crime at all. This must be the mind of the Lord as well.
Like crime, can we debate whether there is such a thing as “perfect pain.” Most people would definitely say it can’t exist; the two terms “perfect” and “pain” are mutually exclusive. Perhaps so, but the “perfection of pain” is a possibility.
“Perfection” in the Bible
The preacher was really on fire that evening, preaching about sin and sanctification. “Have you ever met or heard of a perfect man?” he shouted. There was no response. When he repeated his question, one timid hand was raised, and the preacher demanded an explanation. “Actually,” said a meek, little, middle-aged man, “I’ve never met him, but I’ve often been told of the perfection of my wife’s first husband.”
In the sense of “absolute perfection,” or “sinless perfection,” PERFECT people can only be found in imperfect imaginations. Nevertheless the Bible does teach and demand something called “perfection.”
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). There you have it: God expects us to be “perfect.” But does this mean that He expects absolute perfection, as God Himself is absolutely perfect? Isn’t that like asking a fish to fly or a dog to write Shakespearean sonnets?
Consider the context with statements about loving one’s neighbors, loving one’s enemies, telling the truth, displaying meekness and so on. Obviously these are things which can be found in the Lord, especially in the incarnate Son. Perfection here speaks of a moral likeness to God. We might liken it to a kind of “spiritual maturity.” Unlike “chronological maturity,” however, this perfection is not a once attained, automatically maintained state.
Paul was looking at himself and thinking about maturity and perfection in the Book of Philippians. “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12-14). The next verse brings up this idea about perfection in the sense of “full maturity.” “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you” (vs. 15).
Another passage which shows us the nature of perfection is Heb. 6:1-3: “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit.”
After quoting other men on this subject, Chester Tulga, in “The Doctrine of Holiness in These Times” summarized his conclusions: “So perfection is not a condition but a direction. It is not a state but a movement. It is not an attainment but a goal. It is not the perfection of the final state but the perfection of the possible state. Christian perfection as a possession is that perfection of heart toward God, seen only by God. Christian perfection is maturity of Christian experience. It is a paradoxical perfection: the perfection which steadily presses on to perfection ‘Let us go on unto perfection’ (Heb. 6:1)” (Chester Tulga, The Doctrine of Holiness in These Times, pg. 80).
The perfection of pain must be looked at in the light of these conclusions about other kinds of perfection.
There are three words which come to mind when we think of Job: First is his “suffering” – his pain, and then there is his “patience.” But the opening chapters of the book add another word to his description: “perfection.” “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil” (Job 1:1). These thoughts are repeated by the Lord before Satan in Job 1:8 and 2:3.
What made Job perfect in the sight of God? Without question it was the same as those we read of in Paul, for God does not change when passing from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Job had a relationship of moral maturity before Jehovah. He was upright; he was in awe of God; he shunned evil; he had confidence in God’s love and so on.
Was Job’s perfection perfect? Is there a perfect crime?
Of course the Book of Job, chapters one and two, come before the exceedingly painful part of the life of Job. As the Bible student wades through the book, doesn’t Job grow in perfection? Yes he does; Job is like the old American Indian counting coup upon the battlefield, touching the bodies of his victims to add their strength to his own.
Here is the key to the perfection of pain in our lives.
Perfection in Pain
This kind of perfection or maturity begins with an intellectual acceptance of God’s absolute sovereignty. Job had a firm grasp of this important doctrine as early as chapter one, for we see that Job refused to charge God foolishly (1:21, 22).
As the book wears on, questions begin to arise in this old servant’s heart. It is important to notice that God is not angry with the questions, yet He doesn’t directly answer them either. God, however, is perturbed with the lack of growth and progress in Job.
After thoroughly venting his emotions Job heard the Lord answer out of the whirlwind. The rebuke was strong and crisp. Although Job had not committed the sins of which his “friends” had accused him, he had definitely acted very immaturely by trying to justify himself and condemn the Lord for inflicting pain upon him. Listening and learning from the Lord in chapter 42, we see Job make a giant step in his maturation and perfection: “I know that thou canst do everything, and that no thought can be witholden from thee…I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:2, 5-6). To the modern ear that may not sound like “perfection” but it certainly does to the Lord.
One of the main ingredients in that maturation of Job was the various kinds of pain that he was forced to endure. His perfection developed as his trust in the Lord’s love grew, despite of and because of his suffering.
A precious passage from Romans testifies: “We are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Rom. 8:37) Most people want to be victorious, mature, yes, and even perfect. How many of the things in the context of that thought contribute to that victory? “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35-39).
The perfection of pain comes through the realization that God knows what is best and that His love for His child has not been removed. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
When God’s people continue to grow in their love, reverence and service to God in spite of the thorns in their flesh and the crosses they bear, then and only then are they going on to personal perfection and the perfection of pain.
When there is more pain and more pain in a person’s life, there ought to be more petition and prayer as well. With more suffering should be more supplication.
Our greatest spiritual lows are in those days when we can’t say, “Lord, I love you,” or “Thy will be done.” When we can praise the Lord despite our suffering, it can be said that we are growing in Christ.
In other words, bad fortune is really good fortune when it brings the Christian into greater perfection in the sight of the Lord.
Was Job “perfect” at the beginning of the book? Of course he was for the Word says so. As paradoxical as it sounds, he was even more perfect at the end!