Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Cynicism, Satan, And You

Satan answered the Lord, 'Does Job fear God for nothing? Haven't you placed a hedge around him, his household, and everything he owns? . . . But stretch out Your hand and strike everything he owns, and he will surely curse You to Your face."
Job 1:9-10a, 11
Job was a good, righteous man. God loved him. Satan disdained him. Listen to the accuser's words,  as if he says, "Sure he loves you, God. Sure he serves you. Who wouldn't? You've bought him off with love, blessings, and protection." Satan stands in the court of Heaven, knowing the greatness, grace, and power of God and proves himself the ultimate cynic.
Cynicism is the "inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self interest." It is a state of mind that's dominated by mistrust, and many who serve God are at risk of developing it. Some call it "healthy skepticism." After thinking about Satan I'm questioning that skepticism can ever be healthy. 
Life tries to steal optimism, and people are the ultimate thieves. We think the best about new jobs, new friends, and new marriages and then people happen. We believe the grass is greener, and then find it's just as full of weeds as our current lawn. Our reaction to the failure of people is crucial. Satan had seen thousands of so-called believers question and curse God when things went south. So, in his arrogance he thought he was sufficiently wise to judge the heart of Job. Don't we often do the same? 
Call it healthy skepticism if you want, but cynicism about people is just a small step from cynicism about God. God calls us to take a leap of faith in Him. Satan calls us to take a step of doubt. While he accused Job, he was really accusing God. He believed no one would worship and serve God simply because God is worthy of worship. You can almost hear him say, "You're just like me, buying people off so they will love you."
We have been disappointed, even betrayed. We've witnessed selfishness and self-motivated behavior. We know people don't measure up. In a section of Romans where Paul was dealing with Christians who were questioning the motivation of others, he wrote this, "Why do you criticize another's household slave? Before his own Lord he stands or falls. And he will stand. For the Lord is able to make him stand." (Rom. 14:4) Do you believe "the Lord is able to make him stand"?
What will you do? You can take the Satanic step of doubt, or the leap of faith, not in man, but in the master of man. You can believe in the sufficiency of God's worth, or you can believe only in the selfishness of mankind.
Maybe I'm cynical, but could it be that this attitude has far less to do with others than with ourselves? It could be that when we take an honest look into our own hearts, we see the residue of self-motivation and wonder if we ever really serve God from pure motives. We remember that when the trial came, we did not stand up in faith and say with Job, "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, praise the name of the Lord."  We've failed, so all others must be failures, too. Cynicism could be nothing more than an attempt to drag all of humanity down into the mediocre pool of lukewarm faith. And, behind that is the real secret. We don't speak it, but if we did it might sound like, "Well, God, I trusted in You and you haven't done much to change me." 
Satan is miserable. He doesn't trust God or man. He sees the worst, because he is the worst. He is beyond redemption, because he believes only in himself.
We are not beyond redemption. God is able. God is sufficient. We can love and serve Him simply because He's worthy. When we do, we are delivered by His great grace from great skepticism, the cynical belief that we ourselves cannot change. 
Do not become a Satan. Guard yourself against cynicism. All people are sinners, and God is able to redeem all who call on the name of the Lord. Job lost everything and still praised God. He hurt. He questioned, yet in the end he stood. He stood because God was able to make him stand. He is able to make the worst stand, even you.