The Three Faiths of Job

I recently read Dallas Willard’s Life Without Lack, his last book, written posthumously based on a series of lectures he gave just before he died. In these lectures, he compares the language of Psalm 23 with the experience of Job, explaining that throughout his life, Job had to learn three different kinds of faith. It’s brilliant.

1. The Faith of Obedience

(Note: Willard calls this the “faith of propriety,” but as he explained it, I struggled to see how the word “propriety” fit. It seems more like “obedience” in my reading.)

This is what we see at the very beginning of Job. He did what was right, and God blessed him for it. Job is described by the book’s writer as the most righteous man living at his time. He served God with all his heart and God was pleased with Job’s life and blessed him for it. God blesses the faith of obedience because he likes to bless people.

The book of Proverbs teaches us this type of faith is valid. We obey the Bible, seeking God first in our lives, and he blesses us. Many of us have experienced that. Most  of us would like to experience that.

Then God allowed everything to be stripped from Job. Job didn’t change any of his behavior, but everything fell apart for him. Job said, “The thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me” (Job 3:25).

What do you fear most? What would be the worst thing to happen to you? Imagine whatever you fear most coming to pass. Like Job, you might be forced to develop another kind of faith—the faith of desperation.

2. The Faith of Desperation

Job expresses this faith in Job 13:15, “Though he slay me, yet will I [still] trust him.” In other words, he says, “God, I can’t understand what you’re doing, but I know you’re good, and so even though everything around me is falling apart, I’m still going to trust that you are working out your good plan. Though you slay me, yet will I trust you.”

Many people never make it to this stage. They live on the faith of obedience, making them not only shallow but also judgmental. When something goes wrong in someone else’s life, they think, “Well, I wonder what they did wrong?” They think that way because they only know the faith of obedience.

But then God sends them through a “Job chapter.” And some people, when this happens, fall away from the faith. But others go on to develop the faith of desperation that strips them of their judgmentalism, causing them to say, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.”

Dallas Willard writes in Life Without Lack:

Often God allows us to reach the point of desperation so we can learn how to trust. It is a hard lesson, but an essential one. The ‘life without lack’ is known by those who have learned how to trust God in the moment of their need. In the moment of their need. Not before the moment of need, not after the moment of need when the storm has passed, but in the moment of need. For it is in that moment, when everything else is gone, that you know the reality of God.

Is this where you are? Have you ever been forced to develop this kind of faith?

3. The Faith of Sufficiency

Believe it or not, there was another type of faith for Job—the faith of sufficiency. It’s the faith that rejoices, sitting silently and calmly in the presence of the Shepherd.

Throughout the book of Job, Job protests his situation before God. “God, I did it all right! I obeyed you! I put you first and look what happened! When are you going to come through for me?” All while desiring to see God and talk with him face to face.

And at the end of the book, God grants him that audience. Job had always believed the right things about God in his head but had never felt them in his heart until now. At this point in the book, Job stopped pressing his case. He rested. He saw with his eyes the goodness of God and knew he could trust him in all things. He could finally say, “I know you are good and I have nothing left to say.”

Job’s vision of God was so full and so satisfying that whatever happened to him from this point on didn’t matter. He could trust in the goodness of God; he was content just to be in the presence of the Shepherd where goodness and mercy surrounded him and followed him and satisfied him. That is the faith of sufficiency.

A lot of us are where Job was. We’ve heard about all these things with the hearing of our ears, but our eyes have never seen them and our souls have yet to feel them. Friend, ask God to give you the faith of sufficiency—the faith that rests in God’s goodness and trusts that his presence is enough.