Preface: A comprehensive understanding of discipleship must include a passionate desire to follow Jesus and a passionate desire to lead others, even social outcasts, to Christ.
Freedom is sweet. But freedom without conscience is not freedom. Only those who have been subjects of oppression in prisons, in slavery, and other sorts of social injustice can testify to the validity of this statement. It will probably be more understood in South Africa than in any other part of the world.
The Book of Job portrays the case of a righteous man who seems to be as aware of his righteousness as God and Satan are (Job 1:8, 9; 23:10). Satan, claiming that Job is righteous only because God protects him, seeks permission to oppress him. As calamities befall Job, he becomes an outcast. Friends and family see Job’s problems as a result of his sins and advise him to repent and stop pretending. His wife urges him to curse God. But Job’s conscience remains clear as he sees God’s face in prayer. Although he has sought God in every direction and has not found Him, Job does not lose hope. His strong faith keeps him afloat.
“Faith keeps a dry skin in water: Job’s faith combines those opposites a vivid consciousness of an intimate relationship with God through obedience to His way and an equally vivid awareness of being denied fellowship with God. The latter is entirely God’s doing. Job has done nothing to forfeit God’s favor. Therefore he sees his experience for what it is not punishment, not chastisement but a test— he accepts the test because he knows: I shall come out as gold.”*
Job’s conscience led him to remain faithful to God. It is likewise with us. We need to understand our relationship with God. Our conscience should be clear. We should be able to discern the course of our sufferings and still have faith in God. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1, NIV). As much as you suffer, be free from sin.
1. Why is a clear conscience important in prayer?
2. Hope is like a beam from a lighthouse. What are the strongest personal and spiritual sources of hope in the rough seas of your life?
*Job: An Introduction and Commentary (Leicester, Eng.: InterVarsity Press, 1976).