Why Formulas Don’t work

Today my brother-in-law David Megill is guest posting on my blog. I’m blessed and honored to have him write today and encourage you to check out his book The Hidden Life on Amazon, that he mentions at the end. David has been pastoring for well over 20 years and the Lord has used him in both my life and my husband’s to give insight and wisdom into the heart of God.

why formulas don't work(Image courtesy of MR LIGHTMAN/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

My unbelieving friends frequently don’t understand why the world religions just don’t pool their resources, get together and unite over the things upon which we all agree (which to them often seems to sum up as “Don’t murder, Love each other, and don’t judge.”).

Some of my believing friends wonder the same thing.

It’s a good question.
With a very good answer.

It’s not a surprise people are confused about this. We pastor-types have been very confusing in this regard.

A quick search of the internet for sermon titles reveals numerous variations on the theme “The formula for successful living.” A search of Christian books reveal Christianity’s formula for great marriages, successful careers, making friends, even the best diet.

It’s not surprising that pastor-types have been confusing in this regard.

There is a hunger for formulas that work. The problem is they don’t.

Job discovered this. Job, surprisingly perhaps, is one of my favorite books (although to be fair I say that about almost every book of scripture at some point). To many people Job seems a book with unanswered questions and no clear point. In fact, Job makes a very strong point about unanswered questions. Here’s the gist.

The prologue of Job tells us three very important things.

In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. … He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.

a) He’s righteous

b) He’s prosperous

The third thing comes a few verses later when God and Satan make this odd sort of plan. This is troubling to us, and probably should be, but don’t miss the point amid the trouble. The third point we learn beyond doubt is that:

c) God Himself clarifies that what is about to happen to Job in the story is not his fault.

In no other Biblical story are we so completely confirmed that there is no connection between the bad consequences to come and choices of the protagonist. I think this is, in fact, the reason for the odd prologue, not simply to confuse us but to confirm from God’s own words that Job is not responsible for what’s to come.

So with that as the set up, what happens next? Job loses everything and his friends (other prosperous people whose righteousness has not been declared by God) come to visit.

On the plus side they do just sit in commiseration for 7 days which is more than a lot of us would do.

Unfortunately, it’s all down hill from there. They each try to fix Job and the gist of all their fixing is that it involves diagnosing what part of the formula Job missed. Each of them is very confident in their own version of the same basic formula, a still popular one today: Do what’s right and you will be guaranteed a prosperous and pleasant life. This is insidiously self-righteous. It makes it easy to despise those who are not as happy, rich or established as we ourselves. After all, if they’d simply follow the formula that has worked so well for us, all would be well for them.

Here’s the kicker though: Job indicates that prior to his own recent misfortune, he was in complete agreement with their formulas. But now that he is in the middle of it, he sees it as false because he knows he changed nothing in his own life. It’s less threatening for his friends to believe he is lying than to recognize their own formulas they are counting on for continued comfort might be empty.

All formulas look irrefutable until reality refutes them.

So if we can’t count on formulas, what can we count on? In Job 19:25, long before any resolution, while Job is still struggling he says, “I know that my redeemer lives.”

That’s the point.

The best of Christianity is not the teachings of Christ. The best of Christianity is Christ. (<–tweet this)

As simple as this statement sounds, actually being convinced of this changes the way we live, love and think. It’s the subject of the book I’m currently working on: Why formulas don’t work; one pastor’s sure fire church-shrink book.

After 23 years as a small church pastor, I am now a pastor without a church, and I am currently on my own personal pilgrimage of discovering what’s “next” You can read about this and my other ponderings and short stories over here. You can check out The Hidden Life and my other books here at my Amazon Author page

Blogs I might be linking to:
Menu Planning Monday, On The Menu Monday, Erin Branscoms, Mommy Mondays, Marital Oneness, The Better Mom, Multitudes on Monday, Hear it On Sunday, Sharing His Bounty, What Joy Is Mine, Playdates at the Well, Making Your Home Sing Mondays, Transformed Tuesdays, Domestically Divine Tuesdays, Time Warp Wife, Funky Planet Frequent Flier Club, Encourage One Another, Walking Redeemed, A Wise Woman Builds Her House, The Welcoming House, Legacy Leaver Thursday, What’s Up Wednesday, Thought Provoking Thursday, Hearts 4 Home, Thankful Thursday, Thankful Thursdays, Thankful, Thankful Thursday Brown-eyed Bell(e), Big Family Fridays, Faith Filled Fridays, Feasting In Fellowship Friday, Fellowship Friday, Homemaking Link-up Week-end, A Little R&R, Pieces of Amy, Homeschool Mother’s Journal, TGIF Bible Love Notes

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1 Comment

  1. Can’t “Amen” this post enough! God has been teaching me this lesson for the past few years. It would be so much easier sometimes if there was just the perfect formula…but then we wouldn’t need to depend on Him. Thanks for sharing this!


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