The ShackA few months back, I posted an article from Tim Challies blog series “The Bestsellers” regarding William Paul Young's “The Shack”. I had commented on the book several time prior to posting Tim's article, basing my comments on the reviews of writers that I greatly respect, but up until that point, I had not read the book, nor did I have any desire to read the book.

However, I did make this comment on the article. “I said that I would never read the book. I am willing to revise that statement. If the author asked me to read it, I would do so.” While I did not receive a request to read it from Paul Young himself, I did receive the next best thing. (You can read the Facebook post here.)

A good friend of mine works for the agency that represents Paul Young and was gracious enough to send me a complimentary copy, for which I am grateful. I took time and read the book and here are my impressions.

First of all, all of my original comments regarding the book have not changed. If you care to read them, check out the comments on Tim's post. In fact, they have all just been confirmed.

Second, I was moved by the pain that Mack suffered. I have dear friends who lost a child, not to abduction and murder, but to a tragic accident and spent a lot of time with them during their grieving process and it is an excruciating experience. There is a definite need for comfort for those who have gone through this kind of pain. This book, while empathic, is woefully lacking in an accurate portrayal of God, in fact, bordering on heretical.

Third, the portrayal of God in “The Shack” is one that replaces the true nature and character of God with one that is steeped in self-importance. Mack is the focal point of the book and it seems that everyone capitulates to him. That role should have gone to the accurate portrayal of God.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I find this book not only theologically inaccurate, but totally unnecessary. We already have a book to tell us how God deals with tragedy in our lives. It's called the book of Job. Here we see God actually suggesting to Satan that he afflict Job. It was God's idea! Why? We can't know all of the reasons, but God certainly does and if He does not share them, He absolutely has the right to do so. My guess would be to show Satan that when God's Holy Spirit controls a man, that man will never turn away. Consider Job's word in Job 19:25-26:

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God,”

Remember, in a matter of minutes, Satan took Job's wealth, killed all of his children and eventually his health by covering his entire body with boils. It was so bad, Job's wife said, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9b) Wow! She must have had the gift of encouragement! It is in the very next verse we see, “But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10) That is a man confident in the true God.

As I said in previous comments, if you want to read “The Shack”, go ahead. It's not a bad story. In fact, it's better than reading about adulterous affairs and various and sundry other types of abominations, just don't get your theology from it. Make sure you are exercising your discernment fully in light of Scripture so you don't fall into it's abysmal theology.

I once had a job I hated. Day after day I sat in a windowless basement office surrounded by hot, noisy computers. Day after day nothing happened. I had no major projects to inspire me, no big goals to work toward, no clear mission to fulfill. It was a bland and boring existence down there, just waiting for something interesting to happen. But nothing ever did, at least until the day came when they laid me off. I hated that job. I hated going to that office. The eventual pink slip, though intimidating and humiliating, was also something of a relief because at least it promised an end to those days.

I have thought about that job many times as the years have passed. Sometimes it is in the context of periods when the job I do now, a job I love, seems dull and insignificant, when pastoring involves more paperwork than people. Sometimes it is in talking to Aileen who often struggles with the humdrum nature of the work she does in keeping house and raising family. Sometimes it is in talking to other people who feel their skills exceed their opportunities, or who believe their training ought to take them beyond the tasks that consume their working hours.

And then I think back to that job in network administration, to the grumbling and discouragement, and in retrospect, and upon further reflection, I have to own my guilt in it. What I see more than anything, and what concerns me more than anything, was my utter lack of joy in what I was doing. I fully believe that job was my calling, my vocation, at that time in life, and yet I did it without any passion, any drive. I did it without any joy. I failed at my calling in that time and in that place. I deserved to be laid off!

But the job wasn’t the problem. I was the problem because I refused to attach any significance to the work I was doing. The work was boring and mundane, dull and tedious, because I allowed it to be that way. I wasn’t thinking Christianly about that job or the work I was meant to do there. My lack of joy in doing my job was a direct result of the lack of significance I attached to it.

Here’s the thing I had to see, and the thing I still need to call to mind: Work is not significant only when it utilizes my full capacity or full capabilities. Work is not significant only when it offers unusual challenge or special opportunity. Work is not significant only when it is measurable in dollars and cents or praise and compliments. Work has intrinsic significance because it gives me the opportunity to do something with joy—with joy in the Lord. I can do my work in such a way that it glorifies God, or I can do it in such a way that it dishonors him. Anything I can do to God’s glory has significance. It has great significance!

How do I do my work to the glory of God? I embrace that task, no matter how menial or insignificant it may seem. I do it when I’m told to do it, I do it to completion, and I do it with joy. When I do it this way, I am glorifying God.

I think of Jesus the carpenter. The Son of God had created humanity, he had created the earth, he had created the cosmos, and for most of his life on earth he created household furniture. But I don’t think he grumbled about it. I think he did it to the glory of God.

I think of Paul, the great intellectual, the brilliant scholar, the pastor and church planter, who was content to stitch together tents. I don’t think he grumbled about it either. He did it to the glory of God.

I think of that same Apostle writing to slaves in Colosse and telling them, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” By definition such people were unpaid and disrespected, and yet Paul could tell them that their work was full of significance because it gave them the opportunity to serve and glorify God.

Every day and every moment I have the choice before me: Will I do my work in such a way that it glorifies God? Or will I do my work in such a way that it dishonors and displeases him? In the face of such questions, I know my work matters. No matter what my work is, it matters. It matters because my work is a stage to bring glory to my God. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 36, sermon number 2,175, “So it is.” 

“If you will serve the Lord Jesus Christ, you will not find your road all smooth; but you will find it more pleasant than serving the devil.” 

Satan said of Job, “Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about all that he hath?” It was most true, but the Lord God might have answered the devil, “Would you have my servants unrewarded? It is from you that service meets no reward but death. Do you think I would have you able to say, ‘God’s servants serve him for nothing. Even Job gets no return for his faithful obedience’?”

Beloved, we may not expect immediate success in business because we walk in the path of integrity. We may for a time be losers by being honest, and may miss many a chance by abhorring deception. But we do not measure things by the inch, and by the ounce, when we come to deal with eternal matters.

Brethren, here we leave the clock and its ticking, and speak of the glory and immortality which belong to the infinite and the eternal. Coming into those larger regions, we declare that nothing can be obtained, worth the getting, by a lie, or by a trick, or by falling into sin.

The most profitable course in life that any man can take is to do the right in every case. If it should involve loss, do right, and suffer the consequences; for there are other compensating consequences which will make a man a gainer by uprightness, even if he should lose the clothes from his back.

To have done right is to have a well-spring of joy within the heart. Some of us have tried this, and are sure about it. There are aged persons here, who can tell you that they owe everything in life to having been enabled by the grace of God to act uprightly in their youth.

I know one who is at this moment in a fine position, whose rise in life dates from the moment when his employer bade him say that he was not at home, and he answered, “Sir, I could not say that. I cannot tell a lie.” From that day his promotion in the office was constant and rapid.

Another felt himself unable to cast up the firm’s accounts on Sunday, but before long was so prized that nobody would have suggested such a thing to him. A straightforward course is the nearest way to success.

We bear our testimony that righteousness is the best course. We cannot say, “Honesty is the best policy; we have tried both that and thieving, and honesty pays best”; but, for all that, if you consider the law of the Lord you will be considering your own interests.

Take notice of this testimony: righteousness is wisdom. A straight line is the shortest way between any two places. “Lo this, we have searched it, so it is; hear it, and know thou it for thy good.”