Tag Archives: Wisdom Literature

Review: Adventure in Adversity

Rating: ★★★★

Who: Paul E. Billheimer (1897-1984) was an American Charismatic minister who worked in media ministry during the last decades of his life. The thesis of most of his books is that the Bride of Christ is in on-the-job training for her eternal destiny through prayer and overcoming. His books are easy to read with short sections, lots of Scripture quotation, and simple, modern language.

Overview: This book is a brief devotional study on the Book of Job. The author teaches that Job was “perfect,” but only “relatively perfect,” at the beginning of the narrative. He shows how God taught Job brokenness and self-disillusionment in four areas of his life: family life, materialism, physical afflictions, and defective theology.

Some of Billheimer’s books are geared mainly towards bringing balance into the Word of Faith crowd—he worked with TBN in his later years—and you will notice a special focus on healing. Billheimer points out, however, that holiness trumps healing every time. How importance is character to God? “God is willing to be misunderstood in the universe he has made, in order to achieve his purpose of character development.” (p. 18) Delays and afflictions can work holiness in us, and even healing is meant to promote holiness in believers.

Meat: I am usually disappointed by reading someone else’s comments on Job—not so with Billheimer. He has some pretty good insights into what it means to be “relatively perfect.” Even though Job had no “blatant sin,” suffering refined him of attitudes that were not becoming in a saint.

The author’s theology is basically Wesleyan: “God does nothing except by prayer.” Billheimer’s books will resonate with those who prefer relational theology over systematic theology. Although he writes that God refines his people through suffering, he balances this by talking about God’s suffering, and emphasizing God’s compassion in his cosmic purposes.

Bones: Although Billheimer is bringing balance to the “name it, claim it” crowd, some of his statements make it sound like, if you just had enough faith, or were holy enough, then you would never experience sickness or affliction. Taken as a whole, though, I think this book is rather meant to oppose such attitudes of judgmentalism in the Church.

Quotes: “God’s purpose in permitting adversity is growth in holiness, in agape love, and that is obtained by progressive overcoming of the effects of the fall.” (p. 11)

“Tribulation’s imprint is on all great saints. It has been said that crowns are cast in crucibles … Blood marks the steps that lead to the heights.” (p. 30)

“None of us has reached the point where we are truly broken so long as we sit in judgment upon any act of God.” (p. 50)

Related: Don’t Waste Your Sorrows, The Mystery of God’s Providence, Destined for the Throne

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Ecclesiastes: A Book about Eternity

ECCLESIASTES
is a book about
ETERNITY
in which God is the
END.

Solomon: He Had Everything, But Was Empty
– Solomon gave himself to every earthly alternative and found all these things to be empty in light of eternity. Like the lost son in Jesus’ story, when we give ourselves to these things, we find ourselves no better off.
– Solomon’s experience is proof for us that royalty, riches, and every pleasure cannot replace the life of God in your soul—a treasure worth selling the rest. “Our hearts are restless till they rest in You.” (Augustine)

God: The Chief End of Man
– The other side of Solomon’s coin is this: “the chief end of man is glorify God and enjoy him forever.”
– God is both the end for which we must live and the end to which we must go: when we die we will face God alone, and no excuses for our lives could appease one who sees all.

Death, the Great Equalizer
– The inevitability of death is mentioned in almost every chapter of Ecclesiastes. This is the most sobering of all thoughts as we remember that death is the result our sin; “death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).

Death and Our Responsibility
– Solomon was preoccupied with death because a realistic view of death begets a realistic view of life; the medieval writings of Thomas à Kempis remind us of this. “We cannot face life until we face death.” (Billy Graham)
– In light of the realities of death, eternity, and judgment, Ecclesiastes encourages fear of God as the first virtue to be attained, without which we are not ready to face death; in Proverbs, Solomon calls it “the beginning of wisdom.”

Evil and Our Response
– Evil is neither explained nor excused by Solomon; it is simply expressed as a fact.
– In the practical Hebrew view of things, there is no use in understanding evil or injustice without a commitment to obey what is good.

Enjoyment and Eternity
– The philosopher Nietzsche rightly stated that “All pleasure longs for eternity.”
– As Christians we have a twofold mandate to enjoy life and live eternity-conscious—but most of all, we are to enjoy eternal things.

Book Recommendations:
If you want to learn about death and the afterlife, read The Christian After Death by Robert Ervin Hough.
If you want to put your mind on eternal things, challenge yourself with the writings of Leonard Ravenhill, such as Revival Praying, Revival God’s Way, and Why Revival Tarries; however, like all strong medicines I recommend you take in these books only as needed. Don’t overdose.
For some pragmatic insights on Ecclesiastes you can read Shade of His Hand by Oswald Chambers, written just before his death.

Death mentioned in Ecclesiastes:
“…the same event happens to them all.” 2:14
“A time to be born, and a time to die…” 3:2
“…as one dies, so dies the other… All go to one place.” 3:19-20
“As he came from his mother’s womb, naked shall he return…” 5:15-16
“…even if he lives a thousand years twice… Do not all go to one place?” 6:6
“…And the day of death [is better] than the day of one’s birth…” 7:1
“No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit, and no one has power in the day of death. [There is] no release from that war…” 8:8
“All things [come] alike to all:
One event [happens] to the righteous and the wicked…” 9:2-6
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do [it] with your might; for [there] is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.” 9:10
“Walk in the ways of your heart…But know that for all these God will bring you into judgment.” 11:9
“Remember now your Creator… the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” 12:1-7
“Fear God and keep His commandments… For God will bring every work into judgment.” 12:13-14