Tag Archive | Suffering

What I learned from the story of Job today

Today I told the story of Job to my Sunday School class of precious 5 year olds. One of the things I love about teaching kids is that I always seem to discover new and exciting truths in old familiar stories. They are not new truths, of course, just things I hadn’t recognized before.

Job had everything any person could ever want; he had a big family, he had perfect health, and he was the richest man in the world. He was even commended by God as being righteous. When Satan accused Job before God, God gave Satan permission to take away everything Job had. When Satan took away Job’s livelihood, family, and health, Job did not blame God for his troubles but worshiped Him instead. Job proved Satan wrong. Satan had told God that Job only worshiped Him because He had blessed him. But throughout the book of Job we find that Job worshiped God even when things went bad for him. The two most well known verses from Job sum it up nicely:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21)

And,

“Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15)

I have always filed this story in the “we ought to worship God at all times” category. That is completely true. Psalm 34:1 says, “I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” But today while telling the story of Job I learned these three things afresh:

Number 1: It is Satan’s hand that harmed Job, not God’s. It seems obvious, but it was the wording of the verses in chapter 1 that caught my attention. Satan incites God: “Stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” But God answers, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand.” (Job 1:11-12, emphasis added.) Satan is good at spinning his own evil to God’s credit. It comes out in common phrases like, “If God is good, why do bad things happen?”–thus pinning the blame on God with the implication that all bad things are His fault. The question would be better phrased, “Since God is good, for what reason does He allow the devil to continue doing evil?” Thus God is not the enemy, the devil is. And that question, deserving of much more time than will be given to it in this post, is answered all over the bible….

Number 2: God’s love for us is independent of our circumstances. When things do not go well for us, we do not need to doubt God’s love. Before we started the story, I asked the kids about their Christmas’. They enthusiastically told me about all their favorite presents. As a segue into Job, I asked, “So, how do we know God loves us? Is it because we all got awesome presents for Christmas!?” I was so proud when the class resounded: “NO!” So I asked them to raise their hand and tell me how we know for certain that God loves us. One little boy (who normally doesn’t answer questions) shot up his hand and said, “Because Jesus died for our sins!”

Yes!

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

God’s love is not found in the blessings he gives us. God does not show His love for us in that we have good health and prosperous lives. It is God who blesses us with those things, but it is not the demonstration of His love. Furthermore, God’s love is not depreciated when blessings are scarce. We know God loves us because He became sin on our behalf to make us the righteousness of God in Him. No matter what the condition of our lives, we always know He loves us because He died on the cross for us.

Number 3: Just because things are bad does not mean God thinks that we are. When things do not go well for us, we don’t have to assume it is because we’ve done something wrong. Job was commended by God Himself as being a righteous man, and yet he had troubles. God’s love for us is not measured by circumstances, nor is our righteous standing before Him.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)

This peace we have with God exists even when peace in our life does not. We lay hold of God’s love through faith, and it is through that faith in Him that we are made to be completely righteous. Present circumstances neither confirm nor deny our standing, it is promised to us in God’s word–period.

I did not expect these truths to be pointed out to me through Job. But they strengthen me so that, at some point, when Satan tries to incite God’s hand against me, I can rest in the knowledge that it will not be God’s loving, nail-pierced hand that reaches out to hurt me, but it will be His hand that holds me tight as I walk through the fire with Him.

Agony Drives to Prayer

Luke 22:44

“And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”

He prayed more earnestly

The agony Jesus endured pushed Him deeper into prayer.

  • 1 Peter 2:23b; “When he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”

Jesus’ suffering, first and foremost, was to bring us to God. His suffering also gives us an example. When we go through trials on this earth, we, like Jesus are driven to pray all the more earnestly.

In the Psalms there’s a story of men at sea caught in a storm. It says, “They reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.” Often times it’s when we’re at our wits end that we cry out to the Lord. It’s then that it says, “He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.” Not always does He immediately change the situation, but He always hears; and, the affliction that we go through always causes us to grow in our trust in Him.

  • Romans 5:3-5; “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
  • 1 Corinthians 1:8-10; “We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.”

Indeed, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

  • Psalm 50:15; “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

Not my Will, But Yours be Done

Luke 22:39-43

“And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation.’ And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.”

If you are willing

We can look back at this moment of Christ’s anguish and rejoice, not in the physical pain of His suffering, but in that God was not willing for His work to go unfinished. If there could have been any other way to forgive our sin, perhaps God would have spared His Son. If there had been any other way to make us righteous, Jesus would not have had to die. But there was not.

God was willing, in this hour, to crush His Son so that He might secure for us an eternal redemption.

God’s desire, since time began, has been to bring man to Himself. He accomplished this through Jesus Christ. So when all the purpose of God for all eternity was focused on Christ on that night in the garden, God’s answer to Jesus’ prayer was already known.

  • Isaiah 53:10; “It was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.”
  • Hebrews 10:5-10; “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.”‘ When he said above, ‘You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings’ (these are offered according to the law), then he added, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will.’ He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And by that will [the will of God] we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

God’s will has always been to sanctify us through the offering of Christ’s body. Jesus came to complete that will–to crushed for our iniquities and raised for our justification.

Not my will, but yours, be done

We might, at first glance, think that Jesus didn’t want what God wanted. Detach yourself from human logic for a minute to remember that Jesus was both fully God and fully human. It was the physical pain, the separation from the Father, the tormenting act of bearing an entire world’s sin that brought Jesus into agony that night. He did not resent the result–it was His will, just as it was God’s, to bring all men to Himself even if by means of His death. He knew what He had to go through to make us His, so He endured the cross, despising the shame in light of the joy that was set before Him.

  • Luke 13:34; “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”
  • John 17:24; “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”
  • John 12:32-33; “‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.”
  • John 3:14-18; And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

The Eye of the Lord is on Those who Fear Him

Psalm 33:18-19

“Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.”

On those who fear him

Verse 13 of this same chapter says the Lord sees everyone. He knows everything. He is aware of all circumstances. In Matthew’s gospel were even told He blesses both the evil and the good alike.

But for those who fear him, those who hope in his steadfast love, they can trust in the certainty of the promise: he will deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.

Deliver their soul from death

It’s not that those who trust the Lord will never physically die. However, we have the eternal hope of life after death. Our soul shall never die.

  • John 11:25-26; “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?'”
  • John 5:24; “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
  • 1 Peter 1:3-6; “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,

And keep them alive in famine

We rejoice in God and our hope of eternity, though now for a little while, if necessary, we have been grieved by various trials. As the hymn writer sang, “Whatever my lot, though hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul!” We don’t have a promise of never going through famine, but of being protected in it. We don’t have a promise to never endure any hardship, we have the assurance that the Lord will always be with us in them.

Just ask Job.

  • Job 1:21; “He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.'”
  • Job 13:15; “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.”

Just ask Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

  • Daniel 3:17-18; “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

The eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. When we go through times of trial on this earth, we can rejoice that the Lord has delivered our soul from death and that He promises to sustain us in difficult times. Whatever ill this life can throw at us, we know God is with us.

  • Romans 8:35-39; “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
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