“With Friends Like These...”1
“With Friends Like These...”1
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Introduction: This month we are drawing insight from one of the world’s most provocative pieces of literature...the Book of Job. Job was the richest man in the land of Uz. He had a large family and great respect. Satan accuses Job that the only reason he is a righteous man is because God has been so good to him. Satan suggests that if Job suffered losses that he would not be faithful to God. God allowed Satan to test Job by taking away his wealth, his children, his status and finally even his health. Though Job did not understand why these things were happening to him he maintain his faith in God. Did he struggle? Yes. Did he wrestle with doubt? Yes. Did he search for some meaning in his pain and suffering? Yes. But, did he turn his back on his God? No.In his misery we learn that Job had three friends who heard about his terrible misery and they came to offer their counsel to suffering Job. That’s what I want us to look at today.“Having friends is one of the sweetest joys of life. Many might have failed beneath the bitterness of their trial had they not found a friend!” C.H. SpurgeonSo let’s consider who these three friends of Job are and what they had to offer him by way of counsel in his time of despair. What we learn is that they may be classified more as “frenemies” than friends.I. Job’s Three “Friends” This book is the story of a believer who struggles with questions, doubts, and despair. His trial and victory are instructive for all believers. Job wants to know why he is experiencing this unanticipated and seemingly undeserved suffering. The insensitivity of his friends increased Job’s anguish. They wrongly assumed that suffering is always caused by one’s sin. The Bible rejects this false view ( and ).2The heart of their argument is “Job, you are suffering. All suffering is cause by one’s sin. Therefore you are suffering because of your sin.” The problem with this argument is that the second premise is false, because all suffering is not directly caused by sin. They also commit the fallacy of false dilemma contending that only two options exist: live godly and experience no suffering or live wickedly and experience suffering. They failed to understand that God may have good reasons why godly people suffer. A. Eliphaz, the Temanite (the beginning of his speech, 4:1-11)1. Eliphaz from Teman is probably the oldest of the three visitors so he speaks first. For Job, his desperate condition and the misfortunes that have befallen him are a mystery with no apparent explanation. For Eliphaz it is rudimentary. Undoubtedly Job’s calamities have come because of some sin or sins that Job has committed. Eliphaz has come to help Job examine his conscience. He tells Job, “I have seen” speaking from his own observation. He has a rigid theology that leaves little room for God’s grace.2. The counsel of Eliphaz mirrors the popular teaching today that is at the heart of America’s “Success Syndrome” which says if you are prospering, you are being blessed; if you are in destitute circumstances, it is punishment from God because of your sins.3. “Thanks be to God Jesus repudiates this blasphemous and heretical instruction. (). The cross, the ten official Roman persecution, the martyrdom of thousands of the faithful, if not millions, both in the classical church history and in the twentieth (21st) century, all speak against this doctrine. B. Bildad, the Shuhite (his first speech is 8:1-7)1. Bildad from the land of Shuah is apparently the younger of the three. His counsel agrees with that of Eliphaz: God can do no wrong and there are only two kinds of people in the world: those who are wicked and being punished for their wrongs and those who are righteous and are being rewarded for their good. Bildad adds that the reason Job’s children died was because of their sinful deeds. They got what they deserved.2. Bildad was the legalist of the group. Everything can be summarized with “a man gets what he deserves.” C. Zophar, the Naamathite (His first speech: 11:1-6)1. His counsel is the most harsh. He is more intense in asserting Job’s guilt than Job is in his innocence. Zophar claims that Jobs should actually be thankful that he doe not get all the suffering that he deserves.2. He speaks like a school master addressing a group of ignorant freshmen. 11:6, “know this...” He was confident that he knew more about God than anyone else...especially Job!Close examination of the counsel of Job’s “friends” suggest that they miss the mark of the reason for Job’s suffering as badly as Satan’s accusation that the only reason Job honors God is because God has blessed him. Take away his blessings and he will turn his back on God as quickly as any wicked man may do. But Satan is wrong and Job’s friends are wrong.John Mark Hicks observes,Job struggled to believe despite his circumstances. He trusts even when there seems to be no reason to trust. Job’s wife thought the best resolution was to curse God and die (2:9). But this was the essence of the test. Will Job believe even when he has no reason to believe? Will he maintain his integrity where there is no gain or profit? Everything was taken from him materially, physically, and emotionally. Will Job maintain his integrity, his fear of God, even in his desperate circumstance? The answer throughout the book’s dialogue is “Yes.”Throughout his vacillations between despair and anger, between doubt and terror, Job maintained an implicit trust in God. Job would not deny his integrity, but neither would his curse his God.” 3Perhaps what we can learn from our study this morning is not only what not to say or do as a friend but how can we be a better friends to those we care about.II. How to be a Better FriendWe may learn much from Job’s friends as to what not to do or say to those who are hurting. Surely there motives were right but their methodology was skewed.The teaching of the Bible is that we “bear one another’s burden and thus fulfill the law of Christ.” Paul wrote in his 2nd Corinthian letter, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (1:3,4)There is a scene in Julius Caesar where Cassius is makes a painful observation, “A friend should bear a friend’s infirmities, but Brutus makes mine greater than they are.” A. Be QuietJob’s three counselors started out good. 2:13, “So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights and no one spoke a word unto him; for they saw that his grief was very great.” This was one of the most helpful things these three friends did for Job. It has been observed that if they had kept completely quiet they would have gone down in history as the greatest of all counselors. Often times our quiet presence is the most effective counsel we can provide to those who are suffering. There will be times when we feel we must speak but we need to be especially careful of what we say so that our words do not shatter the comfort that our silence has achieved. B. Be HelpfulTalk and explanations and particularly judgments are not what is needed...but rather helpful deeds. “Bearing one another’s burdens” includes listening with the heart their hurts but also be ready and willing to provide tangible ministry to their needs. Case in point: Jesus answer to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” was the parable of the Good Samaritan and what he did for the hurt man. At the end of the parable Jesus asked his own question: “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands? And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” And Jesus said to him, “God and do the same.” (,). C. Be Positive Job’s friends were for the most part negative in their words. As indicated in 4:7 where Eliphaz says, “Think back now, name a single case when a righteous man met with disaster.”Bildad’s counsel in 8:4 was no better, “Your children must have sinned against God, and so he punished them the way they deserved.”Then there’s Zophar’s blast, “How I wish God would answer you back...God is punishing you less than you deserve.” (11:5,6)“Job found God but his friends did not. “Why? Because Job asked God! Job prayed. His three friends only philosophized. Job talked to God, his three friends only talked about God.”4When we face suffering, it is important that we keep the conversation going with God. We need to tell Him our feelings and ask for wisdom and understanding. We need to pray for His help and strength. Even when we do not understand, it is essential that we trust in God with our whole being. That’s what Job did and He honored God and in the end God honored him.We would do well to notice Job’s answer to these cynics, “Everything you say, I have heard before. I understand it all. I know as much as you do. I’m not your inferior. But my dispute is with God not you; I want to argue my case with him. You cover up your ignorance with lies; you are like doctors who can’t heal anyone. Say nothing, and someone may think you are wise!” (13:1-5 TEV) That’s another way of saying, “Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”After all, remember that God gets the last word. And, He does so particularly in the case of Job and his friends. In the last chapter God told Eliphaz, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you did not speak the truth about me, the way my servant Job did...Job will pray for you and I will answer his prayer and not disgrace you the way you deserve. You did not speak the truth about me as he did!” (42:7,8)One would be hard-pressed to find much that is positive in the counsel these three offered to suffering Job. There is a New Testament exhortation that bears on this point, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” ()It’s been said that “we need to be good news before we can share Good News!” When we minister to others and “bear one another’s burdens” we are serving Christ. Remember He said, “Inasmuch as you have done unto the least of these you have done it unto Me.” . One of the best things we can do for our friends is to introduce them to Jesus Christ. Without Him they are lost and headed to hell. What kind of friend will you be? One that cares about the eternal destiny of your friend’s soul or will you just be content to pass the time and ignore the reality that there really is more to life than the ball scores or the weather or the high price of gasoline? What kind of friend will you be?Conclusion: Let me share with you that “There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother” and his name is Jesus! . Jesus said, “There is no greater love than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends...I have called you friends.” The greatest friend that you need is Jesus! He gave his life for you. He took your sin upon himself and died for you. Jesus suffered for you that you may be “more than a conqueror through him who loves you!”“What a Friend we have in Jesus...” Is He your friend? Is He your Savior?
1Sermon for FCC Lake Butler, 19 Oct. 2014 2Lynn Gardner, Where is God When We Suffer, pg. 56 3John Mark Hicks, Trust, pg. 165 4Kreft, Sense, pg. 23