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Knowing God Helps Sufferers

Theology  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  35:02
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Theology and Suffering

Our awareness of the extent of suffering is much higher now than in the past.
America is protected. We are protected from suffering around the world because we are somewhat isolated by two oceans. We are protected from suffering in Mexico and Canada because of border issues. We are protected from suffering in the cities because we are in a rural area. We are protected from suffering in our area because much of the suffering takes place behind closed doors.
Much of what I said used to be true. Now nightly news routinely shows us Syria and Iraq. Images of frantic people outside Parkland High School were brought live into our living rooms. The #metoo movement exposed hidden suffering that many experienced. 9/11 changed the United States forever.
We will face suffering on a personal level. We might find that one of our children are hurt at school. We may face the loss of a loved one or the stock market may tank and your investments that were for your future may be gone. I am on a website and I read of pastors that are devastated when they face adversity.
This morning I want to share this thought with you.
Suffering will happen. Your knowledge of God or lack thereof will determine how well you deal with and survive the difficult paths you walk.
I want to illustrate this through the life of Job. If you are suffering you can learn from the book of Job. His example has inspired millions of people and give us deep insight into what God is like.
Let’s start by sharing why Job and his wife were suffering.
Job 1:13–19 ESV
13 Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 14 and there came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 16 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 18 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 19 and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”
Notice how rapid these messengers of doom come. “While he was yet speaking…” is mentioned three times. Four people brought him bad news in less than five minutes. In five minutes Job learned that he lost
His oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, servants and seven sons and three daughters, ten children in all.
He no doubt loved his work. He was very successful. He was the greatest of all the people in the east. He was very wealthy by that day’s standards. Years of work in building the herds, developing markets, delivering the goods all gone in a moment.
That is very painful.
He loved his children. Understand that his children were not perfect. The ten kids would get together to eat, and we don’t know what they did. What we do know is that Job was not invited and maybe was glad he wasn’t. Whatever happened, Job loved his children so much that he would send for them to come so he could consecrate them and then he offered sacrifices for each one.
These children were old enough to own their own homes. It might be that they met for birthdays, the text doesn’t say. But whenever they met, Job was very concerned about their spiritual condition.
Parents. Parents of adult children. Are you concerned about the spiritual condition of your children? Do you pray for them to know God and Jesus Christ? Do you want them to experience the life that only God can give? Job did.
Because of his love for his children, the news of the death of all ten of them brought real suffering in his life.

How Does One Deal with Tragedy?

How does one deal with that kind of tragedy? What insights can the book of Job show us about suffering?

What you believe about God makes a difference in how you deal with suffering.

Job 1:20–21 ESV
20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And 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.”
Worship is not our usual first response.
But Job touches on to his theology and repeats it out loud.
21 And 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.”
When he tells us that the Lord gave, he is not saying that God gifted him. Rather, God handed something to him. He had nothing when he came into this world.
Everything he had came from the hand of God.
In other words, God gave him his business. He gave it to him to run and take care of. It was God’s business. “He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the wealth in every mine. “Job was God’s district manager.
God gave him his children. They were not a gift. Children were a responsibility. We are told to bring our children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We don’t own our children. Job’s theology said that they were a trust, a stewardship, or a responsibility God had given him.
If, in fact, God asked Job to manage people, animals and material things for Him, they were his to take back when he wanted.
Don’t misunderstand this. We become attached to certain things that we are asked to watch for a while. Some of you have taken care of someone else’s children. When they left the house, you may have felt sadness. You loved having them over and enjoyed the time.
Someone may have asked you to watch their dog. After a week you feel like the dog is almost your dog. When they pick it up, you feel sadness.
Someone might have lent you their barbeque grill. This thing has fifteen burners, a webcam so you can watch it from your living room while the ball game is on and a remote control that not only controls the heat, but turns the burgers at the push of a button. You cooked every night with it. You started it remotely from work, and pushed the button that put hamburgers on the grill when you stopped for gas on the way home. When your friend picked it up, you almost cried.
Job worshipped God in his sadness and pain because he really believed that God was in control and that God had blessed him with the opportunity to raise his children and grow his business.
The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Others may know more about God and how it relates to suffering than we do.

We find this in an interesting passage.
Job 1:6–12 ESV
6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 8 And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” 9 Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
Read the entire book of Job and you will realize that Job did not know of this exchange. Neither did his friends.
Who knew? The author of the book.
Some people really struggle with suffering because they don’t trust God with what they know. They also struggle because they don’t ask others for help with spiritual insight.
Corrie ten Boon wrote a book called “The Hiding Place.” Read the book and you find out what Corrie knew about God and how she faced adversity. Talk to Christians in the church who have face real tragedy. Listen to what they believe and you will understand how their faith and knowledge of God has helped them deal with really horrible situations.
We learn a lot by reading our Bibles and seeing how Jesus, Paul, Abraham, David, Isaiah and Jeremiah faced suffering. We also learn by talking to others who have experienced life at its worst.
It’s why God calls the church together. I don’t know the answers to all the questions. I don’t even know all the questions. I have learned so much by listening to people in this congregation who have gone through garbage that I would never want to go through. Through their testimony I have seen faith in action and I have been encouraged.
Sometimes even others cannot answer the questions we have. It is at that point that we need to walk by faith and not by sight. Job infers our third insight.

Some things require faith in a God who knows more than He tells us.

Job 1:6–7 ESV
6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”
Why did Satan come to talk to God? Was this the first time? Had Satan done this on a regular basis? What did they talk about prior to this? What motivated Satan to come and what motived God to point out Job?
The only answer I could see is that God and Satan had history together. There was much more going on than Job knew. There was even more going on than the author of the book knew. There was a history that, if known, would help answer some of our questions, but raise even more.
A husband and wife attend your party. You notice that when they talk to people, they are animated and engaged. But when they talk to each other, there is a coolness there. You don’t know why, but you do know there is a story behind that. Something more is going on.
Your boss comes into work. She sits behind her desk and has her computer open, a cup of coffee beside her. She doesn’t work on the computer and she doesn’t sip at her coffee. Her face is drawn and you know something is not right. You don’t know what, but you know there is more to her story.
God has revealed who he is and what he wants. He hasn’t revealed all of his bigger plan, of what is happening in the spiritual world right now. There is a bigger picture.
Ravi Zacharias shared a story from the mideast. A man’s only horse took off from the corral. His neighbor said, “Bad luck.” Three days later it came back with twenty more horses. His neighbor said, “Good luck.” His fifteen-year old son got on a horse, was bucked off and broke his leg. The neighbor said, “Bad luck.” ISIS came through looking for young men to forcibly drag into their army. They didn’t want a boy with a broken leg. The neighbor said, “Good luck.”
I heard him say this and the first question I asked was, “Was it a good thing his horse ran away?”
There really is a bigger picture that is beyond our view. We are called to trust God and not doubt the goodness of God.
The big question of Job was whether or not he would curse God.
Job 1:22 (ESV) —22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
Which leads us to the fourth insight.

Our faith and belief in God will not take away the pain of our loss.

We often think that if we trusted God enough that we wouldn’t hurt the way we do. I believe the degree of pain we feel is directly related to the amount of love we have.
Job suffered.
Job 3:3–4 ESV
3 “Let the day perish on which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man is conceived.’ 4 Let that day be darkness! May God above not seek it, nor light shine upon it.
These are the words of a suffering man. These are the words of a depressed man. These are the words of a righteous man!
He is not going to curse God, but he is honest enough to say, “I don’t like this and I wish it had never happened…”
When his wife approaches him and says, “Curse God and die…” she has seen her financial security go down the drain, her ten children that she carried in her womb and cradled in her arms die, and her husband suffer with an excruciatingly painful skin disease. She is one hurting woman.
Job’s theology is right. He knows God, trust God, believe in God and is willing to commit all things into his hands. But right theology does not diminish the pain.
His friends come and sit in silence with him, watching him suffer for seven full days before speaking.
They brought up a theological, practical question. “What sin did you do, Job, that brought such pain into your life?” What a great question. Job said, “Nothing that I can think of…”
Here is the problem. It’s not that his friends were wrong in asking Job and starting the conversation. But from chapter 3 to chapter 37 they keep pounding him. They are trying to help Job, but their relentless assault on him only made Job’s problems worse.
We often help people by giving perspective and godly advice. I would not discourage it. But if people hear it and are not willing to receive it, back off.
There is a time to speak and a time to be silent.
The fact that someone is emotionally distraught is not going to be changed by a new theological truth.
Even Jesus wept.
When we look at Job, his faith in God helped him deal with the loss of his business, the loss of his children, the lack of support from his wife and the cruel interrogation of his friends.
If his theology had been different, he never would have made it. What he knew about God didn’t take away the pain, but it helped him cope with the loss in a godly way.
What do we take away from this?

First, the better you know God before you go through hard times, the more foundation you will have to survive the sufferings in your future.

Corrie ten Boon is famous for her book, “The Hiding Place.” One would assume that her faith kicked in when she and her sister went to the Nazi death camp. But if you read her book, “In My Father’s House” you will see that a strong foundation had been laid over the years.

Second, when facing hard times, ask the question, “What do I know about God intellectually and how does God want me to respond?”

In other words, draw on what you know. Walk with what you know, don’t stumble over what you do not know.

Third, seek help.

One reason we have Celebrate Recovery is to help those who are going through hard times get new information from others who have walked that road. One reason we have GriefShare is to help grieving people hear how God has helped other grieving people who not only know intellectually, but also emotionally what pain is involved. Christian bookstores are full of books of people who have dealt with all kinds of suffering.

Fourth, be realistic.

If we expect to know everything and have every question answered, we are demanding more than is ever possible. Instead we need to walk by faith and not by sight.
One verse that I repeat when I face unanswered questions is Naham 1:7
Nahum 1:7 ESV
7 The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.
No matter what happens, I believe that when we find the answer to the deep unanswered questions we have today, that we will discover once again that “The Lord is good...”
Without faith it is impossible to please God… The bottom line is that though we can know much, we cannot know everything and so we need to trust God. Trusting God does not mean we won’t feel. Explanations will not remove the pain that love puts in our hearts. Now abides faith, hope, and love and the greatest of these is love.
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