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Trust God anyway - sermon from Job

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I’m Going to Trust God Anyway

| Or; MY DECLARATION OF DEPENDENCE______________________ ----

 Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.  As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered.  You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.  The Lord is full of compassion and mercy (James 5:10-11). *** You may never have heard of Robert King Merton, the Columbia University sociologist who died in 2003 at the age of 92, but I’ll bet you’ve heard some of the phrases that he coined.  He was an expert at developing brilliant concepts, inventing a phrase to summarize them, and then popularizing those phrases until everyone began using them.  Some of Merton’s tag lines include self-fulfilling prophecy and unintended consequences.  It was Merton who invented focus groups and who discovered and popularized the word serendipity.  And it was Merton who coined the phrase role model to describe someone who provides an example of positive behavior to others. Well, the term may be new, but the concept is as old as the Bible.  In fact, we can think of the Bible as something of a handbook of mentors and role models.  If you want a role model for evangelism, study the life of St. Paul the apostle.  If you want an example of love, study the life of St. John, the apostle of love.  If you want a role model of faith, study the life of Abraham, for Romans 4 uses him in that way.  And if you want someone who can show you how to respond to suffering, pain, adversity, and tribulation, study the prophets in general and especially the life of the Old Testament hero, Job. James said: Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.  As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered.  You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.  The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. Well, in preparation for this series of sermons I’ve read through the book of Job several times, and it’s quite clear there were times when Job didn’t feel very patient, and there were times when he questioned what was happening to him.  He was confused and bewildered and depressed, like anyone would be.  We’ve all felt that way from time to time.  But I’ve also noticed that his speeches and dialogues were punctuated with statements of perseverance and faith.  It seems to me there are five great statements of faith that act as signposts through the book. Job said, in effect, “I don’t know why this is happening, but I’m going to trust God anyway.  I feel pain and suffering, but I’m going to trust God anyway.  I am confused and besieged, but I’m going to trust God anyway.”  Five times he said in various ways, “I’m going to trust God anyway.” May the Name of the Lord Be PraisedThe first time is right after the first series of disasters.  In Job chapter 1, we’re told of how the devil stirred up trouble for Job, and the Sabeans came and the Chaldeans came, and the whirlwind came, and by the end of the day Job had lost his herds and flocks and servants and even his children.  Look at his response in Job 1:20-22: At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head.  Then he fell to the ground in worship and said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”  In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. Now, this is a famous passage in the Bible, and I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this on television or in the movies when someone dies in a drama or thriller.  You usually hear it in the background at the graveside while the hero is scanning the faces of the mourners looking for the real killer, which often turns out to be the grieving widow who’s all dressed in black.  Very often it’s raining.  While the hero stands there in the wings taking it all in, you can hear the priest intone in the background the words “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”  I’ve almost never used those words myself while conducting a graveside service, but they are extremely popular on television.   Let’s do a quick analysis of this passage.  It says, At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head….  Those were the ways in which people in the ancient world expressed their grief.  This tells us that Job was shaken to his core by the tragedies that engulfed him. Then he fell to the ground in worship.  It could have said that he fell to the ground in grief or in despair or in anger or in complete collapse.  But remember what we found in Job 29:  Job enjoyed intimate friendship with God.  He walked with God and knew God and had trusted the Lord for a lifetime of blessing.  And his instinctive response was to fall to God in worship, to say, “I’m going to trust God anyway.”  I used to have a professor who was well-known for saying, “Well, praise the Lord anyway.”  If something went wrong or he had a disappointment, he’d say, “Well, praise the Lord anyway.”  Job’s response here is an amplification of that attitude in a time of deepest distress. And what did he say?  Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised. The New Testament counterpart to that is found in 1 Timothy 6:7:  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. This is the biblical logic in both Old and New Testaments.  We’re only in this world for a short time, and we’re here on assignment.  Our goal is not the accumulation of things.  Our goal is to be content and frugal as we serve the Lord, and when we have good days we thank God for them; and when we have bad days we trust God with them; and on both days we say, “May the name of the Lord be praised.” So that was Job’s first declaration of praise, and it’s a good philosophy for all of us to adopt in times of stress and strain. Shall We Accept Good and Not Bad?Now the second was in chapter 2.  What happened afterward was this—Job’s declaration of faith frustrated the devil.  If you want to frustrate Satan, just trust and praise the Lord.  So the devil unleashed another attack, this time on Job’s health.  Job found himself covered with boils and blisters and running sores from top to toe.  Look at Job 2:9-10: His wife said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity?  Curse God and die!” The word “integrity” here is related to the word “blameless” in chapter 1.  She was saying, “Are you still trying to be spiritual?  Are you still trusting God after all this?”  Her faith had just given out, and she was cynical and sarcastic.  But Job wasn’t going to put up with that kind of talk. He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman.  Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?”  In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. There are several insights and attitudes woven into the fabric of this verse, but one of them is a sense of sanctified resignation and acceptance.  Do you see that word “accept”?  Sometimes we just have to accept things, even if we don’t like them and would wish them otherwise.  Remember the old “Serenity Prayer” that begins:  “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change….” ·        This is similar to Esther’s prayer:  “If I perish I perish.”·        It’s like Jesus’ prayer in the Garden:  “Nevertheless not My will but Thine be done.”·        It’s like what Eli prayed in 1 Samuel 3:  “It is the Lord.  Let Him do what seems good to Him.” Let’s suppose a little girl wants to get into her mother’s purse and play with her makeup, but the mother says, “No,” and takes it away.  Now that little girl has a choice to make. She can either fuss and cry and rebel and squall and pout and throw a fit; or she can accept the decision and find something else that’s fun to do.  Her emotional health and good spirits depend on her learning to do the latter.  And it’s just the same with God and His children.  Sometimes we just have to accept things as His will and say, “Well, praise the Lord anyway.” Though He Slay Me Yet Will I Trust HimNow, let’s go on deeper into Job.  After this incident in chapter 2, Job’s friends come and begin discussing things with him.  These conversations with his friends occupy Job 4 through 37, and during these conversations Job declares his faith three more times.   I’d like for you to turn with me to Job 13, where we have one of the greatest statements of faith anywhere in the Bible.  Job was replying to his friend Zophar, and in Job 13:15-16, he said: Keep silent and let me speak; then let come to me what may.  Why do I put myself in jeopardy and take my life in my hands? Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.  I will surely defend my ways to His face.  Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance. This is Job’s version of Romans 8:28, that all things work for good to those who love God.  This, he said, will turn out for my deliverance, and therefore though He slay me yet will I trust Him.  I’ve come to really appreciate that attitude.  It conveys a sense of utter trust that God will never do anything to us that will in any real or ultimate sense harm us.  He only aims for our good, however it may look at the time. One day this week while we were having lunch I asked my wife a strange question.  It was sort of out of the blue, and she didn’t know what to make of it.  I asked her, “What would you think if a good friend who would come up to you and slice you open with a knife?” “Well,” she said, shocked, “that would be terrible.” “Yes,” I said, “but what if he were a surgeon and he was performing an operation that would save your life?” Well, that’s different, isn’t it?  We still wouldn’t like it at the time, but we’d be grateful that we had a friend with enough skill to help us at a critical moment.  What Job was saying in this passage is very important.  He was saying, “I know that God loves me, that He is a Great Physician, and that He will never harm me but will always work all things for good.  And even if it appears for a moment that He is harming me, I know it’s in appearance only and that in reality it is for my benefit.  So I’m going to trust Him completely.  Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” I Know That My Redeemer LivesNow, let’s go on to Job’s fourth declaration of faith, found in Job 19:23-27:  Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever!  I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes—I, and not another.  How my heart yearns within me! Now as far as I’m concerned, if you’re going to read a passage from the book of Job at the graveside of a believer, this is the passage to choose. Notice the personal pronouns.  Job isn’t just making a theological statement; he is expressing his own feelings:  I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand on the earth.  And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes—I, and not another. His mind and thoughts are looking forward to the resurrection, to the new heavens and the new earth, and to everlasting life.  In her book, A Little Pot of Oil, Jill Briscoe talks about going to her first American funeral.  Jill grew up in the UK, and she wasn’t quite prepared for the open casket and with everyone standing around looking down at the departed person.  But she stood with her friend, Jenny (the wife of the man who died), near the casket and gave comfort.  By and by one woman who was a relative of the man came by and took a very long time at the casket, and she kept saying over and over, “Oh, there he is, there he is.  Just look at him—there he is.”  Jenny stood it as long as she could, and then she said, “No, no, you’ve got it all wrong—there he isn’t.  If I believed ‘there he is,’ I would not be able to shut that box and put him in the ground.  Steve’s not in the casket.  He’s long gone to be with the Lord.” (Jill Briscoe, A Little Pot of Oil (Sisters, OR:  Multnomah Publishers, 2003), p. 73.   And Jill thought of the verse that says, Absent from the body, present with the Lord. One day the bodies of those who die in Christ are going to be resurrected, and we’ll catch up with ourselves, so to speak.  Jesus said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.”  And all of us in Christ can say, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth.  After my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh will I see God.” In this verse are the truths of the redemption of the soul, the person of the Redeemer, the resurrection of the body, the Second Coming of Christ, the end of the world, and the promise of everlasting life. He Knows the Way I TakeBut there’s one more great declaration of faith in the book of Job, and it’s found in Job 23:8-12: But if I go to the east, He is not there.  If I go to the west, I do not find Him.  When He is at work in the north, I do not see Him; when He turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of Him.  But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.  My feet have closely followed His steps; I have kept to His way without turning aside.  I have not departed from the commands of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my daily bread. In other words, my trials and troubles are not going to go on forever, and they are not without purpose.  I can’t see how or where God is working, but He can see me.  He knows what I’m going through; He knows the way I take.  This is a test of my faith, and when it’s over, I’m going to come forth like gold.  And in the process, I’m going to closely follow His steps and treasure the words of His mouth. ConclusionNow, I’d like to end by going back to something that I said earlier in this series of messages.  The structure and outline of the book of Job are unique in the Scripture.  We have two chapters of narrative at the beginning of the book that tells us why these things happened to Job.  We’re told about the devil attacking him.  We’re taken on a behind-the-scenes tour and given insights into the reason for Job’s suffering.  And then in the last chapter, Job 42, we have another section of narrative in which we’re told how it all turns out.  But in-between we have 39 chapters of poetry and dialogue in which Job and his friends try to figure it all out. Now, here’s the great lesson of the book of Job.  Job did not know the contents of chapters 1 and 2, and he did not yet know the contents of chapter 42.  That is, he did not know the reason for his suffering and he did not know what the results would be.  He was just in terrible crisis without knowledge of the cause or the outcome.  Later on, of course, he would know the reason and later on he would know the outcome, but as we read through the book of Job, we see that at the time he did not know. And yet—though he didn’t know why it was happening or how God would resolve it—he said, “I am going to trust God anyway.  May the name of the Lord be praised!  Shall we accept good from the Lord and not bad?  Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.  I know that my Redeemer lives.  He knows the way I take.” And James said that Job is our role model when it comes to troubles in life.  You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.  The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.  I think it helps us during a difficult time to say out loud and even in the presence of our friends, “I’m going to trust God anyway.  He knows what He’s doing.  He’s working all for good.  I’m going to trust Him with all my heart.” |

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