You've got a Friend - Job series
|I’m Tired of My Friends|
| ______________________Or; You’ve Got a Friend----
Someone has coined an interesting new word and I thought I’d share it with you; I think it was first used on a situation comedy on television, though I’m not sure; but now it’s become something of a buzzword in our culture. It’s the term frienemies. A frienemy is a combination friend-enemy. You can’t tell if this person is your friend or your enemy. This is the kind of character who at least pretends to be your friend, but very often he or she causes more trouble than they’re worth. Well, that’s the kind of friends that Job had, and that’s our study for today. We’re in a series of sermons from the Old Testament book of Job, and if you’ve read very much in this book then you know that the largest section of Job, from Job 4 to Job 37 is devoted to a series of rollicking conversations Job had with his “frienemies” regarding all his troubles. This is a very interesting book in the Bible, because from time to time we all find ourselves in conversations in which we need to be able to dispense comfort and strength like the Lord Jesus would if He were in our place; and the book of Job teaches us how to really help those who are suffering. Someone recently wrote a book recently entitled, In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart. Every person we know and every friend we have will someday need encouragement from us. Every time I stand to preach, I’m facing an undetermined number of hurting people. At various points in life, we, too, need comfort and encouragement from others. We’re to be comforters and encouragers—that’s an exhortation the Bible repeats many times. But how do we learn to do it? How do we learn to comfort and help others? Well, think of the book of Job as a training manual in which we can learn the great secrets of being an encourager. We’re going to cover a vast portion of the book of Job today, and I want to give you three be’s which I think come right out of this extended text. Be Present First, Be Present. This is one of the things Job’s friends did right. Look with me at Job 2:11-13: When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Sophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. This is one of the finest examples of friendship in the Bible. These three men were busy men, leaders of their day. But they dropped everything and traveled to Job’s side, and they were distraught when they saw him, and their hearts were troubled and burdened, and they sat down with him and mourned with him and wept with him and threw dirt up into the air and they were just there to be with their friend. The most important thing you can do for those who are suffering is to be there, to go and sit with them, to hug them, to love them, to sympathize with them. I had a young man tell me this week, “When I’m down I just need to hang out with my buddies.” That feeling goes all the way back to the book of Job; and it was even true of our Lord Jesus Christ. On the night He was betrayed, Jesus wanted to be with His friends. “With desire, I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer,” He told them (Luke 22:15, KJV). I think we’re doing so much better at that here at TDF in our LifeGroups. In times of crisis or need, we just drop everything to be there, to sit with people, to hug them, to weep with them and cry with them. I remember when a young man in our church suddenly died, and the line at the funeral home stretched out for what seemed like a mile. The mother later told me, “I received strength with every hug.” I remember when a young lady in our church was killed in a car wreck, and the lobby of the hospital was packed at midnight with TDF members. I remember how this church turned itself inside out to help a family whose members had been murdered. People say to me all the time, “My LifeGroup rallied around. My LifeGroup came through. My LifeGroup stood in the gap.” I can give lots of examples over the years, and it’s like the old hymn that says: Blest be the tie that bindsOur hearts in Christian love;The fellowship of kindred mindsIs like to that above. This week I read the testimony of a woman who has written a book about her battle with breast cancer. She said that her friends and fellow Christians were a big part of her beating the disease. She had friends who secretly delivered brownies to the mailbox, took her on a shopping trip for a much-needed wig, and dropped by just to iron clothes and change bed sheets. She wrote, “Being a ‘safe person’ for a ‘hurting person’ is an art. It’s easy to toss out glib phrases such as ‘I know how you feel’ or ‘Everything will be okay,’ but to really walk with someone the entire way along a tough road is not for the weak-hearted.” (Tammi Reed Ledbetter, “Despite Breast Cancer, I Was Not Alone,” in Baptist Press, October 22, 2007.) The Bible says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Be PositiveThe second thing we can learn is to be positive. Now, let me tell you what I don’t mean by that. I don’t mean that we should be glib or flippant and I don’t even mean light-hearted. I don’t mean that we should spout off all kinds of clichés. I also don’t mean that we should never confront sin or admonish a brother or sister in a loving and gentle way when necessary to do so. But what I do mean is that we are commanded by God to build each other up. And that’s where Job’s friends failed at their task. They were tear-downers instead of build-upers. Let me show you how this works out in the text. After Job’s friends had sat with him for a week without any of them saying very much, finally Job opened his mouth and cursed the day when he was born. That’s the chapter we looked at last week—Job 3. He said, in effect, “I wish I had never been born; I wish I had died at birth; I wish I were dead right now.” So in chapter 4, his friends started talking to him, and right off the bat they turned critical. Look at Job 4:1ff: Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied: “If someone ventures a word with you, will you be impatient? But who can keep from speaking? Think how you have instructed many, how you have strengthened feeble hands. Your words have supported those who stumbled; you have strengthened faltering knees. But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged; it strikes you, and you are dismayed. Should not your piety be your confidence and your blameless ways your hope? Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it. At the breath of God they are destroyed; at the blast of His anger they perish. (Job 4:1-9) In other words, he is saying, “Job, I love you; but you’re just reaping what you sowed. You have surely been unethical or unrighteous in some area of your life, and this is what God does to people like you. Eliphaz continues along those lines in chapters 4 and 5, and Job replies in chapter 6, and he’s none to happy with his friends. Look at verses 24: Teach me, and I will be quiet; show me where I have been wrong…. Job continues speaking throughout chapters 6 and 7, and then in chapter 8 Bildad has a go at him. I think Bildad was especially harsh and judgmental. Look at how bluntly he speaks in verses 4ff: When your children sinned against Him, He (God) gave them over to the penalty of their sins… \ In other words, he said, “Job, you’ve got to face the facts. Your kids were rebellious brats and God wiped them out.” Now, how you do think that made Job feel? After Bildad’s speech, Job replied. Look at chapter 10:2ff: I will say to God: Do not condemn me, but tell me what charges You have against me. In other words, “I’m not saying I’m perfect, but this doesn’t make any sense to me. What have I done that was so bad? What has my family done that deserves this?” In chapter 11, Zophar speaks, and he doesn’t mince words either. Look at verse 4: You say to God, “My beliefs are flawless and I am pure in Your sight.” Oh, how I wish God would speak, that He would open His lips against you and disclose to you the secrets of wisdom, for true wisdom has two sides. Know this: God has even forgotten some of your sin. Then in chapter 12, Job fires back. Look at chapter 13, verses 4ff: You, however, smear me with lies; you are worthless physicians, all of you! If only you would be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom. In chapter 15, Eliphaz speaks again: Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied, “Would a wise man answer with empty notions or fill his belly with the hot east wind?” In other words, Job, you’re full of hot air. You’re full of empty ideas. Would he argue with useless words or with speeches that have no value? But you even undermine piety and hinder devotion to God. Your sin prompts your mouth; you adopt the tongue of the crafty. Your own mouth condemns you, not mine; your own lips testify against you. By chapter 16, Job is getting sick and tired of these frienemies: Then Job replied: “I have heard many things like these; miserable comforters are you all! Will your long-winded speeches never end? What ails you that you keep on arguing? I also could speak like you, if you were in my place; I could make fine speeches against you and shake my head at you. But my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief. And so it goes for chapter after chapter. We don’t have time for me to cover all the material in this section, but by chapter 38 even the Lord Himself is fed up with the critical and destructive arguments of Job’s friends. Turn over to chapter 38 and look at verses 1 and 2: Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm. He said: “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?” And look at Job 42:7: After the Lord had said these things to Job, He said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken to me what is right, as my servant Job has.” Now, there’s a time for close friends who trust each other to admonish each other and to prayerfully point out areas in one another’s lives that need improvement. But just look across our landscape today and you’ll see that critical people are trivial people. Proverbs 12:18 says, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Some time ago a book came out entitled Especially for a Woman by Ann Anderson. I didn’t read it—after all, it was especially for a woman—but I did see an excerpt from it in which the writer told a story about her sister, Jan. Jan was a schoolteacher who taught the third grade. There was one little boy in Jan’s class who adored her but he didn’t do well with his assignments, and his grades were poor. But he would love to stand at Jan’s desk and watch and talk to her and wrap a little piece of her hair into a little curl around his finger. One day Jan said to him, “Rodney, you are very smart. You could be doing so well in school. In fact, you are one of my finest students.” Before she could go on, he opened his mouth in surprise and said, “I didn’t know that.” Rodney went back to his seat, and from that moment on his grades improved dramatically and he did become one of the best students in the class—all because of encouragement and affirmation. We can all do something to encourage others. I read the other day about an elderly widow, restricted in her activities, who was eager to serve Christ. After praying about this, she realized she could bring blessing to others by playing the piano, but where? The next day she placed this small ad in the Oakland Tribune: “Pianist will play hymns by phone daily for those who are sick and despondent—the service is free.” The notice included the number to dial. Soon calls began to come in. When people called, she would ask, “What hymn would you like to hear?” Within a few months her playing had brought cheer to several hundred people. Many of them freely poured out their hearts to her, and she was able to help and encourage them. We can all learn to be encouragers, but it’s a learned art. I confess that I sometimes don’t say the right thing and sometimes I kick myself for what comes out of my mouth. But if I ever do say something that’s helpful to others, it’s only because I’ve been in the Scripture that morning, and for virtually every morning of my adult life, and God’s Word is the Word of Encouragement. The prophet Isaiah said, “The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught” (Isaiah 50:4-5). Our ability to strengthen others is simply the overflow of what God pours into our own hearts through His Word. God wants to paraphrase His Word through us to others. And sometimes the most powerful thing we can say is simply: I don’t understand this either, but I do believe we can trust God with it. If Job’s friends would have been wise to have just said, “Job, none of this makes sense to any of us, but we’re going to help you trust God” A woman in our church recently sent me a letter with a story along these lines. She had some health issues with a broken bone and with a pregnancy, and then she had to make a long trip to chuck on her family and property. Her mother was unwell, and the family faced some difficult choices. Rolling down the highway, this TDF member found herself consumed with worry. But just then she saw a phrase someone had written by running a finger through the dirt and dust on the back of a large truck. It was a phrase in the mud and grime on the back of a truck! It said simply: “Trust Jesus!” She felt it was a message for her, and her mind went to a little John W. Peterson song she had known years ago about trusting Jesus. And suddenly her burden lifted and she felt that it was God’s message just for her. The Lord had led someone to etch out those two words on the back of a dirty truck—and that unknown person became a divine encourager. It reminds me that our Lord Jesus once used His finger to write in the dirt. Now Job’s friends could have done that. They could have taken their fingers and written, as it were, against the grimness and grime of all his problems, “Trust God.” They could have said, “Job, we don’t understand this any more than you do, but we have a God that we can trust. Let’s trust Him together with this and see what happens.” But instead they spent chapter after chapter after chapter saying things that were actually hurtful and harmful and critical and judgmental. Now, in fairness to them, they did not have the Bible as we do today. But we do have the Bible—and that makes all the difference. I don’t know what I’d do without my Bible. I wouldn’t have anything to say to anyone. Christian writer, Calvin Miller, tells of a very old friend who once attended seminary as a fervent Calvinist and believed that everything that happened to him was predestined. This man later abandoned his faith and became an atheist and was now a professor of philosophy in the city where Calvin pastored. One day after visiting a dying woman in her hospital room, Calvin Miller met his old friend for tea. As the two men talked, Miller asked his friend how he, as an atheist, would have spoken to this needy, dying woman. The professor said he would probably have told her she must count on the love of Jesus and look to him for hope. “But,” Calvin Miller protested, “You don’t believe that.” “No,” he said, “but what I believe would be of no help to her in her time of need.” (Calvin Miller, Jesus Loves Me (New York: Warner Books, 2002), pp. 54-55.) Without biblical theology we have nothing to say. Our hope is in our biblical truths and teachings. Job’s friends certainly believed in God, but their theology was inadequate and their understanding of God was faulty. As a result, their counsel was of little help to Job in his time of need. If you want to help others, internalize the Bible and ask God to convert it into the hidden wisdom of the heart. Memorize helpful Bible verses, not to fire at hurting people like flying darts, but to be a reservoir of wisdom out of which you can dispense a few cupfuls of grace as the Holy Spirit prompts you to. Never be afraid to quietly, gently quote a passage from God’s Word as the Spirit directs. Be alert for such opportunities, and you’ll be a worthwhile physician and a counselor of encouragement. Be Prayerful (Job 42:10)Finally, be prayerful. One thing is missing from chapters 4 through 37 of Job—at no time during those chapters did Job’s friends gather around and pray for him. Now, in some of his speeches and soliloquies, Job prayed by crying out things like, “Lord, I don’t understand…!” But there’s no example in these chapters of Job’s friends praying together or for him or for each other.
This week I visited a woman who has recently started attending the Donelson Fellowship. She’s a brand new attender but she’s already in one of our LifeGroups. I arrived for our appointment at 3 o’clock. She met me at the door and said, “Oh, I love my new LifeGroup, and I have a dear new friend who is having surgery this afternoon. I told her that I couldn’t go to the hospital, but I promised to pray for her every hour today on the hour—and it’s three o’clock. Before we began our appointment, would you mind if I prayed for her.” And this lady proceeded to pray a very earnest and heartfelt prayer for her friend who was going into surgery. An hour later, I was still there, and the woman said, “Oh, it’s four o’clock. I promised my friend to pray for her today every hour on the hour. Would you lead us in prayer this time?” And I prayed for this one who, by then, was in the recovery room. I left the house just before five o’clock, and I have no doubt she went straight to her place of prayer and offered the five o’clock prayer. That evening I telephoned the one who had surgery and—as I expected—she was doing just fine. In the book of Job, things worked out according to God’s will when He prayed for his friends. So be present, be positive, and be prayerful—those are the lessons we can learn from this story; and those are the lessons that Jesus Christ models on our behalf. Our Lord Jesus is present—Immanuel, God With Us. He left His ivory palaces of heaven to come to this world of woe to sit with us and weep with us and encourage us; and He says, “I am with you even to the end of the age.” He was positive. He said, “Let him who is without sin among you cast the first stone.” He said, “In this world you will have many tribulations, but be of good courage, I have overcome the world.” He said, “Have faith in God.” And He was prayerful, for He ever lives to make intercession for the saints. He’s the friend who sticks closer than a brother. Is He your friend and your Savior? I would love to tell you what I think of Jesus,Since I found in Him a friend so strong and true.I would tell you how He changed my life completely;He did something no other friend could do. No one ever cared for me like Jesus;There's no other friend so kind as He.No one else could take the sin and darkness from me;O how much He cared for me.(C. F. Weigle) |