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Friends Support Friends

Storm Warning: Lessons from the Life of Job  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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How many in this room today have had an experience like this—you found yourself in a storm—something beyond your control and entirely unexpected has happened to you and you’re devastated. You can’t sleep. You can’t eat. You can’t make sense of anything, but you spend hours grappling with trying to understand what is happening, why its happening, and why its happening to you. This storm has totally shaken you and its even shaken your faith.
Then some well-meaning Christian comes along, sees what you’re going through—and then they open their mouth and say something like...
All things work together for good.
This is all part of God’s plan for you.
I know it’s bad, but just remember that some people have it much worse than you do.
I hate that you’re going through this, but you always reap what you sow.
You just need to get over it and trust God.
Don’t those phrases make you feel all warm inside? Aren’t those things exactly what you want to hear when your world is falling apart?
In fact, if you’ve been through something difficult and someone has said those words to you, I’ve just brought back a terrible memory and you might—at this moment, be struggling with anger.
Because well-intentioned people tried to help, but actually added to your suffering. What you experienced was the power of words.
Then, there are some listening to this message today who haven’t had to weather any kind of life-altering storm. But, you’ve watched people you know and love go through one—and you wanted to reach out and say something—anything—to help. But you didn’t know what to say, so you stayed present but silent.
This morning I want to answer this question: How do you know what to say when people you know and love when they are going through a storm?
Today is the fourth message in the series, Storm Warning and we are learning lessons from the life of Job.
Throughout this teaching we are guided by a basic, fundamental truth--the purpose of storms is not to destroy your view of God, but to deepen your trust in God.
The reason we are in the book of Job is to show you from God’s Word how to prepare for a storm, how to trust God in the storm, and how recover after a storm.
You see, Job was a man who went through a sudden, violent, life-changing storm. In a very short period of time Job lost his livestock, his wealth, his servants, his 10 children, his reputation, and his health.
His wife even told him to just “curse God and die.” When your wife is saying it would be better for you if you would just die—you know things are really rough.
Then, while he was sitting in ashes, scraping the boils on his skin with broken pieces of pottery—looking for just a little relief from his suffering, Job’s three friends came and paid him a visit.
They sat with Job in silence for seven days. Then Job spoke and we saw last week that his words revealed that was in the depths of despair.
From chapter 4 through chapter 37 the book of Job is a dialogue between Job and his friends. Our passage for the message this morning is one of Job’s responses to the words of his friends and through it we are going to learn an important truth:

Friends support friends.

Job 16:1–5 ESV
Then Job answered and said: “I have heard many such things; miserable comforters are you all. Shall windy words have an end? Or what provokes you that you answer? I also could speak as you do, if you were in my place; I could join words together against you and shake my head at you. I could strengthen you with my mouth, and the solace of my lips would assuage your pain.
I think Job expected to received some comfort and support from his friends.
I also think it’s pretty clear that he did not get what he was expecting. Job did not feel loved and supported by his friends.
Basically Job said, if we switched places, I would say the right things to you. I would support you. I would help you. I would comfort you. I would encourage you.
To be fair to Job’s friends I think we need to understand that they didn’t really know how to approach Job or help him through his suffering.
Let me explain.
One of the things you’ll see when you read through these conversations is that Jobs friends spoke a lot of truth. They spoke truth about God, about the attributes of God, about the sinfulness of man, about creation, about the relationship between God and man, and much more.
Not only did they not understand how to help—but they didn’t know what was going on.
The curtain has been pulled back for us—we get to read this entire event knowing why Job suffered. But they were trying to make sense of the entire episode armed only with what they knew.
Their failure came because they thought what they knew was sufficient to explain why Job was in the middle of such a horrific storm.
As a result, they said a lot of hurtful things. They made a lot of foolish assumptions and accusations. They did not help Job, they just hurt him more deeply.
That is why Job said...
Job 16:2 ESV
“I have heard many such things; miserable comforters are you all.
Miserable comforters—that’s what everyone wants to hear, right?
This is the Old Testament equivalent of, “With friends like these, who needs enemies.”
Let me tell you what Job was saying—instead of offering help and support, you all have become a source of personal difficulty for me.
Instead of making things better, you really are making them worse.
You see, instead of offering comfort to Job, they offered condemnation. When you read what they said you will see...
They did not teach Job anything.
They provided no usable information or advice.
They only aggravated Job and they made the situation worse for Job.
But through their mistake and Job’s words in chapter 16, we can learn not only the truth that friends support friends, but also how to speak to help and comfort those who are going through a storm.
One of the things we need to remember when we see that someone is suffering is that we should...

1. Speak with Restraint - vs. 2

Do you see the phrase, “I have heard many things like these”?
When I see the phrase, “like these” I wonder what Job was talking about. Well, he was referring to all that his friends had said up to that point.
Let me tell you, they said some unhelpful things.
Eliphaz was the first friend to speak to Job and his message was pretty direct—you sinned and you are being punished by God because innocent people don’t suffer and you are just reaping what you’ve planted.
Job 4:8 ESV
As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.
Eliphaz wasn’t done. He continued to tell Job that he should appeal to God and learn his lesson.
Job 5:27 ESV
Behold, this we have searched out; it is true. Hear, and know it for your good.”
After Eliphaz spoke, Job told his friends that his suffering was real and undeserved.
Job didn’t do anything to deserve the suffering he was enduring—before his world fell apart God said that he was an upright man.
After his world fell apart he still refused to curse God—instead he worshipped God.
So, hearing his friends say that his pain was his fault had to have been difficult for him to bear. In fact, in chapter six he basically asks his friends to be kind to him.
In response, Bildad decided that Job needed to hear what he had to say—and his message was pretty simple—Job, you’re full of hot air—God is not unjust.
Then Bill gives Job a great example—your children are dead because they sinned against God (8:3-4).
If you were right with God he would defend you and bless you. The fact that all of this is happening to you is proof that there is some sin in your life. Repent!
Anyone ready to kick Bildad?
Then Zophar gets into the action. Zophar was the most harsh of the three (hard to believe). He used insults and slander to try to get Job to stop talking and realize that his friends were right—he brought this tragedy on himself.
More than that, Zophar wanted to Job to understand that Job deserved worse and that God has mercilessly given him less than his guilt deserves.
But Job was too stupid to Zophar got a bit sarcastic:
Job 11:12 ESV
But a stupid man will get understanding when a wild donkey’s colt is born a man!
Not to be outdone, Eliphaz spoke again—pointing out Job’s issues:
You don’t fear God.
You’ve sinned with your words.
You’re ignorant and arrogant.
The wicked always get what they deserve.
This is what some today would call “piling on”! Can you imagine what Job was thinking and feeling at this moment?
He was sitting with men who had great knowledge but no compassion.
He was listening to men who knew truth about God, but misapplied the truth to Job’s situation.
He was enduring men who did not seem to understand the power of their words.
Instead of exercising restraint, they said everything that was on their minds—regardless of how their words and accusations affected Job.
My Grandma had a theory—if you think it you might as well say it. That’s really bad advice!
Now, does this mean we have to sit by, silently, when those we love are suffering?
It does mean that we should chose words that build up, not destroy.
Proverbs 25:11 CSB
A word spoken at the right time is like gold apples in silver settings.
Proverbs 25:11 NASB95
Like apples of gold in settings of silver Is a word spoken in right circumstances.
Proverbs 15:23 CSB
A person takes joy in giving an answer; and a timely word—how good that is!
Isaiah 50:4 ESV
The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.
Listen, we all need to remember how powerful the tongue is. James said the tongue is like a fire that cannot be tamed. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
So, the words you speak to someone who is suffering can encourage or bring great despair.
Your words can hurt or they can heal.
Speak, but exercise restraint. Make sure you are helping and not wounding.
Say what needs to be said, to whom it needs to be said, when it needs to be said, in the way it should be said.

2. Listen More Than You Speak - vs. 3

Look at verse three:
Job 16:3 ESV
Shall windy words have an end? Or what provokes you that you answer?
Two of Job’s friends used a similar phrase to rebuke Job for speaking too much. You see, they were not interested in listening to Job—they only wanted to speak to Job so that he could learn from their wisdom.
Do you know anyone like that?
Have you struggled with wanting to be heard more than wanting to listen?
Let me show you what the Bible says...
Proverbs 18:2 ESV
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
In other words, foolish people only want to be heard, they do not want to listen to what others have to say.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “a kind of listening with half an ear that presumes already to know what the other person has to say.” This, he says, “is an impatient, inattentive listening, that . . . is only waiting for a chance to speak.”
Janet Dunn said, “Unfortunately, many of us are too preoccupied with ourselves when we listen. Instead of concentrating on what is being said, we are busy either deciding what to say in response or mentally rejecting the other person’s point of view.”
This is exactly what Job was experiencing—and it frustrated him.
Look, Job turned it around on them and basically said, are you ever going to stop talking and start listening?
Many times the best way we can support a friend who is going through a storm is to discipline ourselves to listen to them.
Listening is a discipline.
Listening requires time and patience.
Listening is an expression of love.
Bonhoeffer, “listening can be a greater service than speaking.”
Listening prepares us to speak well.
Proverbs 18:13 ESV
If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.
Do you think Job’s friends would have spoken differently if they had actually listened to him?

3. Put Yourself in Their Position - vs. 4

Job 16:4 ESV
I also could speak as you do, if you were in my place; I could join words together against you and shake my head at you.
Job was saying that if the situation was reversed, he too could make great speeches criticizing you or saying the same kind of things about you and I could “shake my head at you”—I could treat you with contempt, scorn and ridicule.
But the opposite of that is also true—Job was implying that if they could swap places—if their soul was in the place of his soul, they would know how he feels and how their words were wounding him even more deeply.
One of the things I’m trying to do is to learn how to put myself in other’s shoes. I’m no good at it yet—and its a process. But I’ve found that it is helpful to try to see things from the perspective of others.
Let me tell you the main benefit—it helps me not to be as critical as I want to be. It helps me to refrain from speaking and it helps me to speak rightly.
When you don’t know what to say, think about what you would like to hear—what you would need to hear if you were suffering.
Job’s friends couldn’t put themselves in Job’s position—as a result they could not comfort him.

4. Speak to Help, Not to Hurt - vs. 5

Look at what Job said (if I was in your place…)
Job 16:5 ESV
I could strengthen you with my mouth, and the solace of my lips would assuage your pain.
Earlier we saw that we should speak with restraint and we talked about the power of words. Here Job teaches us what kind of words he would have employed to help his friends.
I would strengthen you with my mouth—I would use my words to encourage you—to inspire confidence in you—to give you hope and courage to weather the storm—I would try to make you stronger.
I would use my lips to express sympathy and to relieve you of pain—I would try to free you from the burden you’re carrying. I would spare you from the added suffering you’ve brought on me.
This is the way we should speak when a friend is suffering because this is how friends support friends.
Perhaps you’re listening today and you’ve become sad because you realize that you don’t have a friend to support you. You are alone and you don’t have anyone to be a friend to you.
You can relate to Job—he had people around him—but they certainly didn’t treat him like a friend.
You can also relate to another man in the Bible.
His family thought he was crazy.
The people in His hometown rejected him.
One of His friends betrayed him.
Another friend—one of His closest friends denied ever knowing Him.
All of His friends abandoned Him.
People make up things about Him and accused Him of wrongdoing that He never committed.
His own Father forsook Him.
He died for crimes that He never committed.
His name is Jesus—and He knows what it’s like to suffer without the aid and comfort of another.
Let me tell you why He suffered—so that you and I can be saved.
Once you are saved, you are never alone.
Once you are saved, you are never forgotten.
Once you are saved, you are never forsaken.
Jesus is described as a friend who sticks closer than a brother—one who is always there to help in time of need.
If you don’t know Jesus, you need Him in your life.
If you know Jesus, you know that unlike others, Jesus will never let you down.
Not only do you need Jesus in your life, you need the church in your life.
Where else in the world can you find this message?
The church is designed to be a community of faithful brothers and sisters learning how to be helpful and supportive of each other.
Don’t just attend, become involved by connecting with others.
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