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Job: Pain & Faith

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Intro: We live in a fallen world.  It's a world we feel suffering and pain, disappointment and anxiety.  We turn on CNN and see hurricanes, wars, crimes, and general hurting.  There have been thousands of philosophers who have written thousands of books on the subject of pain.  In Christian circles, when the question of pain comes up, often times people will refer to the book of Job.  Many people feel that the book of Job is all about the problem of suffering and pain.  Philip Yancey,  the author of books like “What's So Amazing About Grace”, and “The Bible That Jesus Read”, has a different take on Job; “Yet despite all the modern echoes in modern literature, despite my own reliance on Job as I write about pain, despite the fact that all but a few pages of Job focus on the problem of pain, I have concluded that Job is not about the problem of pain at all.  Details of suffering serve as the ingredients of the story, the stuff of which it is made, not the central theme.  A cake is not “about” eggs, flour, milk, and shortening; a chef merely uses those ingredients in the process of creating a cake.  In the same way, Job is not “about” the vagaries of suffering but merely uses those ingredients in its author's overall scheme.  Seen as a whole, the book of Job is about faith, the story of one man selected to undergo a staggering ordeal by trial.  His response presents a message that applies not just to suffering people, but to every person who lives on planet Earth.”  I think Yancey has caught an important idea: the idea that faith is the key to Job, but in Whom do we place this faith.

Background:  Job is probably the oldest book in the Bible.  It is unknown when it was written.  It is believed that events of Job take place around the days of Abraham (approx. 2000 BC), because it predates a tabernacle/temple sacrificial system.  Basically the body of the book of Job is a series of speeches from Job, his three friends, and junior elder, and eventually, the Lord Himself.  The first two chapters set the stage.  Summarize Job 1-2.  I want to bring our attention to the end of chapter 1.  I believe there are 3 important principles we can learn from this text.

  1. God is the Source of all blessings
  2. God is in control in the midst of pain
  3. God is ultimately in control, and worthy of all our praise

God is the Source of all blessings

We are familiar with this phrase: “God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good.”  We believe in a good God, who blesses and cares for his people.  Because He is good, we believe he gives us good things when we ask, like the Holy Spirit, when we ask: “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)  Look at this text.  Job is blessed by the Lord.  Satan recognizes it when he is accusing God of bribing Job.  “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.” (Job 1:10).  God is the source of the good gifts that Job has been given.

Often times, people see evil in the world, and say that proves a good, almighty God cannot exist.  I like how the theologian G.K. Chesterton challenges this idea with the idea of the problem of pleasure.  The idea if the material world is all there is, then why do we, as people enjoy things in life, like food, and colours.  We all need food, but we do not NEED taste buds to get nourishment.  Flavour is something we can enjoy.  Some people are colourblind, and that does not debilitate them.  However, those of us blessed with the ability to see colours enjoy bright and beautiful colours more than drab hues.  Chesterton's argument was that only a benevolent Creator would think to create simple pleasures for His creation. 

God is in control in the midst of pain

The flip side to Chesterton's problem of pleasure is the problem of pain.  This one is a problem we do think of often, especially when we believe in a good God who loves us and cares for us.  Too many people have walked away from God because of this seeming problem.  Some people, in order to try and deal with the issue by denying that God is ultimately in control.  Rabbi Krushner wrote a book some years ago called “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”.  In his book, he proposes that God is simply unable to prevent it when evil occurs.  He hates evil, but is ultimately unable to prevent it from happening.  One of the major flaws with this is that it denies God’s soveriegnty and omnipotence, which is revealed in Scripture.  In Psalm 82, the psalmist’s declares that God will one day declare judgement on the wicked, ending with this declaration: “Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance.” (Ps 82:8). 

In this portion of Scripture, we ought to recognize that while God permits the testing of Job’s faith, giving Satan permission to take all that Job has, and in the next chapter, attacking him physically, he places limits on Satan: “The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.”

(Job 1:12) Also when Satan takes Job’s health: “The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life."” (Job 2:6) Satan can only go the end of his leash.

God is ultimately in control, and worthy of all our praise

So if God is in control, does that mean we ought to blame Him for our pain?  Of course not.  Remember that first God gives us good gifts, and even when pain comes He is in control.  Remember that Satan NEEDED God’s permission to do anything to Job, and even still he protected Job from everything Satan wished to do.  We can infer from the text that Satan wanted to kill Job, as God had to order Satan not to kill him.  Sometimes we look at tragedy, and look at what was lost, forgetting that God has also restrained evil from going too far.  “And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.” (II Th 2:6-7)  This Scripture is speaking of the Holy Spirit restraining the spirit of the anti-christ. Ultimately God is holding back the full brunt of evil, and we ought to praise Him for that.  Even in the midst of the Job’s suffering, he declares that God’s name is to be praised.

Application

So what does all mean for us. 

First, we need to recognize Jesus as the source of every good gift. The Apostle James says in his letter reminds: “Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above, who created all heaven’s lights.” - (James 1:17).  We need to remember to thank God for the blessings he has given us.  Secondly, we need to remember that obedience to God does not mean any easy ride.  Job did not suffer because he was bad, but because he would be faithful in the midst of suffering, despite Satan’s claims of bribery.  As believers today, Jesus even warned us that we ought to expect suffering: “"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. (Jn 15:18-20)  Jesus also reminded his disciples, “"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."” (Jn 16:33)  Finally, we need a big picture view of evil.  Yes, there is suffering, but God has a plan, and WILL eradicate all evil: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."” (Rev 21:1-5)

Conclusion

We live in a hurting world.  Everyone here has suffered an injury at some point.  Perhaps physical, almost certainly each and everyone of us have suffered emotionally.  While it can be easy to blame God or deny His existence because of suffering, we must not see suffering as "anti-God". God is the source of every blessings. While He allows evil, it is ultimately "accountable" to God. He will end it in good time, and His perfect justice will be seen.

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