I have been thinking extensively in recent days about the numerous friends I have who seem to be in the midst of a difficult season. They may not appear to be extremely difficult initially, but the content of the different struggles shed light on the weight of their circumstances. This is a season of great change for some, and for others this time is one of tested patience and trust in the Lord's wisdom and provision. Changes are being considered, financial matters are being discussed, and a combination of discouragement, anxiety, and perhaps even impatience is discerned during conversations with them. While some may not see these kinds of situations as ones wherein faith is difficult, I can understand the struggle... You know the Lord provides, but experience seems to be telling you otherwise. You want to trust, but doubt is never further away than a mere thought or question regarding His plan for your life...
I have been waiting for a couple of days to post the following, and decided that now would hopefully be an appropriate and encouraging time to do so. One of my classes this semester is Introduction to the Old Testament II, and the course covers Psalms-Malachi. We spent this past Monday discussing the Book of Job, and I was reminded of just how thankful I am for the opportunity to learn under men who are not merely scholars. They are pastors. My professor for this particular class is truly a compassionate pastor, and I was particularly moved by our discussion of Job. I sincerely hope the notes below will be of encouragement and further meditation for anyone reading this who may be in a particular season of struggle. Sometimes the little, hidden thoughts of doubt and anxiety can be a greater test of faith than those events we normally refer to as great calamities or disasters.
Themes in Job (the professor's lecture notes are underlined)
1. The book demonstrates that God is worthy of love apart from the blessings He provides.
Satan’s premise is that Job only worships the Lord because he has been richly blessed. This is the question and the issue that springs forth. Is He worthy of praise apart from what we receive from His hand? Will His people worship Him apart from material blessing? Job does remain faithful, and He does so in the midst of God’s silence. (There is no word from God until the dialogue we see in chapter 38.) We can see the maturing of his faith, growth during this time of great suffering.
2. Suffering can happen as a means of God’s purifying and strengthening His children in godliness.
“Allow” is not a good word to use in regarding to suffering. The Lord God is the One who brings Job into His confrontation with Satan. How often do we blame Satan rather than acknowledging that the Lord ordains suffering? Job was humbled and brought down to as low as a person can go. Anything the Lord uses to reveal Himself is good (even when the circumstance in and of itself does not seem good).
3. Man is unable to view life from God’s vast perspective.
Job’s friends are an example of this in being convinced that they had God completely figured out. When are we most susceptible to this? It is during those times when “knowledge puffs up.” It is a sign of maturity to humbly acknowledge that God has brought us to where we are, and were it not for His grace, we would be lost. Job’s friends show a true lack of knowledge by beating him over the head with what they claim to know. Rather than encourage and walk alongside him, they attack him out of their pride.
4. Faith in God does not inoculate us from suffering in this world.
The common question is this -“If God is loving, how can He allow good things to happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people?” The real question is this – “How can I stand when all the navigating points of my life seem to disappear, when all the indicators of security have been removed?” The most important thing we can do is affirm what we do know.
Job 19:1-29 --> “I know that my Redeemer lives and I will see Him.”
Do not doubt in the darkness what God has shown you to be true in the light. This is what we see in Job; He is tempted to doubt God, but he continues to hold fast to what he has already known to be true. God teaches through suffering. We trust Him in calamity because He is sovereign. We can trust that His wisdom is at the heart of suffering, knowing that He is doing what He deems best for us.
5. God’s practice of blessing the righteous is not a hindrance to the development of true righteousness.
Pride is not a problem for just the rich or just the poor. It can come in all forms, even in poverty. Righteousness does not necessitate poverty, though righteousness in riches does come as a challenge. (Examples: Joseph of Arimathea, Lydia, Abraham) There are some God chooses to bless with little, and some He blesses with much. Both are for His glory, and what it comes down to is one’s relationship with Christ (not what one possesses).
6. The book addresses mankind’s wrestling with affliction that defies human explanation.
We so often ask “Why?” when things just don’t seem to make sense. Though we understand that this is a fallen world, we still ask the question. Job did not know why, but God is in control and is not taken aback by anything. Nothing falls outside the umbrella of God’s sovereignty. God responds to Job’s question with questions. He emphasizes that He is sovereign Creator and can do whatever He pleases with those whom He has created. We don’t understand God completely, though there are times when He does reveal Himself.
7. The only kind of faith that will stand up under the problems of life is the faith that is based upon the person of God, not just His actions.
He is faithful even when we fail to see His faithfulness. He is still sovereign even when things seem to be out of control. The greatest evidence of God’s work in our lives may be our faith in Him when we are suffering and do not see Him at work. Some of the greatest opportunities we may have to testify may be during those times when we are pressed.
8. Faith should be based more on knowing God than experiencing God.
If we base our faith on experience, our spiritual life is a mess. What God wants to develop is a faith strong and steady regardless of the mountains and valleys in our lives. Our faith should be grounded in knowing who He is. (see Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer, and The Attributes of God, A. W. Pink) When are we most prone to take credit for the work which is not ours? Our validation is only found in faithful obedience to the One who has redeemed us.
9. The Book of Job teaches us about spiritual warfare and what we need to remember:
a. Remember God’s sovereignty.
Do we think God did not know the answers Satan would give? Satan has no ultimate power in this situation; Satan is under God’s authority. We need to recognize that there are times when we are the battlefield, and God is in control. Satan may have power, but it is limited and still under God’s rule.
What are the tools Satan uses? Financial loss (Job 1:13-17), loss of loved ones, loss of one's own health, and loss of support from others (Job 19). All of these tools still come under God’s authority and control, and we must recognize this. Job continued to have hope in the Lord, rather than those things which were lost.
b. Remember God’s wisdom.
“God is sovereign, but does He really know what He is doing?” (Genesis 50:20; 1 Corinthians 1:24—wisdom of God to bring about salvation)
c. Remember God's love.
“God is sovereign and wise, but does He really care about me?”
The greatest display of God’s goodness -> Job 42:1ff God reveals Himself to Job
How has God shown that love to us? By revealing Himself to us in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.