Thursday, February 02, 2012

Job and Suffering

I was listening to a John MacArthur sermon tonight about how believers who trust Christ for their salvation receive a salvation that is secure.  Being secure means that there is nothing that can take it away from us once we have it.  He stated that Christianity in the life of believers offends the world and there is nothing they would like to see better than our faith to fail.  Anyone who has lived long as a Christian knows that people treat you differently when you profess Christ and really want to follow Him.  They are a little less likely to invite you to the next party or the next movie with all the profanity and sexuality in it.  So the Christian gradually looses touch with his worldly friends but gains new friends that share his love for the things of God.  The Christian at that point becomes a missionary and goes back to try to save some of his former friends if possible by praying for them and loving them, even when they don't understand him.

MacArthur also mentioned the story of Job and how Satan tried his best to take away Job's salvation.  He mentioned Romans 8:35-36 where Paul asks,  "Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?"  Just as it is written, "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED."  The question here is written to Christians who were living in a hostile world.  We are living in a hostile world and will face many attacks on our faith.

I remember doing a study on Lazarus and reading several commentaries that all said that there were two main reasons for Jesus's actions.  The reasons are stated in the passage.  John 11:4 and 42 say that the main reason was that God would be glorified in it and the second is that we would believe that God sent Him.  So the result of God being glorified is that the believer's faith would be strengthened.  I need to clear up something here.  Jesus knew who the true believers were and who were not.  His signs were meant to act as proofs of His equality with God so that our faith would be fully strengthened in Him.  There were seven miracles that Jesus did in the Gospel of John.  This miracle was the apex.  The supreme miracle of miracles.  Lazarus had been dead for four days and had already started to putrefy.  The Jewish rabbis taught that the spirit of a person hung around for 3 days after a person died to see if the person would resuscitate.  If this did not happen the spirit would move on.  So Jesus waiting four days eliminated the possibility that Lazarus was merely resuscitated.  This miracle was given by Jesus as undeniable proof that He holds the power over the afterlife and that one must possess faith in Christ alone to live even if he dies. "Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" John 11:25-26.

Jesus wanted to give more and more proof to those who had already believed in Him so that their faith in Him would be rock solid even if they were faced with such a thing as death.  His signs confirmed his incomparable worth to the disciples and increased the hatred of his enemies.  There were two reverse effects going on here.  One going forward and one going backward.  The Pharisees, for the most part, were digressing from knowledge of God into darkness while the tax collectors and sinners were progressing toward holiness and godliness.  This miracle was the last nail in the spiritual coffin of the Pharisees.  Shortly after this they come to agreement as to what they will do with this Jesus.  They will kill him.

"Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done. Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, "What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. "If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish." Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they planned together to kill Him." John 11:45-53.

The aforementioned point is a side-note and not a part of the main thrust of this post but is an important fact.  But we now return to Job.  Why did he go through all that?  Some people would like to say that God has some explaining to do.  God didn't really have a good reason for putting Job through all that or for the countless innocents that suffer in this world today.  There are particular "scholars" in mind when I say this but I won't mention their names, to do so would give them publicity which they do not deserve.  They say things like "we shouldn't be thankful because we are more blessed than others" and such other absolute filth that they vomit from their putrid, festering cesspool of a mouth.

But enough about them.  I am rambling.  I think the reason for trials and tribulations for us is to strengthen our faith in God so that we would make it through this demonic world and make it safely into glory.  Now we go on to the good part of Paul's question in Romans 8.  Are you still awake?  Here it goes:

"But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:37-39.

Did you read that?  There it is.  That is the reason God allowed Job to go through the things that he did.  That is the reason why God allowed Mary and Martha to mourn the death of their brother for four days.  That is the reason why countless Christians have had to endure personal tragedy.  They were having their faith strengthened that as each situation came, they would see their faith remain and grow in their Lord while their love for the world and the things of this life would diminish.  Does that surprise you that God isn't as interested in your feelings here and now as He is interested in your eternal salvation?  Was God interested in Moses' feelings?  How about Elijah?  Jeremiah?  Abraham?  Didn't he ask him to sacrifice his only son?  What kind of God would do that?  A loving One, that's who.  So take heart if you are going through a difficult situation.  It is not anything that any other godly person hasn't had to go through.  Take as encouragement the lives of the people in Hebrews 11 and let that be an anchor for you in the midst of the storm.

Remember Paul's exhortation in Philippians 4: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:4-9.

This is what we must do.  We must remember and meditate on the daily blessings we receive and give thanks.  We must not let difficulties in our lives shake our faith in our Lord.  We must be like Martha in John 11 who said, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.  Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You." She did not let the fact that Jesus had allowed her brother to die to shake her faith in the Lord Jesus.  She RAN to Him and sought Him out when she heard He was near.  She did not stay in the tent like her sister Mary.  Here we can see the faith of Martha was strong.  This is how we should want our faith to be in the midst of tragedy.

The dialog between Jesus and Martha continues: Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" She said to Him, "Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world."  Wow!  What faith!  Can we genuinely say that our faith is even as strong as Mary's in a tragedy such as this.  I don't know how many of us could tough Martha's!  Now with any faith however, we must realize that it is a growing faith, a faltering faith.  There are many occasions where people who loved and believed in Jesus had their faith in Him falter. At the sepulture we see that Martha's faith did falter a little. "So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, "Remove the stone." Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, "Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days." Jesus said to her, "Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?" John 11:38-40.

This, my friend, is your and my faith.  It is not perfect.  Not yet.  We will have a perfect faith in glory because what is now faith will then turn into sight.  We are hoping for what we do not see and wait for it eagerly as the Word of God says.  But God preserves the faith of his elect.  He doesn't allow it to lapse into unbelief.  You may be thinking that it would be greatly strengthened if God would do the same thing for you in your tragedy that He did for Mary and Martha in theirs.  But it is God who sets the times for these things.  What God does is he gives us His word with all the examples in it for us to look at and trust.  That is how God works.

God knows that "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead." Luke 16:31.  That is to say, you have the example of Mary and Martha in your tragedy.  You have the example of Job.  Is that going to be enough for you or are you going to be like the unbelieving Jews who ended up crucifying our Lord who said, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." Matthew 12:38 and when Jesus told the Jews in John chp 6 that the work that God approves is to believe in Jesus who has been sent from God.  "So they said to Him, "What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? "Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.'" John 6:30-31.  So the Jews wanted some miracle from Him to prove to them that He had been sent from God.  But the same thing remains for us, do we demand that God do our bidding to be worthy of our belief or do we trust His word?

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