Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People – Part 2

What is God’s response to Satan?  This shakes me, it bothers me and it should you as well.

Job 1:12 “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.’

Oh no.   Several important truths emerge from this scene, not the least of which is that God is sovereign in all things. He is on the throne of heaven, the angels do His will and report to Him, and even Satan can do nothing to God’s people without God’s permission. “The Almighty” is one of the key names for God in Job; it is used thirty-one times. From the outset, the writer reminds us that, no matter what happens in this world and in our lives, God is on the throne and has everything under control.

Satan can touch God’s people only with God’s permission, and God uses it for their good and His glory. Phillips Brooks said, “The purpose of life is the building of character through truth.” God is at work in our lives to make us more like Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29), and He can use even the attacks of the devil to perfect us. When we are in the path of obedience and we find ourselves in a severe trial, let’s remind ourselves that nothing can come to our life that is outside His will.

Because God gave Satan permission, he attacked Job.

Job went from the greatest man in the East—“Time Man of the Year”—to a pitiful beast that had lost everything! He lost his money, his savings, his 401K, his job, his company, his employees, and most importantly, he lost every single one of his children—dead in a moment! He had nothing left, except his wife and his health. Unbelievable! Suffering that pounds down on you like a relentless storm, or a rushing flood that keeps coming, and coming, and coming, and coming has been going on since the dawn of mankind. The reality of suffering is tough! It’s harsh! It’s real! It’s painful…It pushes us off into the deep end of life and makes us start asking questions, and making decisions that we never dared dream we’d have to make.

There are all kinds and varieties of loss and suffering.  Suffering that is from the consequences of our choices, suffering that is the consequences of other’s choices, our fallen world that is broken, and there is the kind of suffering that is hard to explain where it came from. In the book of Job we’re looking at the kind of suffering that comes out of nowhere.  Job’s kind of suffering is not deserved or explained to him.   We too may face something we don’t deserve it, and we can’t figure it out! We’re mad, and we’re angry, and we’re in pain, and we’re wondering why it is happening? Primarily, “Why is it happening to me? God, where are You?”

As I’ve walked this journey with God on earth, I’ve discovered that suffering is a part of the package. It doesn’t matter if you’re an atheist, or an agnostic, or a Christian, a Buddhist, or whatever your religious perspective is, we’re going to have to deal with suffering, pain, and tragedy.

From the Christian world-view, I’ve discovered that suffering is a part of the package, but it’s not only a part of the package of following God; it’s also somehow a part of His wonderful, terrible, awful, beautiful plan for our lives.

Job lost it all! It was all gone! The company was gone. The money was gone. The sounds of his children laughing—gone. How was he going to respond? All Heaven and all Hell were waiting to see how Job was going to respond.

2At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:  “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.[a]

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
    may the name of the Lord be praised.”

22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

How did Job respond when he was pushed out into the deep end of life? He responded with raw worship. Not “Zippity-do-dah! Praise God! He’s going to make everything better” worship! No! Raw worship! He looked to his beginning. He said, “I came into this world naked.” He looked at the very end—“I’m going to die naked” and he said “In between, I’m going to hold on to God! I’m going to hold on for His wonderful, mysterious, painful plan, no matter what, because I trust in Him!” Basically what Job was saying was this, “You know Lord, despite the fact that I’ve lost everything; somehow I believe that You are in this. God, somehow, You’re in this mess. God, somehow, You are in this pain that I am facing and going through. Somehow, You are in the middle of it.”

We can’t control the level and the amount of pain, suffering and loss we’re going to experience in life. We can’t control it! Suffering is a reality. It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when and how much… But one thing we can control, and that is our response to suffering.  We can control our response to pain. One of the realities and truths I want write about in the following few weeks is, How do we respond? How do we make wise choices? Godly choices? Healthy choices that allow us somehow to transcend, and in some circumstances, allow even the pain and the hurt, and the chaos to actually transform our lives?

“It is not the experience of loss that becomes the defining moment of our lives; for that is as inevitable as death. It is how we respond to loss that matters. That response will largely determine the quality, the direction, and the impact of our lives.”  Jerry Stitzer

It’s interesting as we look at Job, as we read this ancient story, this ancient piece of literature, or poetry.  We have an advantage that he didn’t have. First of all, we can read the story, and like when we rent a DVD, we have the behind-the-scenes, how-they-made-the-film version. The director is talking, “Well, what’s really going on here is this cosmic wager that doesn’t make very much sense between God and Satan.” But we know that. Job doesn’t know that! Job is just experiencing the raw, rugged reality of suffering like we do—cold, tough, and seemingly random.

We also have another advantage that Job did not have. We know God’s response to our suffering. Christianity teaches that God has become a Man in Jesus Christ. He has entered into our world. Jesus entered into our pain; He entered into our loneliness; He entered into our rejection. He took the rejection; He took the pain; He took the violence upon Himself. He took all evil upon Himself on the Cross. He died, but He rose again.

Now, when we pray and cry out to God like Job did, in the middle of our pain, in the middle of our suffering; we know that we have a God who can relate to what we’re going through, because He Himself has been in the middle of it, and He has passed through the pain and suffering. So Jesus knows what it’s like.

How did God respond to our pain and suffering? He responded with a suffering Savior who can give us strength; who can give us power; who can empathize, and sympathize with whatever we’re going through! That is the kind of God we worship! We don’t worship some impersonal force; some God who is way up there from a distance who is remote! We worship a God who has actually come near and entered into our world, and entered into our pain. It doesn’t solve the riddle; it doesn’t solve the mystery of the big question; but we know that God understands.

It’s not so much that God has a wonderful plan for your life and mine, though I believe He does have a plan! He does have a purpose. Maybe a better way to phrase it is that God doesn’t so much have a wonderful plan for our lives; but God has a wonderful Person for our lives. That Person is the God-Man, Jesus, the One with the scars on His hands, and feet, and side; the One who has conquered even death and the grave for us. He’s with us even when life pushes us out into the deep end. He’s with you, he is with me.  Thank you Lord Jesus.

Darrell

Additional Sources: Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – Wisdom and Poetry, Life Application Bible Notes,  Dr. Ben Young

 

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Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? -Job 1

When you were learning how to swim, do you remember how scary the deep end looked?  Growing up I had a friend named David that had a swimming pool.  I remember learning to swim at the David’s pool and we would hang out in the shallow end.  One day we got the nerve to go into the deep end, but we didn’t go into the deep end; we only grabbed a hold of the edges of the pool and pulled ourselves around until we got to the deep end, and then we just held on for life because the deep end was scary!   I didn’t want to drown. I knew I couldn’t swim, and I knew if I got in too deep, then I would go right under to the drain.

In our story about Job in the Old Testament we are embarking on a journey into the deep end of life, the deep end of believing in God and the deep end of theology.  The book of Job is not easy material.  There is hope, but initially it’s scary.   We are looking at the death of loved ones, suffering and loss.  We are left to hold on with white knuckles as we wonder if life and circumstances will take us under or will we learn to overcome?    The book of Job addresses some of the deepest questions in life:   “Why do bad things happen to good people?”   Men and women from all cultures and all languages have been asking that question for centuries, and that’s one of the questions we will examine today.

We also want to know “Why am I suffering? Why am I experiencing the pain I am experiencing right now? Why do I have to deal with a great economic challenge right now? Why did I get laid off right now? Why did I grow up in a home that was so dysfunctional I didn’t know whether I was going to be hugged or hit! Why me? What am I going to do about my suffering?”

The Bible and the book of Job deal very realistically with pain, suffering, evil and loss.  It doesn’t sugar-coat it and put a nice little yellow smiley face on it.  It deals with the raw, rugged reality of loss, catastrophic loss and suffering.

Job is included in the Poetry books of the bible with Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon.   We will be looking at three overlapping mysteries:  A Good Man, An Evil Enemy and a Sovereign God. I wish we could solve all the mysteries of why do good people suffer, why is the enemy allowed to wreak havoc on our world and why would an all-powerful God let that happen?  The best case scenario is to shine some light on these mysteries and understand them better than we did.

Some consider Job the oldest book in the Bible.  Job lived during the time of the patriarch Abraham.

Job 1:1-5: “In the land of Uz, there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright. He feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons, and three daughters. He owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.

Job had it all! He had the big four F’s:  Faith, Family, Fortune, and Fame. What does that mean today?   Job was a combination of Billy Graham and Bill Gates.  He was a great man! He was a righteous guy; a family guy, je was a business man and he was respected! He was the greatest man in the East. Today he would be on the front cover of Fortune, and Money, and Time!  Job was a Good Man.  But what happened to Job?  Verse 6 introduces an Evil Enemy:  

Job 1: 6-11 “One day, the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the Lord, ‘From roaming through the earth, and going back and forth in it.’ Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered My servant, Job? There’s no one on earth like him. He is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.’ ‘Does Job fear God for nothing?’ Satan replied. ‘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. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!’

Some truths about the Evil Enemy emerge.  The word “Satan” means “adversary, one who opposes.” This is a courtroom scene, and God and Satan each deliver different verdicts about Job. As we study this book, keep in mind that God said “Not guilty!”   As a believer in Christ, He says that about you!!

There was nothing in Job’s life that compelled God to cause him to suffer. But Satan said “Guilty!” because he is the accuser of God’s people and finds nothing good in them (Zech. 3; Rev. 12:10).

Satan’s accusation against Job was really an attack on God. We might paraphrase it like this: “The only reason Job fears You is because You pay him to do it! You are not a God worthy of worship! You have to pay people to honor You.”

A second truth—and it may surprise you—is that Satan has access to God’s throne in heaven. Thanks to John Milton’s Paradise Lost, many people have the mistaken idea that Satan is ruling this world from hell (“Better to reign in hell, than serve in heav’n”). But Satan will not be cast into the lake of fire until before the final judgment (Rev. 20:10ff). Today, he is free to go about on the earth (Job 1:7; 1 Peter 5:8) and can even go into God’s presence in heaven.

Other truths about the Evil Enemy:  Satan can be at only one place at a time. His demons aid him in his work; but as a created being, he is limited.   Satan cannot see into our minds or foretell the future.  If he could, he would have known that Job would not break under pressure. Because Satan can do nothing without God’s permission God’s people can overcome his attacks through God’s power. God puts limitations on what Satan can do. Satan’s response to the Lord’s question tells us that Satan is real and active on earth. Knowing this about Satan should cause us to remain close to the one who is greater than Satan—God himself.

Satan accurately analyzed why many people trust God. They are fair-weather believers, following God only when everything is going well or for what they can get. Adversity destroys this superficial faith. But adversity strengthens real faith by causing believers to dig their roots deeper into God in order to withstand the storms. How deep does our faith go? Let’s put the roots of our faith down deep into God so that we can withstand any storm we may face.

This conversation between God and Satan teaches us an important fact about God—he is fully aware of every attempt by Satan to bring suffering and difficulty upon us. While God may allow us to suffer for a reason beyond our understanding, he is never caught by surprise by our troubles and is always compassionate and as we will see in this story, He is always there.  We may not get the answers we are looking for but we do have God’s presence.

We will examine God’s response to Satan, God’s sovereignty as well as God’s response to our suffering in the next post.

Darrell

Additional Sources: Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – Wisdom and Poetry, Life Application Bible Notes,  Dr. Ben Young, A Search for the Meaning of Suffering
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When Life Knocks You Down

Have you ever been coasting along comfortably in life with everything going fairly well, then, without warning, things began to crumble? For months, perhaps years, you had been relatively peaceful, stable, and happy. You were experiencing no major trouble or hardship. When the normal difficulties of everyday life arose, they were easily worked out. Whatever life threw at you was manageable and under control. But then, suddenly, something happened. Some tragedy struck so quickly and unexpectedly that things seemed to come crashing down around you. For years you had been working hard to build a good life for yourself and family, but then, without warning, your good life was threatened, interrupted, and perhaps damaged beyond repair. Think for a minute about these scenarios:

⇒ A good relationship suddenly deteriorates and falls apart.

⇒ A child starts acting up or gets into serious trouble.

⇒ Unexpected bills arise or an investment goes bad.

⇒ You lose your job, home, or a beloved family member.

⇒ You are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.

In other words, tragedy strikes and you feel attacked by fate, bad fortune, Satan, or even the Lord. You believe you are doing everything right but, in return, your life begins to unravel around you. On top of that, nothing you do seems to change or improve the situation. Hopelessness sets in and there appears to be no way out of your desperate situation.

This was the position Job found himself in. Job had a good life, in fact, a very successful, satisfying, and happy life. He was a moral and righteous man who loved the Lord with all his heart. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, one tragedy after another bombarded him. Before Job could comprehend what was happening, it was all over. He had lost everything. His ideal life was interrupted by Satanic attacks and horrible suffering.

This is the captivating drama of the book of Job, the real-life story of a godly man under assault by the evil one, Satan himself.

As we read the book of Job, we have information that the characters of the story do not. Job, the main character of the book, lost all he had through no fault of his own. As he struggled to understand why all this was happening to him, it became clear that he was not meant to know the reasons. He would have to face life with the answers and explanations held back. Only then would his faith fully develop.

We must experience life as Job did—one day at a time and without complete answers to all of life’s questions. Will we, like Job, trust God no matter what? Or will we give in to the temptation to say that God doesn’t really care?

As we see calamity and suffering in the book of Job, we must remember that we live in a fallen world where good behavior is not always rewarded and bad behavior is not always punished. When we see a notorious criminal prospering or an innocent child in pain, we say, “That’s wrong.” And it is. Sin has twisted justice and made our world unpredictable and ugly.

The book of Job shows a good man suffering for no apparent fault of his own. Sadly, our world is like that. But Job’s story does not end in despair. Through Job’s life we can see that faith in God is justified even when our situations look hopeless. Faith based on rewards or prosperity is hollow. To be unshakable, faith must be built on the confidence that God’s ultimate purpose will come to pass.

I hope you can join us this Sunday or in the upcoming blog posts for the challenging but life applicable truths found in the life and book of Job.

Darrell

Sources: Life Application Study Bible.
Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible – Commentary – The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible – Job.

 

 

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What Do We Do Now?

This Sunday we begin the challenging book of Job and examine, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  But first we finish the book of Matthew with, “What do we do now?”

Many of us have faced a death or tragedy and wondered what to do next. This can be especially true when the person who died was the patriarch to whom everyone in the family turned for wisdom.

Prior to His ascension into heaven, Jesus cleared defined what His disciples were to do next. When we look at this passage, our attention immediately goes to the command that Jesus gives to every believer in this verse. Each believer can choose to ignore this command, but no one can deny the fact that we are commanded by God to make disciples.

 How Do We Reach People for Christ and Make Disciples?

  1. Share the Good News

…go and make disciples of all nations (vs. 19a)

The good news about forgiveness, purpose, peace and eternal life needs to be shared!  We need to share with people the good news of Jesus Christ. So the first step in making disciples is recognizing that anyone’s greatest need is Jesus.   One thing we know for certain is that you cannot disciple a follower of Christ until they become a follower of Christ . So the process of discipleship begins by leading a person to give his or her life to Jesus.

We must all be prepared and ready to share God’s plan of salvation with those who are not followers of Jesus. This is the first step in making disciples.  The second step is to…

  1. Baptize Believers

baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (vs. 19b)

Baptism is a part of God’s plan for discipleship.  When a person is baptized, he or she is demonstrating to others that he or she has placed faith in Christ for salvation.  Baptism is a picture or a symbol of someone dying to themselves and rising to walk in new life with Jesus! It’s a time of celebration.

Baptism doesn’t save anyone, but it is a part of the discipleship process.  Baptism is not only an act of identification but also an act of obedience.  The third step of discipleship is to…

  1. Teach God’s Word

teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (vs. 20 a)

The process of discipleship includes teaching.  What should you teach followers of Jesus? The answer is the Word of God. As Christ followers are taught the Word of God, they learn how to live for Christ and also learn the basics of the faith.

At the heart of discipleship is one Christ follower who teaches another Christ follower the basics of the Christian faith.

What does a mature disciple look like in real life? Listed below are five features of mature disciples[i].

  1. Jesus is at the center of their life. They allow Jesus to control and direct their lives. Also, they factor Jesus into every decision they make. For them, following Christ is not just a Sunday event; it is a lifestyle.
  2. They have a firm grasp on the Word of God. They make it a habit to hear the Word. But they also are diligent in reading, studying, memorizing, meditating, and applying the Word.
  3. Their day is filled with prayer. They realize that both the Word and prayer need to be abundant in their lives. They know that if they are weak in one and strong in the other, their spiritual lives will be unbalanced.
  4. Witnessing to others is a high priority in their lives. A mature disciple knows how to lead someone to Christ and is diligently trying to do so.
  5. They use their spiritual gifts in serving the Lord. Mature disciples put their spiritual gifts to work.

Perhaps one reason so many churches eventually become weak is simply the result of a lack of emphasis on discipleship through the years. A lack of discipleship will lead to shallow followers of Christ and weak churches. What should we do?

  1. Commit to further discipleship. Every Christ follower can grow to be more like Christ. No one is so knowledgeable that they can excuse themselves from the process of discipleship.
  2. Look for someone to disciple. It would be a tremendous legacy to allow God to use us to disciple others.

What do we do now?  Let’s make disciples.

Darrell

[i] LifeWay Christian Resources LifeWay.com/ExploreTheBible

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