The theme was "The Gospel and Suffering", and four theological truths emerged from Job 1 and 2 which I preached at Brixton Church, London on Sunday:
- God is sovereign. We need a high and majestic view of God;
He governs all that happens in
heaven and on earth. He is sovereign over Satan’s work and
is the ultimate cause: 1:21; 2:3,10; 42:11.
- God admits it: "You
incited me against him to destroy him
- Job’s says it: "The Lord gives and takes away...Shall we
receive good from God and shall we not receive evil…"
- Job’s family and friends recognize
it in Ch. 42- “showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him”.
Which means that Satan
is on a leash (1:12, 2:6). He is the immediate agent and plays
his part but has limited power and God uses him to unwittingly accomplish his
purposes. Evil tries to destroy our faith and witness through suffering and God permits him to try
it and then designs our suffering to be the means by which our faith is
strengthened and God’s name is upheld.
And that’s good news!
That’s good news that a sovereign and wise and good God is in control and not
Satan, or evil dictators or any government or even the natural elements, which are left to
run amok while God stands by helpless. Our sovereign holy God is ruling over all things,
people, nations and events and nothing can
happen to you outside of his control- even suffering. God is sovereign over all
angels and demons, nations and nature, diseases and death, comfort and calamity
and he is sovereign over your suffering whatever
that is today. This means that he is with you and for you. His
sovereignty guarantees that Satan has been conquered and his sovereignty
guarantees that one day all suffering everywhere will cease.
Know this and believe this. Theological truth number 1, God is sovereign.
is sinful and man has limited vision in suffering. We need a low and humble view of man:
Job was a repenting man
who lived by faith in a merciful God. Your biggest problem and mine is not our
suffering in this life its our sin.
Francis Schaeffer was once asked
the question, "What would you do if you met a modern man on a train and
had just one hour to talk to him about the gospel?" Schaeffer replied,
would spend 45-50 minutes on the negative, to really show him his dilemma—that
he is morally dead—then I'd take 10-15 minutes to preach the gospel. I believe
that much of our evangelistic and personal work today is not clear, simply
because we are too anxious to get to the answer without having a man realize
the real cause of his sickness, which is true moral guilt in the presence of
problem is not that we have done a few things wrong our problem is that we are
morally dead, guilty before a holy God and deserve eternal punishment and the
wrath of God: that is Hell. What
we most need is the mercy and compassion of God.
You also don’t see the full picture in
your trials. Job didn’t. You may see three or four things, but God is doing
hundreds of other things behind the scenes that you are not privy to yet. Maybe
your trial is the means by which another person is saved. Your suffering is not
the whip of an angry judge it is the knife of a loving surgeon. The eye of
faith looks beyond the pain to the goodness of the one who ultimately causes
“With the goodness of God to desire our highest welfare, the wisdom of
God to plan it, and the power of God to achieve it, what do we lack?”
Theological truth number
2: Man is sinful and man has limited vision
3. God’s purposes in suffering are manifold: They are always good and all
- Purity of faith is proven under heavy affliction.
Job’s faith was proven and strengthened through the trial as he was left to live off God alone.
1 Pet. 1:6 – In this you now
rejoice, though now for a little while if necessary you have been grieved by various
trials so that the tested genuiness of your faith- more precious than gold that
perishes though it is tested by fire- may be found to result in praise and
glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ”
- In all trials God aims to magnify his worth and Satan
aims to destroy your joy in God.
God aims to strengthen faith; Satan
aims to ruin faith. And the mirror he chooses to show it in is the enduring faith and joy in the hearts of his people, even though they lose everything
on this earth.
The pain of suffering is very real
and very deep at times. The Bible doesn’t ignore that because God doesn’t. If
he ultimately ordains your pain, he knows your pain and is with you in you pain.
- Suffering causes us to look to God for mercy
Writing to encourage a church under
persecution listen to James lifting up Job as an example of faith persevering
through suffering, “As an example of suffering and patience,
brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained
steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the
purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (Jas.
5:10-11) James is showing the church that suffering is God’s means of showing
himself to his people and to the world.
Theological truth number 3: God’s purposes in
suffering are manifold.
Which leads to:
4. God’s ultimate purpose in suffering and the
ultimate reason suffering exists is to exalt the glory of his mercy and
compassion, in the sending of his Son to suffer for sinners so that sinners
would not suffer for eternity.
Job’s biggest problem and ours is
not Satan or our suffering or trial of this hour. It is our sin that is an
offence to a holy God and leaves us under the just condemnation of his wrath.
Job trusts in a sovereign good and
wise God’s mercy for his righteousness. He shows the need for a mediator
between God and man in the prayers and sacrifices for sin that he makes for his
family (1:5). He cries out in Job 19:25 in the midst of prolonged suffering. “I know that
my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth.”
His heart cry was for a vindication
Well for Job the Redeemer was to come and for us He is
past. God was to send his son Jesus Christ, the one truly innocent sufferer, to die for guilty sinners like us.
Theological truth number 4: The ultimate purpose that suffering exists is to exalt the glory of the
Son of God who suffered for sinners so that sinners would not suffer eternally.