In chapter 13, after strongly rebuking his friends, Job turns his attention directly to God. He is at a loss to understand why all this calamity has come on him. In chapter 14 he talks to God about the frailness of humanity and seems to prepare himself to die, perhaps even yearning for it.
Be sure to read MacArthur’s notes for today’s readings. He jumps ahead to some of the later chapters as he explains that Job’s problem was not the belief that he was righteous, as his friends thought, but his over-familiarity in demanding an answer to why he was suffering such hardship.
We, too, can be tempted to demand answers to our “whys.” While I don’t believe God is put-off by sincere questions from his hurting children, we need to remember that He is God and we are not! Isaiah 55.8-9:
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.
In chapter 40 we will see Job’s reaction after God responded to all his why’s. He said, “I lay my hand over my mouth” (Job 40.4).
Certain sins are easily caught from others. Could there be people in your life whose friendship is a danger to your walk with God?
“Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul” (vss. 24-25).
Anger is one; so are gossip, cursing, and other sins, especially those of the tongue. If you hang around people who practice those things, you will become less and less bothered by them and eventually begin to join in.
“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’ ” (1 Cor. 15.33).
Jesus said we’re to live in the world, but not be of it (Jn. 17.14-15). And the Apostle Paul warned us about being closely associated with unbelievers.
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? (2 Cor. 6.14).
So while we are to have relationships with people outside the faith and use those opportunities to be salt and light, they should not be our closest friends and partners.
But it can be just as dangerous, maybe more so, to hang around with professing believers who act like the world!
9 I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person (1 Cor. 5.9-11).
God, certainly calls us to try to reach our sinning brothers and sisters (Gal. 6.1-2; Heb. 3.13), but if there is no repentance we’re aren’t to continue acting as if it’s no big deal.
There will be times in all of our lives when life doesn’t make sense. It may be because of sickness or some tragedy. It may be the loss of a relationship or watching a child walk away from the Lord. It may be because of someone else’s sin or just our circumstances, but there are times when life is hard and confusing. If we’re not in one of those difficult times, what can we do now to be ready when they come?
In these two chapters Job responds to his friend Bildad. He’s confused because he holds to the same basic belief as his friends—that all troubles come as a direct result of one’s own sin. So, while he knows he’s not sinless, he struggles to understand how he deserves the degree of suffering he’s enduring.
But he holds on to the truths he does understand. In verse 32 speaking of God, he says:
“He is not a man like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court.”
He understands that he and God are not equals, that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are far above our thoughts (Is. 55.8-9).
Understanding that truth helped Job and can help us accept things in our lives that we don’t understand. And there will be things this side of heaven which don’t seem fair, things for which God has a higher and a bigger purpose than we know.
A pastor I know went through a dark depression years ago when his son walked away from the Lord. He said anything he had called depression before that time didn’t even come close. While he still believed the truths he had taught for many years, including the reality of God’s goodness and sovereignty, the darkness continued. Continue reading →
While we don’t know another person’s heart and can’t assume their suffering is the result of sin, … can sin sometimes bethe cause of our suffering or, at least, make it worse?
Also, with broken families and the pressures of living in a post Christian world, older believers have a mission that has never been more important. If you are a senior adult, do you know what that mission is and are you being a good steward of it?
And from our New Testament reading … Many people think they are children of God because they belong to a certain church, were raised in a Christian home, have “always believed in God,” have been baptized, taken communion, or are “good people.” But can any of those things save us?
In chapter 7, Job pours out his complaints to his friends and to God and tries to justify his desire to die and bring all this suffering to an end.
Though there are times when we have to exhort, even rebuke, one another because we have gotten into excessive sorrow or self-pity, there are, also, times when we just need to listen and let them pour out their hearts. Bob Kellemen calls it “soulcare.”
In chapter 8, another of Job’s friends, Bildad, responds with the same underlying belief that Job somehow brought this on himself. Though not everything he says is wrong, it is his assumption that Job caused his own suffering, which was wrong. Remember God Himself said Job was, “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1.1).
That doesn’t mean our suffering is never the result of sin. Often it is caused, or at least complicated, by our own sin. Mike Wilkerson, in his book Redemption says we are all fellow sinners and fellow sufferers. It may be that we were sinned against, sometimes in grievous ways. But sometimes we respond to the other person’s sin with anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, by turning to drugs or alcohol, by acting out sexually, or in other sinful and self-defeating ways.
And there are times when we must lovingly confront one another, even when we understand that the person was also sinned against:
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6.1-2).
How do we keep ourselves from ending up in the ditch because of some sinful response to another person’s sin?
Verses 24-25, “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”
Biblical hope is not the “wishing and hoping” kind of hope, as if something might happen.
Although it has not yet happened, biblical hope is a sure thing, because it is based on God’s promises.
Paul gives us some of the greatest examples of biblical hope in the remainder of this chapter! Verses 28-30:
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
In verse 28 He promises to work all things for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Notice it said all things! Is that thing you are going through part of the all things? Yes! (Notice, Paul didn’t say all things are good, but that God would use them for good.)
In verse 29 He says that God has predestined us to be like Christ. If we are truly saved, God is working in our lives to make us more like His Son, and sometimes, He uses tests and trials and difficult people to do that. Instead, of murmuring and complaining we need to see it as God’s hand molding and shaping us.
But God’s promises in this chapter don’t end there.
Then he says, “whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (vs. 30). We won’t be glorified until we get to heaven. That means if He called us and justified us (made us right with Him), He will glorify us. We will not lose our salvation somewhere along the line! What a great promise of our eternal security!
Today we’re going to begin talking about how to handle tests and trials. We’ll look at both biblical and unbiblical perspectives on them, God’s purposes for trials and how we should respond.
Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.
Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: The Divine Squeeze
We’re in a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” In earlier posts we have covered anger, depression, fear, worry, and guilt. If you missed any of them, just click on the link.
Today we’ll look at tests and trials.
The Divine Squeeze
It’s been said that either you have just come out of a trial, are presently in a trial, or are about to go through a trial. That thought can stop us in our tracks, because we don’t like trials. At least I don’t and I don’t think I’m alone.
But God uses tests, trials, and suffering in our lives as a divine squeeze to let us and others see what’s in our hearts. J.C. Ryle said, “What you are in the day of trial, that you are and nothing more.” Trials show us what we are really made of!
That may be a little discouraging if you didn’t do so well in a trial or aren’t handling one well right now, but God is a God of second and third chances. That’s good news and bad. The good news is He keeps working with us. The bad news is He keeps working with us. That means when we don’t handle a trial well, He’ll give us another chance either by extending the trial we’re in or bringing another one designed to work on the same heart issue.
Many times I’ve seen someone file for an unbiblical divorce only to find themselves a few years down the road married to someone with the same issues. The world has come up with all kinds of psychological explanations for it, but I don’t believe God will set us free from those patterns until we learn to respond in a Christlike way to the present situation.
My husband spoke with a friend of his one day. His friend was complaining about a situation that was stretching his patience. He commented that God was always allowing something in his life to make him more patient. My husband’s response, “Maybe it’s time to learn what He’s trying to show you!”
Whether it’s loving our spouses biblically, growing in patience, kindness or unselfishness, learning to truly forgive, or some other area of life, our Divine Teacher, the Holy Spirit is well able to design the right teaching opportunity and homework.
But God also uses tests and trials to remove the dross from our lives–those things which keep us from bringing as much glory to God as we should! He wants us to be able to say, like Job, “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10, NASB).
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit (Jn. 15.1-2).
Unbiblical Perspectives about Tests & Trials
When we are going through trials and sufferings we can easily develop wrong perspectives about the nature of and reason for them. Here are some of those unbiblical perspectives:
It’s always my fault.
Or it’s always the fault of anyone going through a trial. This was the problem with Job’s comforters.
If you were pure and upright, Surely now He would awake for you, And prosper your rightful dwelling place (Job 8.6).
The disciples, mistakenly, believed the same thing:
1 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him (Jn. 9.1-3).
Sometimes things happen that are not a direct result of personal sin. You could be driving responsibly and be hit by a drunk driver. You could be a faithful employee, yet your company is sold and you lose your job.
It’s always someone else’s fault.
Other people have a “victim” mentality about our tests and trials. As we’ve talked about in some of the earlier posts in this series, we’re good at blame-shifting. It’s my spouse’s fault, my boss’ fault …” No matter how irresponsible we have been, we blame someone else.
It’s no one’s fault.
We’ve all seen the bumper sticker: “S_ _ _ happens!” This is fatalism.
We’re not just the victim of some random cosmic joke! God is the author and originator of everything in our lives. He is either the proximate or immediate cause or He is the remote or distant cause, that is He allowed it to happen for our good and His glory. Nothing happens by accident.
A deistic view of God’s involvement in our tests and trials.
This is the idea that God created everything, but now He just stands back and watches without getting involved.
So what does the Bible teach about tests and trials?
10 Biblical Facts about Tests & Trials
1. We all experience trials and sufferings.
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16.33).
2. Ultimately, trials are the result of the fall.
I’m glad for Adam and Eve that there are no guilt trips in heaven, because everything goes back to the fall (Gen. 3).
3. God is always the remote (distant) cause of trials and suffering.
He allows us to make choices, but only when those choices are in keeping with His sovereign will.
4. God is never the author of sin.
Even though He allows us to make choices, He never causes or tempts us to sin.
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures (Jas. 1.13-18).
Do you have any difficult people in your life? Most of us do. Is there someone that God has not changed (even though you have been praying and praying) … and it’s hard? So, how does God want us to respond to them?
Responding to Difficult People
This is the second post in a series about what Paul Tripp calls “Living Between the Already and the Not Yet.”
6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
We talked about Jude 24 and how God tells us that one day He will cause us to stand before Him faultless.
But there is a progression to it. By God’s grace we are progressing from what we were on the day of our spiritual birth (the “already”) and what Jude talks about in verse 24 (the “not yet”).
Here between the “already” and the “not yet” God is progressively changing us as we learn to:
1. Count it all joy (James 1.2-5).
2. Accept His discipline (Heb. 12.5-11).
3. Keep the 2 great commandments (Matt. 22.37-40).
4. Overcome evil with good (Rom. 12.17-21).
5. Trust in His sovereignty (Rom. 8.28-29; 1 Cor. 10.13).
Today in the second post in that series, we’ll talk about how we should respond to difficult, even sinful, people.
Do you have any difficult people in your life? Is there someone that God has not changed (even though you have been praying and praying) … and it’s hard?
It could be a work situation or a family situation. Maybe you’re being mistreated, insulted or falsely accused?
The truth is, most of us have relationships that are challenging!
In counseling much of what we deal with concerns relationship issues:
A couple may come because they can’t be in the same room without fighting.
A wife may come because her husband is harsh and unloving.
Parents come because a child is disrespectful and angry.
Someone else comes because they are still struggling with mistreatment or abuse from childhood.
Parents come with a child who is being bullied.
How do these things fit into God’s plans and purposes for us?
Let’s just say for a minute “Lois” comes in. Her husband is harsh and unloving and not even willing to come for counseling.
Mike Wilkerson in his book Redemption says that we are all fellow sufferers AND fellow sinners. Even when we are sinned against, we complicate the situation by our responses.
So Lois finds herself yelling, complaining, gossiping to friends, and even threatening her husband with divorce. Now things are not going well. In fact, life has gotten hard!
I will often draw what we call the “Y- Chart” and share with her this simple phrase “Only 2 choices on the shelf, pleasing God or pleasing self.”
“Only 2 choices on the shelf, pleasing God or pleasing self.”
Pleasing self starts out easy. It comes naturally to us. But …
Proverbs 13.15 says “the way of the transgressor is hard.”
What starts out easy gets hard; things don’t go well. Our sin only worsens the situation.
Psalm 32.10 says, “Many are the sorrows of the wicked.”
And Romans 2.9 says:
There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil …
Synonyms for those two words “tribulation” and “distress” include depression, shame, guilt, anxiety, affliction, agony, hurt, misery, pain, torment, and woe, just for starters.
Doing evil can involve sins of commission or sins of omission. Sins of commission are things we do that we shouldn’t and sins of omission are our failures to do what we should.
Pleasing self starts out easy, but, eventually, life gets hard!
The other way … pleasing God, starts out hard. It goes against our natural way of thinking.
We have thoughts like: “If I let him get away with that, he’ll think it’s ok” or “Do you expect me to be a doormat?” It’s hard! But … Jesus said in Matthew 11.28-30:
28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
What starts out “hard” gets easier and our burden gets lighter.
A minute ago I quoted Romans 2.9:
“There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil …”
But verse 10 says:
“but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good …”
John 13.17 says, now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. And James 1.25 says it’s the doer of the Word who will be blessed.
So back to Lois … life has gotten hard, there’s tribulation and distress, made worse by Continue reading →
Life, including pain and heartache, happens to us all, but if we don’t know the essential character of God, we will be tempted to blame Him and run away, instead of running to God when we need Him the most.
Also, read about “the rod of correction” when it comes to parenting and one of the most freeing verses in the Bible.
In chapter 3 Job poured out his grief in very descriptive terms. He had just lost all 10 of his children. His grief was real and powerful. He wished he had never been born.
While today we might not tear our clothing and put dust on our heads, those who are grieving will almost always express their deep sorrow—through tears, wringing of the hands, crying out to God, etc. Strong emotions and outward manifestations of grief are not wrong, but must be kept in their proper place, amount and duration. They cannot be allowed to overtake our lives.
Remember what Job’s first response was after the initial shock and physical reaction (Job 1):
21 And he said:“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.
“Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
“In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.”
Though he didn’t understand the “why,” Job knew the essential character of God. If you’re struggling to understand or accept God’s circumstances in your life, don’t run from God; run to Him. Get to know Him better. Learn about His attributes—beginning with His goodness, His mercy, and His holiness. Knowing Him will enable you to trust Him even when life doesn’t make sense.
Verse 14 begins with God saying, “Because he has set his love upon Me …” MacArthur defines that word love as “ ‘a deep longing’ for God or a ‘clinging’ to God.”
Is that you? Do you long for God? Do you long to know Him? Do you cling to Him in times of trouble, or doubt, or fear? God isn’t looking for strong, independent people, He’s looking for those who will be dependent upon Him—who will “abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Ps. 91.1). Continue reading →
The book of Job may be one of the least understood books in the Bible. So let’s pray that God will give us fresh insight into this book. Remember “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable …” (2 Tim. 3.16).
The book starts out in “God’s heavenly courtroom” and helps us understand that not everything that happens is the result of sin in a believer’s life. Sometimes God allows something for His holy, just and righteous purposes. There were many such purposes in what was going on here in the book of Job.
This wasn’t some “battle of the bands” between God and Satan. First, even though Satan is God’s adversary, he is not God’s equal! He is a created being who cannot do anything in the life of a believer without God’s permission.
Everything in our lives has been filtered through God’s loving hands and He promises to use it all for our good (Rom. 8.28). But we can believe that only to the degree we know Him, know His character, and understand His love for us.
Even when, for His divine purposes, God allows Satan some entrance into a believer’s life, He sets limits on it (Job 1.12, 2.6). 1 Corinthians 10.13 says:
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
God knows what we need in our lives to develop us as believers, but will not allow more than we can handle if we will rely on Him. It’s not about what we can handle in our own strength, but about what He wants to do in and through us. One of His good purposes is, often, to help us learn to rely on Him in a greater way.
Even though Job never knew what went on in heaven, God recorded it in His Word for our benefit (1 Cor. 10.11), to help us understand and trust that God is always in control.
This beautiful psalm pictures God’s care for His children. It’s interesting that the devil quoted verses 11 & 12 during Christ’s temptation in the wilderness (Lk. 4.1-13). You see, the devil knows the Scriptures, too, but twists them to suit his evil purposes. In Luke 4 he misused this passage in an attempt to get Jesus to do something foolish. He tried to get Him to jump off the pinnacle of the temple by saying, in effect, “If God has commanded His angels to take care of You, You can just go ahead and jump!” Continue reading →
In the previous chapters Paul has been explaining how we’re saved by grace and kept by grace rather than any “good works” of our own. Though we could do nothing to save ourselves and no amount of good works will cause God to love us more, it doesn’t mean we should live any way we want.
Chapter 6 begins:
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (vv. 1-2).
Our obedience shouldn’t come from some feeble attempt to stay in God’s good graces. It should come from our love and gratitude for all He has done.
Maybe you’re thinking, why not just live the way we want since God saves by grace and forgives sin?
God’s saving grace is available to all who call on Him in faith and sincerity (Rom. 10.13), but when He saves us, He also changes us. 2 Corinthians 5.17:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
So while our good works can’t save us and God will forgive the genuinely repentant, our good works are the evidence of a changed life and our lack of desire to live righteously is often evidence of an unredeemed life.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ ” (Matt. 7.21-23).
“Many will say …” There are many people in the church doing “religious” things who don’t have a genuine relationship with Christ. They may give intellectual assent to the truths of Scripture, but they have failed to see their sinful state and need for a Savior. They have never really put their faith and trust in His finished work on the cross which is the only basis for entry into the kingdom of heaven.
So while they may go to church and say the right things about what they believe, the fruit of their lives on a day to day basis is often not the fruit of a changed life.
So we come to the end of the book of Esther and our glimpse into the lives of the Jewish people still living in exile. This conflict between Haman and Mordecai actually reached back to the time of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt when the ancestors of Haman attacked the Israelites. Because of it, God declared a curse on them which included their total annihilation.
500 years later Saul defeated them and was told to destroy them along with all their animals. Because he disobeyed, their lineage continued and culminated in this tribal feud between Haman and Mordecai. Continue reading →