A NEW LOOK AT JOB
Or Why Has God Forsaken Me?
In the book of Job, we read an amazing, incredible story -- a
story that has baffled, perplexed, and astonished men and women
for scores of generations. It is, simply
put, the story of a good man, a man who has no equal when it comes
to being good, who suddenly loses almost everything. His
life at first seems to be coasting along well enough. He
is blessed with lovely children, a wonderful wife, many friends,
and incredible wealth, public esteem, honor, fame, fortune, and
power. He is a godly and a good king, and feeds the
poor, helps the widows and orphans, and -- when his life is
analyzed and weighed in the balances -- it seems he is the most
upright and honorable of men.
Yet in an amazing sequence of events,
staggering the imagination, bandits and
gangs of thieves stole all his cattle and killed or put to flight
all his servants and hired hands. The same day,
lightning struck, and burned up his sheep and herdsmen -- which
the sole survivor called "the fire of God from heaven" (Job 1:16). And,
to top it all off, suddenly a tornado roared down from the sky and
killed ALL of his children in one fell swoop.
Imagine the devastating grief! O the pain, the
misery, the calamity of it all! O the horror and shock!
Yet, in the midst of these awesome adversities,
we have the testimony of God: "Then Job stood up,
and tore his robe in grief and fell down upon the ground before
God. 'I came naked from my mother's womb,' he said,
'and I shall have nothing when I die. The Lord gave
me everything I had, and they were his to take away. Blessed
be the name of the Lord.' In all
of this Job did not sin or revile God" (Job 1:20-22).
Can you imagine it? Such horrible
trials and calamities -- and yet Job blessed God! He
did not accuse Him. He
did not rail upon Him, or shake his fist at Him, or criticize God
for having allowed these horrible events to take place. Job
meekly surrendered, accepted his calamity, as the will and doing
of God. He did not understand it, as the story will
show -- but nevertheless, he accepted it and
did not accuse God of breaking His promises, or failing to fulfill
His Word. He did not attack God in any manner or
Put yourself in Job's place, for a moment. How
would you react, if God struck you down, all your children
suddenly died in mysterious "accidents," or were gunned down by
thugs and gangsters; your home burned to the ground; a flood swept
away your business and possessions; and your bank account was
cleaned out by your trusted financial accountant who fled to
Brazil with all your millions, leaving you penniless, destitute,
and poverty-stricken! And, on top of this, you were
then struck down with a terrible skin condition for which there
was no cure. How would you feel? How
would you react?
Even Job's wife finally had enough. She
turned on him with rage and fury, and scolded him, "Are you still
trying to be godly when God has done all this to you? Curse
Him and die" (Job 2:9). Even his wife turned against
But Job remained faithful and trusting in God. Can
you comprehend it? He replied to his sorely stricken
wife, whose grief was more than she could handle, "You talk like
some heathen woman. What? Shall we
receive only pleasant things from the hand of God and never
anything unpleasant?" The Scripture then states: "So
in all this Job
said nothing wrong" (Job 2:10).
At this point, Job's three friends visited
him, to attempt to comfort and console him in his misfortune and
tragedy. But when they saw him, "Job was so changed
that they could scarcely recognize him. Wailing
loudly in despair, they tore their robes and threw dust into the
air and put earth on their heads to demonstrate their sorrow. Then
they sat upon the ground with him silently for seven days and
nights, no one speaking a word; for they saw that his suffering
was too great for words" (v.12-13).
Truly, Job's story -- and his suffering --
have no equal in all the annals of human history. Often
people think they have it rough. But
they have seldom considered the sufferings of Job! He
makes most of us look like pikers!
and the Nazi Holocaust
When millions of the Jewish people were herded
into concentration camps, by the Nazis during World War II, and
lost all their possessions, were transported cooped up in cattle
cars on the railroads, with no facilities for going to the toilet,
but had to pee or defecate while jammed up alongside other people,
this seemed bad -- horrible -- too horrible to
describe. But it was only the beginning of their
In the Nazi death camps, many were forced to
live on gruel, a pittance of soiled bread and thin soup, and to
perform slave labor, wearing rags and filthy garments. Disease
killed multiple thousands, and others died of malnutrition,
wasting away until they were barely skin and bones. Families
of course were torn apart, children separated from their parents,
husbands and wives separated from each other.
Bad as these conditions were, the German
extermination camps, like Dachau, Belsen Belsen,
gassed millions to death, and then cremated them in fiery ovens,
after stealing the gold and silver from their teeth and cutting
off their hair to use to stuff pillows! O the horror
and the indignity of it all! Women were forced into
prostitution. Survival was minimal. Only
a few managed to escape, to live, to tell their incredible
stories. When General Eisenhower was the German
death camps first hand, close up, for the first time, and saw
thousands of "survivors," mere human skeletons, grim and
gaunt-faced, he was outraged.
soon we forget.
As a result of what the Jewish people refer to
as "The Holocaust," which is a term that means, literally, a
"fiery offering or sacrifice," in which an estimated six million
of them perished as a result of Hitler's "Final Solution" to the
"Jewish problem," many Jews today, and their relatives, have had a
very difficult time dealing with the tragedy. "Where
was God?" they wonder. "Why did He allow this?" And
many as a result, have turned their backs on God, embraced
atheism, or become agnostics, doubting and questioning the very
existence of God.
Why can blame them? Humanly
speaking, I surely cannot. However, I see an anomaly
here. In the case of Job, when his tragedies
occurred, he never questioned God's existence, nor did He accuse
God or blame Him or curse Him -- but he did acknowledge that God
had all power, and that He was ultimately responsible for Job's
sufferings. And God's Word says that he was right
on target! Even though it was the devil who caused
the disasters to strike, it was GOD who allowed the devil to do
it! (Job 1:6-18; 2:1-7).
disasters of this magnitude strike, men and women seek answers. Sometimes,
or even often, such answers do not seem to be readily forthcoming. People
cry out to God. There is no answer. They
complain bitterly to God. There is still no
response. God is holding His peace. He
is waiting. Time passes on. People
become impatient. They lose faith. They
begin to think maybe there is no God. Or they begin
to think God is a sadistic, callous, inhuman Monster -- as bad as
the Nazis themselves! So they fall into the trap,
and unlike Job, who refused to curse God, they turn on God, and
blot Him out of their lives, and refuse to have anything
whatsoever to do with Him!
Isn't this often the case, when really severe
trials come, and there seems to be no let up, no relenting, no
intermission, no cessation -- they just keep on coming, like the
waves of the ocean, one right after another, crashing into our
lives without remorse or respite.
Many, under such circumstances, would "curse
God and die," as Job's wife suggested. That would be
the "human" thing to do. When innocents suffer, when
really good people incur great tragedy and grief,
that is the "last straw" to most people. They
throw up their hands, cannot understand how God could allow such
things, and decide to have nothing to do with such a God! They
don't merely "question" why God allows such things, but they
cannot "forgive" Him -- and so they "curse" Him and put Him out of
And so they never learn the deep, penetrating,
awesome lessons taught by a true understanding of the book of Job
-- they don't understand why it
was written, and what it has to do with you and me!
Facts of the Case
was an amazing man! He really was upright -- honest,
compassionate, merciful, a very good man. He feared
God and worshipped Him. Although his trials were a
tremendous grief to Him, and he didn't understand them,
nevertheless he did maintain faith in God. Some of
the most inspiring words ever written are found in Job, where he
said from the depths of his personal "hell": "For I know that my
and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And
though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh
shall I see God" (Job 19:25-26). one of
the most inspiring passages from Handel's Messiah is
an oratorio based on this verse.
kind of man was
this fellow called Job?
friends kept on insisting he must have sinned; but Job was a
tenacious, bold man. He did not compromise with
their arguments, or assume that they must be right. He
was honest with himself, and before God. He refused
to compromise with his
and this was right in God's sight. This was not self
righteousness, but honest integrity. If you were
falsely accused, should you meekly assume that your accuser is
right? Absolutely not! Solomon wrote,
"A righteous man falling down before the wicked is as a troubled
fountain, and a corrupt spring" (Prov.25:26). It was right for Job
to honestly defend himself in this case, before his friends. His
mistake was not that he maintained his righteousness -- but that
he succumbed to the temptation to blame God, to falsely accuse
Him, and to condemn Him.
would not compromise with evil. He said to his
friends, "God forbid that I should justify you: till I die I will
not remove mine integrity from me. My righteousness
I hold fast, and will not let it go:
my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live" (Job 27:5-6).
was a truly noble man. He bore witness, "For I, as
an honest judge, helped the poor in their need, and the fatherless
who had no one to help them. I helped those who
were ready to perish and they blessed me. And I
caused the widows hearts to sing for
joy. All I did was just and honest, for
righteousness was my clothing! I served as eyes for
the blind and feet for the lame. I was as a father
to the poor, and saw to it that even strangers received a fair
trial. I knocked out the fangs of the godless
oppressors and made them drop their victims" (Job 29:12-17, The
wonderful man! Here is an example we should all
emulate. Remember, God Himself said that Job was
was a very wise man. He knew the place of wisdom. He
said, "Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart
from evil is understanding"
are not the words of a self-righteous man. Not at
all! These are the deep sayings of a truly
converted, sincere, dedicated man -- a true worshipper of God!
This is not the "Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous" of the world
around us, but rather the "Lifestyle of a True Servant of God"!
So, the question --
the riddle -- the enigma -- remains.
this was the case -- and God Himself bore witness to the fact that
Job was indeed a righteous man -- a man that was, in God's own
words, "perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed
evil" -- then the mystery remains. Why did God
allow Satan the devil to afflict him?
wasn't because of any sins in Job's life. Whatever
sins he had, he had repented of. He truly sought God
with all his heart and soul. He was called
"righteous" even by God Himself!
wasn't because of his attitude. Job had a fine,
wonderful, humble, perfect attitude! Notice! Even
when stricken down, and devastated, he still worshipped God, and
said: "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and
naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath
taken away; blessed be the name
of the Lord." And God's word goes on to say: "In all this Job
sinned not, nor charged God foolishly" (Job 1:21-22).
despite the self-appointed critics, who would attempt to find some
fault with Job, some blemish in his life or heart, the simple
truth is that Job was a righteous man!
again bears witness to this fact in the book of Ezekiel. God
told the prophet, "And when I pour out my fury by sending an
epidemic of disease into the land, and the plague kills man and
beast alike, though Noah, Daniel and Job were
living there, the Lord God says that only they would be saved,
because of their righteousness" (Ezek.14:19, TLB). Also,
in verse 14, God says: "Son of dust, when the people
of this land sin against me, then I will crush them
with my fist and break off their food supply and send famine to
destroy both man and beast. If Noah, Daniel and Job were
here today, they alone would be saved by their righteousness, and
I would destroy the remainder of Israel,
says the Lord God."
God Himself places Job in the highest spiritual company, with both
Daniel and Noah! Why, then, did a loving, merciful
God give Job all these horrible trials?
a Righteous Man
again, the very opinion and declaration of the Living, Almighty
God about His servant Job. "And the Lord said
unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that
there is none like him in the earth, a PERFECT and an UPRIGHT man,
one that feareth God
and escheweth evil?"
Himself gave witness
that Job was "perfect and upright," a man who feared God
and shunned evil!
greater witness can we have than that of God Himself?
Job was a GOOD man, then WHY on earth did God
allow the devil to strike at him, kill his
children, destroy and
remove all his wealth and possessions, and even to plague Job
himself with a horrible disease?
the thundering question remains, roaring to be answered: WHY?
same way, true Christians often wonder WHY does God sometimes
allow great and heavy trials to come
into the lives of His servants, who are doing their best to obey
and serve Him?
Why is it that
sometimes true Christians go through great and horrendous pain and
suffering and physical afflictions? Why does God
allow some of His very own people to suffer cancer, lingering
illnesses, or go through horrible accidents? Why
does He even sometimes allow them to die from
illness, diseases cancer, heart attacks or accidents?
the paradox of the ages! This is the question that
philosophers and ministers have
puzzled over with great head-scratching perplexity! Why
must good men suffer?
after Job lost his possessions and his children, he still did not
turn against God. We read: "Then Job arose, and rent
his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground,
and worshipped. ,And said, Naked
came I out of my mother's womb and naked shall I return thither:
the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name
of the Lord. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged
God foolishly" (Job 1:20-22).
Satan the devil brought these trials upon Job, God
Almighty is the One who permitted him to do so! God,
in effect, sent them! Job did not sin in holding God
responsible for his trials. Nor did he curse God, or
refuse to worship Him, or turn his back on Him, because of them. What
this, we read: "And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered
my servant Job, that there is none like him in
the earth, a PERFECT and an upright man, one
that feareth God,
and escheweth evil? and still
he holdeth fast
his integrity, although thou movedst me
against him, to destroy him without cause?" (Job 2:31).
get that? God Himself admitted that Job was
"blameless" -- that he was "innocent"! God admitted
that there was NO JUST CAUSE for Job's misfortunes and trials! God
admitted that He had allowed the devil to afflict Job "WITHOUT
CAUSE"! That is, God admitted that Job was
righteous, and did not deserve to be treated this way!
shocking admission! Why, then, did God DO it?
sure that many Jewish victims of the Holocaust wonder the same
thing about the Holocaust. God certainly ALLOWED the
Holocaust. I have visited Yad Vashem,
the Holocaust Museum,
in Jerusalem, Israel. It
portrays unspeakable tragedy and horror, suffering and cruelty. Yet
God allowed it! And the heart of faith must bear
witness that, since He did, He must have had a
purpose in allowing it! The next question is, can
we understand that purpose? And
what if in a particular trial, God does not
explain His actions, or the
reason why He allows it?
Did Job Have to Suffer?
We know that "sin" --
that is, transgression of the laws of God (I John 3:4) -- brings
about a penalty -- a curse -- in the lives of those who transgress
God's laws (see Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28). Sin
incurs a penalty. Ultimately, that penalty for sin
is DEATH (Rom.6:23).
But in Job's case, we
have the witness of God Himself who said that he was a "perfect"
man, who feared God and shunned evil! Therefore, it
is a waste of time to try to figure out what "sin" Job committed
to incur such wrath from a righteous God! Yet this
is the very thing most people do! Job's three
friends, for example, just could not believe that such tragedies
and suffering could befall a righteous, innocent man. They
just KNEW in their hearts that Job MUST have had many horrible secret
sins that he was covering up, to
bring about such calamities! So in the remainder of
the book of Job, from chapter 4 to chapter 31, we have the record
of the tussel --
the wrestling match -- the argumentation between Job and his three
friends, who insisted he must be a wretched and miserable sinner,
and Job who insisted that he was a righteous and an innocent man,
and that God has sent these trials on him regardless of that fact!
Does this mean that
the statements and reasonings of
Job's three friends are foolishness, a waste of time, and useless? A
former professor of Old Testament Survey class once said that he
thought the vast majority of the book of Job was useless and
should be scrapped! But if that is the case, why did
God Himself have it included as Scripture?
The truth is, every
statement of Job's three friends was TRUE! Their
reasoning was impeccable. They said that God
punishes sinners -- and they were right. They said
that none could hide his sins from God -- and they were right! Where
then were they wrong?
At the end of the
book, we read this profound statement: "After the
Lord had finished speaking with Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite: 'I
am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not been
right in what you have said about me, as my
servant Job was. Now take seven young bulls and
seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer a burnt offering for
yourselves; and my servant Job will pray for you, and I will
accept his prayer on your behalf, and won't destroy you as I
should because of your sin, your failure to speak
rightly concerning my servant Job" (Job 42:7-8).
They were in error
because they ASSUMED that Job was an evil man -- based on the
"evidence" of his sufferings alone! They had NO
PROOF of any of Job's alleged sins that they accused him of -- but
they just could not believe that he was guiltless, and so they
tried with all their might to convict him of sin, when he was
sinless! They missed the whole point of Job's
sufferings, just as most people do, today!
One minister, Herbert
W. Armstrong, used to say that Job really was a sinner, after all
-- that he was guilty of the sin of "self-righteousness." He
used to say that even Satan could not spot this sin, because it
was his own sin, and therefore he could not recognize it! This,
however, is sheer nonsense. How can we say Job was
"self-righteous" when God Himself says that Job was "perfect," a
man who "fears God" and "shuns evil"? If we say Job
was self-righteous, then we
make God out to be a liar -- we accuse His Word of being wrong --
and we become JUDGES of God Himself -- a very wicked thing! By
accusing Job of being self-righteous, the truth is that Herbert
Armstrong put himself right there beside Job's three friends -- Eliphaz, Bildad,
and Zophar --
and will one day have to repent, and ask Job's forgiveness, just
as they did!
We read at the
conclusion of the book of Job, these remarkable words: "Then,
when Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his
wealth and happiness! In fact, the Lord gave him twice
as much as before! Then all of his brothers,
sisters, and former friends arrived and feasted with him in his
home, consoling him for all his sorrow, and comforting him because
of all the TRIALS the Lord had brought upon him. And
each of them brought him a gift of money, and a gold ring. So the
Lord blessed Job at the end of his life more than at the
beginning. For now he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000
camels, 1,000 teams of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. God
also gave him seven more sons and three more daughters" (Job
42:10-14, The Living Bible).
The REAL Lessons of
the Book of Job
What, then, is the
REAL lesson of the book of Job? The first lesson, I
would say, based on what we have already discussed, is do
not get angry with God, and falsely accuse Him, when He allows
TRIALS to come into your life. If He allows them --
and He often does, as we will see -- there has to be a REASON!
Secondly, when trials
befall others, do not be quick to JUDGE them, and
condemn them, for "imagined sins" and transgressions, ASSUMING
they must be great sinners before God! Like Job,
they may not be sinners at all. Their trials may be
due to altogether different reasons! Therefore, do
not be quick to judge your brother! Rather, as
Jesus Christ declared, "Judge not according to the
appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24). And,
as the apostle Paul wrote: "But why dost thou judge
thy brother? or why
dost thou set at nought thy
brother? for we
shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ" (Rom.14:10).
These are two of the
greatest lessons we can learn from the book of Job. However,
there is a greater lesson, still, that we must learn from the
example and experience of Job. That is, the answer
to the age-old question: Why do bad things
sometimes happen to good people?
Let's be sure we
understand this truth -- the trials that came upon Job -- and
great and sore trials they were -- were not due to any imagined
SELF RIGHTEOUSNESS that some people think he was guilty of! They
were not due to any SIN at all!
This is a very
important point! Because it is at this very point
that most people stumble -- and many lose heart, become
discouraged, or bitter, when trials seem to balloon up and blow up
in their lives, unexpectedly, and seemingly without any just cause
-- and they lose faith in God, condemn Him, and put themselves out
of the Church of God!
They have never
learned the deep lesson of the book of Job. Like
most people -- and like Job's three friends -- they have ASSUMED
that Job was really only "getting what he deserved!" Even
Herbert W. Armstrong, when all was said and done, thought the same
thing, by accusing Job of the sin of self-righteousness!
Therefore, when such
people find themselves being mistreated, as Job was, they cannot
understand it. When things don't seem to go right,
even though they are tithing, and obeying all God's commandments,
they become discouraged. Some become angry,
resentful toward God, and become bitter, lose faith in God, and
leave the Church in bitter anger and hostility!
Remember this vital
point: NOTHING IN THIS WORLD CAN HAPPEN WITHOUT THE FOREKNOWLEDGE
AND PERMISSION OF ALMIGHTY GOD -- NOTHING.
Therefore, learn this
lesson well: If God allows anything at all to happen in your life,
to you or your loves ones, He must have a very good reason,, even
if you are temporarily blinded, and don't see what it is, or
understand it at the time!
The apostle Paul
stated this lesson -- this fundamental truth -- plainly. He
declared: "And we know that ALL THINGS work together for
good to them that love God, to them who are the
called according to his purpose" (Rom.8:28).
When we understand and
grasp the profound wisdom and truth of this simple statement, then
we realize that even such things as the Holocaust
during World War II happened at the express will of God and WILL
WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD to all those who love God, and who called
according to His purpose. This truth means that
even such horrible nightmarish events have a righteous and holy
purpose in the sight of God. Humans
may not, at the time, understand why God allows some things, but
that doesn't mean He doesn't have a reason. Ultimately,
that reason is to bring us to Him, to teach us to re-evaluate our
lives, and where we may have been wrong, and to use introspection
into our own lives, motives, and hearts. Some
suffering may well be due to our sins. Other
suffering may be totally undeserved and unearned. Nevertheless,
God has a reason for allowing ALL suffering!
Let's understand this
fundamental, basic, foundational TRUTH!
It a Mistake to "Serve God"?
Is it a mistake -- to
serve God? Is it a shortcut to "failure" to devote
your life to God and His Work?
The Psalmist wrote of
the wicked who seem to have it so good -- who own vast
plantations, wineries, thousands of acres of prime agricultural
lands, oil wells, oil companies, huge corporations, thousands of
head of cattle, and so forth. David wrote of the
wicked: "For there are no bands in their death: but their strength
is firm. They are not in trouble as other men;
neither are they plagued like other men. Therefore
pride compasseth them
about as a chain; violence covereth them
as a garment. Their eyes stand out with fatness:
they have more than heart could wish" (Psalm 73:4-7). Doesn't
that often appear to be the truth? The wicked get
rich; and the righteous suffer.
It doesn't seem fair!
Has your attitude ever
been affected, because you saw the wicked "getting ahead"? Have
you noticed the wicked even rise to high positions in the Church of God? It
has happened -- time and time again! The wicked seem
to succeed; and the righteous are ignored, put down, suffer
wrongfully, and never seem to "get ahead"!
Have you seen those
playing party politics, flattering the boss, getting promoted over
you? Why does it happen? Have you ever
wondered whether it really makes sense doing things God's way,
since it always seems to end up in more trials? Has
your faith in God been sorely tested by what you have seen in the
Church of God, in your business, or around you?
Notice what the
Psalmist says about the wicked, who seem to "have it all"! David
wrote: "They are corrupt, and speak wickedly
concerning oppression: they speak loftily, they set their mouth
against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through
the earth" (vs.8-9).
Have you at times been
a victim of such oppression?
The Psalmist, inspired
by God Himself says, "Behold, these are the UNGODLY, who prosper
in the world; they increase in riches." He goes on
to lament, "Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my
hands in innocency. For
all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning"
Is that the way you
"Tote dat barge! Lift dat bale! Get
a little drunk, and you land in jail!" go the words to the old
song, "Old Man River." Do you sometimes feel
oppressed -- afflicted -- smitten down to the ground? Have
the ungodly persecuted you? Has your employer
sometimes mistreated you?
The truth is, no
matter where you work on the face of the earth, you cannot escape
the oppression of the wicked. It even occurs right
in the end-time churches of God! Satan the devil has
had his instruments, doing his work, even in the midst of God's
own Work, during these "last days"!
The wicked seem to get
away with everything. But if you are a servant of
God, a true Christian, it seems you can't get away with anything! Your
life is like that of a fish in a goldfish bowl -- everybody sees
everything you do! But the wicked can hide their
devious schemes and dastardly plans and pull the wool over the
eyes of even some of God's own servants in high places!
But, the Psalmist goes
on, "If I say, I will speak thus [i.e., complain about it!], I
should offend against the generation of thy children [that is,
righteous brethren -- who ought to be encouraged by what we say,
and not discouraged]. When I thought to know this
[i.e., understand why it is this way], it was too painful for me;
until . . ."
"Until I went into the
sanctuary of God; then understood I their end," David cried.
continues, "Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them
down into destruction [eventually, when God decrees, they will pay
for their evil ways and wicked deeds and heinous attitudes and
sins!]. How are they brought into desolation, as in
a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors. As
a dream when one awaketh;
so, 0 Lord, when thou awakest,
thou shalt despise
their image [the whole life of the wicked has been a mere image,
an illusion; a vaporous, shifting desert mirage]" (Psalm
By the end of this
Psalm, the writer's attitude is golden -- he has admitted his
error in thinking -- in having been envious of the wicked. But
now he rejoices, "Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in
my reins. So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a
beast before thee. Nevertheless I am continually
with thee: thou hast holden me
by my right hand. Thou shalt guide
me with thy counsels and afterward receive me to
Here is the vital
lesson -- the key to proper understanding! The
wicked may indeed prosper for this life, for the temporary moment,
as the rich man in the parable of Jesus about the beggar Lazarus
and the rich man. But, even though God's servants
have a tough time of it during this life, and have constant trials
and tests, straining and stretching their faith, these trials
actually strengthen us -- teach us important spiritual lessons. One
of these lessons is that our reward -- our inheritance -- is not
now, in this life, but in the world to come -- the world tomorrow! As
David declared -- "Thou shalt afterward receive
me to GLORY"!
Therefore the Psalmist
writes, "'Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon
earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my
but GOD is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. For,
lo, they that are far from thee shall perish; thou hast destroyed
all them that go a whoring from thee. But it is good
for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God,
that I may declare all thy works" (vs.25-28).
All these trials and
troubles and tests of faith are meant for one basic, underlying
purpose: To cause us to draw near to God. They
are meant to teach us to learn to RELY on God when
trouble comes -- to teach us to DEPEND on Him-- to LOOK to Him,
eyes fixed on Him, riveted on Him, locked in on Him, sighted in on
Him -- when trouble strikes, and when we don't know what to do
All Men Most
There are those who
think that because Christians obey God's laws in this life, that
they will be enormously blessed, and be much better off than their
counterparts in the world, who trample on God's laws. I
heard a minister in the Worldwide Church of God, Richard Plache,
many years ago claim this as a fact, in a sermonette he
gave at Pasadena.
But this idea is a
total fiction! It simply contradicts human
experience. In this life, it is the wicked who
really prosper -- just as David wrote in the Psalms!
In the long run, of
course, as Solomon wrote, is it true that eventually, all things
will work out for the good of the righteous! Solomon
declared: "He that feareth God
shall come forth of them all" (Eccl.7:18). He added,
with keen insight, "Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and
his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well
with them that fear God, which fear before him" (Eccl.8:12).
God may bless His people in many ways, as they obey Him, yet their
lives will also be filled with trials and troubles. We
must never forget this! We must never be led into
complacency, thinking that no further trials can come because we
are obeying God! Job's example should print this
lesson indelibly upon our minds forever!
The Trials and
Troubles of Abraham
Abraham was a man who
obeyed God from the heart. God said of him, "Abraham
obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes,
and my laws" (Gen.26:5). And God did bless Him as He
obeyed, and prospered him, and he became a wealthy man
(Gen.13:2-6). However, he went through times of
famine with his family (Gen.12:10). He almost lost his wife to an
Egyptian Pharaoh (Gen.12:11-15), except for God's intervention
(vs.17-20). He lost his nephew Lot to an armed
invasion of the land, and had to go and rescue him (Gen.14:12-16). His
faith was tested and tried, and he waited twenty five years before
God fulfilled His promise and gave him a son.
But toward the end of
his life, after he had obeyed God for many years, and after Isaac
was finally born, as a gift from God, Abraham entered upon the greatest trial
of his life! You might think that by now surely he
had proven himself to God. Why, hadn't he obeyed God
throughout his life? But now God required that he
take his only son Isaac, and to go to Mount Moriah,
and offer him there as a burnt offering (Gen.22:2).
Abraham might have exclaimed. "That's it! I've
had it with you! You are impossible!!! Who
can serve You??? This is preposterous -- I
flat out won't do it!"
At this point, after a
life of total obedience to God, Abraham might have put his foot
down, and argued with God. He might have said, "No,
Lord, that is ridiculous -- nonsense. No loving God
would require that of a father! Why, you made me
wait for 25 years, before you gave me Isaac, the son of your
promise! Surely you don't want me to kill him, now! Have
you lost your mind? Have you gone crazy? I
won't do it!"
And humanly speaking,
Abraham's arguments would have made perfect sense, wouldn't they? Would
you be willing to obey God in a matter such as Abraham's trial? This
was undoubtedly thegreatest trial of his life, and
it came after a lifetime of trials, and obedience to God!
Do you think Abraham
was feeling the "abundant life," as he trudged up to Mount Moriah,
leading his son, knowing that soon he would be plunging the knife
into his body? It was the lowest point of his life. He
must have experienced immeasurable grief -- the greatest misery
any man can ever know!
Yet this trial, like
all trials, worked out for the best -- God did intervene, and save
Isaac (Gen.22:1-14)! And by this example of obedience, God
revealed His awesome plan to sacrifice His own Son, Jesus Christ,
for the sins of the world! God, the Father, revealed
how much grief, and misery, and loving compassion, He felt, as His
own Son went to the stake on the hill, and gave up His life for
Because Abraham was
faithful in this trial, God blessed him more than ever, and
confirmed and magnified the promises which He had made to him, and
Abraham became the "father of the faithful," because he
steadfastly obeyed God's voice (Gen.22:16-18).
The Trials and Tribulations
of the Apostles
The apostle Paul also
had a life filled with trials and troubles. Did he
experience all the "good things" of life, and grow incredibly
rich, because he was a servant of God? Not at all! Paul
confessed, "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we
are perplexed, but not in despair [in other words, sometimes
things happen in our lives which perplex us, which we cannot
understand -- but even so, we never give up!]; persecuted but not
forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed" (II Cor.4:8-9). Did
Paul experience what most would call "the abundant life" here and
now? It depends on what you mean by "abundant." His trials were
Paul said, in
recounting his own life's experiences, and that of the other
apostles of Jesus Christ: "We patiently endure
suffering and hardship and trouble of every kind. We
have been beaten, put in jail, faced angry mobs, worked to
exhaustion, stayed awake through sleepless nights of watching, and
gone without food" (II Cor.6:4-5, TLB).
Paul added, "The world
ignores us [they received no fame, no honor, no glorious
position!], but we are known to God; we live close to death, but
here we are, still very much alive. We have been
injured but kept from death. Our hearts ache, but at
the same time we have the joy of the Lord. We are
poor [he didn't have much in the way of money, unlike some
ministers today, who seem to live high off the hog!], but we give
rich spiritual gifts to others,
We own nothing, and yet we enjoy everything" (vs.9-10).
What was Paul's life
really like? He said, "I have worked harder, been
put in jail oftener, been whipped times without number, and faced
death again and again and again. Five different
times the Jews gave me their terrible thirty-nine lashes. Three
times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three
times I was shipwrecked. Once I was in the open sea all night and
the whole next day. I have traveled many weary miles
and have been often in great danger from flooded rivers, and from
robbers, and from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the
hands of the Gentiles. I have faced grave dangers
from mobs in the cities and from death in the deserts and in the
stormy seas and from men who claim to be brothers in Christ but
are not. I have lived with weariness and pain and
sleepless nights. Often I have been hungry and
thirsty and have gone without food; often I have shivered with
cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm"
As I said, I once
heard a minister -- Richard Plache --
give a sermon where he claimed that those who obey God are better
off in this life than those who do not, because they obey God's
laws. He said that even if we only have a reward in
this life, and there is no world tomorrow, then we are still
better off obeying God and serving Him! Can you
What did the apostle
Paul say to such reasoning? "But if there be no
resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: and if Christ
be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also
vain." Paul went on, "For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ
raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are
yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen
asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only
we have hope in Christ, we are of ALL MEN MOST MISERABLE" (I
Bible has that last verse: "And if being a
Christian is of value to us only now in this life,
we are the most miserable of creatures."
No, contrary to the
blandishments of Richard Plache,
the truth is, if there were no heavenly rewards, no promise of
eternal life and eternal glory in the Kingdom of God, it would be
foolish to go through all the trials of the Christian life, and
put up with all the suffering, pain, affliction, and death!
If we only had hope in
this life, then why sacrifice, why give up prosperity and riches
now in order to help others hear the Gospel? Why
scrimp and save and give your all to God? If this
life is all there is, then why not go out and live it up, and
"eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die"?
The minister who made
the foolish statements mentioned in the previous paragraphs, sad
to say, left the Church of God when things got "too hot" for him
to handle in his own life. He became confused,
disoriented spiritually, and in great bitterness and
self-righteousness, left God's Church! Later, in an
investment scam, he was arrested and put in prison, and served out
his sentence behind bars! How little he ever
learned! How little he ever understood!
Do not be deceived. Do
not be misled. The-words of the apostle Paul are
inspired Scripture, and reveal the TRUTH of God! (II Tim.3:16). God
did not intend this life to be the time of our blessings and
reward, although He may give us various blessings during this
life, as we obey Him. But, along with whatever
blessings He gives us, besides the blessings, most of which will
be spiritual and not physical in
nature -- He promises trials and afflictions, to test our
character, and to strengthen us!
During this life, most
of our blessings are spiritual, not
physical! We can have spiritual joy, and love, even
though we may be experiencing abject poverty, sickness, heartache,
sorrow, and even though we may come face to face with death.
Job, a righteous man,
was certainly not experiencing the "abundant life" when he was
undergoing trials and afflictions -- only his trials and troubles
The book of Job is not
the story of a self-righteous man being punished by God for his
sins. Not at all! It is the story of a
righteous man undergoing trials and troubles! These
troubles and trials were brought upon him by God. We
read in Job 42:11, after Job's trials were over, "And the Lord turned
the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his
friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before."
Job had virtually been "held
captive" by these sore and horrendous trials. They
were a virtual "TRIBULATION" for him. To put it
another way, Job went through his own personal "great
tribulation"! He was "IN CAPTIVITY"' to these trials
for a period of time -- probably lasting several years!
After it was all over,
"Then came there unto him all his brethren and all his sisters,
and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat
bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned him, and comforted
him over all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him" (Job
Notice once again! God
Himself had brought this trouble -- this evil -- upon Job!
Bible puts it this way: "Then all of his
brothers, sisters, and former friends arrived and feasted with him
in his home, consoling him for all his sorrow, and comforting him
because of all the TRIALS the Lord had brought upon him." The Moffatt translation
says "miseries." The Good News Bible says
"troubles." The Amplified Version says
The Hebrew word in
this instance is ra and
means "adversity, afflictions, bad, calamity, distress, evil, grief,
harm, hurt, mischief, sorrow, troubles, wretchedness, vexation." In
Job's case, it refers to the great and sore personal tribulation
and distress, dire calamity and heavy affliction, and God sent
Before we discuss the
case of Job further, let's notice a few Scriptures which perhaps
we have overlooked, and never before properly applied to Job's
story, and see what we can learn. Notice how the
afflictions and sufferings of Job parallel those
of the Christian, in
the Christian life of overcoming!
The PURPOSE Behind Trials
Was the Christian life
meant to be smooth sailing? Did God intend that once
we repent of our sins, that we could easily coast into His
Kingdom? Would all our troubles be over, at least
for the most part, once we repent of our sins and are baptized? Is
this what God promises?
Many have assumed that
once we are converted, and begin living obedient to the laws of
God, that nothing but blessings will come our way -- at least for
the most part. This was the thinking of Richard Plache,
apparently. But is this so? Not at
God reminds us
nonetheless that Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel,
"Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to
continue in the faith, and that we must through
much TRIBULATION enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).
How soon we forget!
Somehow we think that
if we obey God, the path before us will be smooth and easy going,
like a Sunday picnic. We think that Jesus said His
yoke is easy, and His burden is light, and we remember that He
promised that He came to bring us the "abundant life" (John 10:10;
Matt.11:28-30). We forget that this same Jesus told us: "Enter ye
in at the strait [(narrow] gate: for wide is the gate, and broad
is the way, that leadeth to
destruction, and many there be which go in thereat; because strait
[narrow] is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto
life, and few there be that find
We so easily forget
that Jesus foretold about His disciples, including those of us of
this present generation: "And ye shall be hated of
all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to
the endshall be saved" (Matt.10:22).
We forget so easily
the words of Christ, "And he that taketh not
his cross, and followeth after
me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his
life shall lose it; and he that loseth his
life for my sake shall find it" (Matt.10:38-39).
If you desire to be a
Christian, and to inherit eternal life, then you must be willing
to shoulder your cross, even as
Jesus Christ did, and suffer whatever you must, even unto death,
Paul expressed it this
ways "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a
cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside ever weight, and the sin
which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the
race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the
author and finisher of our faith; who for the JOY that was set
before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down
at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider
him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself,
lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have
not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin" (Heb.12:1-4).
Yes, Jesus set us an
example of patient, humble suffering. The life of
Job was merely a TYPE -- a figure for us -- of the kind of
suffering, affliction, and reproach that we as Christians must go
through in order to build the kind of perfect, righteous character
so that we may be worthy of God's free gift of eternal life and sonship in
the Kingdom of God,, and to rule with Him for ever in His Kingdom! Job's
life was the picture of the true Christian experience with griefs,
trials and tests, undeserved, but necessary for the building of
holy, righteous, perfect CHARACTER!
Notice how the apostle
Peter expresses this profound truth. "Servants, be
subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and
gentle, but also to the froward"
(I Pet.2:18). This is speaking of those called into God's Church
while being slaves in ancient times. However, in
type, it can apply to all of us who are under another man's
authority -- whether wives, under the authority of their husbands,
or men under the authority of their supervisors or employers.
Peter goes on: "For
this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure
grief suffering wrongfully" (verse 19).
Now isn't this exactly
what Job did? He endured grief, and misery,
suffering wrongfully But when we as Christians suffer wrongfully,
what is our attitude to be? Are we to become angry,
and resentful, as Job was at first? Are we to feel
sorry for ourselves, and bemoan our fate, losing sight of God,
forgetting His awesome mercy, and the fact that He loves us, and
that He would bring nothing upon us if it were not for our own
Peter goes on, "For
what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for you faults, ye shall
take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye
take it patiently, this is acceptable with God" (verse 20). Peter
continues "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also
suffered for us, leaving us an example, that
YE SHOULD FOLLOW HIS STEPS: Who did no sin, neither was guile
found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again;
when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him
that judgeth righteously"
Job, also, was an
example of a man who suffered wrongfully. He did not
deserve the afflictions and trials that God brought upon him. But
that is not the point. The point is that he did not
deserve them, but he needed them!
Yes, he needed them to
shape up, purify, and refine his own spiritual character, being
made into God's own character image and reflection! He
needed trials and tests so that he could develop the very attitude
of Jesus Christ and God Almighty toward trials, sufferings and
These trials and tests
are FOR OUR OWN ETERNAL WELFARE -- for OUR OWN GOOD! Through
them, and building righteous and holy character, we qualify for
greater positions and higher rewards in the Kingdom of God! In
the Kingdom, would you rather barely "make it" and scrape by, and
receive the least reward -- maybe to rule over one tiny hamlet or
village? Or would you rather develop shining, holy,
righteous character, though being refined by many trials and
tests, and qualify for a much higher position and reward --
perhaps to rule over ten or twenty or fifty cities, or over a
whole nation? God says, "And he that overcometh,
and keepeth my
works unto the end, to him will I give POWER OVER THE NATIONS"
Yes, even our sorest
trials work together for our own good! Trials are
NECESSARY to shape and create righteous, godly, holy character. They
are necessary to teach us how to apply and to manifest the FRUITS
of God's Holy Spirit in our lives!
We are not by nature
men and women who naturally possess the qualities of love, joy,
patience, gentleness goodness, kindness faith, meekness, and self
control. No, our very nature tends only to love
ourselves and those who are our friends; we tend to have joy only
when someone gives us something, or some matter works out well for
us. We are by nature very impatient. Don't
you feel impatient when you get stuck behind a slow driver in the
fast lane, or when the person in front of you just sits there when
the light turns green?
Human nature is not
normally kind,, or gentle, or good to others, unless it expects
some kind of reward. It believes that "seeing is
believing," and does not exercise or possess the quality of FAITH. It
wants to "see the evidence," and to have security, before it
commits itself. You notice how true that is when you
ever apply for a loan. Doesn't the loan officer
demand a detailed financial statement, plus plenty of security,
before making the loan?
What about meekness
and humility? Are these traits normal to human
nature? Not at all! Human beings love
to be looked up to, to be respected and highly honored. They
are mortified when people laugh at them, or scorn them, or
ridicule them. Their pride is punctured when people
reproach them and slander their reputation! Oh how
angry they become when unjustly accused or when someone
assassinates their integrity or character behind their back!
And what about self
control? Does human nature naturally practice self
control? Of course not! No, the truth
is, human nature is not, by its own nature, GODLY! It
cannot be! It can only masquerade as being godly; it
can only "put on" the appearance of godliness, and then only for a
short time, before its true nature manifests itself.
The devil can only
"act holy" for a short time, relatively speaking before his true
nature reasserts itself in all its gruesome wickedness and
The apostle Paul
explained it this way: "For to be carnally minded is death; but to
be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the
CARNAL MIND [that is, the natural mind you were born with -- the
fleshly mind, which is self-centered, and thinks about the things
of this life -- the natural mind
of man] is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of
God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in
the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the
flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in
you. Now if any man have not the spirit of Christ,
he is none of his" (Rom.8:6-9).
All of us, of our own
selves, without God's Spirit -- are nothing. We are
nothing in the sight of God. We cannot please Him. We
are carnal, selfish, self-centered, proud, vain, arrogant,
haughty, conceited, egotistical, foolish, and driven by lustful
and sinful impulses. We always wonder, "What's in it
for me?" We naturally believe in the motto, "Look out for number
"Many Are the Afflictions
of the Righteous"
There is a most
important vital purpose behind every single trial of a true
Christian! David wrote, "MANY are the afflictions
of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him
out of them all" (Psalm 34:l9). It is time we really
We must all remember
that is we are, at best, still human. We
are fallible. We make mistakes. We are
inclined to error. We sometimes tend to make wrong
decisions. Also, we become complacent easily. When
things seem to be going well, we tend to take prosperity for
granted. It is easy for us to slack off in prayer
and diligent Bible study when times are good. How
easy it is to find ourselves "too busy" to pray as we ought, or
"too tired" to pray as fervently as we should! How
easy it is for us to neglect daily Bible study, and personal time
spent in spiritual meditation and prayer!
When was the last time
you got down on your knees three times in a single days as David
and Daniel did? With them it was a matter of habits
or custom -- they had overcome the inertia to neglect prayer. Have
you yet mastered this vital habit, this powerful tool to sustained
Ah, we are so human --
so weak. When Jesus was praying His heart out to the
Father, as He faced the imminent prospect of His own impending
crucifixion, He came back to His disciples and found them asleep. Jesus
admonished Peter, "'What, could ye not watch with me one hour?" He
continued, "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the
spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak"' (Matt.26:40-41).
only comes from God's Spirit. We receive more of
God's Spirit only as we are in communion and contact with Him. We
are in close and intimate communion and contact with God as we
humbly pray, on our knees, and as we humbly study His word -- His
written message for our daily lives!
Wouldn't it be
interesting to actually hear the voice of God -- speaking to you,
personally? But stop and think! God DOES speak
to you -- you personally -- every time you
stop, pick up His Word, the Bible, and begin to READ IT! The
Bible is the living Word of God. Whenever you read
it, God is speaking to you! Did
you ever think of it that way before?
That is why it is such
a crime, and such a tragedy, for people to NEGLECT daily Bible
study and prayer! This is also why people ought to
study the Word of God daily on their knees before
the throne of God.
Trials Teach Us to
Draw Nigh to God
There are many reasons
God allows trials to enter our lives. One of the
basic, underlying reasons is simply to cause us to want to draw
night to God -- to seek Him -- in times of trouble. God
wants to deliver us from all our trials. But for Him
to deliver us, He must bring the trial upon us in the first place! He
must allow us to get into "hot water," so to speak. He
allows us, therefore, to make mistakes, in order to teach us
An old familiar saying
has it that a successful man learns more from his mistakes and his
failures than from all his successes put together! There
is a great deal of truth in that statement.
God allowed Israel to
flee from Egypt, but He led them right up to the brink of the Red
Sea. On two sides of them were steep, precipitous
mountains. And behind them was Pharaoh's army, with
horsemen and chariots of war, galloping hard after them, weapons
in hand. The position of the Israelites looked
utterly hopeless. How would you like to have a huge
army chasing after you, and every avenue of escape cut off? How
would you like to be trapped in a
box canyon, with no way out?
But just when things
seemed the worst they could imaginably be, Moses told the people,
"Fear ye not, stand still, and see the
salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to
you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall
see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall
fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace" (Exodus 14:13-14).
Have you ever
recognized that your trials are meant to show forth the GLORY OF
GOD? That's right. Your trials are to
teach you, and every one who sees your situation, that God does
care -- that God does intervene -- that God does deliver us from
impossible-looking situations, from seemingly hopeless odds, from
frightening encounters, no matter how bleak and hopeless our
plight looks, humanly speaking!
To put this sublime
truth in a nutshell, our trials are meant to teach us to forever
RELY UPON GOD -- to TRUST in the Lord at all times!
At one time in his
life king Hezekiah was very ill. God sent Isaiah to
warn him to get ready for he was about to die. However,
Hezekiah didn't want to die just yet. So he prayed
fervently, and God changed His mind.
God was moved by his
prayer. So God sent Isaiah back, before he had even
left the courtyard, saying, "Go back to Hezekiah, the leader of my
people, and tell him that the Lord God of his ancestor David has
heard his prayer and seen his tears. I will HEAL
him, and three days from now he will be out of bed and at the
Sometimes God allows
trials to come upon us -- He allows sickness, or disaster to come
upon us to motivate us to PRAY FERVENTLY, as Hezekiah prayed. Yes,
God wants to hear our prayers. He wants to see our
tears. He wants to see if we REALLY love Him! So
He puts us in a situation where we will either trust Him, and turn
to Him in desperate prayer -- or else we will ignore Him, and try
to work things out ourselves. He allows trouble to
come upon us to see whether we will CRY OUT, ALOUD, to Him, from
the bottom of our hearts, or whether we will lose faith, succumb
to temptation, and curse God and reject His way!
Did you ever think of
that before? Every trial is in reality a TEST. God
is testing you, even as He tested Job! God wants to
see haw you will respond, how you will react, whether you will
endure the trial or affliction, whether you will CRY OUT to Him or
not. He wants to see what kind of spiritual mettle
you are made out of! He wants to see what kind of spiritual
backbone and fiber you have! God wants to see whether you really
God told Isaiah to
report to Hezekiah, "I will add fifteen years to his life and save
him and this city from the king of Assyria. And it
will all be done for the GLORY OF MY NAME and for the sake of my
servant David" (v.7).
This is one of the
greatest lessons that our trials teach us!
God commands us to
learn to trust in Him. This is the key essential of
the Christian faith! Without faith in God, we are
nothing -- nothing at all. The apostle Paul wrote,
"But without FAITH it is impossible to please him: for he that
cometh to God MUST BELIEVE that he is, and that he is a rewarder of
them that diligently seek him" (Hebrews 11:6).
As Jesus went about
healing the sick, He said, "According to your faith be it unto
you" (Matt.9:29). He added, in another instance, "Daughter, be of
good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole" (v. 22). Yes,
trials teach us the lesson of faith.
One of my favorite
Psalms is the 37th Psalm. In it David wrote: "Trust
in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou
dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be
fed. Delight thyself also in the
Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit
thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to
pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as
the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. Rest in
the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of
him who prospereth in
his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked
devices to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake
wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. For
evildoers shall be cut off; but those that WAIT upon the Lord,
they shall inherit the earth" (Psalm 37:3-9).
Trials teach us to
trust in God, to commit our way, and our problems, to Him. They
teach us to wait patiently for Him. They teach us
How important is
Abraham is known as
the "father of the faithful." He believed God, had faith that God
would keep His promises, and was found pleasing in God's sight. A
good definition of faith is simply the belief that God will keep
His promises -- the belief that God's Word is true, and that God
will do everything He says He will do.
Notice the power of
Abraham's faith! The apostle Paul writes, "So, when
God told Abraham that he would give him a son who would have many
descendants and become a great nation, Abraham
believed God even though such a promise just
couldn't come to pass! And because his faith was
strong, he didn't worry about the fact that he was too old to be a
father, at the age of one hundred, and that Sarah his wife, at
ninety, was also much too old to have a baby.
"But Abraham never
doubted. He believed God, for his faith and trust
grew ever stronger, and he praised God for this blessing even
before it happened" (Rom.4:18-20). "He
was COMPLETELY SURE that God was well able to do anything he
Can we learn from
Abraham's example? Trials make our faith grow
stronger. Faith is like a spiritual muscle. It
doesn't grow unless it is exercised! The more it is
exercised, the more it grows -- the more it can accomplish and do!
Notice that Abraham
believed God even though the thing he sought was humanly impossible. But
remember, God is not human -- He is divine! Notice,
too, that Abraham didn't worry about it, or fidget, and "sweat it
out." He never doubted God's ability to do what He
had promised. When trials come upon you, are you
prone to worry, to doubt?
Notice, also, that
Abraham even PRAISED GOD for His answer, even
before he got the answer! He
thanked God, and praised Him, for the answer, even before it
happened. This is a sign of real, believing,
confident FAITH! Do you often praise God, and
glorify Him, for the answers to YOUR prayers, even BEFORE you
This is another key to
the development of real, living, dynamic, believing FAITH!
Finally, notice that
Abraham was "completely sure" that God was able to keep and
perform anything that He had promised. God does not
make promises that 1) He is unable to keep, or 2) that He is
unwilling to keep. God means what He says. Real
faith is simply believing that
simple statement. If you don't believe, if you don't
have faith, then you are in fact calling God a "LIAR," and that is
certainly not pleasing to God!
Trials help us to
develop and grow in faith.
The apostle Peter
wrote, ""So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy
ahead, even though the going is rough for a while down here. These
trials are only to TEST YOUR FAITH, to see whether or not it is
strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests
gold and purifies it -- and your faith is far more precious to God
than mere gold; so if your faith remains strong after being tried
in the test tube of fiery trials, it will bring you much praise
and glory and honor on the day of his return" (I Pet.1:6-7).
Did you notice it? Trials
refine, purify, and strengthen faith. They test it,
as fire tests gold. We receive faith from hearing
the Word of God. As Paul wrote, "So then faith
cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom.10:17).
Faith is one of the precious GIFTS of the Holy Spirit of God. As
Paul also wrote: "But the FRUIT of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, FAITH, meekness, temperance
(self control)" (Gal.5:22-23).
attribute of faith is not something we must work up ourselves, by
our own human efforts. Not at all. But
as Paul tells us, "For by grace are ye saved through FAITH; and
that not of yourselves: it [the very FAITH itself!] is the GIFT OF
GOD; not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph.2:8-9).
This faith is the very
faith of Christ put within us by the Spirit of God. It is the very
same faith Jesus had! It is the very faith that
performed the MIRACLES He performed -- raising the dead, healing
the sick, restoring sight to the blind, turning water into wine,
feeding 5,000 with just a few loaves of bread and fish, casting
out demons, restoring the legs and arms of the lame, speaking and
hearing to the dumb and the deaf, and full use of the hands to
those with withered hands!
As a Christian, you
should have this very same FAITH dwelling in you, even as Christ
Himself dwells in you. Paul wrote, "I am crucified
with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but CHRIST LIVETH IN
ME: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith
of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal.
Does Christ live
within you? Do
you live "by the faith of the Son of God"? Are you
exercising that very same dynamic, powerful, mighty FAITH?
The truth is, our
trials are necessary for the perfecting of our faith. Peter
wrote, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the FIERY TRIAL
which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto
you. But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's
sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, you may be glad
also with exceeding joy" (I Pet.4:l2-13).
one of the fruits of God's Spirit is the quality of
"longsuffering," or "patience" (Gal.5:22). There is nothing that
helps develop patience so much as a heavy trial.
to wait for the expected answer to prayers,
teaches the quality of patience. Patience is utterly
foreign to human nature! We live in a "push-button"
society, where patience is not encouraged. If you
want something, you just go get it at a local store or
supermarket. If you want a drink, you just put 50
cents in a machine -- and clunk! A can of soda is
produced by the machine -- instant service! We have
"instant milk," "instant potatoes," "instant pudding," "instant
Quaker Oats," "instant pancake mix," and any number of items.
all his excruciating trials, Job was forced to learn the lesson of
patience. This was one of the most essential and
vital character traits that God sought to build into Job's
character, that was lacking. Although God had said
that Job was certainly a righteous man, and shunned evil, this
does not mean that he was yet a "seasoned veteran" of the
spiritual wars. Job was lacking in patience, as all
human beings are, by nature, and so God used the vehicle of sore
trials in order to teach this crucial lesson. And so
we read in the book of James, this salient commentary on Job --
this pithy, cogent remark: "Ye have heard of the
PATIENCE of Job" (James 5:11). Nothing
more. Just: "Ye have heard of the patience of
word translated "patience" here, in the original Greek, is hupomone and
means "cheerful (or hopeful) endurance, constancy -- enduring,
patience, patient continuance, waiting" (Strong's Concordance, #5281). Thayer's
Greek-English Lexicon to the New Testament defines
it as: "steadfastness, constancy, endurance" -- "the
characteristic of a man who is unswerved from
his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even
the greatest trials and sufferings."
describes Job perfectly. Despite his enormous
trials, and even despite the caustic and depressing commentary of
his supposed "friends," Job remained constant in his faith,
constant in his obedience to the laws of God. He
questioned why the trials were sent upon him, he complained about
them in the bitterness of his very real and human spirit -- but he
never lost faith and he never stopped obeying God! Therefore,
James holds him out as an example of a man of God who has endured
great hardships and remains faithful and persevering in faith -- an
example placed in the Bible for our edification, our instruction,
so that we also may be faithful and constant and unswerving in
purpose and spiritual direction, despite the most intense and
painful of whatever trials life may have in store for us!
of God's true servants have had to learn patience. Abraham
had to wait twenty five years, before God finally answered his
prayers and fulfilled His promise of giving him a son. Moses had
to wait forty years before God used him to bring Israel out of
Egypt -- and then he had to endure another forty years, because of
the sins of the people in the wilderness, before the nation was
allowed to enter the Promised Land. David had to
endure many years of fleeing from king Saul, his life in jeopardy
ever moment, official persecution from the very king of Israel,
until God removed Saul and appointed David to be King of Israel at
the age of 30. Then David had to endure another 40
years, as king, fighting wars, opposing enemies who sought his
life, even insurrection and rebellion of his own beloved
apostle James encourages us to appreciate the character trait of
patience. He writes: "Be patient therefore,
brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the
husbandman waiteth for
the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long
patience for it., until he receive the early and
latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your
hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh." The
Greek word for "long," in "long patience," is makrothumeo and
means to be "long spirited, forbearing, patient, be longsuffering,
have long patience, patiently endure." Says Thayer's of
this word, "to be of a long spirit, not to lose heart," "to
persevere patiently and bravely, in enduring misfortunes and
trials," "to be patient in bearing the offences and injuries of
others; to be mild and slow in avenging; to be long-suffering,
slow to anger, slow to punish."
continues, "'Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in
the name of the Lord for an example of suffering affliction, and
of patience. Behold, we count them happy which
endure. Ye have heard of the PATIENCE OF JOB, and
have seen the end of the Lord that the Lord is very pitiful, and
of tender mercy" (Jas. 5:7-11).
was one of the greatest examples of patience, and patient
endurance, in the entire word of God. When we see
what afflictions and trials he went through, it should encourage
us to see the real reason for our own trials, and it should help
us to fortify ourselves, to strengthen our faith, and to build
patience. There is nothing like having a good
example to follow, to encourage us not to lose heart or give up! The
book of Job was placed in the word of God to give us just such a
powerful example of faithful endurance and long-suffering
wrote: "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall
into divers temptations [i.e., trials, afflictions, troubles];
knowing this, that the trying of
your faith worketh PATIENCE." Faith
and patience go hand-in-glove. One builds upon the
other, even as two muscles used in opposition to each other builds
both of them!
continued: "But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be
PERFECT and entire, wanting nothing" (James l:2-4). The Living
Bible makes this even clearer: "Dear brothers, is
your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then
be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has
a chance to grow. So
let it grow, and don't try to squirm out of
your problems. For when your patience is finally in
full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong
in character, full and complete."
develops faith, and faith increases patience. They
work together, in harness like two mighty Clydesdale horses,
pulling a loaded sled. Faith feeds patience, and
patience nurtures faith. They augment each other. They
work synergistically together, each multiplying the value and
strength of the other.
plus patience equals endurance -- perseverance -- stick-to-it-iveness --
bull-dog tenacity of spirit! Faith is audacity --
the boldness of believing in God's promises. Patience
is tenacity -- hanging on to those promises, through thick and
thin, fair weather and foul weather, through storm and tempest. Faith
plus patience is like audacity plus tenacity. It is
a mighty combination that achieves MIRACLES and makes it possible
for us to enter the Kingdom of God! We must have
both. Just one or the other is not enough. But both
of them in combination equals strength of
character! And both of them are strengthened by
having to face trials, tests, obstacles, disappointments,
injuries, oppression, mistreatment, unfair reverses and
condemnation of others, the onset of all kinds of trials,
tribulation, troubles and afflictions!
"Quitters Never Win;
Winners Never Quit"
you imagine how ludicrous it would be, in God's sight, for a man
or woman to pray to God, at the beginning of a trial or test, to
endure but a short time, and then to suddenly GIVE UP and QUIT,
perhaps just moments before the answer comes? If
our faith gives out, when troubles come, then we lose out. To
quote an old expression: "Quitters never win;
winners never quit."
wrote to the Hebrews, "Cast not away therefore your confidence,
which hath great recompence of
reward. For ye have need of
patience, that, after ye have done the will of
God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little
while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now
the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw
back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him"
quit -- to shrink back -- to give up, when the going gets a little
tough -- is to brand oneself a loser, a spiritual "COWARD," a
lily-livered yellow-bellied skunk! To throw in the
towel when the fight looks desperate is to allow oneself to be an
abject failure -- a real "loser" for all eternity! There
is no way you can win, if you quit before the game is over. If
you do that, you forfeit the game! But if you hang
in there, and never give up, even though you are behind, and you
never give up, then you will finally win, no matter what the
"score" may be at the worst moment of the contest. Why? Because
God has all power, and loves you, and if you remain faithful, He
will eventually intervene on your side, and grant you the victory,
and the reward of entrance into His Kingdom!
apostle Paul said, "We are pressed on ever side by troubles, but
not crushed and broken. We are perplexed because we
don't know why things happen as they do, but we don't give up and
quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We
get knocked down, but we get up again and keep
going. These bodies of ours are constantly
facing death just as Jesus did; so it is clear to all that it is
only the living Christ within (who keeps us safe).
we live under constant danger to our lives because we serve the
Lord, but this gives us constant opportunities to show forth the
power of Jesus Christ within our dying bodies. Because
of our preaching we face death, but it has resulted in eternal
life for you" (II Cor.4:8-12, TLB).
continues, "That is why we never give up. Though
our bodies are dying, our inner strength in the Lord is growing
every day. These troubles and sufferings of ours
are, after all, quite small and won't last very long. Yet
this short time of distress will result in God's richest blessing
upon us forever and ever!" (verses 16-17).
precious value of these temporary trials and afflictions is
inestimable! Because of them, our inner strength
grows every day. Because of them, we will receive
God's richest blessings for ever and ever in the Kingdom of God! They
help perfect and shape our spiritual CHARACTER, and character is
the only thing we can take with us when we die!
Glory Has a Price Tag
this reason, no matter how serious or painful or trying our
present difficulty is, we can say with Paul: "The Spirit itself beareth witness
with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children,
then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be
that we suffer with him, that we
may be also glorified together. For
I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are
not worthy to be compared with the GLORY which
shall be revealed in us" (Rom.8:16-18).
as the Living Bible puts it, "Yet
what we suffer now is nothing compared
to the GLORY he will give us later" (Rom.8:18).
the apostle Paul concerning this comparison of our trials with our
destiny: "For our light affliction which is but for
a moment, worketh for
us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of GLORY; while we look
not at the things which are seen [such as our trials], but at the
things which are not seen [we focus on our future destiny and
glory, and on the invisible God who is at our side, rooting for
us, and encouraging us, through His Word]: for the things which
are seen are temporal [temporary]; but the things which are not
seen are eternal" (II Cor.4:17-18).
our trials, then, we must develop faith with patience -- enduring
faith. Jesus says of the Philadelphia phase of His
true Church, "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I
also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come
upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold,
I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take
thy crown" (Rev.3:10-11). The Living
this verse: "Because
you have PATIENTLY OBEYED me despite the
persecution, therefore I will protect you from
the time of Great Tribulation and temptation, which will come upon
the world to test everyone alive. Look! I am coming
soon! Hold tightly to the little strength you have
-- so that no one will take away your crown" (vs-10-11).
Jesus said: "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and
looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). He
also said: "If any man come to me, and hate not [or, love less by
comparison] his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and
brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my
disciple" (Luke 14:26).
continued,, "And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after
me, cannot be my disciple. . . . So likewise, whosoever he be of
you that forsaketh not all
that he hath, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke
push comes to shove, when the petal hits the metal, when all is
said and done, in the final analysis -- as Christians, as true
followers of Christ -- we are called to give up
everything, to forsake all that we have -- period
-- that is the sum total of it all! We must be
prepared to just "walk away" from the things of this life, at any
moment, as God may require! We may be required to
give up even our long-time BEST FRIEND, our
"soul brother," if at any time he goes astray, and would threaten
our relationship with God and Jesus Christ!
you willing to literally "follow Christ" -- through trials and
tests, through thick and thin, even if it requires separation from
a mate or loved one, family, close friends, and a complete
redirection of your life? Are you ready to forsake
all, for His sake? House, home, possessions, family,
friends, job -- any thing and everything that could stand between
you and eternal life, between you and your crown of salvation?
apostle Paul wrote, "But what things were gain to me, those I
counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all
things but loss for the excellency of the
knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the
loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that
I may win Christ" (Phil.3:7-8). The word for "dung"
here is skubalon in
Greek and means "what is thrown to the dogs, refuse, dung." Thayer's adds,
"any refuse, as the excrement of animals, offscouring,
rubbish, dregs" -- that which is "worthless and detestable."
the Living Bible puts it: "But
all these things that I once thought very worthwhile -- now I've
thrown them all away so that I can put my trust and hope in Christ
alone. Yes, everything else is worthless when
compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I
have put aside all else, counting it worth less
than nothing, in order that I can have Christ"
much value do you place upon the temporary baubles and thrills and
bangles of this physical life?
the life experience of Job, obviously, he lost it all --
everything -- except his wife, and she even turned against him and
scorned him and told him to curse God and die! But
Job remained faithful, even though he even lost every
one of his friends, and those who came to comfort
him falsely accused him of the greatest of sins!
also, considered the service of God, with afflictions and trials,
as being worth more than all the riches and honors of this world. The
apostle Paul wrote in Hebrews: "By faith Moses, when
he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's
daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with
the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a
season; esteeming thereproach of Christ GREATER RICHES than the
treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of
the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing
the wrath of the king, for he endured, as
seeing him who is invisible" (Heb.11:24-27).
said, "And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or
sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for
my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold and shall inherit
everlasting life" (Matt.19:29).
promise means that even though you may suffer great affliction
now, in this life, your reward in the Kingdom of God will be ONE
HUNDRED FOLD -- besides eternal life! It does not
mean that you will necessarily receive a hundredfold during this
life, compared to what you would have received if you did not give
up the ambitions and goals of the world. No, you
cannot have both. Jesus said it plainly: "No man can
serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the
other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye
cannot serve God and mammon [money]" (Matt.6:24). If
your heart is still wrapped up in the things of this world, then
you have not learned the real meaning of what it is to be a
you have one foot in the world, and one foot in God's Kingdom, you
will fall off the fence for sure. That is a state of
disequilibrium which cannot endure. You will lose
your balance, and fall into the worldly sphere, completely, unless
you get both feet out of the world, and its desires, goals, and
put it plainly. He said: "If ye then be risen with
Christ, SEEK those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on
the right hand of God. Set your affections on things
above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead,
and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Col.3:1-3).
truly put God first in our life, then we can endure all trials,
tests, troubles and afflictions, and come out WINNERS -- more
than conquerors -- triumphant in
wrote: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall
tribulations or distress or persecution, or famines or nakedness,
or perils or sword? As it is written, For thy sake
we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the
slaughter. Nay, in ALL THESE THINGS we are more
than conquerors through him that loved us. For
I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor
principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to
come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able
to separate us from the love of Gods which is in Christ Jesus our
Paul also wrote: "Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us
to TRIUMPH in Christ" (II Cor.2:14). And as he also
wrote: "But thanks be to God, which giveth us
the VICTORY through our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Cor.15:57).
Christ, we can be true "winners." We can become true
Creation of "Diamonds"
develop within us the diamond-like qualities of character of God's
Holy Spirit. Each one of us is like a spiritual
diamond in the rough, lying in the cone of an
extinct volcano. If an untrained passerby dug us up
out of the earth, and glanced at us, he would cast us aside. We
would have the appearance of a soapy kind of stone -- nothing very
valuable at all. But a trained diamond expert, would
know better. He would know that if we were cleaned
up, and freed from all the clinging impurities, and that if we
were properly cut, that we would shine brilliantly, radiating
light magnificently from every facet!
does it take to form a diamond -- the hardest substance known to
man? What does it take to create such a masterpiece
of Creation, which has the unique property of radiating light --
reflected light -- in a million cascades of iridescent, sparkling
are formed in the heart of the earth -- in the deep innermost
bowels of volcanoes. Their creation requires four
things: 1) the long duration of time -- diamonds cannot be created
instantaneously; 2) extreme and unrelenting pressure; 3) intense
and remorseless heat -- very high temperatures; and 4) the proper
material to be acted upon -- that is, carbon crystals.
are crystals formed almost entirely of carbon. Most
diamonds have eight sides, forming double pyramids; but some have
twelve sides, and some six. They were formed
years ago when carbon
was subjected to great heat and pressure. Diamonds
are very rare. They are among the most costly jewels
in the world because of their beauty and brilliance and rarity.
have great power to reflect light, bend rays of light, and to
break light up into all the colors of the rainbow. But
to produce the greatest possible brilliance in a diamond, many
little sides, or facets, must be cut and polished on it, and each
tiny facet must be exactly the right size and shape and must be
placed at exactly the right angle. The style of cut
often seen today is the round shape with fifty-eight facets, which
is called the brilliant cut.
diamonds can be graded and judged according to their weight,
purity, color, and cut. The weight of the diamond is
measured by the carat, one carat weighing 200 milligrams. A
flawless diamond should have no physical defects, such as cracks,
spots, scratches, blemishes, or cloudy texture. Cutting
and polishing a diamond is a slow process requiring great patience
as Christians, are actually "diamonds in the rough." In
this present life, to the naked eye, we don't look like much. The
world despises us. But God has given us His Spirit,
and we are developing the very characteristics of God Himself! This
can only be done if we, like the diamond, are subjected to the
elements of 1) extreme pressure, and 2) intense heat, 3) over
a long period of time. This process is what
produces brilliant spiritual CHARACTER!
is the simple reason for the trials of Job, mentioned in the book
of Job. Job was not being punished by God for being
self-righteous, or for any sins he had committed. Rather,
his character was being purged, purified, refined,
and shaped AND PERFECTED, into a brilliant,
flawless spiritual diamond that will shine forever, through all
expressed this sublime, beautiful truth this way: "And they that
be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they
that turn many to righteousness as the stars for
ever and ever" (Daniel 12:3).
of Job's REAL Problem
real problem was not some sin or sins he had committed, and
refused to acknowledge, and "covered up," as his three friends so
seriously assumed and believed. It was, rather, that
he was simply in God's sight still untested. He
was a potential diamond (interestingly, carbon forms the basic
structure of human beings, even as it is the basic substance of a
physical diamond), but he had never been subjected to the heat and
intense pressure to bring out the brilliance of character, and to
harden that character so that no force can change it!
does not want wishy-washy, spineless, cowardly, indecisive,
hesitant., weaklings in His Kingdom. He is training
us to become His very Sons -- with the attributes of GOD HIMSELF
-- to become very divine members of the Family of God! To
do this, He must subject us to intense pressure, trial, trouble,
temptations, and the heat of fiery trials, to purge and purify and
strengthen and harden us, so that our character for righteousness
will become tough, rocklike, the hardest and most impermeable
substance in all Creation!
Jews have an expression which hints at the purpose of human life
in a very interesting way. They tell us that God
intends human being to be "partners with God" in creation. That
is, we are to be working in partnership with God to perfect the
world. The expression they use for this is the
Hebrew tikum olam -- the
"perfecting of the world."
even the Jewish people don't understand the full scope of this
purpose and plan. To really become God's "partners
in creation," we must become JUST AS HE IS -- on the same
God-plane relation -- as His very spirit-born Sons! This
life is merely the training and testing ground. But
when we are born of God, at the resurrection, we will become HIS
UNIVERSE-RULING DIVINE FAMILY -- PARTNERS OF HIS IN CREATION AND
RULING EVERYTHING THAT IS OR WILL BE CREATED!
a calling! What a destiny! No wonder
David wrote: "What is man, that thou art mindful of
him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? For
thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast
crowned him with glory and honour.
Thou madest him
to have dominion over the works of thine hands;
thou hast put ALL THINGS under his feet" (Psalm 8:4-6).
is David talking about here? In verse 5 he relates,
"When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy
fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast
ordained." He then goes on to state that God has --
or intends to put -- ALL THINGS UNDER THE DOMINION OF MAN!
often have Jews and Christians read right over these verses and
missed their real meaning! God intends to put MAN
eventually, when he is perfected, over all the "works" of God's
hands -- ALL THINGS! That must of necessity
include the HEAVENS, WHICH DAVID SPECIFICALLY MENTIONS HERE, as
well as the moon and STARS -- the entire STARRY UNIVERSE!
apostle Paul took note of this. He quoted David's
words in the second chapter of the book of Hebrews, in the New
Testament. He then added, "Thou hast put all things
in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all
under him, he
left NOTHING that is not put under him. But NOW we
see NOT YET ALL THINGS PUT UNDER HIM" (Heb.2:8).
THINGS" which God created, all the "works of his hands," would
include THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE, with all its stars, galaxies, star
clusters, planets, and the entirety of the COSMOS! What
a breath-taking, mind-boggling future God has planned for mankind
-- when his character has been shaped, refined,
The Danger of Sin and
But God does not intend to give such incredible,
awesome powers to just "anybody." We must first
qualify, and prove ourselves, be tested, trained, and our
character must be perfected, so that we will never succumb to
temptation, as Lucifer did, and rebel against God's authority, and
turn against Him in hostility, rage, and enmity!
Therefore, God created us of the dust of the ground --
flesh and blood. He created us with free moral
agency -- the ability to CHOOSE which direction we will go --
whether to obey God, or to SIN, and follow lawlessness (I John
3:4). God commands us to CHOOSE -- and He tells us,
for our own eternal good, to choose GOOD -- the way of obedience
to Him -- the way of LIFE (Deut.30:19-20).
one of us has the potential to sin at any time. What
keeps us from sinning? Since we are free moral
agents, created with the powers of free and independent choice,
there is only one thing that can keep us from sinning; that is our
own character! God
Himself cannot sin because He will not sin! Even
so, the only thing in all creation that can keep us from sinning
is our own will, motivation, and desire and self restraint -- our
very own personal character and will power -- to resist the
temptation to sin, whenever it comes along!
Real Estate, it is said that there are three major elements in
choosing a home to purchase. They are: 1) location,
2) location, and 3) location! Even so, in the
Christian life, there are three things that God is most concerned
with in each one of us. They are: 1) character, 2) CHARACTER, and
The Counsel of a Wise
Friend -- Elihu
a young man, was a righteous and godly man who did not join in
with Job's other three friends, and condemn him for imagined sins
and hidden transgressions. He was the one man among
Job's friends who did not sin and falsely accuse Job. In
fact, he was used by God to point out Job's true problem. He
said to Job that his real problem was not some imagined previous
sin that brought on
his trials, but rather his attitude of complaining and sitting in
judgment of God, during his trials!
to Job, "You have said it in my hearing, yes, you've said it again
and again -- 'I am pure, I am innocent; I have not sinned.' You
say God is using a fine-toothed comb to try to find a single
fault, and so to count you as his enemy. 'And he
puts my feet in the stocks,' you say, and watches every move I
on: "All right, here is my reply: In this very thing
you have sinned by speaking of God that way. For God
is greater than man. Why should you fight against
him just because he does not give account to you of what he does?"
problem was that God allowed trials to come upon him -- very
serious trials and severe injustices -- and did
not give Job an explanation for WHY He was doing it. Job's
attitude in his trials was his problem. He wanted
answers from God, and he groused, groaned, and complained that God
refused to answer him!
on, "For God speaks again and again, in dreams, in visions of the
night when deep sleep falls on men as they lie on their beds. He
opens their ears in times like that, and gives them wisdom and
instruction, causing them to change their minds, and keeping
them from pride, and warning them of these
penalties of sin, and keeping them from falling into some trap"
out to Job, reminding him of the foundational, fundamental fact,
that God is just, He is fair, and He never commits sin. He
declared:, "There is no truer statement than this, God
is never wicked or unjust. He alone has
authority over the earth and dispenses justice for the world" (Job
this is true, God had a divine reason for permitting Job's trials! They
were to TEACH him, to INSTRUCT him -- they were a valuable object
lesson in character training!
Job, "Turn back from evil, for it was to PREVENT you
from getting into a life of evil that God sent this suffering. Look!
God is all-powerful. Who is a teacher like him? Who
can say that what he does is absurd or evil? Instead,
GLORIFY HIM for his mighty works for which he is so famous" (Job
is one of the fundamental lessons taught in the book of Job! GOD
RULES! And He is perfectly JUST! Therefore,
whatever He does is FOR OUR GOOD, including allowing us to go
through horrendous, mind-boggling trials!
this point, Job's armor of self-defense and self-justification
began to crack. His defenses were stripped bare by
the wisdom of Elihu. He
ALWAYS had an answer for the criticisms of his three friends. Their
comments, though often true enough in general principle, simply
did not apply in Job's case, because they argued from a false
premise -- the premise that Job was a terrible sinner, despite his
outward appearance of being "righteous."
However, Elihu nailed
Job's problem -- and Job knew it. He had no answer. After Elihu's remarks,
contained in chapters 32 through 37, Job was silent. God
had given him his request. He had asked that someone speak with
him, and show him the reason for his sufferings, without
terrifying him with awesome power and majesty, as God Himself
possessed. God sent Elihu to
speak with him -- a young but wise man, wise beyond his years. Elihu said
to him, "Behold, I am according to thy wish in God's stead: I
also am formed out of the clay. Behold, my terror
shall not make thee afraid, neither shall my hand be heavy upon
thee" (Job 33:6-7).
to Job, "Behold, God exalts by his power: who teachest like
him? Who hath enjoined him his way? or
who can say, Thou has wrought iniquity? Remember
that thou MAGNIFY HIS WORK, which men behold" (Job 36:22-24). "Behold,
God is GREAT," Elihu declared
(v.26), and went on to demonstrate and expound on the incredible
greatness of God! He asserted, "Hearken unto this, O
Job: stand still, and consider the wondrous works of
see, Job had allowed his severe trials to get his mind off of God,
and His majesty, His greatness, His goodness, His infallible
perfection. Job had allowed his afflictions and his
suffering to turn his thoughts and his emotions to a negative
bitterness and condemnation of God, for the trials which he was
unjustly suffering, and he knew they were unjust. The
point is, God was teaching him a great lesson, and
he just didn't get it -- yet! God was fashioning and
shaping and perfecting his ENDURANCE -- his faith -- his spiritual
When Elihu was
finished speaking, Job finally knew his problem, his fault, where
he had gone wrong in complaining and finding fault with God,
falsely accusing Him. Even as Job's friends had
falsely accused Job, not knowing the truth, even
so Job had falsely accused God, not understanding what He was
doing! In that sense, Job was as guilty as they
were -- he was committing the same sin toward God as they were
committing against him! He was assuming that
God had no good reason to allow him to suffer his horrible trials! And
therefore, he was missing the point of the trials altogether -- he
was assuming they had no spiritual value -- he did not grasp that
our trials and afflictions work in us to shape our character so
that we can one day shine like spiritual DIAMONDS IN THE SKY -- as
the stars for ever and ever!
Job finally got the picture, he shut up. He had no
more words to defend himself, or his actions. He was
quiet as a church mouse! At this point, then, God
Himself DOES begin to speak with Job, challenging him, and testing
him, and finally explaining His own actions in a way that Job
would really get the picture, get the point of the lessons and the
time God has spent with him, dealing with him, out of divine love. Job
was greatly humbled by it all. He finally saw
himself for what he really was in God's sight, compared to God.
into Job's Real Problem
Job, "God is so great that we cannot begin to know him. No
one can begin to understand eternity" (v.26, The
Living Bible). He then goes on to describe the greatness and
majesty and awesomeness of Almighty God.
was Job's problem? His view of the world and the
universe began with himself. He had a very limited
perspective. Because of his trials, he was led to
deny the providence and love of God, and even began to falsely
accuse God. Because of Job's own ignorance, and
limited understanding, He didn't understand why he had such
trials, and it blew his mind. In his pain and
suffering, he finally succumbed to the temptation to accuse God of
being unjust and unfair, and he actually criticized God.
there times in our lives, when all of us are tempted to do the
very same thing? Don't we at times become "critical"
of God, the way He allows certain things, or because of certain
trials we go through, and which He does not remove from us?
are just like Job!
one point, Elihu asked
Job, "Must God tailor his justice to your demands? Must
he change the order of the universe to suit your whims? The
answer must be obvious even to you! Anyone even half
bright will agree with me that you, Job, are speaking like a fool. You
should be given the maximum penalty for the wicked way you have
talked about God. For now you have added rebellion,
arrogance and blasphemy to your other sins" (Job 34:33-37).
you see how a negative attitude feeds on itself, nurses its
wounds, and grows? Job's trials finally got to him,
and caused him to speak negatively about God. Rather
than find fault with himself, he found fault with God. He
became self-righteous. Elihu declared,
"For Job has said, 'I am innocent, but God says I'm not. I
am called a liar, even though I am innocent. I am
horribly punished, even though I have not sinned.'
else is as arrogant as Job? He must have spent some
time with evil men, for he said, 'Why waste time trying to please
God?'” (Job 34:5-9).
when he saw he had falsely judged and confessed his true
condition, and his weakness, and how God was righteous, after all,
Job repented from his innermost heart, and turned to God
completely broken up as the picture he saw of his own wickedness
in falsely accusing God!
finally said, after hearing God's own testimony of His
righteousness and power and good works, "I heard about you before,
but now I have seen you, and I loathe myself and
repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:5-6).
the final analysis, Job finally came through his trials with
shining victory! When he came to really see himself
for the sawed off piece of rotten refuse that he really was, in
comparison to God, when he finally came to see his true
relationship with God, and his own puny smallness, and the
incredible greatness of God, he thoroughly repented, abhorred
himself, and had a complete remake of his attitude -- a completely
new attitude of worship and praise for God. "Then
Job answered the LORD, and said, I know that thou canst do every
thing, and that no thought can be withholden from
thee . . . I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now
mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore
I abhor myself, and repent in
dust and ashes" (Job 42:1-6).
miracle was accomplished in Job's life. He finally
saw himself for the bag of bones that he was. He
finally saw that he was nothing but a piece of flotsam and jetsam
floating on the river of life, bobbing up and down, carried along. He
saw his own utter human unworthiness. He saw,
finally, as Isaiah declared, "But we are all as an unclean thing,
and all our righteousnesses are
as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities,
like the wind, have taken us away. . . But now, O LORD, thou art
our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are
the work of thy hand" (Isaiah 64:6-8).
tools God used to bring Job to this new awareness, were his trials
and sorrows, and the tests God had put upon him. These
helped develop and perfect his character. They were
the thing we all enjoy the least in life -- the experiencing of
trials and troubles. We forget the important lesson
that Elihu told
Job about God: "He delivers by distress!" (Job
God been testing your patience? Are you still
waiting for "God's time" to deliver you from some trial to finally
Name is Redeemer, Deliverer, Sustainer! Have we
forgotten that? God enjoys delivering His people! He
loves to sweep away all trials and problems, and to rescue us from
all disaster! He teaches us by means of our trials
David wrote, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I
might LEARN thy statutes" (Psalm 119:71). David
confessed, "Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I
kept thy word" (verse 87).
our trials are for our GOOD! We must get that into
our heads! It bears repeating over and over again,
until we get the message! They are GOOD for
us! Every trial is a divine messenger sent by a
loving God to help us overcome and to grow, so that we can qualify
to be in His Kingdom! The more we overcome, and
endure, and the more character we build, will determine our
position and reward in His Kingdom!
I have been humbled, or chastened before God, by the whip of some
sore trials, with tears flowing from my eyes, my cheeks stained
from crying, it has taught me to love God all the more -- and to
appreciate His kindness all the more. My heart is
overwhelmed with love, because God takes the time to teach me, and
to spank me, and to soften up my hard heart, and to bring me into
a closer and more intimate relationship with Him.
put it plainly. He wrote, "And have you quite
forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you, his child? He
said, 'My son, don't be angry when the Lord punishes you. Don't
be discouraged when he has to show you where you are wrong. For
when he punishes you, it proves that he loves you. When
he whips you it proves you are really his child. Let
God train you, for he is doing what any loving father does for his
children. Whoever heard of a son who was never
corrected? If God doesn't punish you when you need
it, as other fathers punish their sons, then it means that you
aren't really God's son at all -- that you don't really belong in
his family. Since we respect our fathers here on
earth, though they punish us, should we not all the more cheerfully
submit to God's training so that we can begin to
really live?" (Heb.12:5-9, The Living Bible).
trials are for our TRAINING! God is operating a
"Spiritual Fitness and Training Program" and it is a very
intensive course of study. It requires diligent 24
hours a day work-outs, and exercise programs. God is
the "Coach" or "Trainer," and we are the "class." Just
as in a human fitness dance class, or a Karate class, the students
must learn the basics, and work out, and practice their routines
and moves, so in God's Spiritual Fitness Class, we must "work
out," and develop godly, holy, righteous CHARACTER!
trial is enjoyable when we are suffering it -- it hurts!
afterwards we can see the result, a quiet growth
in grace and character" (Heb.12:11).
God's Tremendous Concern
much does God CARES for His children? The truth is, nothing
happens in our life, without God knowing all about it, from stem
to stern, from top to bottom! He knows EVERYTHING! He
knows if you've been mistreated, slandered, falsely accused, or
hurt by others. He knows who every one of your
enemies are -- even the ones you don't know about yourself! He
knows your problems, trials, difficulties intimately --
for He put them there! He is working with you. He
is shaping your character. He is shaping your
as the apostle Peter wrote, "Dear friends, don't be bewildered or
surprised when you go through the fiery trials ahead, for this is
no strange, unusual thing that is going to happen to you. Instead,
be really glad -- because these trials will make you partners
with Christ in his suffering, and afterwards you
will have the wonderful joy of sharing his glory in
that coming day when it will be displayed" (I Pet.4:12-13).
put it plainly, and eloquently. He wrote, "O Lord,
you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You
know when I sit or stand. When far away you know my
every thought. You chart the path ahead of me, and
tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment, you
know where I am. You know what I am going to say
before I even say it. You both precede and follow
me, and place your hand of blessing on my head.
is too glorious, too wonderful to believe! I can
never be lost to your Spirit! I can never get away
from my God! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if
I go down to the place of the dead, you are there. If
I ride the morning winds to the farthest oceans, even there your
hand will guide me, your strength will support me" (Psalm
adds, "You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my
life before I began to breathe. Every day was
recorded in your Book! How precious it is Lord, to
realize that you are thinking about me constantly! I
can't even count how many times a day your thoughts turn towards
me. And when I waken in the morning, you are still thinking
of me!" (v.16-18).
"I Know that My
should see clearly from the book of Job, and the other Scriptures,
that trials and tests are an integral part of the Christian life. God
intends them to help us to grow in spiritual character. God
commands us, through the apostle Peter, "But grow in grace, and in
the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus
Christ" (II Pet.3:18).
tells us, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For
it is God which worketh in
you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil.3:12-13).
told His followers that they would have trials. He
warned, "They shall put you out of the synagogues; yea, the time
cometh, that whosoever killeth you
will think that he doeth God service. And these
things will they do unto you, because they have not known the
Father, nor me. But these things have I told you,
that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of
them" (John 16:2-4).
added, "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might
have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation:
but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
Himself went through tribulation, trials and suffering, setting us
an example. He promised that we, His followers,
would also experience tribulation and suffering, if we truly
follow Him. But He encourages us to be happy -- to be
cheerful -- to rejoice! Why? Because
He overcame every obstacle, every trial, and He is living His life
in us, today, through the Holy Spirit, and He will give us also
the power to overcome!
Paul wrote to the Philippians, "I know both how to be abased, and
I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am
instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to
suffer need. I can do all things through Christ
which strengtheneth me"
(Phil.4:12). Do you have that solid conviction? Do
you have that kind of tenacious, grappling, intense faith?
Christ is with us in all our trials! He suffers with
us. He loves us very dearly. He is ever-present in
our difficulties and sufferings. He told His
disciples, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. . .
. " He added, "Lo, I am with you
always even unto the end of the world"
Jesus Christ within us in Spirit, and at our sides, we can
overcome every trial and affliction. We can endure
all things, and overcome every problem, and conquer every
obstacle, and enter God's glorious Kingdom!
story of Job paints the picture for us. In his
latter end, after he had endured suffering and travail and
tribulation, God blessed him as never before. And
he, along with us, now looks forward to with great anticipation,
the coming of the Kingdom of God!
a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my
appointed time will
I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call,
and I will answer thee: thou
wilt have a desire to the
work of thine hands"
"For if a man should die, shall
he live again, having accomplished the
days of his life? I
will wait till I exist again? Thou shalt call,
and I will
hearken to thee: but do not
thou reject the work of thine hands"
his enduring faith, amidst sore trials, Job asserted:
I know that my redeemer liveth, and
that he shall stand at the latter day
upon the earth: And
though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in
my flesh shall I see God: Whom
I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall
behold, and not another" (Job
"For I know that he is
eternal who is about to deliver me, and to raise up
upon the earth my skin
that endures these sufferings: but
these things have
been accomplished to me of
the Lord; which I am conscious of in myself;
which mine eye has seen, and
not another, but all have been fulfilled to me
in my bosom" (LXX).
story of Job is a testimony of the love God has for each one of
His sons and daughters. It is an epic, gripping
story of faith in the face of death, endurance despite harrowing
sufferings and trials. It is the saga of the
character of man being perfected -- like a brilliant, shining