The story of Job is one of the stories that we can easily relate to in our everyday life. Job, like every one of us, was busy doing his regular chores when he was struck by misfortune. He did not have any advance warning that the devil was coming to attack him. If we can summarize who Job was, we come up with the following spiritual credentials :
- Blameless – Upright These were God’s words and we believe God had searched his life to come to this conclusion. Not many of us would claim this kind of character before God.
- Feared God-Turned away from evil He avoided any evil actions that would separate him from the love of God, even though he lived at a time when he would easily have gotten himself on the wrong path of life. He stayed close to his God.
- Hold fast his integrity The way he went with his every day life was very respectable. In his business transactions he was honest and people had a high regard for who he was.
He was also a man of means in his day. That means he was rich. We read from the Bible that he owned:
- 7,000 sheep
- 5,000 yoke oxen
- 3,000 camels
- 500 she donkeys
He was also a family man with:
- a wife
- 7 sons
- 3 daughters
He was an employer:
- hired many workers
This almost makes one conclude that Job was a perfect man. No one could have asked for anything better than how God describes Job. But I want us to see how his faith is attacked without any warning or even being pre-warned. The attack started with what he owned (animals), then his family: his children, and finally his body. When the devil attacks us the sequence is not always like that. But the devil’s attacks are aimed at the things that we like and are of value to us, including our own body. The devil aimed its attack on Job’s character, property, body and family. Some people have called what happened to Job a spiritual warfare, commanded by the devil. Though not in the same intensity, none in this room would say that they have not experienced some form of test on their faith or their life. Here I don’t mean you missing a bus and being late for your appointment or locking your keys in the car, though what you do after these events will touch your faith. Even coming to the store and finding it closed. What we know is that Satan can be thorough when it coms to these things. The question that many would ask when their faith is tested is, “Why me?” There is a disclaimer that I would like to put here, “suffering is not always as a result of sin.” Many in this room can share stories of painful things that have happened in their life where they have no answers. Quick death to a loved one or member of the family, diagnosis of a terminal illness, loss of a job, loss of the use of a part of the body, abandonment by the family, etc.
I may not be able to answer why bad things happen, even to good people for that answer is that only God knows. But if we can re-frame the question to when not why bad things happen to all not just good people, what should be our reaction or what should we remember? When our faith is tested let us remember the following:
- God promises his presence: It is very common to feel that we are struggling on our own and God is nowhere but we know that he promises us to neither leave nor forsake us. It is like the footprint story where even at his weakest, God lifted him up and he could only see his footprint. The challenge we face is to see God at the time of pain because of what might be happening. This takes us to the story of Jesus when he went up the mountain to pray, asking God to take away the cup of suffering from him. Even up on the cross he said words that we recite during Lent when he said; “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Our faith may be tested, not because there is any wrong we have done but just because we live in the real world and real things happen. None is protected from natural dangers but what we know is that we don’t face them alone. God is with us and the church family tries to be there. God’s presence is like the story told about the Cherokee Indian ritual for boys becoming men. They are blind-folded and taken to the deep forest where they are supposed to stay the whole night without removing the blindfold. If they survived the night without being eaten by the animals, then they have passed the ritual of being men. This one young indian went through the ritual and was so scared through the night as the animals walked near-by and made scary noises. When the morning came he removed his blindfold and on the right was his father. The son asked, “Where were you when all those animals came by at night?” The father responded, “I never left you.” The father was there the whole night protecting his son from the animals, yet the son did not know it. In the same was we are so blindfolded by problems that we fail to experience God in our midst. In our scary life, God does not leave us but he is there for us.
- Through it we will become stronger Christians: Here are some realities that we sometimes have to contend with when the devil is raging war against us in all aspects of our lives: Develop a strong foundation as we go through trying moments; we don’t have all the answers about all that is happening to us. Only God has all the answers; we have a choice about how we act or react to the situation; we have to take each day at a time; we live in a world where good is not always rewarded and bad behavior seems to go unpunished; faith is built on believing that the ultimate purpose of God on us will come to pass. We can know the ultimate purpose of God on Job when we read the last chapter of the book of Job (42) to see what happened at the end. The Lord changed his fortune. Job’s friends were not useful at the beginning but finally they took a moment to pray and things started to change. Job had to forgive his friends to prompt God to act. His blessings were doubled. “And the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning: 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke oxen, and 1,000 she donkeys.” His family was also restored with seven boys and three girls. Worth noting here is that his three daughters got their names recorded in the Bible (Jemimah, Keziah, and Karenhappuch). We also learn that he gave his daughters an inheritance like his boys (“…and their father gave an inheritance to them along with their brothers” Job 42:15b). Job lived 140 years after this and he was able to see four generations of his children. We read that he died a satisfied life. Not all of us will experience total restoration like Job while in this world but what we know is that God is true to his words. People who have held to their faith even at difficult times truly become a real witness of the Lord. I have had several experiences when I visit people at their death-bed and they became a source of encouragement to me even though I was going to encourage them. I have asked God to use my death-bed moments to become a witness of Him and his goodness. I would like to die a happy man. Hob’s friends, instead of becoming a source of encouragement, discouraged him. They passed judgment on Job and concluded that the suffering of Job was caused by sin while we know that God had said Job was the most righteous man that lived in his days. When we meet people who are struggling with their faith or going through painful moments in their life, our call is to encourage them in all ways, not to pass any judgment or try to offer answers.
- In suffering we become God’s witnesses: Often when we visit with people struggling with their faith we learn about God’s faithfulness. When we ar tested we turn to God and in doing so we develop new ways of relating to God. Every experience of life gives us a new understanding of the situation. Sometimes our closest friends can be a source of discouragement. Some can easily pass judgment on us but we have to remain faithful to the God who is and be aware of what is going on. As we struggle to look for answers of life we may never find answers. A baby that loses their parent to a drunk driver, a shooter, a fire, suicide, hate groups … But these experiences may provide the opportunity for them that have gone through it to be vessels that God can use to reach those who are going through the same.