The topic given to me is on how to have strength through trials. I thought it would be useful to share with you a little about my life so that you can understand that teaching on trials is not something that is merely theoretical. I came from a broken home, as many children do continue to experience today. My mother had an affair on my father which brought about a divorce while I was in elementary school. Let me say as an aside that I do not care what psychologists and our culture come along and say today, children experiencing the divorce of their parents, even if their parents are fighting and screaming, is painful and causes great difficulties for children as they grow up. There are very weighty burdens that the children carry. Further, our third daughter, Grace, was born with Prader-Willi syndrome which is an abnormality of the fifteenth chromosome. Having a child with a disability has brought about another world of difficulties and suffering. Every parent knows that watching your child suffer and go through problems, particularly problems that have no cure or solution, is extremely difficult. Every parent would rather suffer ten times over than see their children suffer at all. So I tell you these things simple to make the point that I am not preaching a sermon to you. The study that I am sharing with you comes from my own personal journey of how to live your life when life does not go according to plan and when your life hands you great trials and difficulties. The book of Job has been the book I have turned to for understanding through all these things. There have been other passages that have been formative and instructive to me. But the book of Job, particularly the first two chapters, have been the anchor to my life.
The first five verses of the first chapter of Job tell us that Job was greatly blessed by God and that the reason for his suffering was not because of his sinfulness. The introduction goes out of its way to prove to us that what is about to happen to Job is not caused by his own actions. The friends will make that charge of Job but we know from these verses that these events are not the consequences of his own sinful actions. But as we consider the book of Job we must recognize that Job is not the only person on trial. In fact, we have another person who is put on trial. God is put on trial.
Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” (Job 1:9–11 ESV)
Did you notice the charge that is laid against the Lord? Satan charges God with this problem: People only serve God selfishly. People only serve God because of what you do for them. Mortals only worship God out of self-interest. We see this charge in Satan’s words: “You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.” Job serves you because you have put a hedge around him. You bless whatever he does. You are too good to him. If you were not good to him, then he would not serve. “Touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.”
Why do you serve God?
This becomes the life question for Job, the essence of the trial. It is also our life question and the essence of every trial we face. To put the question another way: Is it God himself that Job cherishes or is it the earthly pleasures that God gives that Job cherishes?
As we continue to read through the first chapter of Job we learn that in a single day Job lost all of his wealth, all of his means for income, all of his servants, all of his animals, and all of his children. Everything has been completely wiped out by the hand of Satan. We cannot begin to appreciate the total devastation that Job has experienced. Job does not lose just one child, but ten of them all on the same day. He has lost his job. He has lost every dollar in his bank account. Job is totally crushed. You can read this in verse 20: “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head.” These are common actions in the ancient near eastern society to express great suffering and woe. But listen to what else he does. “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped.” (Job 1:20 ESV) He fell on the ground and worshiped God. Further, listen to what he declares as he worships.
And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21 ESV)
How can Job say this? How can Job go through all these things and still not sin or charge God with wrong, as verse 22 declares? Further, Satan comes after Job a second time, declaring that mortals will give up anything to keep their lives and their health. But take his health away and Job will curse you to your face. So Satan wrecks Job’s health to such a degree that his friends did not recognize him (2:12) and we are told that his suffering “was very great” (2:13).
What Job says must become life transforming for us if we are going to endure trials and handle them in the way that Job did. Carefully consider Job 1:21 and the perspective that Job has. This is the perspective that we must adopt. We start with nothing. No one came into this world with anything. Every single one of us has absolutely nothing at the start. Therefore, everything we have is a gift and blessing from God that is completely undeserved. The problem is that we start with all kinds of expectations for life. We think we that we should be married, have a good job, make a lot of money, have a nice house, have 2.5 children, and live until we are 95 years old dying in our sleep when we are good and ready to die. But who is to say that we are supposed to be married? Who says that we are supposed to be happily married all our lives? Who says that we will have healthy children? Who says that we won’t come from broken families? Who says that we will have a good job? Who says he will have a house? We pile up all of these expectations on life and then when something does not go the way we want, we curse God, get depressed, get angry, or leave the Lord altogether. Who says that I am not supposed to have a disabled child? Who says that I will outlive my children? Who says that I will have great health? Listen to Job’s words in Job 2:10.
“Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10 ESV)
Everything we have is gift of God that is completely undeserved. I do not deserve to live a long life. I am a wretched sinner that God has shown grace to continue my life this long. I do not deserve a family. I do not deserve good health. I don’t deserve wealth. God owes me nothing. This is exactly what Job is saying. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked shall I return.” Everything in the middle is God’s gracious gifts. This is what Job says in 2:10. He has received good from the Lord. This needs to be our attitude toward life. Everything I am and everything I have is the gift of God. God does not owe me everything.
Consider how this godly attitude will change everything about how we handle life. If I have all of these expectations of how my life is supposed to go and all that God is supposed to do for me, then my life will be filled with disappointment and frustration. Nothing in life goes according to plan. We need the reality check that we are not in control. We like to think we are in control. But something can happen to us this very night that will radically change everything about our lives. But what would happen if we had the attitude of Job. Everything in life is undeserved grace. Now I will not be disappointed or frustrated. Rather I will be thankful and grateful. Now I am thankful to even have three children rather than upset that one is disabled. If I lose my family I am thankful to God that I had them as long as I did, rather than presuming the way things were going to go. If I die today, I am grateful to God that I had 38 years of life rather than angry for not making it to 90. You see when we rid ourselves of false expectations, recognize that we came with nothing and leave with nothing, and everything today is the gift of God, my whole life changes. Now I can handle my trials. Who says that my parents were to stay married until their death? Instead of being angry, I am grateful for what I did have. Even though it was painful and difficult, I am grateful to God for carrying me through and teaching me from it so that I could become more of what he wants to be in sanctification.
It boils down to the question Satan poses: is it God that we love or do we merely love what he does for us? So many people who think they are followers and lovers of God follow for what God does for them and not for who God is. Job’s wife is the classic example of this. Notice what she says to Job.
Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9 ESV)
She says that there is no reason to serve God if you lose everything. You need to curse God and die. This is the challenge of Satan. Will mortals serve God if we lose it all? Will we still serve God if God was not the giver of every good gift in our lives? Consider that this is the thinking that Job slips into. When the friends start charging Job with wrong in chapter 4, we see Job fall into that false thinking. God should be blessing the righteous! Job begins to challenge God’s policy of not doing good at all times. Satan challenged God for being too good to humanity and Job challenges God for not being good enough.
Four Truths For Trials
1. Satan’s aim is to destroy our joy in God.
God wants us to find our complete joy and satisfaction in him alone. This is what it means for Jesus to call himself “the bread of life.” We are to see him, who he is, as all-satisfying to our lives. Satan wants to destroy that joy in God. There are two ways that Satan tries to destroy our joy. The first way is through pain. Satan uses pain in life to make us think that God is powerless, that God does not care and will not act. In trials we often default into asking where is God and why God. Satan is trying to destroy our joy and faith in God. “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” The second way Satan wants to destroy our joy in God is through pleasure. Satan fills us with pleasure so that we will think that God is not necessary. Why do I need joy in God when I have so much pleasure and comfort now? These are the two dangers that we must look for as we walk with God. Do not walk away from God during the good times. Do not walk away from God during the difficult times. Satan is trying through these tools to destroy our joy in God.
2. Our purpose in trials is to show the world that God is more glorious and more valuable than anything else in life.
Listen to the very short parable of Jesus:
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44 ESV)
We easily blow right by this short parable but the meaning is very deep. Jesus is the treasure. Nothing is more important than pursuing Jesus and his kingdom. Trials are not greater than our joy in Christ. We will endure anything in this life because Jesus is far more valuable than anything I must endure. In fact, not only is pursuing Jesus of greater value than anything else, I will sacrifice anything for him joyfully. Have you ever asked how Paul and Silas were singing in prison after being beaten? How can we count it all joy when we fall into various trials as James teaches? How can Paul call all that we suffer a “light momentary affliction?” How can Paul rejoice in his thorn in the flesh? The answer is that we will give it all away with JOY to possess Jesus and belong to his kingdom because he is all-satisfying. We are showing the world that. It does not matter what happens to me. I will still will love Jesus because he is my joy, my comfort, my strength, and my all. Consider again what Paul commanded.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” (Ephesians 6:10 ESV)
Be strong in what? Be strong in yourself? Be strong in your wisdom? Be strong in your plan? Be strong in your expectations for life? NO! Be strong in the Lord. Our strength derives from his might, not our own. We are not strong in ourselves. Our lives are frail and things go terribly wrong. Our strength is in the Lord because he is more glorious and valuable than anything in life. When the world and this life is the treasure then my joy is destroyed. When Jesus is my treasure then my joy cannot be destroyed. Satan aims to destroy our joy but he can’t because our joy is in the Lord and that cannot be destroyed. Jesus is the treasure.
3. God limits what Satan can do.
My joy is sustained all the more when I know that God has promised to not allow me to go through more than I can handle. The first and second chapters of Job show that Satan cannot do anything unless God oversees that event. God put limits on what Satan could do in each encounter. In Job 1:12 Satan could not touch Job. In Job 2:6 Satan could not kill Job. God is watching over your life and is constraining Satan. This is the confident hope that Paul gave to the Corinthians Christians.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV)
The word translated “temptation” is translated “trial” in other locations in the scriptures and some translations like the NRSV actually render this verse, “No trial has overtaken you.” Trials and temptations are two sides of the same coin. If you are going through temptations, then it is a trying of your faith. If you are going through trials, you are tempted to lose your faith in God. Trials and temptations work together. God will not let what is happening to you be greater than what you can handle. God will provide a way for your endurance. We have strength through trials know that God is for us and with us and is protecting us from shipwreck.
4. Our faith must be tested to prove it genuine.
We may ask the question why God allows Satan to do these things. We are not given direct answers this question. In fact, the book of Job has no intention of answering that question. When God confronts Job at the end of the book, consider that God never explains why the trial happens, the whole scene with Satan, or anything like that. God’s speech does not defend his justice or his sovereignty. Instead, God defends his wisdom and power. We are to trust in the promises of God. Faith is proven genuine through testing, according to the apostle Peter in the first chapter of his letter. Unfortunately, our character is not molded through good times but difficult times. We need trials to move us closer to God and become more of what God wants us to be. Therefore, we accept the challenges of life with joy, grateful for every gift. We deserve nothing and God owes us nothing. When we change our expectations we will see that God is gracious and provides us with so much. You and I have been blessed so richly. Trials are needed to refine our faith and God watches over us through our trials, insuring that we are not experiencing too much.
Our life purpose is to serve God because he is better than anything. By doing so, even in the midst of trials, we show the world the superior worth of God.
For our invitation tonight, I would like to complete the story of Job as it is recorded in the 42nd chapter. Something amazing has happened to Job. Job has seen the glory of the Lord in spectacular fashion. God has come to Job in a whirlwind, which I believe is a tornado. The lightning has been flashing and the thunder has been booming as God spoke with Job. Job stopped looking at himself and was radically transformed by encountering God. There are three things that Job learns from the trials he experienced at Satan’s hand, which are three things we must learn from our trials by keeping our eyes on the glory of Christ.
1. God is in charge (42:2). We need to remember this. We are not in charge. We are not in control. We are not god. This should be a cause for relief. This knowledge should cause us to let go of the grip that we have so tightly on our lives. I do not have to be in a panic. I do not have to jump out the proverbial window when troubles strike. God rules. God reigns. I am entrusting my life in his hands. He will provide. He has promised as much. Therefore I can simply ask, “How can I bring glory to God through my suffering?” This is what Jesus did. Jesus brought glory to God through his suffering. What can we do to magnify God through the trials we face. God is in control and we must point people to that glory even in our pain.
2. God’s wisdom makes our wisdom nothing (42:3). Job says, “Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand.” How often we think we know what is best during a trial! We think that God has made a monstrous mistake and that things are just not right. Our expectations for life become shattered and we do not see the light at the end of the tunnel. But will we recognize that God is God? Do you serve a God that you are smarter than?
For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:25 ESV)
3. We are guilty and evil to challenge God (42:6). Job is declared a righteous person at the beginning of the book. But because of his attitude and words toward God through the trial, Job said to the Lord, “Therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” We need to repent of our lack of faith in God. We start off acknowledging the faith of Job but later fall under the weight of the trial. We must repent of putting ourselves on the throne and making ourselves ruler over our lives. God is the supreme ruler and he has proven his love for us by sending his Son to die on our behalf. There is nothing else God can do to show his love for us. Place your life in the hands of God. He is compassionate and loving and he will carry you through.