Sunday, March 5, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 1, Introduction

When Bad Things Happen To Good People:
A Study Of The Book Of Job
Day 1

We begin our study of the book of Job today, a book that deals with the problem of human suffering. More specifically, it deals with the fact that troubles come into the life of both the righteous and the wicked. Jesus alluded to this puzzling enigma when He said of God the Father, "He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:45b) It's easy for us to understand bad things happening to bad people, but it makes us intensely uncomfortable to contemplate bad things happening to good people. It makes us uncomfortable because we don't understand it. It offends our worldly sense of justice. It confuses our human way of thinking which tells us that good people should only receive blessings and rewards. 

Job himself will make a very profound and spiritually mature statement by asking this question, "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" As we look back on our lives, each of us can see that the Lord was merciful to us even when we were lost in sin, graciously making the sun to shine on us when we were still going astray. Though we deserved nothing but stormy weather and punishment for our waywardness, God showed us goodness and grace. On the other side of this same coin, we find that God sometimes makes the rain fall on us even when we are living in His will and following closely in His footsteps. After we come to Christ and as we strive daily to be more and more like Him, we tend to feel we deserve only the best. We have been adopted by God through Christ and are now His sons and daughters; therefore we expect nothing but blessings. But God's own Son, His natural Son, His perfect and holy Son, suffered in this fallen world. The Lord Jesus wisely pointed out that the servant is not greater than his master, and if Christ our Master was persecuted in this wicked world, we who follow Him should also expect troubles. (John 15:20) 

The world hated Christ and the world hates Christians. Satan bruised the heel of Christ and he likewise torments Christians. If the Lord Jesus Christ experienced suffering in this world, who are we to think we can avoid it? If the holy Son of God "learned obedience from what He suffered" (Hebrews 5:8) dare we mortal beings attempt to shun suffering or count ourselves worthy of escaping it? If the Lord Jesus Christ was willing to leave all the treasures of heaven to come to earth in the flesh and suffer along with mankind, do we have the right to refuse to suffer along with our Redeemer?

I daresay that nothing has shipwrecked the faith of mankind any more than the problem of suffering. This is the thing which has caused so many to turn their backs on God and say, "If there is a God, why does He allow this? If there is a God, why didn't He heal my child? If there is a God, why doesn't He stop disasters from happening? If there is a God, why doesn't He put an end to war, to disease, to hunger? If there is a God, doesn't He love me? Doesn't He see my pain? Doesn't He care about my suffering?" 

Such questions assume that if God is good, He would not allow suffering. Such questions suggest that we are wiser than God and that we know best. This is the same as saying, "If I were God, I would put an end to sickness and death. I would stop all the hurricanes and tornadoes and earthquakes. I would beat all the swords into plowshares and the spears into pruning hooks, ending wars on the earth. I would eradicate injustice and cruelty. This world would be perfect and we would live forever in it." But.....God did create a perfect world, and God did create mankind with the ability to live forever in it. It was man who brought the curse upon creation, not God. It was man who brought death and decay and suffering into the world. We might be tempted to ask, "But why didn't God create man incapable of sin so these things wouldn't happen?" I can't tell you the answer to this, but I have an inkling that our relationship with our Creator would be so very shallow if He had not created us with the ability to fall. I believe there are aspects of God's character we would never glimpse if we didn't have to ask for His help, if we didn't have to daily rely on Him for all things. Could we worship Him if we didn't need His mercy? Could we love Him if we didn't need His grace? Lives of comfort, ease, and pleasure tend to make us shallow rather than deep. Prosperity often puts distance between us and God. If this world were nothing but sweetness and light, comfort and pleasure....would we ever think about God at all?

When is it that we learn the most about God? Is it during our good times or our bad times? When the Son of God was made flesh and dwelt among us, even He learned something new about God the Father. And He learned something new about mankind. The Bible tells us that the Son of God "learned obedience through suffering". This doesn't mean there was anything disobedient in the Son of God, but that in the flesh He identified Himself with mankind. He learned what it was like to exist in a fallen world and to suffer the trials of this fallen world. Though He was sinless, He saw how hard it is for us here. He experienced what it's like to live in a mortal body, to be hungry and thirsty and tired, to be persecuted and betrayed, to be tempted and tried, to suffer mental and emotional and physical pain. In becoming a man, Jesus learned how hard it is to be us and to remain obedient in a wicked and hurtful world. In becoming a man, Jesus saw God from our perspective. He knows how difficult it is for us to accept the fact that bad things happen to good people. He can see why it's so puzzling to us that a good God allows trouble to come into the lives of good people. Christ's own suffering was difficult for Him even though He knew the redeeming purpose for it; He now empathizes with the difficulty we have in accepting suffering when we do not know its purpose. 

As we study the book of Job we will not solve the problem of suffering. Job himself will not receive an answer to his questions. But he is able to make peace with God even though God does not provide him with an explanation. I hope we will be able to do the same.

In our introductory session today I've asked a lot of questions, questions intended to make all of us think deeply about the nature of suffering and the nature of God our Creator. The book of Job is a book of questions. Job will ask questions of God. Job will ask questions of the friends who come to comfort him. Job's friends will ask some very unkind and accusatory questions of him. And finally, at the end of the book, God will show up and ask His own questions. 

I think the main question of the book of Job is: do we remain faithful to God, and keep loving God, even when He doesn't give us an explanation? Are we willing to follow Him even when we don't understand? Are we able to trust that He is good and that His purposes are good even when bad things happen to good people? These are questions each of us must answer for ourselves.

Below is our worship song link for today.

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