Monday, April 27, 2009

How to Maintain Your Piety in Suffering: A Lesson on Job 2 By Terry L. Pruitt

Text: Job 2

Main Idea: You and I need to receive both good and evil from the Lord.


Probably one of the most prayed for requests in the American church is the request for healing. Some churches are looking for dramatic healing each week. Other feel it is a good thing to do just so one show he is concerned for the other party. It is good because it shows symbolically that one cares. Whether a prayer for healing is offered with skepticism or faith does not negate the fact that some of the most common forms of suffering in America are health related. This sort of suffering shakes us to our core. Unless the Lord returns, chances are most of us we die from an accident or a disease that causes our health to fail. Some people suffer life long illness while others suffer just a little at the end of a long life. Our health will be an issue. Will it cause us to be bitter or will we be someone who flourishes spiritually as the physical man is passing away. I have a great-great-great aunt who never married. She died at the age of 18. She became ill of a lung infection and never recovered. Lill' was her name. One of the things said at her funeral was that she did not complain about her illness. She faced her situation with courage. May we all do the same.

Situation Normal
1. You and I can receive both good and evil from the Lord because we know the righteous sometimes suffer for being righteous. In Job 2:3 we see God call attention to Job's righteousness and that this is the reason that Satan asks to attack Job's health. American Christians do not for the most part suffer for their faith. Some American Christians do suffer martyrdom but this not a common experience for the church. Americans do suffer but not in the same desperate way that people do in the less developed world. When we do suffer we complain and quickly blame God for our troubles or say that he some how does not interfere in such cases. We question why. Philip Jenkins in his book the The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity he says the philosophical “problem of evil” is not a big one in the places where the church is growing the most, Africa and South America. The Christians there expect to suffer for righteousness sake. They actually may live a life of suffering and are experienced in this regard. They actually do expect God to interfere in their suffering by various means. In America where we suffer less relatively we find it more of a philosophical or existential problem. Christians in Africa and South America find it more of a pragmatic issue that they suffer.

Discipline can mean training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character. The writer of Hebrews 12:3-11 talks about discipline as coming from the Lord as a sign of the Christian being a son of God. Does the discipline Hebrews 12 mean that God is correcting sin or can this mean mold or perfect? Why or why not?

Some have said that if we do not suffer, we should at least go visit the hospital, nursing home and prison to understand suffering and grow in Christ. Why or why not might this work?

2. You and I can receive both good and evil from the Lord by discerning whether a message spoken is true or not. Clearly Job's wife in chapter 2 verse 9 is discouraged and is possibly speaking from frustration or depression. While we may make excuses for her, her discussion with Job is seen as sinful. As human beings, we generally are looking for answers and solutions when we suffer. We may not think through what is being said but we are ready to try many things to relieve suffering. In the movie 'O Brother Where Art Thou' which takes place in the 1930s, a period of national suffering, one of the characters reminds people periodically that “everyone is looking for answers”. The thing about looking for answers, sometimes we are willing to try them on for size just because we are suffering and seek relief. It is good to be open minded, but an open mind is like a good window. Keep a screen up to keep out the bugs. Job's wife has a bad message. She not only is speaking discouraging message, she is advocating sin. Since people sometimes react poorly in suffering we must be on our guard when we suffer to not listen to those who themselves are misguided.

What are the places where the world is “looking for answers?”

The Christian community sometimes looks for answers in places other than the Scripture. Where is that? When is this acceptable and when is it not acceptable?

The Third Commandment
3. You and I can receive both good and evil from the Lord by guarding our lips. Job does not sin with his lips. We can see an emphasis on this idea that man should not curse God in what Satan says in verse 5, in what Job's wife says in verse 9, and then in what Job says in verse 10. There are many summaries of the book of Job that leave out this huge theme Job's resistance to sinning by cursing God. We find cursing God as common place and ordinary. We just regard it that that someone is simply frustrated. The most pious among us might think that someone is sinning by cursing God. Few would find this an issue on the same level as say murder or adultery. But resisting sin by not cursing God is a major theme of the book.

Our mouth can complain and cause everyone to be discouraged. We can also encourage people with our words. Words have power. We definitely want to steer clear of those in the Word of Faith camp which says our words basically control the universe and cause good or bad to happen. This sort of magical view of words is not consistent with what Scripture says about our words, but we can sin with our words. We can talk carelessly and cause other to be discouraged through our words. We can also talk in such a way that we are advocating doctrine without thinking it through. The 10 commandments has a special command about not cursing using God's name or using God's name carelessly. Our society would make little issue of someone breaking this commandment, yet it is a major theme in the book of Job.

What doctrine does Job's wife advocate?

Sometimes words almost do seem magical. We pronounce someone man and wife. This pronouncement is really an official declaration of a larger complex set of relationship of actions. A marriage license has been obtained. A ceremony has been performed. The pronouncement by itself does not make a couple married but we say that it does. Why or why not are these words important? Are they merely tradition?

Beyond conveying an idea, what power do words have?

Some say the opposite of love is apathy. Others would say the opposite of love it hate. What is the opposite of cursing God?

Is it okay to question God when we suffer?
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