[O]ften, our trials bring us very near to our God. Your children run down the meadow to play, and they get a good way off from home in the sunny day, as they ramble along gathering their buttercups and daisies; but by-and-by, the sun sets, and night comes on, and now they cry to be at home. Just so; and you, in all your pretty ways of pleasure in your happy home, though you are a child of God, sometimes forget him. Sorrowfully must you remember that sad fact. But now the night comes on, and there is danger all around you; so you begin to cry for your Father, and you would fain be back to fellowship with him; and that is a blessed trouble which brings us near to our God. Christ’s sheep ought to be thankful for the ugly black dog that keeps them from going astray, or fetches them back when they have wandered from the Shepherd. Perhaps Christ will call that black dog off when he has answered the Master’s purpose, and brought you near his side.
Yesterday while I was thinking about this next sermon in the Job series, I was also wrestling with the frustrations and failures and injustices that led to the recent horror we witnessed together in Minneapolis via someone’s cell phone camera–namely, the slow choking death of George Floyd as he lay in handcuffs on the ground, with a police officer’s knee on his neck. I thought about the fact that he probably left his home with the idea that it was any other night, and it would end like any other night. I’m aware of the statements about the forged bill and all that, but it hardly seems relevant, let alone in proportion to what happened.
I find myself looking at this as another in a long series of microcosms pointing to the evils and injustices not just hiding in a corner, but out in the wide open ruling over this world. I thought about how so many people have to consider their actions carefully every day, not knowing what may happen to them just like George Floyd had no idea what would happen to him. We all value our ability to live safely and feel safe at home, yet it’s such a shell, so easily broken whether on purpose or accident.
It’s easy, when considering these things, to begin to feel their weight very deeply. I have to often remind myself that when I confess faith in Christ, I’m not simply saying “I believe Jesus exists and that He did a thing.” What I’m saying is, I trust Him with my all. I trust Him to be who He says He is–the King, the Savior, and the One who is guiding me every step of the way. That reminder, that confession, is needed when despair creeps in, and it creeps in easily at times like this.
It’s difficult for Christians often to process the horrors and evils and frustrations, both personal and corporate, of living in a sinful and broken world. We look at our holy, just, and loving God, and we ask the same question any other person would ask at such times: Why? Why does a just God allow injustice to continue its iron-fisted rule? Why does a loving God allow loveless fury to reign in the streets and in the hearts of so many?
We are continuing our Scripture Sunday reading through the book of Job, as Job and his friends debate the meaning of suffering in a world governed by a just, holy and good God. Join us and please remember to subscribe to our podcast feed for more great podcast content!
Dave and Jarod continue their discussing of the book Power Religion with the section titled Power Within, on the issue of psychology and its influence on modern theology and church counseling. This section especially is a great one to read, so we really recommend getting the book and checking it out yourself. The guys are joined by Denton-area biblical counselor Adam Sandlin who gives some fantastic insights into the thoughts the authors shared, and why psychology may help build moral citizens, but it is not sufficient to transform hearts.
We’re continuing through the book of Job, as he and his friends continue to wrestle with understanding what it means for a man to experience suffering in the face of the truth about God: He is good, just, and sovereign. Many in our world take the presence of suffering as proof that God does not exist, or that He is not good. But that answer is neither true nor satisfying, and as we continue through the text both here and in our Spurgeon Audio series we will see how God speaks to this difficult issue.
Put not your trust in anything beneath the stars; remember that “Change” is written on the fore-front of nature. Say not therefore, “My mountain standeth firm: it shall never be moved;” the glance of Jehovah’s eye can shake thy mountain into dust, the touch of his foot can make it like Sinai, to melt it like wax, and to be alttogether on a smoke. “Set your affection on things above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God, and let your heart and your treasure be where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal.”
The weight on the hearts of believers everywhere is of a sort that I don’t know we’ve experienced in the lifetimes of any but a few currently living. We have become accustomed to individual struggles and sufferings, but it seems to me that few of us have a real concept for mass or cultural sufferings that is actually our own.
For Western Christians we have been used for a long time to having the sufferings we face be more limited in that way. Though our culture may regard us with a general side-eye of distrust, they don’t actively oppress or persecute us. Though they may say silly and ridiculous things about “hate” regarding our theology, they don’t turn away from hospitals with denominational names emblazoned across the front. And we have enjoyed, for the most part, a great deal of liberty to worship our Lord. Many have preached the gospel boldly and at the same time sought to encourage human flourishing by demonstrating that a culture that may disbelieve, yet still practices life in line with His commandments at least to some extent, succeeds and enjoys the benefits of His grace more than one that practices pagan unbelief as a matter of course.
Now we are face to face with what is, at the very least, a time of extreme discomfort and uncertainty, which threatens to grow into a time of greater disease, possibly followed by poverty, and a loss of many freedoms as well as lives. Like with Job, it seems to have come upon us rather suddenly. I know personally, I was spending the beginning of this year making plans for what I wanted this year to include, only to see so many of them dashed to pieces as businesses closed and all the ways we have been able to divert ourselves suddenly are shuttered.
Yet even though our whole culture is affected by this suffering en masse, each individual has their own particular story. I wanted to take this time, as we all walk through the frustrations and losses and heartaches that each of us finds ourselves assigned to in this time, to point to the story of Job and his dark night of the soul, as it were. I know my tendency when encountering hard times is to grit my teeth and just try to sit it out until it goes away. I am willing to bet that experience is true of a lot of people out there.
Job the Faithful Servant
The book of Job is one that I think is often misunderstood and misinterpreted. I would encourage that if you haven’t watched it already, you should take a few minutes and watch the Bible Project’s video on the book:
Job is found in the Bible alongside Proverbs and Ecclesiastes as a part of the wisdom literature. It isn’t set in an identifiable time period, although it is explicitly set in a land that was not Israel (the land of Uz), and Job was ostensibly not an Israelite. Whether or not he actually existed is unknown, but the story of Job ties together the other two wisdom books in a way that Solomon’s wisdom could not: a man who walks in the way of the wise in Proverbs seems to be reaping instead the fruit of the way of the foolish, prompting him to begin to experience the frustration and cynicism of Ecclesiastes as he pours out his deep pain to his friends.
What is more remarkable is the fact that we see clearly that God has, in fact, allowed his suffering! There is no room for debating the control God may or may not possess over evil in this narrative. We see God on the throne, allowing the enemy latitude to attack a man who God regards as a faithful and beloved servant. The question is: why? We tend to view suffering of this sort, if God is involved at all, as something that is targeted at the deserving. Surely Job is who God says he is: a faithful servant who walks in His ways joyfully.
Without spoiling too much of what is to come as we get further into the book, I want to set the theme for everything by pointing far past it deep into the words of Paul to the Romans: “All things work together for good for those who love God, and are called according to His purpose.” This sentence is a load-bearing beam in the house that is the truth of Christ we call our home, if one is truly a believer. It is not my design today to answer all the questions I have set out about Job, but rather to lay them out before you. I would propose that we all spend time considering them in light of our current experiences, and lay upon them the truth of Romans 8:28.
This is not light work, but neither is it dreary and joyless. On the contrary: when suffering comes, when the enemy has been loosed to wreak havoc, we as believers must take heart in two key truths. First, as Charles Spurgeon noted, the enemy is on a leash. The Lord may give him latitude but every blow he strikes will fall short of its mark, and in fact will serve the devil’s opposite purpose: it will sharpen and refine you, as the Lord brings before your eyes the idols you may have been clinging to until this time. Let them go and let them burn, and rejoice that God has not let you keep them.
Secondly, in the end we will see His purpose and know His glory in ways we cannot fathom now. Just as Jesus went to the cross for the joy that was set before Him and in full disregard for any earthly shame that hung on such a death, so those of us who follow after Him endure our own particular sufferings in faith that He is so much more beautiful and valuable than anything here on earth, and so much more worthy of our worship.
I hope that this series will be an encouragement to my listeners, and be sure to follow along with the Scripture Sunday podcasts as we continue to walk through the text of the book itself. Those of you who are engaged in hardship, I would invite you to reach out for prayer, whether in the comments below or through email.
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We had the privilege this week of sitting down to interview scholar, author, and professor Kyle Strobel. Of course, the name “Strobel” probably brings to mind Kyle’s father Lee, who wrote books like “The Case for Christ,” but Kyle has made his own impact on Christian literature.
As we have dug into the Power Religion book we have worked through a lot of subjects related to the topic of Kyle’s book The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb, a book that has been one of Jarod’s favorites. In particular he and co-author Jamin Goggin deal with the challenge of holding the modern church up against the truth Jesus preached often, that the one who would be the greatest in His kingdom must be the servant of all. This is a challenge to many in the modern church in many contexts. American churches often find themselves operating with a secular corporate “get it done” mentality, but how does this really jive with the words of our King?
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We are continuing through the book of Job, as we see Job’s lament and frustration with his suffering rising. His friends continue to insist that he must have sinned in a way to anger God and bring evil on himself, yet Job insists that’s not the case.
Have you experienced this in your own life? How have you worked through it? Please leave comments or feel free to email and we will pray for and encourage you. As we continue through Job both here and on Spurgeon Audio, we will try our best to wrestle through this question we all wrestle with: why do bad things happen to those who don’t seem to deserve any of it?
We are continuing through the book of Job, in preparation for the next Spurgeon Audio series in the same book. Job’s friends are beginning to try to help him reason out why he has been suffering, saying that he surely must have done something against God. Job in turn expresses frustration and confusion because he would love to accept God’s correction – if he knew what he did!
This book is a picture of the difficult balance between understanding how God can be sovereign and good, and why evil seems to continue so successfully in our world. This is not a simple or easy question, or one that can be brushed off, and we ought to wrestle with it just as deeply. Listen along and please consider supporting our podcast on Patreon.
After making a few references to it before, we are finally starting our discussion of the book Power Religion: The Selling out of the Evangelical Church? The book is actually a collection of essays from various authors, edited by Michael Horton. The book is from 1992 so some of the specific references in the book are a little dated, but the issues they discuss are very much applicable today.
We are starting with part 1, made up of essays by Charles Colson and Kenneth A. Myers. The topic is one that is perennially hot amongst American Christians especially in years like this one, where a presidential election is looming and in the midst of ongoing strife. For many years Christians have been trying to make headway in “the culture war” politically, and have been feeling defeated as they see the nation trending away from Judeo-Christian values and towards secular humanism and a more hedonistic view of pleasure and self-seeking.
But this is not what Jesus has called the church to devote its resources towards. We aren’t to take up the same methods used by the world to try to change the world. Jesus didn’t come to raise up an army and drive out the Romans, so He could establish an earthly kingdom. Rather, He defeated death itself by dying on the cross, the king becoming a humiliated and executed servant for the sake of His people. We are called to live and work like Him, while the world looks on in confusion that someone so great would give up His position for such lowly people. Our testimony of the blood of Christ is our greatest weapon of conquest.
We must never dream of terms or truce with evil. To suppose that we can let him alone, and all will be well, is a deadly error. We must fight or perish: evil will slay us if we do not slay it. Our only safety will lie in a determined, vigorous opposition to sin, whatever shape it assumes, whatever it may threaten, whatever it may promise. The Holy Ghost alone can maintain in us this enmity to sin.
Brothers and sisters, fear weighs upon all our minds. The news continues its cycle of drumming out the advancement of this unseen but deadly villain. There is good reason to feel the weight of this on us, because so much mystery surrounds it, both natural and man-made due to the lack of testing.
It is my goal with choosing this sermon to point our minds, hearts, and eyes to the focal point of our faith, to the cross of Jesus. The weight of glory waiting for Him drove Jesus to endure all the suffering and death that He did, and we place our eternal and temporal hope in that truth. Jesus promised his disciples that in following Him, they were not avoiding the sufferings of this life–they were in fact going to walk in their own sufferings, because of the hatred of this sinful world for its holy and just God. The scent of the gospel to those being saved is life, but to those who are not, it is a scent of death, a warning of the wrath to come.
Rest in the midst of anxiety – in His blood
We’ve talked about the fear and anxiety gripping the world as we continue to pass through the ongoing crisis surrounding the coronavirus. The number of cases, and the number of deaths, continue to climb. As an American I don’t always know how this kind of thing weighs on the minds of my brothers and sisters in other nations (though I would love to hear the testimonies of those who are engaging with this, and Jarod and I would like to talk about that on an upcoming Kings Highway Radio episode). But it seems that a lot of my American brethren are struggling with this especially because it’s clear that this threatens not just life, but way of life. I certainly don’t disagree with that. After all, having so many businesses forced to shutter and social interactions ranging from movie theaters to that most crucial to our lives as believers, church services, being disrupted could hardly be more troubling to our hearts. And beyond that, the looming threat of global recession, job loss, and whatever may come beyond it that we cannot see.
The Lord knows all this, and more than that, He rules over it in ways and to ends we cannot know at this time. We don’t long for pain and suffering, but neither should we allow ourselves to buck against it in anger and ingratitude. Jesus knows, and though His rod of discipline may fall, His love is not less for His children. Don’t forget the reminder of the writer of Hebrews that God disciplines those whom He loves, and this time as all other hardships and evils that have befallen us and those who came before us will obey the words of Paul in Romans 8:28: all things work together for the good of those who love God, and are called according to His purpose.
That should encourage peace in our hearts. I don’t write this as one who sits above the fray with no fears weighing on his own heart, but as one preaching this to himself as well. The blood of Christ preached in this sermon is sufficient for all the evils of my life, and by that blood I go before the Father and ask daily for strength, for peace of heart and mind, and for encouragement when I see the black unknown of this world looming before me. I pray the same encouragement for all of you, and I especially pray for those of you who do not know God in Jesus Christ who He sent, that you would feel the weight of His call on your hearts, and turn, and rest in Him.
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