February 22, 2017

An Unshakeable Trust in God

The Book of Job examines the problem of human suffering. It is the account of a man of integrity, Job, who was the instrument in this divine object lesson. In Job 1:1 we read a description of Job: “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” It is noteworthy that all four of the characteristics ascribed to Job in this verse were favorable.

Job was a family man; he had seven sons and three daughters. He was also a wealthy individual; verse 3 details his possessions: “His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.”

Satan questioned Job’s motives for serving God, asserting that this upright man did so only for the benefits he received. So God allowed Satan to test Job’s faithfulness. He withdrew the protective hedge from around Job, and Satan took his possessions, his family, and finally his health. However, the enemy could not touch Job’s most valuable asset—his faith and trust in God.

Along with the loss of everything he held dear, Job’s sufferings included having to endure the accusations of his friends (using the term “friends” quite loosely). After all he had gone through, these men simply sat and stared at him for a week before they opened their mouths. Actually, it may have been easier for Job if they had never opened their mouths. When they did speak, they seemed to be bursting with counsel and advice, but they were classic examples of those who utter words without knowledge (see Job 38:2). They clearly revealed the limitations of human wisdom.

Job questioned the reason for his suffering as he endured these terrible events. Why did God allow it? What was the reason he was going through this? He did not understand what was happening.

Job questioned the reason for his suffering as he endured these terrible events. Why did God allow it? What was the reason he was going through this? He did not understand what was happening. Job asked questions of himself, of the friends who challenged him, and of God. Interestingly, God never answered his questions specifically. The understanding Job ultimately received was that God is God. He does not owe an explanation for what He allows or for what He does. He is sovereign!

The Lord spoke to Job out of a whirlwind, asking, “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2). Job had protested that if only he had opportunity to stand in the presence of God and plead his case, he would fill his mouth with arguments. However, when God spoke, Job had little to say. He responded with the same words that God had used to him, “I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge?” (Job 42:2-3). In effect he was saying, “Who am I to doubt God or to interrogate Him? Who am I to seek answers to the mysteries that God chooses to withhold?” Continuing on in verse 3 we read his acknowledgement: “Therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.” There was no answer other than the fact that God was sovereign and did not need to justify Himself, and Job reached that conclusion. He realized that he did not need an answer if God chose not to provide it.

At the conclusion of the trial, Job’s prosperity and his standing in the community were restored, and he ended up living one hundred and forty more years. In Job 42:17 we read, “So Job died, being old and full of days.” Job died a happy man! He was in the will of God, just as he had been during the period of time that he suffered.

Job did not know what was going on in the spiritual realm at his time of trial. He was unaware that Satan had accused him in the presence of God, implying that his loyalty to God could be bought. He did not know that God had granted permission for the protective hedge around him to be taken down so that his prosperity would disappear. He was unaware when Satan came back to God the second time and declared that if Job’s health were taken, he would curse God to His face. Job had no knowledge of the fact that in order to prove Satan wrong, God gave permission for Satan to afflict Job in his physical body. All Job knew was that he was suffering in every way imaginable, and that his friends insisted hidden sin was the reason for the losses he had experienced. He did not realize that he was engaged in a spiritual conflict.

The fact is, we are all engaged in spiritual conflict. Like Job, we do not know what is going on behind the scenes. What we do know is that we are engaged in spiritual warfare with the enemy of our souls. We also know what Job learned—that God is sovereign and He owes us no explanation for what He sends our way.

Perhaps the most important truth to comprehend is that Job was the same man before he lost everything as he was in the midst of adversity.

As we fight our spiritual battles, we can learn some lessons from the man Job. Perhaps the most important truth to comprehend is that Job was the same man before he lost everything as he was in the midst of adversity. The mettle of this man was revealed in those testing times. He was a blessed man—he was prosperous; he had family around him who looked to him, and others in society sought his counsel as well. However, it was not until he lost all of those external benefits that his true character was revealed.

There are seven attributes in Job’s life that we can learn from and model after.

Job was a man of integrity

The first attribute we can note about Job is that he was a man of integrity. That integrity, described in Job 1:1, had four aspects: Job was “perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” The word translated perfect is from a Hebrew word meaning, “gentle” or “dear.” Perhaps some men in today’s society would not want to be characterized in that manner. However, the mark of true manhood is not the ability to bark orders as proof of one’s authority. In fact, an attempt to dominate and control may be a mark of one who lacks manliness. A perfect man in this sense might be one we would label a “gentleman.”

Job was not only “perfect” but he was also “upright.” This offers a picture of a straight, even path rather than a crooked and uneven one. As we look back on our lives, we want to see a record of unswerving principle. There is value in that! Our path is not constructed solely on Sundays when we are at church. It is also constructed at home and in the workplace and in the school on a daily basis. We want a straight and even track record wherever we go. This is what it means to be upright.

Job feared God; he was reverent toward Him and serious in his approach to the Almighty. We should have the same attitude and approach to the Lord. Job eschewed evil—he abstained from even the appearance of wrongdoing. Like Job, we should not allow anything in our lives that would compromise our integrity. Temptation comes to everyone—we all will have opportunities to prove our character—but we want to turn away from anything that might compromise our testimony. Integrity is who we are when no one else is around. We want to be people of strong moral principles whether others can see what we are doing or not.

Job was a man of prayer

Job was a man of prayer; he carried a burden for his family. In the description of this upright man we are told that he “rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all” (Job 1:5). His family knew that he prayed; they saw him pray. Others do not always know everything we encounter in life, but they learn a lot about us when they see us facing the heat of the battle—when things seem to be going horribly wrong. Job was a man of prayer, and we want that to be our testimony as well. Our prayerfulness can be an example to others.

Over the years, it has been interesting to watch our children, and now our grandchildren, model the behavior of the adults around them. When our son was young, I gave him a toy lawn mower. When I would mow our lawn, he would come along behind me, pushing his toy mower. When I washed the car, he wanted a rag to help wash it too, even when he was so young he could barely walk. Recently we were in Roseburg celebrating my dad’s ninetieth birthday. I saw my two-year-old grandson, Moses, going back and forth across the lawn with a little toy lawn mower. He was oblivious to the fact that many of the sixty or so people present were watching him! He was modeling behavior that he had seen. Wherever you are in life, you are setting an example of behavior, and others are noticing. May our example include prayerfulness.

Job was consistent

Job’s life was one of steadiness and consistency. In many ways he was predictable. According to chapter 29, he had been a respected magistrate and judge in the city, and was held in high regard for his good deeds in serving the people. He had helped manage the community and settle disputes to the extent that even the aged and the noble honored him. In his time of trial, though his friends assumed his suffering must have been caused by some great sin, they could not point to a single instance where Job’s behavior could be faulted. He was that consistent, dependable, and reliable. He rightly could say, “My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined” (Job 23:11).

Job had hope

Even though Job was in despair regarding the trials that had come his way, he had hope. We might wonder how hope could exist in the face of despair, but it did in Job’s case. In spite of his suffering, he knew there was a better day coming. He affirmed, “I know that my Redeemer liveth” (Job 19:25), and believed that in his flesh he would see God. Everything in his life seemed to have shattered into pieces around him, but his faith and trust in God still stood. In Job 23:10 we read, “He knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” He did not know if that coming forth as gold would be in this life or the life to come, but he held fast to his hope in God.

Job trusted in God

Job trusted in God though he could not feel His presence. In Job 23:8-9 we read, “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he doth work, But I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him.” At his lowest point, he exclaimed, “Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me” (Job 23:3-5). Though Job could not find God, he believed God was there and that He held the answers to what he was facing.  

Job was trusted by God

God trusted Job. It is one thing to say, “I am going to trust in God,” but can God trust us? God held Job up before Satan as an example of faithfulness. We read that when Satan appeared before Him, the Lord asked, “Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” (Job 1:8).  God himself could say of Job that he was His servant. After Satan had been permitted to take away Job’s children and his wealth, God repeated those same words the second time, and added that in spite of the trouble that had befallen Job, “still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause” (Job 2:3).  God knew that He could trust Job to triumph in this trial, so He did not hesitate to allow Satan to do his worst.

Job was patient in suffering

Finally, we see that Job endured his suffering with patience. In the New Testament, his patience is mentioned by the Apostle James. We read, “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (James 5:10-11). We certainly do not aspire to go through what Job went through—we would rather learn from observing the patience of Job than have occasion to practice it! James said that in Job’s patience we see “the end of the Lord” or in other words, we see the outcome. We learn from Job that it pays to be patient!

In Ecclesiastes 7:8 we read the words of Solomon, “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.” While we may know where a matter began, we do not always know where it will end. However, we do know that the end will be better than the beginning! Ultimately, the end is Heaven. Simply to make Heaven will more than reward a difficult journey.

James said that the Lord “is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” God is sympathetic to the hard places we go through. In Hebrews 4:15 we read, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” We have an advocate who intercedes for us even now. We see how God blessed and prospered Job in the end. And even if we do not see a positive outcome to our trials in this life, we will see it in the life to come.

Following the example of Job begins on our knees. That is where living a life of integrity and faithfulness starts, and that is how it will continue. Those who persist in trusting God through the hard places in life one day will be rewarded!

apostolic faith magazine