Sunday, July 26, 2015

Stuff Happens, The Story of the Book #4

I began by playing “the Bricklayers disaster” Video

Boy, you gotta hate that.  Maybe his name was Job, or Job Murphy, cause it seemed that anything that could go wrong did go wrong.  You might recall the story from the Old Testament book that bears the name of Job.  If you have your bible with you then you can find it by going to the middle of your Bible which should be Psalms or Proverbs and then turning toward the front. 

Job was the righteous man’s poster boy, the Bible tells us that He was blameless, a man of complete integrity, who feared God and stayed away from Evil.  And just to top it off we are told that he was the richest man in the area.  But these aren’t the things that made Job famous, and we’ve all heard of Job, even if you don’t know the story of Job you probably have heard the expression, “The patience of Job” an expression that was most often used in reference to my Mother’s dealing with her youngest child.

But you have to know the story to understand the reference.    The book of Job is the eighteenth book of the bible and the first book in the section that we refer to as Poetry & Wisdom Literature This section contains the books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs. And they are exactly what they are called, books made up of poetry in the case of the Psalms and Song of Solomon and the wisdom included in the books of Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.

We don’t know who wrote the book of Job, the Psalms were primarily written by King David we know that he wrote at least 73 of them. Other writers include his son Solomon, Moses and several others whose names you won’t recognize.  The book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon, with a couple of additional contributors.  Solomon was reputed to be the wisest man who ever lived, and if you’ve taken the time to read the proverbs you’ll understand why.

Traditionally we have been told that Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes but we don’t know that for sure, the author only identifies himself as “The Teacher”, “The Preacher” or “The Leader of the Assembly.”  Likewise tradition tells us that Solomon wrote the beautiful love poem called the “Song of Songs” some people even refer to it as “The Song of Solomon” but we don’t know that for certain. 

For the most part these books were written during the reign of David and Solomon around 1000 years before the birth of Christ although Job was probably written around the time of Abraham 1000 years earlier.

And there were so many options for preaching from the section, and instead of going to one of my favorite Psalms or Proverbs I decided to land here in Job, because most of us have felt a little bit like Job from time to time, we feel like Murphy is writing the script for our life and what can go wrong is going wrong.

Now the first part of the story is a little confusing, I don’t understand it, and really can’t explain it.  It would appear that one day the angels appeared before God reporting on what they had done and Satan shows up.  During the ensuing conversation God questions Satan on his activities and Satan responds by saying Job 1:7. . . “I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going on.”

And at that point God draws Satan’s attention to his servant Job and how righteous he is, and Satan says “sure, and why wouldn’t he serve you, you have always protected him, and his property.  Everything he touches turns to gold, take away his possessions and I can guarantee that he will curse you.”

Now what I don’t understand is why at this point God agrees to allow Satan access to Job, someday I might understand it, but right now I don’t.  A long time ago I discovered that God is way up here and I’m way down here and I can’t understand everything that God does, but that’s ok, because if I could understand everything about God he wouldn’t be much of a God.  After all I can’t even understand woman.    But that is what happens.  Not very long after this conversation Job is at home when a servant arrives telling him that his enemies have raided the farm stolen his oxen and donkeys and killed all his farm hands.  Just then another messenger arrives and says “you’ll never believe what happened boss, fire fell from the sky and burned up your sheep and shepherds” And a third guy arrives on the scene to inform Job that all his camels have been stolen by raiders from the north.

Now you gotta admit at this point Job seems to be handling it pretty well, until the fourth messenger arrives to tell his boss that a powerful wind hit the house where his children were celebrating with their oldest brothers and there have been no survivors, all ten children have died.  It was at this point that Job broke down in grief.  But even with that listen to what he says in Job 1:21  He said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The LORD gave me what I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!”

Man, and the bible sums it up in the next verse by saying Job 1:22  In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.

Did you catch that? In all this, Job did not sin by blaming God. Which would lead me to believe that if he had of blamed God he would have sinned!  You gotta be careful about those “Oh God how could you do this to me” statements.

Well someone must have come along and said “Cheer up Job, things could be worse” cause he cheered up and sure enough things got worse.  Kind of reminds me of what Paul Anderson said “I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you looked at it in the right way, did not become still more complicated.”

Up to now the tragedies happened to the things and people surrounding Job but not Job himself, and Satan told God, “Well sure, he can still praise you, he still has his health, let me take that from him.”  And again I don’t understand it but God agreed, saying “Just spare his life.”  Now personally I think Satan underestimated Job as a parent, I think that the death of his children would be a far greater tragedy then mere physical discomfort.  But Job became covered with boils from head to foot, yuck. 

But you know Satan had some smarts because of all the things that Job lost, Satan left him with his wife.  You say “Denn, that’s just nasty.”  Not so, listen to the comfort that Job’s wife offered in Job 2:9  His wife said to him, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.”

“Why thanks babe, I love you too.”  And so for the next forty or so chapters we read how various friends came and the discussion they had concerning the tragedies that had befallen our hero.  And through it all, Job remained true to God. 

I mentioned earlier that we have no idea who wrote it, there have been various suggestions but bottom line is we just don’t know.  And we really don’t have a definitive date for when it was written although if you look at the cultural and historical setting it would appear the book was written in the time frame encompassed by Genesis 12-50 so right around 2000 BC. It is felt the story was passed down orally from generation to generation and only later put into writing.

Why was it written?  Now that is an easy one to answer.  It was written to address the question of suffering, sometime most of us can identify with.

So 4000 years after the events happened we are holding the book of Job in our hands asking “What can we learn from Job?”

1) Stuff Happens Because you are a member of the human race you will have troubles, you can’t get around that.   We live in a world that has been corrupted by evil and because of that bad things happen.  Even to believers, it would be neat if becoming a Christian exempted you from all hurt and heart break, you’d never get sick, never become unemployed never lose a spouse or a child, but that ain’t the way it happens. It would be nice if our salvation was a passport out of suffering and tragedy, we’d have to bar the doors to keep people out, but that’s not the way it happens, sorry. Jesus’ brother James wrote a letter to the early church and he said James 1:2  Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.
He didn’t say if trouble comes your way, he said when trouble comes your way.  And Jesus himself said in Matthew 6:34  “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. Did you catch that? Today’s trouble is enough for today.

C.S. Lewis kind of summed it up when he said “We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ''Blessed are they that mourn.''”

And no it isn’t fair, there are times that life isn’t fair, but we live in a world that has been corrupted by sin, and stuff happens.  Little stuff and big stuff.  But you’re probably doing alright compared to Job.

2) Don’t Take It Personal Sometimes when trouble happens we tend to look at it a couple of different ways.  As Christians sometimes we look inward for reasons, wondering what have I done, why me, I don’t deserve this.  Job hadn’t done anything wrong, there was no hidden sin in his life, and he wasn’t rebelling against God.  We need to realize that trouble happens to the just and the unjust. And I know that’s a cynical view of life but Jesus said in Matthew 5:45  . . .For he (God)  gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.  How often do we focus on our problems to the exclusion of everything and everyone else?  We aren’t alone in this world and chance are there are people with bigger problems then yours, it was Humphrey Bogart who said “Everybody in Casablanca has problems.”  And everybody in the Halifax has problems.  

Sometimes when stuff happens to us our first reaction is to ask: Why Me?  Maybe the important questions is: Why not me?

The second thing that believers do is to automatically attribute every problem in their life to Satan.  Now I don’t want to underestimate the power of the dark one, however I think we give him way too much credit.  I don’t know about you, but I’m a child of God and certain privileges come with that position.  And my Bible still has 2 Thessalonians 3:3  But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. Sure you say but what about when you’re in bondage?  Again I don’t want to minimize spiritual warfare, but there are a lot of people out there who are in bondage because they choose to be in bondage.  It’s a very convenient excuse when we enjoy a sin to simply throw up our hands and say “I can’t help myself, I’m in bondage.  I’m not sure that is what Jesus had in mind when he told his disciples in  John 8:34-36  Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.  A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.”   I like that, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

But Denn what if what happened to Job happens to me? What if God allows Satan to strike at my family and I? Probably won’t happen.  Job is very much an isolated incident in the scriptures, we can’t explain why God allowed it to happen the first time but it doesn’t happen again.  And considering the description of Job, remember it Job 1:1  . . . He was blameless—a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil.

If that is the critea for being tested by Satan than most of us have nothing to worry about.  Don’t be in so much of a hurry to give the Devil all the credit for the bad stuff that happens in your life.  To quote C.S. Lewis again “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors.”

3) It’s Not Wrong To Question  Sometimes we are given the impression that Job stoically endured all that happened, that he never asked why, never questioned whether it was fair on not, just endured.  And that just isn’t true, for most of the forty chapters in the book of Job, Job was asking; Why?  And there’s nothing wrong with asking why.  Throughout the Bible people questioned God, Abraham asked why, Moses asked why, Joshua asked why, David asked why, Isaiah asked why, Peter asked why, Paul asked why.  Even Jesus when he was hanging on the cross looked up to heaven and asked “Why?”

But if you’re going to ask God why, you are going to have to be satisfied with the answers and that can be tough.  Because as God told Job 38:2  “Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words?”

Because I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, God is God and we are just people.  But a little homework for this week, go home and read Job chapters 38-40, won’t take you long but it might help you understand God a little more.

4) We Have The Victory  Sometimes we can figure out a solution to our problem on our own perhaps by using Guptill’s First Law of Problem Solving: When confronted by a difficult problem, you can solve it more easily by reducing it to the question: How would MacGyver have handled this? But more often than not, that’s not enough and so if you get nothing else out of this morning’s message get this “We Win”.  When we are faithful to God, in the good times and in the bad we are the victors.  Listen to what Paul wrote to the early church in Rome, and remember this was where the persecution broke out against the early church, where Christians were killed for the sheer sport of it.  Romans 8:35-37  Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?  (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”)  No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

Did you catch that Overwhelming victory is ours.  And in 1 John 5:4 We read 1 John 5:4  For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.

Don’t throw up your hands and say, “I quit”  It was Billy Sunday who said, “Stopping at third adds no more to the score then striking out.” 

Friends the message I leave with you today is Don’t quit, don’t give up, the victory has already been won.  So where are you at?  Do you sometimes find it tough to be faithful, to believe in the victory?  I want to pray for you this morning.  Life is tough, but God is there for us.   If you want me to pray for you this morning, and through the week I’d like you to stand where you are, I don’t know what you’re going through but God does.  There’s an old saying that says “Let go and let God.”  Is that what you need to do today, is to let go and let God?  

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