My life (put) alongside God's word. Suffering and response section.
In one sentence this article is about "Accepting trouble from the hand of God".
Different English Bible translations use different words to translate the word “evil” that Job speaks about to his wife as coming to them from God’s hand:
“Misfortune, what is of a bad nature” (Amp.). “bad” (CEB, CJB, NLT, NRSV), “bad days” (MSG), “trouble” (CEV, NIV), “problems” (ERV), “unpleasant” (TLB), “adversity” (NASB, NKJV).
These are all the same word translated “evil” by the NIV in Job 1:1 and 1:8, in which the saint is praised by God for turning away from all “evil” in his life. My English dictionary defines “evil” as “bad, causing harm
or injury, offensive or unpleasant”.
(With sincere apologies to those of you who do not have a Bible in your own mother tongue as yet.
Pray for all the translators, triallists and testers).
Can bad things come from God?
Why do so many of us Christians have difficulty believing that evil events, bad experiences and adverse times come to us as gifts from our God?
One reason is that we are often taught personal happiness is the highest goal in life. Therefore, when we don’t get what we want we have big questions. Even in Christian
circles some lead us to believe that God wants to bless us in this present life with an abundance of physical and material blessings. Such worldly dreams (and that is all they are) can be shattered as quickly as a soap bubble is burst. God has deeper and higher plans for us.
Since December 2013 South Sudan has been through awful “troubles”. Fighting, wars, revenge attacks and stray armaments have killed many people, injured a lot more and
destroyed livelihoods, families, including some whole towns or villages. Where is God in all of this? This question – which must be asked and answered – is sharpened because many people had such high hopes of a new beginning ever since South Sudan was born as a nation on 9th July 2011. I question myself, was/is God now taking away what He had/has given,? Job 1:21.
Job in his context
“He was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” Job 1:1. God was proud of Job. He boasted about him to Satan 1:8.
With God’s permission Satan was allowed to strike Job’s agriculture using another tribe 1:12-15. Further crop, livestock and staff losses, caused by natural disaster 1:16, inter-ethnic conflict 1:17, and the loss of property with the death of immediate family members 1:18-19, immediately followed this. I know some in South Sudan who have experienced things like this in 2014. What was, what is, God doing?
By carefully reading Job we learn that chapters 1 and 2 describe the Lord God inviting Satan to “consider (God’s) servant Job” 1:8, 2:3. To consider means, “to think carefully
about, to respect or have an opinion of, to keep in mind”. God was using Job, and the awful events in Job’s life, as visual aids for Satan to understand that it was possible for
humans who feared God to keep on trusting God even through the most intense suffering.
Lessons for the higher powers
This idea of God using events on earth to teach lessons to spiritual powers such as angels is also found in the New Testament. “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to His eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord”, Ephesians 3:10-11. Paul links his own sufferings with this purpose and he says sufferings are part of glory for the Christian and his God, verse 13.
In exactly the opposite way to some Christians today, Paul invites young ministers to “join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, Who has saved us and called us
to live a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace”, 2 Timothy 1:8- 9. God’s power is to help Christians endure suffering, not to avoid it. In this Paul is a personal example to the younger Timothy.
I am aware that this doctrine challenges some attractive “Christian” beliefs today. This challenge is necessary because a lot of Christian belief is wrong, influenced by modern society rather than Holy Scripture.
We use “bad” for “good”
Yet there are some parts of today’s society that use suffering and pain for good purposes. Nurses inject small amounts of disease into human arms to bring immunity to
persons from the full-blown illness. Surgeons amputate limbs to prevent rottenness spreading throughout an entire body. Parents firmly smack their children (in a godly way)
to teach right from wrong as part of discipline.
In industry, iron and steel are put through blazing hot furnaces to strengthen them and drive out impurities. Coal put under tons and tons of pressure becomes diamonds. True followers of Jesus Christ seek to live pure Christian lives even when it is costly,
1 John 3:1-10.
In sport, athletes push hard in training, going almost beyond their ability so they can run faster, jump longer or throw further, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. The Greek word “training”, verse 25, is our English word “gymnasium”. The heavy sweat, aching muscles and racing heartbeat are sufferings that are a small price
hardly remembered as the gold medal is hung around the victor’s neck.
Biblical examples of God using bad for His good purposes:
1. Joseph being sold into slavery before saving God’s chosen family, Genesis 37:26-36, 50:20-21.
2. Israelite babies killed but Moses is educated to lead God’s people, Exodus 1:8-16, 22, 2:1-10, 7:1ff.
3. David rescued from Saul’s attempted murder, and later from his own sinfulness
1 Samuel 19 and 20, 2 Samuel 11 and 12, Psalm 51. He then ruled after God’s own heart Acts 13:22.
4. Jeremiah, God’s mouthpiece, was threatened 11:18- 23, 26, put in stocks 20:1-3, opposed by one of his own chapter 28, had his writings burned chapter 36, was imprisoned chapter 37, thrown into a cistern chapter 38, captured and displaced chapter 43. Yet “the Lord (had) said, “I have put my words in your mouth””, Jeremiah 1:9-10.
5. Saul/Paul heavily persecuted the church imprisoning and killing many Acts 8:1-3, 9:1-2, yet he inadvertently spread the Christian witness whiltrying to extinguish it, Acts 11:19-21, Galatians 1:13-17.
6. Later Paul wrote about his missionary teams, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened so that we might not rely on
ourselves but on God who raises the dead”, 2 Corinthians 1:8-9.
7. To the Lystra, Iconium and Antioch churches Paul warned, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God”, Acts 14:22.
8. Of the Thessalonian churches Paul wrote, “Among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God’s judgement is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering”, 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5.
I am reminded of the Christian Justin Martyr, AD100-165, who said to his persecutors in his first apology, “You can kill us, but you cannot hurt us”.
I trust that already you understand that evil things, troubles, bad happenings, do come to us from the hand of our loving, good and all-powerful God. When they do, turn your focus on to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Look towards the future certainties
In His mountainside sermon He said, “those who mourn will be comforted” and “those persecuted because of righteousness will have great reward in heaven”, Matthew
5:4, 5:10-12. A world free from suffering and evil is coming, but it will not be this side of our Lord’s second coming (whatever eschatological view you hold). There is no complete freedom from bad things until heaven comes to earth. Therefore, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things (needed for daily life) will be given to you as well”, Matthew 6:33. If you are alive enough to read this you are living proof our Lord Jesus
keeps this promise!
Is it fair that people get away with doing such terrible things to us and to our friends? No, but ultimately they will not get away with it because God will be their judge.
Consider the two comings of our Lord Jesus.
At the first coming Jesus came to bear justice
The penalty for the world’s sin was placed upon Him. Our sin separated God from God within the Holy Trinity. God’s holy wrath against sin, our Saviour accepted in full on to
Himself, Matthew 27:46, 1 Peter 2:24, 3:18.
At the second coming Jesus will bring justice
No one will get away with anything. The all-seeing all-knowing God promises to keep His promises! He will remember everything everybody has done. There will be no unfinished business in eternity, John 5:19-30, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Romans 2:1-16, 2 Timothy 4:1 and 8,
Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself suffered while living on this earth, Hebrews 5:7-10, Philippians 2:8, Luke 22:39-44. His followers need expect nothing different.
What should we do now?
Listen carefully to this Scripture. And then do it!
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right
in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it
depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take
revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it
is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay” says the Lord.
On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty give him
something to drink. In doing this you will heap burning
coals on his head”. Do not be overcome by evil, but
overcome evil with good”, Romans 12:17-21.
Remember God makes His own sun to shine and the rain to fall on those we might call good and bad people, Matthew 5:45. Our everyday life as Christian believers should show
the same indiscriminate blessing of others.
You say to me, “Boy, that is very hard to do”. I point you to Paul’s reply to the Philippians. No one said Christian living would be easy. Comfortable and easy come from 21st
century philosophy and consumer media advertising. “Buy into this and your life will not be difficult”. I challenge you to be different.
“I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain the
resurrection from the dead” Philippians 3:10-11. When we accept that God is in sovereign control of everything that happens to us and that He is combining everything together
to develop His perfect plan for our lives and everyone else’s it becomes easier (note – I have not written “easy”, but “easier”) to accept suffering in life.
Having personally lived with cancer and it’s after effects now for almost eight years, since 2006, I have a small understanding of this issue. Some days I can see God’s hand easily. Other days I am not consciously aware of it aall. But I know in my heart He is always there.
See Romans 8:28-30, 8:35-39.
1. How does Job help us see bad things come from God, and that God is in ultimate control even when it does not appear that He is?
2. Which of the biblical examples of God using bad for good impresses you the most? Why?
Can you think of any others not listed here?
3. How do Romans 8:28-30, 8:35-39 help you in your troubles?