Sunday, July 8, 2012

God Is Big Enough To Comfort My Suffering

Brad welcomed us and then stated that our sermon today would be a walk through the book of Job.

Announcements included mention that we had two babies born into the church family this week. Sam and Kelly had baby Isabella on July 4. Jessie and Lisa Smith brought Lincoln Jessie Smith into the world. Because the latter was a C-section birth, meals would be welcome for the next three weeks. (Sign up in the back or call Brooke)

The Scripture reading today was from Mark 5:21-43

Before our time of prayer we prayed for those going to CHIC in a few weeks.

God Is Big Enough to Comfort My Suffering 

Some books in the Bible are wintery in that they talk about times when God seems distant. But it’s a great place to learn about how big our God is.

The story of Job begins in Uz, which was somewhere east of there… Job is righteous, pious and blessed. In the beginning of the story there is a correlation between his good deeds and his blessing. But beginning with verses 6-12 there is a change in the story.

Picture a theater with a lower stage and an upper stage. Job, his family and friends live in the lower stage. Theater goers see that God resides in the upper stage, but Job is unaware of what is going on there, a transaction between God and Satan.

The story moves to the lower stage and we see Job smitten, but he remains faithful to God.

The next scene is back at the upper stage and we see Satan asking for permission to cause yet more suffering. Satan says, in essence, to God, "Job loves you because everything is going his way. God, you turn off the faucet of blessing and you will see Job turn his back on you because the core of this man is like all men. People are fair weather friends. People are basically selfish." This is exactly the point Christopher Dawkins tries to paint in his book The Selfish Gene

In contrast, God says the core of the universe and our lives is self-giving, self-sacrificial love.

But things do get worse for Job. In the end Job is diseased, covered with scabs, sitting on a dung heap as his wife say, “Curse God and die.”

Brad made an interesting observation at this point. Many people paint Job's wife with a dark brush, but in reality keep in mind that she has suffered immensely as well. She lost her family, her home, all her possessions, and now her life is centered on taking care of a diseased man who will soon die, the man she loved and who has been providing for her all these years. It is a very challenging time for her. Brad's comments exhibited a merciful approach toward her remark that showed a special kind of compassion.

Yet, in all this Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (Job 1:22)
After the second round of disasters, the Bible says Job did not sin in what he said. But the astute reader can see that he is struggling in his heart.

Job, once famous for his wealth and influence now is famous for his sorrow and suffering. So when Job’s friends arrive, begin to weep when they see him. They see immediately what a bad way he is in. They sit with him for seven days and nights…. Being there is a form of comfort

Paul says mourn with those who mourn. He does not say “give good advice” or suggest they “snap out of it.”

Job pours out chapter after chapter of bitterness. His friends reply, saying essentiall that "whatever you are experiencing is because of what you did." It's a common perspective that is with us to this day. If things are going well, it is because your choices and your troubles are because of your choices. It's conventional wisdom: you must have done something wrong. Otherwise, how do you explain this?

Job says he was the same person both before and after these mind-numbing events that occurred. So that line of argument doesn't make sense.

Yes, there are times when choices and consequences are related. But sometimes it has nothing to do with anything we have done.

"If only I could talk to God. I would present my case," he say. 

When everyone has said their piece and re-hashed all their arguments, God shows up and speaks to Job out of a storm. (Job 38)

God does not answer the questions Job asks, however, or explain what happened. Instead, God points out that Job has a finite mind, and that we can’t see the whole picture from our vantage point.

God asks questions. And the questions reveal the character of God who cares for land where people don’t even live. There's a whole section about God creating and how He is involved in things that have no value for anything other than just because they are. In short, God reveals Himself to be irrationally loving and gratuitously good.

Job never finds out what happened on the upper stage, and Job’s story is our story. We, like he, can’t see the why of anything, but we can see who God is. We can see His character. And in this the Book of Job is a foretaste of the cross, where God sent Jesus into the lower stage, and showed what kind of God He is.

Self-giving, self-sacrificial love is the core of this book.

In the last chapter, chapter 42, God let’s Job’s friends know that Job was right, and the friends, who thought they were defending God, were put on notice that they were wrong.

Brad took a moment to highlight another feature of the story. In the end, Job 42, everything Job lost was restored double. He also had seven more sons and three daughters,which has a twist to it here.

There are a lot of things in the story that we would miss today. The names of daughters mentioned, instead of the sons. And the names of Job’s daughters are all about beauty: a dove, cinnamon and makeup. And Job gave a portion of his inheritance to these daughters, not a typical act in those days. Why? Because what you gave as inheritance can be siphoned by in-laws. But his character is revealed and being hilariously giving and generous, like the creator whom he loves.

Can a human being hold on to God when it doesn’t seem to pay off at all? Job  was broke, sick, confused, suffering, in anguish… and he didn’t know how long it would go on. Yet he was faithful… he did not give up.

Our suffering matters…

But our response matters as well, more than we can ever imagine. So friends, don’t let go because our God is a big and great God.

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