Life has its trials and its tribulations. And, whether we are godly, or we are not, we are not immune to suffering. Suffering is just part of life.
And, as followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, becoming like him in his death. And, so our suffering is not without purpose (Ro. 5:3-5; Phil. 3:7-11; 1 Pet. 1:6-7; I Peter 4:12-17; Jas. 1:2-4; Matt. 5:10-12; 2 Co. 1:3-11; Heb. 12:3-12; Rev. 3:19).
But, if we are not living for the Lord, and if we are straying from our pure devotion to him, following the way of the flesh; or if we know the way of salvation from sin, but we have been resisting God and his voice to us, he may allow suffering in our lives as natural consequences of our disobedience to him, or as a result of our continued refusal to acknowledge him as Lord.
So, the Lord gave me a picture of this yesterday as an ambulance coming to the rescue of someone. And that, too, is his grace and mercy to us, although it may not feel like it when we are going through it. For, in the Old Testament we have many such records for us of God sending judgment on his own people so that they would turn their hearts back to him. And, the New Testament reiterates this, too (1 Co. 10; Heb. 3-4; Heb. 12; Rev. 2-3).
For, sometimes it takes emergency situations in people’s lives to bring people to the place to where they find that healing and that wholeness in Christ Jesus. And, sometimes it takes emergency situations in people’s lives to get them to apply the Word of God to their lives, too, and to put it into practice in their lives, and to repent of their sins of adultery and spiritual apathy, and to trust the Lord Jesus with their lives, before it is too late.
Job 23:8-9 ESV
“Behold, I go forward, but he is not there,
and backward, but I do not perceive him;
on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him;
he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him.”
Job was a righteous man, and yet God allowed him to go through enormous suffering, far beyond what many of us will possibly ever know or realize. But his life, and his difficult situation he was called upon to endure, have served as an example and as an encouragement to many of us who, through the years, have had to endure much suffering for righteousness’ sake.
But, God allowed this suffering in Job’s life for a purpose, and he accomplished his purposes through it. Job initially had all the right responses, but as things got much worse, and as they went on and on without relief, his faith began to wane, and he began to question God’s sovereignty over his life, and pride began to surface from his heart.
So, no matter how godly we are, and no matter how closely we walk with the Lord, severe suffering may bring out things in our hearts that we didn’t know were there. And, so the suffering serves the purpose of God purifying us, pruning us, and disciplining us that we might share in his holiness, and that it might later yield “the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:7-11; John 15).
But, at the time we are going through the suffering, we may not understand all of this. God may seem distant to us. We may pray, and yet not feel he is answering our prayers. We may not see how he is working, not just in our lives, but in many people’s lives through what he is allowing us to endure.
Job 23:10-12 ESV
“But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.
My foot has held fast to his steps;
I have kept his way and have not turned aside.
I have not departed from the commandment of his lips;
I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food.”
Job was confident of his relationship with the Lord and that the Lord was going to turn his suffering around for good, although, as I stated, he did waver in this as the trial continued and got much worse. And, his confidence in the Lord, and in his relationship with him, eventually turned to pride.
But, understand this here. It is not wrong to be confident in our relationships with the Lord, believing that we are in a right standing with God, provided that we are, and that our consciences are clear, and that we know that we are not walking in disobedience to our Lord. We can be confident that God is on our side and that the trial we are having to endure will result in the praise, honor and glory of God when it is over.
But, we must guard our hearts against pride, too, always keeping our focus on the Lord, and always giving God the glory for any good that he accomplishes in and through us for his praise, honor and glory. For, we can get overconfident to the point of it turning to pride if we don’t guard our hearts, and if we get our eyes off Jesus and on to ourselves.
Job 23:13-17 ESV
“But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back?
What he desires, that he does.
For he will complete what he appoints for me,
and many such things are in his mind.
Therefore I am terrified at his presence;
when I consider, I am in dread of him.
God has made my heart faint;
the Almighty has terrified me;
yet I am not silenced because of the darkness,
nor because thick darkness covers my face.”
At the end of the book of Job, we read where God said that his servant Job spoke rightly of him, whereas Job’s friends, who were accusing him falsely, had not.
But, Job didn’t speak rightly of God the whole time, for he did struggle in his mind and in his heart with what he was having to endure, which included being falsely accused by his friends. And, he struggled to maintain his previous stance he had taken regarding God’s goodness to him, even in the face of much suffering. For, he had his doubts and his fears, too.
But here he spoke rightly of God. God is unchangeable. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. His divine character and will for mankind is the same in the New Testament as it was in the Old Testament, and that is that we should honor him as the One and Only True God, the creator of all.
God’s righteous requirements of us, his people, have not changed. Both in the Old and in the New Testaments God reiterates over and over again his moral standards for us, and his requirements of us that we forsake our sins and our idols, and that we follow him in obedience and in surrender to him as Lord. And it is that we walk in the fear of the Lord.
[Lu. 9:23-26; Rom. 6:1-23; Rom. 8:1-17; Eph. 4:17-24; Tit. 2:11-14; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; 1 Jn. 2:3-6; Gal. 5:16-21; Eph. 5:3-6; Gal. 6:7-8; Rom. 2:6-8]
And, if we refuse, we will be judged on the basis of our disobedience to him, which he equates with lack of faith (unbelief). For, God will do what he has purposed in his heart to do, which is taught to us in scripture, in order to bring us to repentance and to obedience of faith in him (Rev. 2-3).
So, if you refuse him, don’t be surprised if one day you may have to face some of his divine correction and rebuke to get you where he wants you to be, living in submission to him, according to his will and purpose for your life, forsaking your sins, and walking in obedience to his commands.
Master, The Tempest is Raging!
Lyrics by Mary A. Baker, 1874
Music by Horatio R. Palmer, 1874
Master, the tempest is raging!
The billows are tossing high!
The sky is o’ershadowed with blackness,
No shelter or help is nigh;
Carest Thou not that we perish?
How canst Thou lie asleep,
When each moment so madly is threat’ning
A grave in the angry deep?
The winds and the waves shall obey Thy will,
Peace, be still!
Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea,
Or demons or men, or whatever it be,
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean, and earth, and skies;
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will,
Peace, be still! Peace, be still!
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will,
Peace, peace, be still!
Master, with anguish of spirit
I bow in my grief today;
The depths of my sad heart are troubled—
Oh, waken and save, I pray!
Torrents of sin and of anguish
Sweep o’er my sinking soul;
And I perish! I perish! dear Master—
Oh, hasten, and take control.
Master, the terror is over,
The elements sweetly rest;
Earth’s sun in the calm lake is mirrored,
And heaven’s within my breast;
Linger, O blessed Redeemer!
Leave me alone no more;
And with joy I shall make the blest harbor,
And rest on the blissful shore.
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