Friday, January 10, 2014

P1 God's will, the believer and suffering

James 5:10-11 "As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful."

Introduction: The Lord's Will, Suffering and the Christian
James begins today's post by having us consider the prophets as an example of suffering and patience, among whom is specifically mentioned Job. In James 5:11 we read the inspired summary of the assessment of Job's suffering and God's will: "You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful."  Whenever a discussion begins on the problem of evil and suffering, typically it is in the context of skeptics attacking Christianity's claim of their being an all-powerful, all good-God governing our universe. As the standard skeptical argument goes: If God is all powerful and all good, and yet there is evil, either God is all powerful but no good or He is all good and yet not powerful enough to do anything about it. 

As the skeptic winds down what they think to be a watertight case against God's existence, the conclusion is made: there can be no All good or all powerful God, being that there is so much evil and suffering in the world.  Amazingly whenever we read the scriptures, the presence of evil and suffering in the lives of Christians is dealt with head on as substantiating not only the existence, but the need for the All-power and All-Good God of Biblical Revelation.  The atheist or skeptical argument assumes to much of humanity's knowledge and understanding - which exposes the fatal flaw in their argument.  As pastor and theologian Mark Dever has noted: "God is by His nature to be trusted.  He may be misunderstood by us in what He does or allows, but He cannot be declared wrong."  

From the earliest book of the New Testament, the Book of James, James Himself draws the conclusion from reflecting on the earliest Old Testament book - Job, that Job's sufferings end up reinforcing the Biblical revelation of God being full of compassion and mercy.  James uses the phrase "God's dealings" to bring this truth into sharp clarity. The phrase "God's dealings" is another way of saying "God's Will".  As we consider how God's will, suffering and the believer work together in Job's life, we will aim to better grasp (mind you not fully comprehend) how an all powerful, all Good God can govern a universe, and still be the God "full of compassion and mercy" despite the presence of evil and suffering. 

Meet Job - The believer in the Lord
Job 1:1-6 introduces us to Job.  What kind of man was he? According to the sacred text, Job was "upright, blameless, fearing God and turned away from evil" (1:1).  Spiritually and morally Job was without peer.  We could say that in regards to his character, Job was at least equal to Noah, who receives a similar description like Job in Genesis 6:9.  

Materially Job was unparalleled among men. He had seven sons and three daughters, each number representing fullness and completion. The animals he owned (camels, she-donkeys, and oxen) were all marks of wealth and fame.  We could say that in regards to his fame, Job was likened unto the later Solomon, the richest and wisest man who ever lived. 

In regards to his faith-walk, Job was second to none.  Job 1:8 has God Himself saying to Satan: "The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” Truly it could be stated that Job's faith was as great as Abraham, who is described in similar terms in Genesis 18:6-9. Certainly among the great men of God, Old Testament passages such as Ezekiel 14:14 & 20 equate Job as being as righteous as Noah and Daniel. So without a doubt, Job in regards to his character, wealth and faith was the last man we would expect to undergo the sufferings he was about to endure. Job is the believer whom James encourages us to emulate. However in doing so, what about how God's will and suffering operated in his life? 

More tomorrow....

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