Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow
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[Gary Petty] Is God fair? Maybe you've struggled with questions like this. I mean questions like, why does He allow these bad things to happen to me? Is He even listening to me? Once upon a time, God granted someone an actual physical audience to answer these kinds of questions. How did God answer?
If you have the opportunity to meet God face to face, what questions would you ask him? I mean, let's face it, we all have questions we'd like to ask God. I mean, why do you allow suffering? Why do you allow evil? Why don't you help us more when we're in trouble, or why do you allow children to die? There's something that you may have never thought about. Are there questions that God would like to ask you? Now why would God ask you a question? I mean, He's all knowing, right? I mean, what kind of answers would He expect from you?
Well today we're going to look at an important book in the Bible that records the story of a man who asked God a whole series of questions. And God answered him by asking him a series of questions. By exploring this biblical story, you will discover some of the vital answers about life and your relationship with God. Now, the man we're talking about today lost everything. He lost his considerable wealth, his children, his status in society and his health. The man's story is told in the Old Testament book of Job. That's his name. An interesting thing about the book of Job is that the Bible doesn't tell us the name of the author or even the time period in which the events happened. Now some biblical historians think that Job lived during the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but no one knows exactly for sure. The book of Job may actually be the oldest book in the Bible. And it is a book about questions, questions that Job asked God, and questions that Job's friends ask him, and questions that God asks Job, and even some questions that God asks Satan.
The answers we find in Job are profound and apply to you and me in our daily struggles. Job is introduced in this story as a wealthy farmer and rancher with a wife and many children, and he's obviously a man of status among his neighbors. In a very short period of time, Job's cattle and camels are all stolen, and most of his workers are killed by raiders. A messenger runs up to him and tells him how the sheep and shepherds were killed by a strange fire from heaven. And then another man runs up and tells him that all of his children were eating and drinking in the oldest son's house, and a wind storm comes along, and the house collapses, and they're all killed. And then Job became ill. He is inflicted with painful boils from head to foot, and he ends up spending his days and nights outside the city walls, sitting in a pile of ashes, scraping his seeping soars with shreds of broken pottery.
Now, all of us could share a story about losing a loved one, a job, our health, our finances, but few of us have lost everything. How would you respond to losing everything? Well, let's see how Job responds to this. Okay, he loses everything. They come and they tell him how he's lost all his wealth and his possessions. And here's how Job responded, “Then Job arose, tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped.” When he, this calamity came upon him, and he found out about it, what the Job do? He worshiped God. And he said, “naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” And then he became terribly ill. So all these things happen. Then he becomes terribly ill, and what did he say? “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” What a great expression of faith.
Yes, God gives good things to us, and sometimes bad things happen. But slowly, as Job struggles with the shock, and the grief, and the pain, and the reality of what happened, and it begins to sink in, and Job begins to ask questions. It's very interesting. The first set of questions he asks aren't aimed specifically at anybody. He just says, why did I not die at birth? I mean, why am I alive? And all this has happened to me. Why did I not perish when I came from the womb? Why did the knees receive me, or the breasts that I should nurse? For now I would've laid still and been quiet. I would have been asleep. Than I would have been at rest.
Job struggled with the overwhelming feeling that life had no meaning. There's no purpose. And through all this pain and all this grief, he just couldn't work through it. It was overwhelming. And he decided that it would be better that he'd never been born than to lose his wealth, and his children, and his health. And maybe you've experienced times when you felt like life had no meaning. Maybe you've asked the same questions that Job asks. And maybe you've thought that it's better that you've never been born, or you thought it would be better for me to die than to deal with what I'm trying to deal with in life.
So what answers then did God give Job? Now, before we look at the answers, let's see how Job's situation gets even worse. Some of his friends show up. Okay, they come out into the outside the city walls around the ash heap he's sitting in, and they sit around, and they begin to tell him that his suffering is a direct consequence of all the sins that he's committed against God. So now what does Job say? I mean, Job's dealing with now all his friends telling him, this is your fault. And here's what Job says. What is man? He starts asking questions. He keeps asking questions. “What is man, that you should exalt him?” Now, this question is towards God. “That you should set your heart on him, that you should visit him every morning and test him every moment? How long will you not look away from me, and let me alone til I swallow my saliva? Have I sinned? What have I done to you, O watcher of men? Why have you set me as your target so that I am a burden to myself? Why do you not pardon my transgression, and take away my iniquity? For now, I will lie down in the dust, and you will seek me diligently, but I will no longer be.” He says, you know, God, there's going to come time you're looking for me and I won't even be here because I'm going to die.
Now, how many times have you heard? I've talked to many people, older people, stricken with old age. They say, I can't take care of myself. And I'm a burden to others. I'm a burden to myself. So here we find the common questions that we ask God when we face terrible suffering. Why is God allowing this to happen? Why isn't God saving me? Is God angry with me? Am I being punished? And what was God's answer? Well, before we talk about that, we look at God's answer to Job 'cause he gives him an answer. He actually asked him questions. He answers his questions with questions.
I want to tell you about today's free study guide.” Why Does God Allow Suffering?” As a pastor, I've shared many hours and offered many prayers with people asking the same questions Job asks. And you know what? In my life I've asked some of these same questions, as we go through the struggles we go through. Well, you can find the answers in God's word and how God can interact with you. Order your free copy, Why Does God Allow Suffering, by calling the number that's on your screen, or go to beyondtoday.tv, where you can read online, or order everything that we offer here on Beyond Today.
So we're in the biblical book of Job. Job was a person who lost almost everything, everything that was important in his life. And he struggles with questions about his life, its meaning, and where is God, and this is so unfair. There's another interesting thing about this book, is that much of the book, the whole center part of it, records a long conversation between Job and his friends as they try to find answers to these questions about suffering and about God's fairness. Why is God being unfair? And as I said before, the conclusion of many of his friends was that, Job, this is your fault because you're being punished for your sins. And throughout the book, Job continues to ask God questions.
Here's an interesting set of questions that he asks. He says, “for what is the allotment of God from above, and the inheritance of the almighty on high?” What is God doing? “Is it not destruction for the wicked and disaster for the workers of iniquity?” He said, isn't God's plan to punish bad people? “But does he not see my ways and count all my steps?” I mean, God, or Job here is struggling with God's fairness. I mean, God says I'll punish the wicked, and I will bless and reward the good. And he says, what have I done to be punished beyond most anybody else? And it's interesting, in his own defense Job declares that he had lived a good life, and he talks about how he loved his neighbor, and he had always been honest. He even talks about how he'd been faithful to his wife. And so why was God being so unfair that all these terrible things are happening to him?
What Job didn't understand is one of the greatest lessons in the book of Job. You see, he was a participant. He didn't know it at the time. He was a participant in an epic battle for the hearts and minds of human beings. You have to go back to the first two chapters of the book of Job, because it is in these two chapters that we find the background to what's happening in Job's life. The setting in those first two chapters is Satan comes to God. He comes to God and there's a conversation. Satan, who's a real being. The New Testament, calls him the god of the world, an angel who turned against God and introduced evil to humanity. And he is before God, and what's fascinating is that God asks him a question.
In this book of questions, at the very beginning, there's a question. And what he says to him or asked him, he says, have you considered my servant Job? That there was none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil. What an amazing statement from God about this man. He said, now there's a man who follows me, who obeys me. Have you noticed him? And Satan's response is, well, yes he follows you. He obeys you because you reward him so much. Take away all those blessings, and Job will turn against you. God then allows Satan to try to influence Job. He says fine, you can influence him 'cause you're going to fail. And what does Satan do? Satan's way of trying to influence Job is he destroys his property, destroys his business, kills his children, and ruins his health. Wow. God allowed this to a man that He said was righteous. He allows this. And this is one of the important central themes in the book of Job. God is still the sovereign King over the universe, but he has allowed Satan to have some power over humanity for a time. And this means that you and I, just like Job, are involved in a spiritual battle to either serve our creator God or to serve the adversary. And this is a reality that many times Christians don't think about.
The truth is that all of us are going to serve one or the other. And the idea that I'm going to just face life on my own terms means that you have chosen not to serve God. We're to serve God on his terms. The most remarkable part of Job's story is that after many hours of these human arguments, and questions, and accusations, and personal justification, guess who shows up? God. It's interesting. He shows up in a tornado just to get their attention. That's how He shows up. And yet He doesn't immediately answer Job's questions. He asked Job some questions. In fact, there's numerous chapters here of God asking him questions and here's what God first asked him. It says, “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man, and I will question you and you shall answer me.”
Anytime God says, “stand up like a man, I have something I want to ask you,” you're in real trouble. Okay, understand that? He says, where were you? Okay, let's get some questions from God. Now let me ask you some things. “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me if you have any understanding? Who determined its measurements? Surely you know.” He says, surely you know exactly how big the earth is and how much it weighs. Surely you know that. I mean, you're asking me some questions. These are the simple questions I'm going to ask you. “Or who has stretched the line upon it? Or what were its foundations fastened? Who lays its cornerstone?”
What an interesting set of questions. Explain to me the universe. Then he asked him a whole other set of questions. Questions like, have the gates of death been revealed to you? Explain to me death? Just to explain that. What happens when you die? Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Have you figured out all the laws that keep everything in motion and cause this to happen? He asked him at one point, have you given the horse strength? Explain how animals are alive. Just explain that. And does the hawk fly by your wisdom? Does a hawk fly because you figured out how to make a bird? Just, that's all I want to know. Just answer these questions for me. And He asked question after question, and then He asked him the most pointed of all these questions when He asked him, “shall the one who contends with the almighty, correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it.” Okay, you've been asking me questions now, a lot of questions, and you've been correcting me and telling me that somehow I've been wrong here. So it's time now for you to answer my questions.
Now we're going to talk about this interaction more between God and Job, but if you're struggling with these kinds of questions, you need to order our free copy of, or your free copy of Why Does God Allow Suffering? The study guide includes a section on how to find good, even in suffering, and the hope that only God can give you, and the great purpose of your life. You can discover God's promise to give you comfort and create in you his ultimate future in spite of your present distress. Order your free copy of Why Does God Allow Suffering by calling the number on your screen or going to beyondtoday.tv, or you could, beyondtoday.tv where you can read it or download it.
What a story we've been reading, right? Job, a man overwhelmed by grief and physical pain, a man disillusioned with the apparent futility of life, challenging God with a series of questions. God responded by challenging him with a series of questions, like explain the universe. Explain all the wonder and intricacies of nature and creation. Just explain what happens after death. Just answer those simple ones and we'll be sort of on even terms here. And here's Job's final answer. This is a long book. And finally, after all these questions, here's what Job says. I know that you can do everything. He didn't even ask a question. He just realizes, uh-oh, this is a lot bigger than I ever imagined. It's a lot more amazing than I ever imagined. It's a lot stranger than I. This is God. He says that “no purpose of yours can be withheld from you. You asked, who is this who hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak. You said, I will question you and you shall answer me. I have heard you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you, and therefore I abhor myself and repent.”
Job's problem wasn't that he was living in rebellion against God. I mean, God told Satan that Job was a righteous man. His problem was that he didn't understand his nothingness without God. When he finally got a glimpse into the true nature of God, he became acutely aware of his smallness, and spiritual poverty, and of God's greatness and goodness. You see, God is asking you the same questions. He's asking you and I the same questions. He's challenging us every day the same way he challenged Job. The questions are, do you really understand who I am? We may know about God, as Job said, but do we really know the being who reveals Himself in creation, who reveals Himself through the Bible, who reveals Himself through the power of His Holy Spirit? Do you experience His presence in your life?
King David of Israel was faced with the unsolvable issues of life, and he cried out to God to answer his prayers. And the answer he received is very similar to the answer that Job received. This is in Psalm 27, and here's what David wrote. “Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice. Have mercy also upon me and answer me. I need answers. I am lost here.” And here was God's answer. He says, “when you said, this is God's answer, seek My face,” David said, “my heart said to you, your face, Lord, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger. You have been my help. Do not leave me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation.” God told David to “seek My face.” Little less dramatic than showing up in a tornado and saying, hey, I got some questions for you about me. But he didn't want Job or David to make the same mistake we all do as human beings. We make God in our own image. God said, no, you’ve got to know me, who I am. You just can't make me up in your own image.
Now, how can you seek to know God in the way that God led both Job and David to know him? Well, first of all, you ask God to reveal Himself to you. You seek His face. You see, God wanted David to seek His presence in his life. And in doing so, David would get a glimpse into God's greatness and the goodness of the creator. There's something intimate and God's prompting David to seek Him and David's desire to seek Him.
David's desire to see God, His presence reminds me of when one of my daughters was very small, and she was talking, and dad wasn't paying a lot of attention. And I was sitting down. The next thing I know these two little hands touch my face, turn me so that I was looking right in the eyes, and then she just kept talking. She was seeking my face. You see, this is a core need that God designed in all of us. We need to know God. And Job finally realized he needed to live his days seeking the reality of God and desiring His presence. God wants you to seek His face. You have to pray for His love and guidance to be shown to you. And you must humbly repent as Job did. Then you must search the scriptures to find out about how God reveals Himself and about His attributes, His character, who He is. See, the Bible reveals the reality of the true God. He's all powerful. He's all intelligent. He possesses all creativity and wisdom. He expresses perfect emotions. He is the ultimate good revealing the ultimate love. He hates evil. He's omnipresent. He's able to read all of our thoughts, and ultimately he controls human history, human beings.
We all have this limited understanding of God because He's beyond our comprehension. But the more that each of us in our own way understands Him as He really is, not as we make Him, but as He really is, the more we can actually love Him, and trust Him, and obey Him. One of our great human weaknesses is that we try to make God in our own image. And the more we see God in our own corrupted, weak image, the less we're able to respond to him in love, faith, and obedience. It's only when we see Him really.
Now here's what happens to you when you see God's face. You begin to trust in God as your Creator and Father, because you give Him control of your life. You begin to trust God to guide your life, even when your personal situations don't make any sense. You start to deal with the paradoxes of life, and there's lots of them. That's why there's so many questions. You begin to actively see God is the source of truth and to seek His presence in your life. God becomes real. He becomes real to us. I encourage you to order your free study guide. Why Does God Allow Suffering? The study guide will help you explore some of the greatest questions of life and find practical answers in your Bible. Call the number on your screen right now, or go to beyondtoday.tv, where you can read it or order it online.
When Job finally received a little understanding of what it really means to seek God's face, face to face literally now, he realized that his previous understanding of God was based on things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Here's one of the great lessons we learned from the life of Job. Without God in our life's journey, we are left with unanswerable questions and no hope for the future. When we seek God, He becomes the answer. It is God Himself who becomes the answer. When we seek His presence, He becomes our hiding place and our strength. When we seek His will, His desires become our desires. When we seek His ways, then we begin to obey Him. We have to seek all this, because when we're doing this, we are seeking God's face, which means His presence. And when you become, when you have God become the center of your life, the absolute center of your life, not all the other stuff we have in the center, when God becomes the center of our lives, and Jesus Christ His son, then you will spend your life seeking His face. That's what we do. His presence, His guidance, His love, and you will begin to anticipate and have hope in a future when you will actually see Him face to face.
[Narrator] We've prepared a special study aid, Why Does God Allow Suffering, to help you learn what the Bible says about this challenging topic. Why Does God Allow Suffering will take you through a biblical study to help you understand why our world suffers from evil and unspeakable tragedy. Call us now for your free copy at 1-888-886-8632, or go online at beyondtoday.tv. And when you do, we'll also send you a free subscription to Beyond Today magazine. This special publication will help you make sense of often chaotic and confusing events in our world today. And once again, to order your free copy of Why Does God Allow Suffering and your free subscription to Beyond Today magazine, call 1-888-886-8632, or go online at beyondtoday.tv.
[Gary Petty] Hi, I'm Gary Petty, a pastor with United Church of God. If you're looking for a church that encourages living with the word of God really teaches, you found the right place. We're a community of believers dedicated to seeking the truth and preaching the good news of the coming kingdom of God. We'd like to welcome you to come and join us on this spiritual journey. We have hundreds of congregations around the United States and across the world. Visit ucg.org to find a church near you. We're looking forward to meeting you soon.