Summary: What is affliction and how are we as followers of Jesus supposed to react to those around us who are afflicted?
Today let’s talk about Affliction:
1) a state of pain, distress, grief or misery:
2) a cause of mental or bodily pain, as sickness, loss, calamity, or persecution.
You know from your own life experiences what affliction is.
If you have never experienced affliction you are a very rare person indeed.
Let me give you an example of affliction from the Bible …
Who was the shortest person who ever lived? Bildad the Shuhite!
“There once was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless - a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil. He had seven sons and three daughters.
“He owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 teams of oxen, and 500 female donkeys. He also had many servants. He was, in fact, the richest person in that entire area.
“Job’s sons would take turns preparing feasts in their homes, and they would also invite their three sisters to celebrate with them. When these celebrations ended - sometimes after several days - Job would purify his children.
“He would get up early in the morning and offer a burnt offering for each of them. For Job said to himself, ‘Perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts.’ This was Job’s regular practice.
“One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting at the oldest brother’s house, a messenger arrived at Job’s home with this news:
“Your oxen were plowing, with the donkeys feeding beside them, when the Sabeans raided us. They stole all the animals and killed all the farmhands. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
“While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: ‘The fire of God has fallen from heaven and burned up your sheep and all the shepherds. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.’
“While he was still speaking, a third messenger arrived with this news: ‘Three bands of Chaldean raiders have stolen your camels and killed your servants. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.’
“While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: ‘Your sons and daughters were feasting in their oldest brother’s home. Suddenly, a powerful wind swept in from the wilderness and hit the house on all sides.
“The house collapsed, and all your children are dead. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
In Job 2:7b-9 we see that Job was
“… struck with terrible boils from head to foot. Job scraped his skin with a piece of broken pottery as he sat among the ashes. His wife said to him, ‘Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.’”
Now, that’s affliction. That just seems like a story from the Bible. It seems that Job is far, far away and the calamity is so great that it does not even seem real. All of Job’s earthly possessions are lost in one brief portion of a day. All of his children are killed in a freak windstorm a few moments later. He is now covered with painful boils from head to foot and his wife, who is also filled with suffering and grief herself, is telling him that his best option is to curse God and die.
Now, as if that’s not bad enough, his three friends come to comfort him. Here are a few words of sage advice from one of his dearest friends, Zophar:
Zophar says in Job 11:6
“Listen! God is doubtless punishing you far less than you deserve!”
If we have read earlier in the story we know that Job’s three friends are accusing him of some great sin even though they have no idea what it might be and yet, Zophar, in his ignorance, is assuming that God is punishing Job LESS than he deserves!
Do we ever make assumptions like that when we see someone in the midst of affliction?
Is Zophar being subtle? Not in the least! He almost goes so far to say that Job is empty headed and has no hope of understanding. That’s why Job should listen to him.
He tells Job in verse 12
“An empty-headed person won’t become wise any more than a wild donkey can bear a human child.”
And then in verses14-20 Zophar advises Job to:
“Get rid of your sins, and leave all iniquity behind you. Then your face will brighten with innocence. You will be strong and free of fear. You will forget your misery; it will be like water flowing away.
“Your life will be brighter than the noonday. Even darkness will be as bright as morning. Having hope will give you courage. You will be protected and will rest in safety.
“You will lie down unafraid, and many will look to you for help. But the wicked will be blinded. They will have no escape. Their only hope is death!”