Summary: Discover where to place your hope to give you strength through helpless moments in life
Someone recently asked me if a particular phrase came from the Bible. The phrase was something like this, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."
I replied that this phrase is a non-biblical cliché. Because many Christians quote this phrase, we sometimes think the phrase comes from the Bible. This phrase does not come from the Bible, but the practice is seen in the Bible and in Christian work.
There is another phrase that Christians and non-Christians believe is in the Bible, and the phrase is, "God helps those who help themselves." This phrase is not in the Bible, and this phrase is not consistent with what the Bible teaches.
All of us have been in situations where we are powerless or unmotivated to help ourselves. If God only helps those who help themselves, all of us would be in deep trouble and without hope of God’s help. Helplessness is endemic to the human existence.
I remember hearing two weeks ago the interview of those who survived the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center. One lady coming down the stairs when the building collapsed became trapped between concrete and steel for more than 27 hours, unable to help herself. She was the last person found alive in the rescue effort.
The feeling of helplessness can also come from professional or financial setbacks due to company layoff or the stock market crash. The feeling of helplessness can come from sudden or chronic illness. The feeling of helplessness can come from the attack by a burglar or by someone you love. The feeling of helplessness began at birth and usually precedes our death.
Everyone, given enough time, knows the feeling of helplessness. But not everyone knows how to recover from times of helplessness. We will discover some answers this morning from the Book of Job, chapter 3.
Here is a man with a death wish. Before we look at how to survive helplessness, I want to review briefly and make two observations from Job 3. This way, even if you have not been with us during our study in Job you’ll still have context for understanding.
The first observation is that suffering is not always the result of sin.
In chapters 1 and 2, we read that Job was blessed with great wealth and many children. And if we were not given revelation about what went on in heaven, the test God placed on Job incited by Satan, we might guess the wealth and children were taken from Job, because Job disobeyed or displeased God. The opposite was true. Job was faithful to God.
Yet, attackers carried off Job’s wealth. Raiders killed many of his servants and stole his livestock. Fire from Heaven burned his sheep and more servants. A tornado killed his children. And Job became afflicted with painful sores from head to toe. And we read in chapter 1, verse 22, "In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing." Suffering is not always the result of sin.
Ray Stedman tells about the time the editor of a magazine asserted that Billy Graham’s illness is due to a secret sin. The assumption was that the illness was God’s punishment for Billy Graham’s disobedience against God. And then a few months later, the editor fell down a flight of stairs. At that point, the editor blamed Satan for his suffering a broken leg.
Some of us are more consistent in our application of this false belief that suffering is always the result of sin. When your company lays you off work, your mind darts to your besetting sin. When you get a flat tire, you remember how you mistreated your wife. When you become seriously ill, you confess every sin from first grade through the present.
If God were to punish us today for the sins we’ve committed, all of us would be in the hospital or in the grave. Not one of us would be well enough to be at church this morning. We need to thank God for His patience and mercy, rather than believe our sins deserve only physical and mental anguish. The truth is, suffering is not always the result of your sins.
The second observation is that when God doesn’t answer our questions, we already know enough for the test.
We’ve all taken tests in school, and we’ve all tried to ask the teacher for the answer in some way, especially when we were in elementary or middle school. But as we get into high school and college, we realize that the teacher will not give the answer because he already gave us enough before the test.
In chapter 3, Job is asking God why such a hard test? Job asked, "Why did God allow me to be born? Why didn’t I die at birth? Why can’t I die to escape this anguish?"