Summary: This is the fifth sermon in a series of messages from the book of Job called, "When Life Takes a Turn for the Worse."
For the past month or so, we’ve been looking at the book of Job, which records the sufferings of a good man whose life took a turn for the worse. And this book has helped us answer some tough questions, such as:
"Are good people exempt from suffering?"
"What is God doing when life takes a turn for the worse?"
"What is the Devil up to when life takes a turn for the worse?"
"What should I do when life takes a turn for the worse?"
And the question I want an answer to this morning is: "Is God punishing me when my life takes a turn for the worse?" This is another tough question we tend to ask when troubles and tragedies strike: "God, are you punishing me for something?"
Think about Job. Tragedy after tragedy hit his life. Remember? He lost his finances, his children, his health, and his marriage - one right after the other.
The end of chapter 2 tells us that he had three friends come and visit him (read vs. 11-13). So far they’re doing everything right. They came a long way to be with their friend, they cried and wept with him, and they didn’t offer any unwanted advice.
But in chapter 3, Job begins to gripe and complain and curse the day he was born, and then from chapters 4 to 31, his so-called friends tear into him and insist that God is punishing him: Bildad (read 8:2-6), Zophar (read 11:13-15), and Eliphaz ( read 22:3-5). Ouch! Do you see what they’re telling Job? They’re saying, in effect, "Job you are suffering because you have done something wrong and God is now punishing you." These three friends had the same philosophy that suffering is a sure sign that God is punishing you.
Is that true? Is God punishing me when my life takes a turn for the worse?
Before we answer this, I need to point something out. If you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, then what I’m about to say doesn’t apply to you. When suffering comes into your life, that is God’s way of telling you, "Look, life is tough and you need a Savior who can get you through it." And the best thing you can do is humble yourself before the Lord and trust Jesus Christ to forgive your sin, change your life, and take you to Heaven when you die. And once you trust Christ as Savior and Lord, you’ll be ready to join us as we answer the question, "Is God punishing me when my life takes a turn for the worse?"
I. Hebrews 12 tells us that God disciplines His children when they STRAY.
If you know Jesus, then please understand that God wants you to walk on the straight and narrow path; that is, He wants you live a righteous and a holy life. He wants you to do what’s right, treat others right, and keep your life clean.
And do you know what He does when one of His children strays from the straight and narrow? He doesn’t disown them or kick them out of His family. Instead, He does what any loving Father would do. In effect, He draws a line and says, "I love you and it’s in your best interest to stay on the straight and narrow. So I’m going to take you to the woodshed when you cross this line."
We need to recognize the fact that God disciplines His children when they stray. Look at Hebrews 12:5-12.
This passage has two words of instruction for the Christian who is disciplined by God.
A. "Do not make light of the Lord’s discipline." (NIV)
Stated negatively, "Don’t take it lightly". Stated positively, "Learn from it".
This is something I can relate to. When I was a little boy, my dad spanked me for something (I don’t remember exactly what, but I’m sure I deserved a good spanking). The spanking hurt, but I was bound and determined not to cry. When Dad finished, I opened my smart mouth and told him, "That didn’t hurt one bit!" Let me tell you, THAT WAS PRETTY STUPID! I took Dad’s discipline lightly and didn’t learn from it - and that was a mistake I immediately regretted.
Some 22 or so years later I can look and laugh at that incident and blame it on "the ignorance of childhood." But this is a mistake that a lot of Christians make today. They stray from the straight and narrow and God takes them to the woodshed, and instead of learning from it, they take it lightly! Don’t do that! Don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline!