Summary: What friends should do and what they shouldn’t do. Sermon ends with a focus on Jesus as Job’s faithful friend.
Keeping Faith When Friends Fail You
Rev. Brian Bill
After speaking with someone this week who is suffering severely, I received this email: “These last four weeks have been some of the most difficult that I have ever faced. There have been points of agony, doubt, despair, and grief. There have been times when I have not known how to pray--times when the thought of facing another day was nearly unbearable. There have been minutes that have felt as if they were hours--times when I could do nothing but cry. I have never been in such a lonely place that I had to pray for the strength to get through the next five minutes.”
I talked to someone else this week who said that her struggles seem “to be endless.” Another person expressed her pain this way: “This is nothing I ever expected.”
This morning we’re continuing in our Old Testament Journey as we jump into the Book of Job. He certainly experienced unexpected agony and endless pain, just like many of you. Today we’ll focus on what to do when our friends fail us and next week we’ll tackle some common concerns related to suffering as we look at “God’s Answers to our Questions.”
Since this series is intended to be a survey, I’m just going to hit some highlights from Job. I hope you read it for yourself this week, and if you’re in a small group that you’ll flesh it out with some other Christ-followers. Job’s journey is personal and raw; it’s also universal and relevant for today. James 5:11 holds up Job as an example to all of us: “As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”
1. Job’s Character. Look at Job 1:1 to see how people viewed who Job was: “…This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.” This is also God’s estimation of Job in 1:8 and again in 2:3. He’s referred to as “the greatest man among all the people of the East” in 1:3. This aspect is important to remember for his character is about to be questioned by his so-called friends.
2. Job’s Conduct. In verses 4-5, we see that Job took his role as father and shepherd of his family very seriously. When his ten children would have feasts, he would make sure they were purified by offering sacrifices for them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was his regular custom.
3. Job’s Calamities. In chapter one, God allows Satan to take Job’s possessions and his progeny from him. He loses all his animals and then all ten children.
4. Job’s Commitment. After losing his possessions and the people dearest to him, verses 20-21 tell us that he “got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.’” Notice that he didn’t need music to worship or for things to be just right in his life. In fact, he praised the Lord in the midst of his problems. Likewise, you and I can worship when we’re wounded or when we don’t like a certain song.
I received another email this week from someone who has been attending here since this summer: “I don’t know if you have your sermon completed already or not for Sunday but I am really hoping that you touch on Job 6:10. This is the passage that is my life: ‘At least I can take comfort in this, despite the pain I have not denied the words of the Holy One.’ I am daily inspired by the book of Job. He had so much suffering but he chose to say God gives and takes away but still I will praise Him.”
In addition to worshipping, verse 22 mentions that he did not charge God with wrongdoing. In chapter two, Job loses his health as he is afflicted with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. The Hebrew word is similar to the plagues in Egypt and leprosy in the law. The only comfort he had was to pick up a broken plate and scrape off the oozing scabs as he sat on a heap of ashes. Then his wife, filled with pain herself, encourages Job to curse God so he could die. Job responds in verse 10: “…Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” Through all of this he kept a lock on his lips and “did not sin in what he said.”