Summary: Purpose of our suffering.
I preached it at:
o Providence REC 02/23/03
Have you ever considered how boring you are?
From the epistle reading today we might be tempted to conclude that Paul was an evil man. Listen to the litany of woes he details in the epistle reading: Stripes above measure, prisons more frequently, deaths often, beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked, danger of robbers & foreigners, hungry, thirsty, and naked. Yet these horrible events were actually occasions of perverse boasting by Paul.
C. More questions.
How many of you have ever struggled w/God’s seeming lack of care? How many have doubted God because of a good God simply would not have let all this evil occur? I would like to turn to another biblical character who also greatly suffered and see what we can learn from his story. I want us to turn to Job, but first let me give you a helpful illustration that my son learned while listening to a Francis Schaeffer tape.
II. Reality is a book.
Francis Schaeffer used to describe reality as a book with a line drawn down the middle of it, like this. One side represents the visible, and the other, the invisible. If we sunder these two halves, and throw away the part representing the invisible, we still have a book, but it becomes indecipherable. That is what our lives are like apart from Scripture. We can see many things happening to us, but we cannot tie them together to understand why. Only by joining the invisible, which the Bible tells us about, with the visible can we hope to be able to read the book of our lives and understand the plot God has written.
Like anything worthwhile in my sermons, the best parts are stolen. This time parts of it come from "What Happens When Christianity Doesn’t Work?" by Michael Horton. This article is a funeral sermon for a pastor who took his own life. MH uses the book of Job to try to make sense of this tragedy & to give some Godly perspective on the matter. He helps us to see that contrary to the myriad of books, sermons, and friendly counsel you may have received, Christianity simply doesn’t work. At least not like you think it does. Christianity is no shield from debilitating illness, abuse, divorce, depression, overeating, mental illness, rebellious children, and the like. Listen people, IT WAS NEVER MEANT TO BE THAT. What our faith is, is the ending of God’s anger against us. Our faith means that God’s wrath upon us is spent; His charges against us are dropped, and His requirements of us are satisfied. Against the backdrop of much suffering, MH brings this out in this article. I highly recommend it. Whoever wants the article may have it after the meeting today.
B. Read the book.
How many have read the book of Job? You need to read it. I tell my kids that my favorite book in the Bible is Mark, but this one ranks right up there with it. It is one of the most down-to-earth, this-guy-is-real books in all the Bible. Along w/Ecclesiastes it has more of the "I-can’t-believe-that’s-in-the-Bible" passages that almost any other book.
Job is a book one of whose purposes is to answer the question, "Is God good or is He sovereign?". In the opening verses of the book, Job is described as at least one of the best if not the best & most righteous men of his time. Most of you know the story: He starts out in the book extremely prosperous, the Bill Gates of his day. Not only is he wealthy, he is also a family man - 7 sons and 3 daughters. Not only that, but he is a spiritual man, too: he acts as priest in his own house. Yet God screws up! He zaps the wrong man! Instead of rewarding this faithfulness, He takes it all away with "Mission-Impossible"-like timing. First, he loses all his children, then all his possessions. Not satisfied w/that, God sees to it that he’s visited w/a very painful and miserable illness, along w/3 friends who savagely turn on him. Job becomes suicidal. If God is good, then only a God of limited power would have failed to save such a deserving person from so much misery. If it were in your power to prevent it, would you let your child go through all these troubles? OTOH, if He’s sovereign, then only an evil God would have caused all this to happen. If He controls everything, then He caused this to happen. If He’s all powerful, why extract good from evil? Why not just banish the evil and bring the good about anyway?