The Sovereign Hand, Job 1:1; 2:1-10
In times of trials, heartache, despair, it is altogether too easy to believe that we are the only one with problems, isn’t it? When the trials come our way it is easy to lose sight of the sovereign provision and care of God. It is in the hard times of life that those who will abandon the church or abandon their Faith in God will do so. Let us consider the life of Job. In the book of James the author writes, "You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord – that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful" (James 5:11).
Let us put ourselves in the shoes of Job for a moment: (1) HE LOST HIS WEALTH. In rapid succession three messengers came telling Job of the destruction of his property and servants by bands of robbers and by lightning. (2) HE LOST HIS FAMILY. A fourth messenger came telling of the death of all of Job’s children. Seven sons and three daughters were crushed in a moment when the house fell.
(3) HE LOST HIS HEALTH. Job was smitten from head to foot with most loathsome ulcers. He was constrained to sit down among the ashes and scrape himself with a potsherd. (4) HE LOST HIS FRIENDS. His servants turned their backs on him. The children in the streets despised Job and mocked him. His friends told him that his sufferings were because of his wickedness. And his wife told him to curse God and die. If you take any of these trials separately they would be great, but view them collectively and one is almost overwhelmed. But in the midst of calamity, "Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped" (Job 1:20). And you know what? Job learned that the Lord is very “compassionate, merciful and most of all, that God is sovereign and trustworthy.”
This morning we are going to revisit the major theme of the book of Job; God’s sovereignty. Here is the thesis for this sermon: No matter where we are, no matter what we are going through, no matter what condition we find ourselves in, God is ultimately in control of today, tomorrow, and our eternal destiny; we are not going at this stranded, lost, and alone. God is worthy of trust!
The sovereign hand of Almighty God is visible in all of our circumstances. The peace of God is available to all who trust Him.
As D. L. Moody said, “Trust in yourself, and you are doomed to disappointment; trust in your friends, and they will die and leave you; trust in reputation, and some slanderous tongue may blast it; but trust in God, and you are never to be confounded in time or eternity.” Luther gave a similar testimony when he said, “I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.” TRUST
Pain generates disbelief: In the trials of this life our most natural and seemingly reflex reaction is to declare that life is unfair. We cry out why me? What have I done? Inherent in that most common response to pain, sorrow, and suffering, is the idea, the misguided notion really, that I am not supposed to feel pain in this life unless I do something wrong. This is not the case, though, is it?
The universal condition of the world is that it is less than perfect. In each of our hearts the echo of the fall resonates. We see its consequences all around us. In ways too vast for us to fully comprehend, the fall of man brought a curse upon the world. The biblical message is that in choosing self-will over God’s will man asserted his authority over God’s and God consequently allowed him to try it his way. The folly of Adam’s decision is all around us as man fails in that enterprise.
The point is this: pain, sorrow, suffering, sadness, are parts of this fallen world. Every time we are in pain it is not the case that God has sent the pain to punish us for some secret sin. Pain is a part of the world in its present condition; its current state. The Bible tells us that it will not always be this way, that the day is coming and even is at hand when Christ shall return to destroy the works of the devil and will destroy the evil present condition of this world; ushering in a day of perfect beauty where there will be no more pain or sorrow.
Until that time comes, however, here we are, surrounded by pain, tempted to be angry with God, compelled by the world around us to abandon even the notion of God, or to assume, the truth of Nietzsche’s claim, as do many modern philosophers and critics, that God is dead. Even within the confines of the Christian Church there are some who have seemingly abandoned the reality of the living God who dwells within us and is sovereign over and in our very lives; this is true when the Gospel becomes only a means of social progress or an ethic based on Jesus teachings and the supernatural power is lost.
The Solution is Trust in the Living God: Psalm 42. God is not dead, though the culture abandons Him for selfish pleasure and prideful self-assertion of human will; though countless men and woman deny Him for a lack of desire to submit them self to His will. There is a living God who pursues us with His love; whose offer of salvation is real and palpable. There is a living God who reaches out into our pain and offers the gift of eternal life and peace in our circumstances!
(Adapted from Karl Barth) There is a living God who is not a fifth wheel on a wagon, but the wheel that drives all the wheels. He is not a sacred relic set apart for adoration alone, but He is who steps with power into the middle of everything that is. He is not a dark power in the clouds beside which human beings can only slaves or that they avoid like schoolboys escaping a pedantic teacher but the clear power of freedom that is over all and in all and that is worthy of adoration by all!”
God is not merely an invented source of morality for the sake of creating better communities. His Church is not merely an institution concerned with social ethics; we are the ambassadors of the God who lives, the God who shatters our myths, destroys the falsehoods of this world, and breaks into our lives with a thundering voice that bids us come to His overwhelming power and mercy!
God is alive in our present circumstances. In times of pain it is He who offers comfort. In times of despair it is He who is a fortress. In times of confusion it is He who calls us to lean not on our own limited understanding but to run to the strong shelter of His grace and the refuge of the Cross which the world calls foolish, but which has been given that it might be revealed that the foolish things of God are wiser than the wisest things of this world.
Dear Saints of God, the God we serve is no idea, not a view, but the living power that overcomes the powers of death, as real as the power of electricity or the force of dynamite! When o when will the people of God realize that the living God of the Scripture who has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ is not “a feeling with which one plays, but a fact that one takes seriously, on which one can stand with both feet in every situation, on which one feeds like bread, into which on retreats as into a fortress,” a bastion, a stronghold!
He is a living God! Though we attempt to slay Him in our self-assertion, though we cut at Him in our disbelief, He yet pursues us with reckless abandoning love!
How is it, you ask, that Job was able to conquer his fear and doubt? Job was a man with flesh and blood; surely he felt the same pain and anguish that any man would feel given his circumstances. Surely his heart was wrenched with pain and his mind was filled with the same myriad of questions that flood our minds when we are in pain. Why me? What have I done to deserve this?
Job knew the Living God. This knowledge was cultivated prior to the time of trial and because of that cultivation, the fruit of trust in the living and sovereign God was produced in its needed season; the season of pain was filled with the fruit of trust not because he chose to trust God in his pain, but because his life was already filled with a deep and abiding trust in the living God!
Job’s faith was a faith which was not contingent upon his circumstances because He knew, as we too can know, that God is in control; that God knows the beginning from the end and that human wisdom is crushed by the surpassing knowledge, plan, and wisdom of Almighty God!
A frantic mother called her pastor one day. She was experiencing a bad case of “nerves” as so many of us do. He thought he heard a child’s voice while she was speaking, so he asked, “Is your child as upset and worried as you are?” “No, of course not,” she replied. “But why not?” persisted the pastor. “I suppose she puts her trust in me and lets me do the worrying,” she answered. “Then make transference. Try to think of yourself as a child of God and, just as your child puts her trust in you, put your trust in God.”
Pain does have at least one redeeming quality. A great power of suffering in our lives is that it can chasten us to the reality of His divine presence and our need for His provision. Suffering and pain have a way of drawing us to a place where pride and self-sufficiency usually do not allow us to go, on our knees in humble adoration and submission to the perfect, though often ill understood, will of God.
Consider Paul’s thorn in the flesh that constantly reminded him of God’s ultimate provision is to carry him through the circumstances of his life and ministry. Our ultimate aim is to bring glory to God in this life.
Whether suffering is due to the sinful imperfection of another person, an honest mistake or accident, or some tragic set of events that were out of our control, God is always in control and drawing us nearer to Him. The great lesson of Job is likewise that it is not our understanding of our circumstances which matters most. It is our understanding of God that is rightly our greatest concern.
The purpose of this life is to find our ultimate satisfaction in the one who is ultimately glorified in us. In our weakness His enormity is most fully and completely manifest! In our frailty His strength is made known completely!
Dear Saints, God is good and more than that, He is worthy of adoration, He is worthy of trust! This life is not primarily about this life and our lives are not primarily about us. May we find in the lesson of Job’s great trust in God the humbling affect necessary to learn to trust in God completely and worship Him with all of our hearts, all of our minds, and all of our lives, not for our gain or good pleasure, though it brings joy and peace, but for the simple reality that He is worthy! Amen.