Most preachers will tell you that the Book of Job can be tough to preach from. The story line itself isn’t exactly a feel-good experience, but you have to admit, it does make you think. Job discovered a new understanding of God’s purpose, and his suffering gave him a new perspective of himself as well. All through the story, Job keeps maintaining his innocence, but in the end, God calls it pride.
As you’ll recall, Job was a man who experienced life’s saddest turn of events. He went from riches and great blessings, to rags and the deep sorrow. In the end however, God gave twice the blessings to Job. While Job lost much, he also gained much. The fact is that every experience of our lives can be beneficial to our relationship with God – if we have the patience to look for it.
When we experience God, several things happen:
I. We begin to understand God (v.2)
The Bible says that, “the just shall live by faith.” Faith in God can only happen when we come to experience the truth of Job’s statement: “I know that you can do all things....” That’s a good summary of Job’s confidence in God’s ability to meet our every need.
Many of God’s people don’t live with this confidence because they haven’t “experienced him first hand”. In fact, most Christians today seem to perceive God rather like the person who said: “God is a lot like my pastor. I don’t see him all week long, and then on Sunday, I don’t understand him.”
Is that your experience with God? If so, maybe it’s because you haven’t really experienced God. Maybe you’ve only heard about Him . . . maybe even from childhood, and just hearing really isn’t enough.
It’s rather like a person from Brooklyn who’s read about farming and assumes he knows what it’s like. Or an accountant in Seattle who once watched a rodeo and figures he knows how to ride a Brahma bull. That’s just not how it works.
From our pain, we can learn of God’s mercy; and from our sorrow, we can learn of His comfort. When we experience God first hand, as Job did, we begin to understand Him as the loving and omnipotent God who can do whatever He desires, and what He desires most is a genuine relationship with each of us.
When we have a first hand experience with God,
II. We begin to understand Life (v.3)
If there’s one thing certain today, it’s that too many people, too many Christians, don’t understand the meaning of life.
One evening Ardie and I decided we needed to get out of the house. On an impulse, we went looking for a good movie. When we got to the theater, we didn’t recognize any of the movies that were playing, so we just picked one. It was titled “District 13” . . . big mistake!
It turned out to be a movie full of blood, violence and mayhem under the guise of entertainment. Within the first 15 or 20 minutes, we decided it was time to leave. On the way out, I couldn’t help notice the faces of those who were enjoying the movie. They were transfixed by the terrible images on the screen. In that instant, I thought, They don’t have a clue what life’s about!
Most people fit the character of Charlie Brown when it comes to understanding life. In one “Peanuts” comic strip, Lucy and Charlie Brown were talking. Lucy said that life is like a deck chair. Some place it so they can see where they are going; some place it so they can see where they have been; and some place it so they can see where they are now. Charlie Brown’s reply: “I can’t even get mine unfolded.”
A man in Burbank, California, seeking to repair an outdoor light, brought it indoors. He was working on it when his wife called out, “Are you sure you know what you are doing?” The instant she said that, he touched a couple of wires, and the shock sent him skidding across the floor – leaving his rear-end engraved in the shag carpet.
The man who got floored by 220 volts was Tim Allen of the sit-com, “Home Improvement.” Tim thought he had it right, but he didn’t understand what he was playing with. The same was true of those at the movie theater. They didn’t understand what the movie was doing to them personally . . . to their minds, their subconscious, their ability to feel the reality of life.
In psychology, it’s called “de-synthesizing.” After seeing so much blood and violence, people become de-synthesized to its horror. When we don’t feel revulsion at violence and death, then we don’t work so hard to avoid it.
Later, I looked up a movie review on Google, and the critic said, “If it wasn’t for the liberal dose of ultra-violence and swearing you might suspect that the whole exercise had been written for kids.” What does that mean? It’s like saying, “If it wasn’t for the death and destruction, Hurricane Katrina would’ve been fun!”
Then he added, “The stylized violence is mostly gratuitous.” Exactly how can violence and mayhem be gratuitous? Obviously that critic was already calloused by over-exposure no less than the mindless masses at the Gladiatorial games of Rome. Like many today, the critic really doesn’t get it.
When we experience God first hand – I mean experiencing him spiritually – we begin to understand life itself. We begin to realize just how precious it really is; just how miraculous a baby is, and how wondrous are the possibilities in that tiny image of God. And then we really begin to appreciate the finger prints of God found in each other. Once you’ve reached that point, the idea of being violent to others is no longer entertaining.
And so, when we experience God,
III. We begin to understand Ourselves (v.6)
Consider little Suzie. Little Suzie was finishing her prayer one night and said:
Please take care of mommy, take care of daddy, take care of my sister and my brother, and please, God, take care of yourself, because if you don’t, we’re all sunk. – Amen!
Suzie understood what should be obvious to all of us –– without God’s mercy and love . . . we’re sunk!
You’ve heard me read the words of Jesus from John 15:5: “I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit, apart from me you can do nothing.” To bear fruit as a Christian, we must be totally dependent on our connection with God. Only the Holy Spirit can change a person’s heart. The most polished preacher in the world can’t win a single soul for God unless the Spirit is at work.
Acts 10:44-45 says: “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.”
And in 1 Corinthians 2:10, we’re told: “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.”
And 2 Corinthians 3:4: “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
It’s the Law that shows us how far we are separated from God. It’s the Spirit, which God has given us, that brings us home again. We cannot afford to forget this important truth!
Repeatedly God called Job, “My servant.” Although he had weaknesses and failures, Job served God during his time of suffering. By maintaining his faith in God – in spite of the most severe trials – Job unknowingly silenced the devil and revealed to his critics that God is worthy of our trust and worship, no matter how much we may suffer in this life.
• In the will of God, trials work for us, not against us. As Romans 8:28 reminds us, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
Therefore, we can begin to understand that,
• Suffering itself can be a ministry. As soon as you declare your faith in Christ, your life becomes a witness to your faith and God’s love. As soon as you seek to be ministers for God, it’s God who chooses your ministry.
There’s a story of a young seminary graduate who approached the church pulpit one Sunday. He was obviously quite full of self-confidence and immaculately dressed. He held himself straight with his head up – proud that he’d been asked to preach in such a fine church. Then he gathered himself to deliver his first sermon after seminary graduation.
Quite unexpectedly, his mind went blank. He stammered, then cleared his throat, but still there was nothing. He rifled through his notes, but the words didn’t come. He began to sweat. Finally, he burst into tears and left the platform completely humbled.
Two elderly ladies were sitting in the front row, and one remarked to the other, “If he’d come in like he went out, he would’ve gone out like he came in.”
Job considered himself righteous, but Job was humbled, and in his humility, he experienced God like never before. When Job had fully experienced God, he came to understand more about God, life, and himself.
A story is told of a Welsh woman who lived in a remote valley in Wales. She went to a great deal of trouble to have electrical power installed in her home. It wasn’t long, however, before the meter reader noticed she didn’t use much electricity at all. In fact, her usage was minuscule. The meter reader came to the door and said, “I’ve been watching your power meter. Don’t you use electricity?”
“Oh, yes,” she said. “We turn it on every night so we can find our lamps and light them,, and then we switch it off again.”
This sounds a bit like the way many Christians apply the power of God in their lives. They know, intellectually at least, that God has promised to give them power over many of this world’s problems and obstacles. They might even pray for God and the Holy Spirit to intercede in those problems. But after praying, they just wait for God to do the rest.
Sometimes, though, it’s God who’s waiting for us. He waiting for us to act out our faith; to use the power He’s already given us; the power “when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” Sometimes He’s just waiting for us to step out “in faith” and act in a way that reflects the faith we claim to have.
God knew the metal of Job when He granted Satan’s request, but God also saw a greater picture than just proving Job’s faith. He saw how Job’s witness could benefit his critics who claimed that suffering is God’s punishment for our sins. God also saw how the whole experience could teach Job about humility.
By God’s wisdom and grace, none of our life experiences are meaningless. It’s God who directs our every step . . . once we’ve taken His hand.
Receiving Christ involves repentance and trust . . . trust that Christ does come into our lives to forgive our sins and to make us the kind of person He wants us to be. Just to agree intellectually that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died on the cross for our sins is not enough. Nor is it enough to have an emotional experience. We receive Jesus Christ by faith, as an act of the will, and such an act is transforming.
God’s not so concerned with our words as He is with our hearts, and He knows our hearts. He knows if our attitudes have really changed or if we’re just acting the way we think a Christian should act. Until the heart is changed, the person remains the same.
PLEASE JOIN WITH ME IN PRAYER
“Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be.”
(this sermon was inspired from a sermon by Mike Hamilton; SermonCentral.com)