Summary: Does God really exist? How do I know if I can't see him?
The noted actor and movie director Woody Allen once expressed his skepticism about God’s existence like this. “If God would only speak to me—just once. If he’d only cough. If I could just see a miracle. If I could see a burning bush, or the seas part. If only God would give me a clear sign, like making a large deposit in my name in a Swiss bank.” Isn’t there a part of you that agrees with Woody Allen? I mean really, if God exists, wouldn’t his presence be more obvious? The Bible says that God is present everywhere at once. How is it then that I’ve never seen him, and I’ve been a Christian my whole life? In this final sermon about the Old Testament believer Job, we’ll see how even that strong believer asked this question. We’ll also learn that the way to find peace in light of such doubts is to walk by faith, not by sight.
Job began our text with the lament: “Even today my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy in spite of my groaning” (Job 23:2). How long exactly did Job suffer? We can’t say for certain, but it must have been for several weeks at least. Even if Job suffered for a whole year, consider how his suffering was probably the exception in his life. A year of suffering in the approximately two hundred years that Job lived (we know he lived 140 years after his suffering ended but don’t know how old Job was when they started) comes out to 0.5% of his life that was utterly terrible. The rest of his life, 99.5% of it, may have been relatively carefree.
I’m not trying to minimize Job’s suffering. Instead, I want us to think of our own lives. We can be quick to complain about the challenges we face, but what about all the other times in life when God’s blessings and goodness are obvious? Are we as eager to thank him for these times? Failure to do so shows ungratefulness. It may also reveal an entitlement mentality that believes that God owes us. But all the blessings that God pours into our lives like water gushing from a broken water main should lead us to repentance. That’s what the Apostle Paul observed. He wrote: “…do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)
It’s amazing that God should treat us well at all considering how we often abuse the gifts that he’s given us. We spend much of our God-given time pampering ourselves rather than serving others. We do the same with the incredible riches he has given to us North Americans. Yes, God does give us riches for our enjoyment, but he also gives it to us so that we might help others.
So, is that why God sent Job trials—because he hadn’t been a good steward of God’s gifts? Job’s friends charged him with that sin, but the charges were unfounded. So why did Job have to suffer? Why were these seemingly bad things happening to a seemingly good person? Job wondered the same thing, and he expressed his eagerness to find God and ask him! But Job complained: “If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling! …8 But if I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him. 9 When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him” (Job 23:3, 8-9).
Ever feel the way Job did? Sure. That’s what we talked about in the introduction to this sermon. But Job’s words are the antithesis of King David’s confidence. He wrote: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Psalm 139:7-10). David was confident that not only was God everywhere. He was also sure that this God was interested in him as individual. David confessed that God held him by his “right hand,” his dominant hand—just as you would do when picking up Grandma’s antique sugar bowl when dusting underneath it.
Although Job complained that he couldn’t find God, he confessed that God knew all about him. Job remarked: “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). This passage is a “fridge-worthy” Bible verse—a verse you copy onto an index card and stick on your refrigerator so that you are reminded of it often. To be sure, Job meant his words like this: “God knows me inside and out. He knows that I’m not deserving of these accusations from my friends. When he has finished testing me, the whole world will know that I am as good as gold.” Last week we heard how God put Job in his place for such hubris. While Job was not guilty of the sins his friends accused him of, he did fall into the sin of arrogance. Job too needed refining, and that’s one thing God was up to with his testing of Job.