“In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” – 2 Timothy 3:12 (HCSB)
My family got a new card game a few weeks ago. The first game we played I did pretty well in. The next game my family didn’t feel like letting me win, so they teamed up against me. In a way, I was “marked” by them to receive extra pressure in the game since I was doing well, and it changed my experience. I lost.
No analogy is perfect, but this illustrates the principle I want to convince you of today. Those who live righteously are marked for suffering.
Last Friday, Dylan showed us how Job humbly worshipped God when his life was comfortable. The book of Job only looks at that briefly before diving into the suffering and wrestling that Job went through. Today we’re looking at what happened to bring about that suffering, and later in this series we’ll ask some hard questions about suffering. Let’s take a look at the scriptures that give us the story:
“There was a man in the country of Uz named Job. He was a man of perfect integrity, who feared God and turned away from evil. … Job was the greatest man among all the people of the east. … One day the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them.”
“Then the LORD said to Satan, ‘Have you considered My servant Job? No one else on earth is like him, a man of perfect integrity, who fears God and turns away from evil.’”
“Satan answered the LORD, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing? Haven’t You placed a hedge around him, his household, and everything he owns? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out Your hand and strike everything he owns, and he will surely curse You to Your face.’”
“’Very well,’ the LORD said to Satan, ‘everything he owns is in your power. However, you must not lay a hand on Job himself.’”
– Job 1:1, 3b, 6, 8-12a (HCSB)
When Job still doesn’t sin or blame God, Satan asks for permission to touch him physically. God gives him permission, saying that the only thing Satan may not do to Job is take his life.
We’re inclined to think that when we live righteously, God will bless us with things that we like. That stems from our tendency to think we can earn favor with God. But that’s not how things work. Through the gospel, God credits us with Christ’s righteousness (in Job this is foreshadowed by the sacrifices he makes). After that, we are called to live in the righteousness we have been given.
Along the way, we are promised that we will suffer. We have examples of this in the prophets, disciples, and Christians who were persecuted for their message. Jesus and Paul both told us to expect suffering. In Job’s story, he was a topic of discussion that God brought up with Satan. (Wow, right?)
The result of that conversation is that a man whom God declared righteous was marked for suffering.
Satan makes his purpose for Job’s suffering clear: he wants Job to curse God. He strips Job of his family, possessions, and health, leaving him with a wife who tells him it would be better to curse God and die, and friends who both misrepresent God and falsely accuse Job. If Job cursed God, Satan would rightly accuse Job of only thinking God was worth following when it benefitted him.
God had a completely different purpose for allowing Job to be marked for suffering, even though Job likely never got the answer to the “Why?” questions he asked. We’ll look more into God’s purpose and answers to Job in later articles, but for now let’s take a peek at the insights James offers us into Job’s suffering.
“Consider it great joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”
“Brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the Lord’s name as an example of suffering and patience. See, we count as blessed those who have endured. You have heard of Job’s endurance and have seen the outcome from the Lord. The Lord is very compassionate and merciful.”
– James 1:2-4, 5:10-11 (HCSB)
When we suffer well, we show how valuable God is. Here are few ways that this lesson from Job challenges us in the twenty-first century:
When the sovereign God allows His children to suffer, it refines them to make them more like Christ. How does this change our mindset about the hardships we encounter in life?
In suffering we are comforted by God and learn to truly trust Him. He remains in control. How does this help us trust God more when we are going through trials?
Suffering is a blessing from God if it pushes us closer to Him. In fact, He promises suffering in this life to the righteous. How does this challenge our belief that comfort is inherently better than suffering?