BIBLE STUDIES ON SUFFERING
© Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2002
10. SUFFERING AND FAITH (Faith under pressure)
A STUDY IN THE BOOK OF JOB
We saw earlier that Job was a man of true faith (chapters 1 & 2). Satan, believing that Job's faith was not genuine, was confident that if Job was subjected to suffering he would curse God to his face. From chapter 3 onwards we have the record of Job's response to his suffering and to the explanations offered by his friends; we also see how his faith fared under Satan's onslaught. Often as we read our automatic response is 'How could he say that?!' for some of the things he says we wouldn't dare to say. However, in 42:7 God told Eliphaz that Job had spoken about him as he ought, while the three friends did not, and we must keep this basic fact in mind as we read. Let us look now at Job's faith and how it endured.
A. Job's underlying attitude.
Job's basic confidence in God and his government of the world is expressed immediately after the suffering began: 1:21 & 2:3. What follows does not contradict this, but is based on this. It is this basic confidence that prevents Job from giving in to the arguments of his friends.
B. Faith does not result in loss of feeling: the man of God is not a super human stoic. (Ch 3)
An alien, unwanted situation has crashed down upon Job, and it hurts. He is bewildered; he is confused; he wishes he had never been born; he is in agony. From this we learn:
- The man of faith does not escape suffering; he is still in this world, a world of sin, death and suffering, from which he will not be separate until Christ returns. Let us not expect to be free from suffering - from sickness, accidents, disasters.
- The man of faith is not called upon to be super-human in these situations (see 6:12); he is like any man made of flesh and blood; and he is perhaps more than other men, sensitive to the incongruity and the alien nature of suffering in a world created by God.
- Remember that he who loves most lays himself most open to hurt. If we are at, or ever come to a point, where we fail to feel pain when we consider the evil in the world, let us ask ourselves: have we also ceased to love - both God and our neighbour?
The man of faith then, is not a super human stoic, but, like Christ, though to a far lesser degree, and never as a substitutionary offering, bears, with great agony and suffering, the burden of the sin of the world.
As part of this: the man of faith is allowed to cry.
C. Faith fluctuates, but the object of faith remains constant.
Job's faith has suffered a terrible blow; out of the blue calamity has come upon him, and it is completely unexplainable - except by the legalistic opinions of his friends - and to believe these would be to live by sight, rather than by faith. So, his faith fluctuates (6:14), but, even though it is diminished, it is still faith in God. He still sees God as the ruler of the world, responsible for this trouble (6:4); and he sees God as the One who holds the key to life and death (6:8-9).
D. The man of faith expects nothing from God as his right, but depends on him for everything.
The man of faith expects nothing from God as his right. Because he knows that God is wise, powerful, immoveable and Sovereign Lord of all, that man of faith knows that no one has any rights in God's presence. No one can march boldly into his presence and demand this or that (9:3-10, 19-24; also Ps 115:3). Because of this Job longs for someone who does have the right to stand in God's presence - he longs for a go-between, a mediator, an arbitrator (9:32-25). Yet also because of this great gulf between God and man, the man of faith knows that he is dependent on God for everything (10:8-10).
E. The man faith believes God is in control of all that happens (12:7-22).
F. Faith believes God is just, and a worthy object of faith, even though everything, on every side, is screaming out that he is unjust
Study chapter 13, especially verses 13-18. Even in a further period of deep grief, (chapters 16 & 17), this confidence remains (16:18-21 & 17:3); and even though he is sure God is responsible for his misfortune, it is God to whom he looks for justice (19:6, 21,25-27; 23:6-7,14-17).
G. Faith refuses to give in and acknowledge the legalistic approach to the knowledge of God, even when that refusal means contradicting everybody (21 & 27).
H. The man of faith trusts that God is a self-revealing God, and depends solely on God's self-revelation for knowledge of God.
Thus it is Job's confidence that God will speak (19:25-27), and it is Job's desire to find God, to meet him face to face (23:3-5).
I. The man of faith, in the presence of God, is always over-awed by two things: the majesty, power and holiness of God, and his own unworthiness (42:1-6).
Study Luke 18:9-14 and Isaiah 6:1-7.