Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2002



A. The book of Job teaches us that suffering and true faith exist together.

As we saw in Study 6: Suffering and the Believer, Job was a man of true faith. He is commended as a man of faith in the Prologue once by the narrator and twice by God himself; he again applauded by God in the Epilogue. Yet he suffered - long and hard and horribly, in every area of his existence. What we have learned of this man and his faith and his well-meaning but mistaken friends forbids us to accept the mentality that says that the presence of suffering indicates either the absence of faith or the lack of right or sufficient faith. It also forbids us to conclude that we suffer because we have harboured doubts or negativity.

Three errors are behind these false perceptions:

[1] The error that physical healing is in the atonement.

For example, Kenneth Copeland states: 'God put our sin, sickness, disease, sorrow, grief and poverty on Jesus at Calvary. For Him to put any of this on us now would be a miscarriage of justice. Jesus was made a curse for us so that we can receive the blessing of Abraham.' (The Troublemaker, p6). Benny Hinn says: 'The Bible declares that the work was done 2,000 years ago. God is not going to heal you now - He healed you 2,000 years ago. All you have to do today is receive your healing by faith.' (Rise and be Healed, p44).

This kind of understanding usually takes Isaiah 53:5 as its foundation, failing to consider the parallelism of Hebrew poetry, in which parallel thoughts are placed one after the other. It is quite clear in this verse that the first three thoughts are speaking of spiritual salvation, of Christ for our sins as our substitute. The next thought, that 'and by his wounds we are healed' is the fourth of this quartet of parallels: so it also speaks of spiritual healing. To interpret is physically is to wrench and twist the meaning of the passage.

[2] The error that health (and wealth) are our right as believers in Jesus Christ and recipients of the blessings of Abraham.

Kenneth Copeland states: 'The first step to spiritual maturity is to realize your position before God. You are a child of God and a joint-heir with Jesus. Consequently, you are entitled to all the rights and privileges in the kingdom of God, and one of these rights is health and healing. You will never fully realize or understand healing until you know beyond any doubt that .... God wants you healed....'? (Healed Be or Not to Be, p31,32).

This fails to understand that the blessing of Abraham is that he believed God and God credited that faith to him as righteousness. It is this blessing of imputed righteousness which people of true faith inherit with Abraham. This is made quite clear in Romans 4, Galatians 3 and Hebrews 11.

Resulting from this concept of health and wealth as the believer's right is a demanding attitude in the presence of God.

[3] The error that 'faith' (or 'positive confession') has power in itself.

Because symptoms of sickness are seen to be the Devil's attempt to make us believe we are sick when we are really well faith teachers tell us to refuse to believe in their reality. Here we are told of the importance of right thinking (positive confession) as opposed to wrong thinking (negative confession). Hagin: 'It makes a great deal of difference what one thinks. I believe that is why many people are sick ... The reason they are not getting healed is that they are thinking wrong ... They simply kept thinking, believing, and talking wrong. ... The thing that makes a believer a success is right thinking, right believing, and right confession' (Right and Wrong Thinking, 19,24).

It is taught that to admit to sickness opens the door to Satan: Copeland: 'When you say, "Every time the flu comes to town, I get it," you are not licensing the angels of God; you are licensing Satan and his agency. Then your actions support your words and give him continuous access to your affairs' (Walking in the Realm of the Miraculous, 37).

In contrast, we are told of the 'power(or force) of faith' (name it and claim it; blab it and grab it). Marilyn Hickey: 'Say to your body, "You're whole, body! ..." and once you have spoken and believe that you have received, and don't go back on it. Speak to your wife, speak to your husband, speak to your circumstances; and speak faith to them to create in them and God will create what you are speaking' (Claim Your Miracles, Tape 186, side 2). Kenneth Hagin believes: 'Real faith in God - heart faith - believes the Word of God regardless of what the physical evidences may be ... A person seeking healing should look to God's Word, not to his symptoms. He should say, "I know that I am healed because the Word says that by His stripes I am healed."' (Right and Wrong Thinking, p20,21). So strongly do some believe that no believer should ever be sick, that they even deny they are sick.

As the erroneous opinions of Job's three friends added to his suffering, so too does this type of teaching today. Many Christians diagnosed with terminal illness have been told 'If you had enough faith you would be healed.' If they accept this teaching, and the outcome is that they are not healed, that outcome is devastating. They can only conclude that the reason is a failure in them. Guilt and self-negation are added to their misery and their burden. And just as the Gospel does not allow us to credit our sickness to our lack of faith, nor does it allow us to credit any other kind of calamity or misfortune to our lack of faith.

B. The book of Job teaches us that suffering and righteousness exist together.

The book of Job also forbids us to think that our personal suffering is directly related to our personal deliberate, unconfessed, or hidden, sin.? Yet out legalistic mentality automatically looks for a 'why' for our suffering in the way we live, just as Job's friends did. We think that we must have some unconfessed or hidden sin; we think that perhaps there is some area of our life which we are 'holding back' from God, or that perhaps we are not 'fully committed' or 'totally dedicated', that there is something in us that is hindering God's perfect (that is, free from sickness or poverty) plan for us. The Word of Faith teachers zero in on this, torturing sincere, but misinformed believers, promoting guilt, self-condemnation, introspection and the like. (See Christianity in Crisis, p261ff).

When we search through the Scriptures we find that Job was not the only believer to suffer; there were also Paul (2Corinthians 12:7-10); Timothy (2Timothy 5:23); Epaphroditus (Philemon 2:25-30). See also 2Corinthians 1:3-11; 11:16-33; 1Peter 2; 3:8ff; 4:12ff. From some of the above references we see that true believers suffered poverty. So also did Jesus (Matthew 8:20). He also said that 'a student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master' (Matthew 10:24), indicating that we should expect the same kind of suffering and rejection as he did.

C. The book of Job teaches us that suffering does not deny God's acceptance of us, nor his love.

It is obvious from Job 1 and 2 that Job had God's love and acceptance at the time when the suffering occurred. The suffering did not negate or alter that. See Romans 8:28-39. It is only our crooked legalistic mindset that makes us think that our suffering indicates the lessening or removal of God's love and acceptance.

D. The book of Job teaches us that when we suffer the greatest pain is the seeming silence of God.

This is agonizingly obvious in Job's experience: Job 13:13-28; Job 16:7-21; Job 19:7-12, 21-27. Read also Psalm 4:1; 10:1; 13:1-4; 22:1-21; 28:1-3; 42:1-11.

E. The book of Job teaches us that through this suffering, God leads us into a deeper understanding of his greatness.

This was what Job gained through his suffering. Unlike the reader, he was never told the reason for his suffering. All he was given was a greater knowledge of God, and with that overwhelming knowledge of God he needed no answers. It was sufficient that God is who he is, and is in charge: a God of infinite power and infinite care. In the hands of such a God one can leave both the questions and the answers.