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Lombard Christian Reformed Church (Archive)

Shall We Accept Good From God and Not Trouble?

Job 1 & 2 – Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?

 

Frederick Buechner remembers a sad time from his childhood.

It was the depression, and his dad struggled

to the point of becoming an excessive drinker,

everyone knew he was addicted to alcohol,

but you couldn’t tell him so.

“My father had come back from somewhere.

He had obviously had too much to drink,”

Buechner remembers.

“My mother did not want him to take the car.

She got the keys from him somehow and

gave them to me and said,

‘Don’t let your father have these.’

I had already gone to bed.

I took the car keys and

I had them in my fist under the pillow.

My father came and somehow knew

I had the keys and said,

‘Give them to me.

I have got to have them.

I have got to go someplace.’

I didn’t know what to say,

what to be or how to react.

I was frightened, sad,

and all the rest of it.

I lay there and listened to him,

pleading really, ‘Give me the keys.’

I pulled the covers over my head

to escape the situation and then finally,

went to sleep with his voice in my ears.”

 

After telling that story

and relating how in the telling

and sharing there is often a path

of healing presented,

even if the situation itself cannot be

changed or made better,

a friend came to him and

said these striking words:

‘You have had a fair amount of

pain in your life, like everybody else.

It sounds like you have been

a good steward of it.’

Frederick Buechner never forgot that.

He and we have never thought of it that way:

being a ‘good steward of our pain.’

That even our suffering is to be received

in some manner as a gift of God

that requires our faithful taking care through it.

We encourage each other to be

a steward of our money,

our time, our abilities, our earth –

to use these gifts

not merely to get but to give

and to help and care for others

with our means.

But have we ever thought the same

when it comes to our pain and suffering?

Are you a steward of your pain?

 

Job’s story is our story.

And it is an uncomfortable story.

Few consider Job one of their favorites.

Altho Job is described as a

‘blameless and upright man . . .

who feared God and shunned evil . . .’

nobody names their baby ‘Job.’

 

Nobody wishes to go thru what Job had to suffer.

He suffers ruin.

He suffers an encounter with Satan.

He suffers loss.

And he suffers physically.

Job is a story filled with many questions and few answers.

Mostly those questions are directed to God.

And mostly God stays silent –

Our Heavenly Father is there at the beginning,

and we will encounter the LORD again at the end,

but for the rest Job feels pretty distant from the Lord . . .

God’s hand may lay heavy on him,

but God’s heart he cannot sense.

 

Yet thru his story we see God’s heart revealed,

and that is our help when our lives look like Job’s.

What does Job reveal about God?

Job first says: ‘Shall we accept good from God . . .’

 

Job recognizes that God is sovereign.

That God provides.

That life, all of it, belongs to God.

And that God is good.

Good comes from God alone.

 

That’s how this story begins.

What is Satan’s accusation against God?

Satan accuses God of being too good.

No wonder Job is upright, he says.

You shower him with blessings,

you’ve bought him out,

God, you’ve bribed him.

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

 

And while this reveals something great

about our Father in heaven,

it also reveals something about Satan,

the fallen angel and enemy of God

and his people.

Satan despises God’s goodness and grace.

When you and I count our blessings

and praise the Lord for them

we renounce Satan and his works.

We become Satan’s enemies.

 

So how do we live as

good stewards of our pain?

We start by recognizing that all

goodness and blessing come from

God alone,

undeserved,

unmerited,

by the grace of our loving Father.

God makes life good.

Only God.

 

So that’s where Job starts:

shall we accept good from God . . .

but then he adds:

but not trouble?

Now notice what Job doesn’t say.

Job doesn’t say that trouble comes from God.

He doesn’t say:

‘Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble from God.’

No, he says, shall we accept good from God,

and not trouble?

Trouble comes from elsewhere.

Job doesn’t know where it comes from

anymore than we do.

The Bible itself doesn’t say much about

the origin of evil beyond the fact that

God has his enemies,

and that sin has broken the universe

and everything in it so deeply

that even our hearts and lives are bruised,

broken, corrupted, and bent towards death.

 

Satan taunts God,

goading our Heavenly Father toward evil:

11 But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.

But the LORD won’t do that.

The most the Father gives Satan is a lengthening of his leash:

12 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”

Trouble doesn’t come from the Triune God,

but it will come from Satan.

 

In the space of a few words Job is ruined:

his livestock destroyed,

he children lost,

his health taken away,

and his wife loses all respect for him.

 

The trouble comes so swiftly:

For all Job’s success, strength and joy it is all taken away in ‘one day,’ cautions the Bible text.

While one messenger was relaying the bad news another comes,

and the next, and the next, and the next

bearer of troubled news arrives.

Do you think you are strong today?

You have built up security?

You have made your family safe?

‘One day’ is all it took to bring Job to ruin.

 

We desire to be a steward of our pain,

but how can we

when we are overwhelmed?

 

Notice this: the coming of trouble

doesn’t mean the absence of God.

God is still deeply interested and

close to Job.

Nothing happens outside of God’s

knowledge and presence.

Trouble does not mean God

has turned away or forgotten us;

trouble does not mean God

is limited, unwilling or unable to help.

Throughout these two chapters

of overwhelming loss and pain,

God is still the one in authority

over Job’s life

and even over all evil

that comes his way.

Satan must receive permission to act.

Our Heavenly Father still sees Job

for who he is – ‘Mine,’ God says, ‘. . . my servant.’

Job belongs to me, insists the LORD!

Satan still can go only so far,

and must report to God.

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”

 

No doubt as you are listening with me

to this Word of God

you are stumbling with me over

the limits of our human language

to describe all this.

Here our confession helps give us words

to take to heart

even as we struggle,

listen from

Lord’s Day 10

Q & A 27

Q. What do you understand
by the providence of God?

A. The almighty and ever present power of God1

by which God upholds, as with his hand,

heaven
and earth
and all creatures,2

and so rules them that

leaf and blade,
rain and drought,
fruitful and lean years,
food and drink,
health and sickness,
prosperity and poverty—3
all things, in fact,
come to us

not by chance4
but by his fatherly hand.5

Not by chance . . .

Still in our Father’s hands . . .

 

Being stewards of our pain means

to also remember God is still with us,

in authority over our lives,

still ruling and bringing about

his will for all creation,

even when we cannot understand

what is happening to us or why.

Did you see that in the

words of the LORD here:

God says, JOB still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.

 

We look for reasons.

We want to know why.

Most of our suffering questions

are ‘why?’ questions.

Yet even if we knew why,

such knowledge wouldn’t give us

the grace to carry on,

such understanding wouldn’t

take away the pain.

Job never knew why all this happened.

He will never be given an answer.

He will never have revealed to him

what are able to see.

 

So stewards of pain also begin

to understand that facing trouble

doesn’t mean looking for reasons

or fixing blame.

Stewards of pain seek instead

to look for God.

Because God is so good

and so great that even trouble

is not outside his redemptive power.

Listen to Job again:

Shall we accept good from God

and not trouble?

Shall we accept good and

not accept trouble in our lives? he asks.

Job is saying that there is something

about faith that means we will

be required to handle troubling times

and evil circumstances.

Jesus came to earth,

became a human,

to accept our trouble.

We serve him, and a servant is not above her master,

we shall accept trouble too.

 

Could that be why the LORD

seems so confident here?

Has this struck you as it has me?

I was puzzled by how the LORD

reacts throughout all this.

How Satan is tolerated in God’s presence.

And how when Satan accuses God,

the LORD seems almost too eager

to accept the challenge on Job’s behalf.

God sounds confident, proud of Job,

untroubled by the annoyance of Satan,

how come?

What do you think?

 

Here is the majesty of our good God

and his deep concern for you:

Why does our Heavenly Father

put up with Satan,

why does the LORD think so much

of Job that his suffering is allowed?

Because God knows

that the suffering

will bring Job closer to God.

God is loving and

providentially sovereign enough

to turn to our good whatever

adversity he sends us.

And on that horrible ‘one day’

after each servant has delivered the bad news to Job,

what does Job do?

1:20 – Job, tho in great pain, falls to the ground in worship.

He will get as close as he can to God.

 

More than anything the LORD

wants you close.

Wants you and me to know:

not just in our heads,

not just as averse we know by heart,

but in body and soul,

in life and death,

that NOTHING will separate us

from the love of God that is in

Christ Jesus our Lord.

And the more we have occasion

to trust,

the more the LORD has occasion

to draw us close.

This is why we are called

to be good stewards of our pain:

for through it we will be close to God

in ways we cannot merit

or manipulate

or make happen.

When we are close to God,

we are strong in the risen Lord,

even tho we are weak.

And so through this Job

will even have occasion to be

the reason for his friends’ rescue.

Tho there is trouble,

it is never out of the hand of God,

never beyond the power of

God’s redeeming grace,

and the LORD will also work to restore

Job’s friends in ways they

would not have journeyed otherwise.

 

Shall we accept good from God,

and out trouble?

Job asks the question.

And in the asking we are reminded

that God has a biblical reputation

for taking people places

they never really wanted to go.

So in the end Job’s question

is to become my question.

And we wonder where our ‘YES’

to that question will take us.

When we accept trouble in faith

we understand that

the Holy Spirit will take us

to a new life

not of our own making.

It will be God’s good,

tho we may not be able to measure

that good by earthly measures

of comfort or security or happiness.

 

As you came into our worship space

this morning you were handed

a piece of paper.

It reminds us of what we

learned together this morning.

It is also your invitation to be

a good steward of your pain.

In response to God’s Word this morning

you have an opportunity

to bring your suffering

before our Lord Jesus,

who suffered for us.

Jesus willfully, lovingly,

took on himself all the cause

and trouble of our suffering.

He trusted our Father completely,

offering his life into our Father’s hand,

and the LORD raised him up.

So your invitation is this:

to focus on one of the statements

on your paper:

“I offer my pain

and my heart at the cross of Christ . . .”

“I will accept trouble in Christ’s name.”

and maybe one of these statements

addresses your situation right now:

choose one of these statements,

or add your own,

complete the statement,

either –

Lord, I struggle through . . . and name your suffering or pain or trouble, remembering that these do not define us, and God is using this to bring you closer.

Or complete I am comforted by . . . and name the grace and mercy you are experiencing, sensing how by this God is closer.

Or complete I thank you for . . . and thank the Lord for his presence or sustaining grace in some specific way as you lift your trouble to our risen Lord.

 

Then bring them up here to our wood pile,

This wood symbolizes what is broken

and wrecked,

and out of it will come a cross

reminding us of what Jesus carried for us.

And you may leave your offering here

in the rubble,

out of which has come our deliverance.

 

Then , if you would like further prayer,

just stay in the front pews

and myself and the elders will pray with you,

offering the anointing of oil for your healing.

During this time if you prefer

not to come forward that’s okay.

Continue in prayer lifting up yourself

and our brothers and sisters in prayer.

Sing along in praise,

and so let us respond to

God’s call for us to be good stewards

of our pain.

 

On your way to the front

as you pass the baptismal font,

you may dip your hand in the water

to remember

the promise of our covenant God

to be our God always,

to the very end,

and that my identity is as a child of God,

and nothing can take that away from us.

We are not our sorrow.

We are not our sin.

We are not our own, but belong,

body and soul,

in life and in death,

to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

We are children of God.

We call the Creator of the Universe:

our Father.

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