The Purpose of God in Suffering
by David A. DePra
This article is a transcription of
the audio message, "The Purpose of God in Suffering," with some minor edits.
Here is the link to the audio message:
This article is a transcription of the audio message, "The Purpose of God in Suffering," with some minor edits. Here is the link to the audio message:
This and other audio messages can
be found at www.goodnewsaudio.com
This and other audio messages can be found at www.goodnewsaudio.com
Back to the Goodnews
The title for today is going to be, “The Purpose of God in Suffering.” Now this will be a message that will be an OVERALL -- pertaining to the book of Job -- but then we are also going to begin with chapter 1 today as well.
What is the purpose of God in suffering as revealed to us in the book of Job? That's important, not only if we are to understand the book of Job -- but what is revealed there is actually the very New Testament Truth as to why God allows his people to go through suffering. It is the same Truth exactly here in the book of Job that is revealed in the New Testament.
Well, when Job was going through his great trial, he did not understand the purpose for his suffering. He eventually would. And so what I wanted to begin with, is that I want to read the END of the book of Job and see what that purpose IS. If we can see that purpose ahead of time, then as we go through the chapters leading up to that conclusion, it will give us definition, meaning, and purpose.
How many understand that God ALWAYS has a purpose? He's not just making things up as he goes along. God is not indifferent to us; God isn't confused. God knows exactly what He's doing -- even though when we are in a great trial, we often don't understand what God is doing.
Now, part of what Job went through was that (lack of understanding), but at the end of the book he did see something that gave meaning and purpose to his suffering. There's a lot of people that try to say that the conclusion that we ought to draw from The Book of Job is that God will never bring meaning or purpose, or explain to us why we're suffering. No. God showed Job exactly the purpose for which he suffered. And all through the New Testament we are told why. But in order to understand that -- and for it to have meaning to us -- we have to believe God and be open to the Truth.
The Greatness of God
And so let’s ask the question right off the bat: Why did Job have to suffer? And why do WE have to suffer? Well, there is a purpose – and at the end of The Book of Job, in chapter 42 -- that purpose is revealed. I want to read this passage. We are going to read it and go over it again, at great length, when we get to it -- as we go through the book. But I want to get this established upfront so that we will know the beginning from the end, and the end from the beginning -- so that as we look at Job's adventure and his suffering we will know why he's going through it.
Chapter 42. Again, this is at the end of Job's trial. This is after God DID speak to him, and basically revealed Himself to Job as being sovereign, almighty, and beyond anything that Job ought a question. And of course, when God revealed Himself to Job, he felt very small in his own eyes. How many understand that TRUE humility is NOT the result of you and I putting ourselves down? True humility is NOT the result of us taking, “a spiritual cat of nine tails,” and hitting ourselves over the back with it -- so that we can, “prove to God,” that we are, “really humble.” People for the last 2000 years have tried to come up with things that they could do, or practices that they could involve themselves in, to make themselves humble, or to appear humble, or to prove to God that they are humble. How many understand the moment you try to do that you are in self-righteousness? If you try to make yourself humble you are trying to establish your own righteousness. True humility is never the result of human effort. True humility is the result of seeing Jesus Christ -- HIS greatness. How many understand that if you see HIS greatness that you will see how small YOU are -- in that very same light? This is why, when God calls somebody to Jesus Christ, that absolutely they will see the love and forgiveness and the redemption of God in Him. But that same light is going to show how much they NEED Him. That same light is going to show us for who we are in Adam. It HAS to – it’s LIGHT! It's not a discriminating Light. It's LIGHT. And so you have to be willing to accept the WHOLE Truth. We don't need to be down on ourselves. You meet Jesus Christ and you will see your true condition, and you'll want to run to Him as Savior.
The Need to Know Christ
Job 42 -- as I noted, the prelude to that is chapter 41 -- where God began to show Himself to Job; to reveal HIMSELF to Job. He did NOT reveal to Job, at that point, the answers to his suffering. He revealed HIMSELF to Job. And that is key. I think most of us want INFORMATION from God as to the facts regarding our suffering -- as to why we are suffering; as to what we should DO -- or what we should NOT DO. Or maybe we ask what we did to get ourselves in this mess.
I think that's the kind of prayer that we tend to pray to God. I can't tell you how many times in trials I've said to the Lord, “Lord, if You would just tell me what you want me to do! I would do it and we could put an end all of the suffering.” But most of the time when you pray that prayer, assuming that your heart is right and that you are believing and obeying God as much as you know -- most of the time God is simply going to be silent to you. He is going to be silent to you because silence IS His answer.
How many understand that when God is silent to us that He knows that silence is exactly what we need? Do we actually believe that God is a God who sits in heaven, stubbornly on his throne, folding His arms, refusing to budge, even though we cry out to Him – maybe until we, “push the right button?”
Christianity today is filled with people who will suggest to you what that, “button,” is that you need to push -- to get God moving. Some people say, “write a check to a ministry.” “THAT will ‘activate your faith.’" How many understand you don’t need to, “activate your faith?” Faith is either there, or it isn't. God doesn't fall for that kind of baloney. Other people try to say -- Kenneth Copeland teaches this -- that faith is, “a force,” that you need to generate to act upon God, and move Him. Or that you need to generate to create the reality that you desire. This is nothing but the occult; it is nothing but magic potions. It's nothing but fables. I'm not being unkind. I'm telling the Truth.
No. When God is silent, He silent because He wants to be silent -- not because He is indifferent. He is silent because he wants to be -- because that is what is best for US. But boy, the silence of God -- when we are suffering -- sure SEEMS like He is indifferent. It sure seems like something is wrong. But it may be that everything is right.
And so God was silent to Job for a long time -- but then began to reveal to Job – NOT answers, and NOT information -- but then began to reveal to Job -- HIMSELF. That is a key to the purpose of God, and to suffering.
Job -- once God spoke to him – says to God in Job 42:1: “I know that You can do everything, and that no thought can be withheld from You.” At the end of verse 3, he says, “Therefore I've uttered those things that I understood not -- things too wonderful for me -- which I knew not.”
I'm going to get into this at length when we get to chapter 42. But Job is basically saying, “I spoke the Truth.” In fact, God SAID he spoke the Truth. God said, “My servant Job spoken rightly of Me.”
So Job said, “I said the right words. I taught the right things. But Job is saying, “Yet I didn't really understand WHAT I was saying because I had not, at that point, seen YOU, Lord.”
And so Job confesses this, he confesses that he thought he KNEW because, “he had all the Bible verses” – and of course, he did not have a Bible -- but you know what I mean, as it applies to New Testament Christianity. It is entirely possible for you and I to memorize the Bible, book and verse -- to know all the doctrines; to write about them -- but to NOT know God.
Jesus told the Pharisees about that very possibility. He said, “You search the scriptures, thinking that in scripture that there is eternal life.” And He said, as if it were in parentheses, “And they DO testify of Me.” He said, “But you will NOT -- despite all of your bible knowledge -- come to ME that you may have life.” How many understand that the letter kills, but that the spirit gives life? How many understand that the bible experts of Jesus's time, despite knowing every promise in the Bible that God would send the Messiah, nevertheless looked at that Messiah straight in the face and said, “You have a devil.”? And then betrayed Him into the hands of the Romans? They thought He was one, not from God, but one from Satan. So much for Bible knowledge without a heart for God; without seeing Jesus Christ.
Now they were fully responsible. In fact, there were some who did come to Christ, such as Nicodemus. But there you have a great example of knowing all the right teaching, but not knowing the One about Whom the doctrine is teaching. Doctrine is great -- and it needs to be biblical. But how many understand that even biblical doctrine -- if we read what the bible SAYS – TELLS US that we need to be given a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus Christ? We need to know HIM in an inward way; have Him formed in us. Reading the Scriptures that TELL US that we need to do that is fantastic; believing them is fantastic. But then we need to go on to do it.
How many understand that if I read, believe, and accept as Truth, the verse that says that we need to lose our life to Jesus Christ by picking up our cross – that this is great? But I could stop short and never actually DO what I'm reading. THAT requires faith and requires an EXPERIENCE -- and that's where God wants to bring us.
And so it's entirely possible for any of us -- and I believe were all guilty of this; I know I am -- to have uttered correct, right things, about God, but to have uttered them without any real spiritual understanding; things that were too wonderful for us, that we really have never known or seen.
I would also add this: If that is what we are doing -- teaching the right things, and preaching the right doctrine, but NOT knowing and seeing Christ -- I would submit that ultimately we are going to begin preaching error, and straying from even the true doctrine -- because we are not going to have the Truth in us, and certainly even if we are saved we are not going to have the truth governing us – and so there will be nothing to anchor us. Christ is our Anchor.
Sometimes when I talk about the necessity of knowing Jesus Christ, and receiving revelation from God of Him in an INWARD way, people think that I'm discarding doctrine or that I'm saying the bible is unimportant. No. To the contrary, the Bible itself tells us this – as I just read. The Bible itself tells us we need to receive revelation from God; we need to see JESUS. And the fact of the matter is: There is only ONE Truth. The Bible is the written Truth. And any revelation that God gives of Jesus Christ is going to agree one hundred percent with the Bible -- because HE is the Living Truth. Jesus said, “I am the Truth.” He also said, “Thy Word is Truth.” There is ONE Truth -- and so no matter how God is speaking, and revealing, it all comes back to the fact that God is speaking in His Son, who is the personification and embodiment of all Truth. And so teach Truth, believe Truth, and hold to sound doctrine -- absolutely. But in the end, it all comes back to knowing Jesus Christ in an INWARD way -- and that by the spirit of God.
Now With Wisdom of Words
So Job had to confess (the Truth) as the OUTCOME of beginning to see God. He said, “I have uttered things, and I thought I understood things -- but I didn't even realize how wonderful these things were. I spoke, Lord, of how You love, and how faithful You are. But this really was beyond me; the Truth about You is beyond me. It cannot be conveyed in words. I thought I HAD IT. I thought I had, “arrived." How many know that a lot of us sometimes think we've, “arrived” – because, “knowledge puffs up?” We pump ourselves full of doctrinal biblical knowledge -- and I'm not down on that -- but we pump ourselves full of that, and we come out, and we think we've, “arrived.” We think, “We have IT now. We are able to teach.”
Some of us are good at speaking. Some of us are good at explaining. All of that is fine. But how many understand that the Bible itself will tell you -- Paul said this – “I did not preach the gospel with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ be of none effect.”? (I Cor. 1:17) He is saying there that you cannot bring a person into the Truth through a logical argument. You can't make people see Jesus by using some kind of a psychological gimmick, or by stirring up their emotions, or by scaring them to death. All of that is what people in the WORLD use to move others; to captivate audiences, and so forth. “If I can just help you to see my point of view; if I can just get you to concede that Jesus is Savior, then you'll be saved.” No, you won't. Wisdom of words, and all of that, Paul called -- and he was being a little bit facetious, but there was a point to be made -- Paul called, “the foolishness of preaching.” We are to preach, and we are to teach, but we are to take our hands off of that, and we are to let God use it however He pleases. But we must never think that OUR teaching, or OUR words, are what are important. No. It is the Christ – it is the Christ into contact with Whom people will come if God is using preaching – He is the goal of all preaching.
Ultimately -- according to that passage that I quoted about the Cross in I Cor. 1:17 -- all preaching and teaching, at the outset, needs to bring us face to face with the Cross of Jesus Christ – so that we may realize that this is not about US. There's nothing in US of value that God intends to salvage. He wants it all under the cross -- that we may emerge into a greater release of Jesus Christ as our life. That is what is important: Christ in us; His life; His Lordship -- not US. And preaching and teaching -- as “foolish” as it is BY COMPARISON to what God can do by His spirit -- is used unto that end.
And so Paul said, “I'm not here to use clever arguments, or little clichés, or little anecdotes to amuse you. I'm not here,” Paul would say, “to get up on Sunday morning and give you 20 minutes of a comedy routine and then stick in a Bible verse here and there, so that after I'm done, you could say, ‘Wow. That guy is a good preacher!” No. That is NOT what this is about. This is about the truth of God in Jesus Christ setting people free.
The Purpose of God
And so Job had to confess that even though he had taught others -- and God said he did -- and he taught them things that were right about God -- God said that as well -- he said, “I spoke beyond my understanding. And I never appreciated or revered the very Truth that I was teaching others.”
But now, in verse 5, we come to the confession that this entire book of Job builds up to – it is really a summary of the purpose of Job's suffering. And it tells us the purpose of the New Testament Christian’s trial and suffering -- what God is after; why He allowing these things to happen to us. Job says, “I have heard of You, God, by the hearing of the ear. I heard ABOUT You, Lord, in teaching and in doctrine.” He says, “And all of that was good.” He says, “But now my eye sees YOU. Wherefore, because my eye sees YOU, I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
So there it is. What is the purpose of God in suffering for His saints? That we may SEE GOD -- that we may have an INWARD REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST. That is God’s purpose in suffering. And since God doesn't waste His time or ours, we need to come to terms with the fact that this is the ONLY way He can accomplish a revelation of Jesus Christ in his saints in this age. God allows suffering to give us the opportunity that we would never have otherwise -- the opportunity, by faith, to lose our lives to Christ -- that we may come into true life in Him; a true revelation of Him. We must take our place in the Cross; we must let the suffering have its work – NOT by yielding to the suffering; NOT by yielding to circumstances – but let the suffering have its work by yielding to God IN the suffering -- and asking Him to do whatever it takes to get His will in us.
Now, just as an aside, take note: God's purpose in the suffering of His saints is that we may come into an inward realization of Jesus Christ. He setting us free from the old – from our blindness -- that we may see Jesus. But if we don't believe – if we don’t continue to seek God; if we don’t lose our lives to God in that suffering – we are not going to come into a realization of Jesus, and God's purpose will NOT be realized in us. We can give up -- isn't that the temptation, continually, in suffering? We can turn to something, or someone else, as a solution. We can close our heart to God; let the darkness begin to govern us, and end up deceived, and fall short of God's purpose. All of that is possible. But it doesn't need to be that way because God is faithful.
(God’s faithfulness) is so important to see because it gives you hope and purpose for living -- for getting through a trial. Your trial may or may not be because you made mistakes, or because you have sinned. But regardless of how you got yourself in your suffering -- or regardless of why God put you in the trial – the GOAL of God in that suffering is the same: To SEE JESUS. To have an inward revelation of Jesus, and upon that, to bring us in to a relationship with Him. God wants to form Christ in us. That's what He's doing in His saints through suffering.
God said Job was, “A good and upright man.” But we know he wasn't perfect. So we can garner from the book of Job that despite the fact that God commended him, even at the beginning of the book -- despite that -- Job had a lot of growing to do. God wanted to bring him to the next level -- and we see here what that next level IS: Instead of trying to live the Christian life on the level of doctrine, teaching, principles, and walking through various seasons of works, and accomplishments in ministry -- instead of that – God, in one fell swoop, by revealing HIMSELF to Job -- wiped it all away. He said, “This was just for a season Job; this was preliminary. I put you through this ordeal -- not to teach you doctrine; not to give you INFORMATION -- but I put you through this great time of trial, Job, to give you a REVELATION -- a revelation of MYSELF to you.”
That's why God allows suffering. That is the conclusion of the book of Job. That's what everything else is building toward -- and I wanted to get that established up front. I could talk a lot more about that, of course, but I wanted to wait until we go through the book -- instead of lumping it all here in this upfront summary of where all this is going.
A Good and Upright Man
So with that I want to turn back to Job, chapter 1 -- and as I go through the book of Job, we are going to hit high points and some of the more profound moments in the trial of Job – and we are going to bring in the New Testament Truth, with the scriptures, that will show us what God is teaching us here from the book of Job.
Job 1:1: “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was perfect…” -- and the word there is, “mature” – “and upright. And he was one that feared God and hated and avoided evil.”
Now, this is not only the inspired Word of God -- so we can believe that this is a description of the true character of Job -- but God Himself is going to repeat this in a few verses. Now again, I noted earlier, that you have to take this in context. Every one of us is without our own righteousness. Every one of us is a sinner -- save the grace of God. So is Job. But in the context of where Job was presently in his walk with God, God was able to say this about him. How many know that Job, at this point, was fairly ignorant of God. He knew ABOUT God -- but he didn't know God. He saw truth ABOUT God, and facts ABOUT God – but he did not see God Himself. In other words, again -- Job had lots of INFORMATION. But the didn't have that much REVELATION. And at that point in his life that was OK -- because it was where he was. It was the light he had. God holds us responsible ONLY for the light that He has given us -- and Job had been faithful in the light he was given. And so God was able to say, “Job is mature and he is upright. He fears God and hate evil -- in the context of the light that he has been given.”
Chastisement, Not Punishment for Sin
Now, Job's family apparently was a rather disorderly bunch, and Job was constantly praying for them. And in Job 1:6 we see that, “There was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them, and the Lord said unto Satan, ‘From where have you come?’ And Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘From going to and from in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.”
Now, verse 8, “And the Lord said unto Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job -- that there is none like him in the earth -- a perfect and upright man, one that fears God hates evil.’” That's almost a word for word quote of verse 1.
Now, a couple of things that I want to point out about verse 8. First of all: God Almighty takes the initiative to call Satan's attention to Job. Can we see that? God initiates this.
Number two: God Himself said that, “Job is a perfect and upright man, one that fears God and hates evil.” Later on, God is also going to say to Satan that Satan, “moved God against Job WITHOUT CAUSE.” That is over in chapter 2, verse 3.
My point is this: The trial and suffering of Job -- as stated, “black on white;” clear as a bell by God -- was NOT because Job had sinned. It was NOT because he had sinned. And it really wasn't because God was, “punishing,” him, even for unconscious sin, such as self-righteousness. There's NO sense here of, “punishment,” whatsoever. Now there IS chastisement -- but CHASTISEMENT is love. It's for our betterment. That is what was going on -- we will talk about that as we go along -- but there is no sense here -- and even from the mouth of God we have this proven -- there is no sense here that Job had sinned, and now God was punishing him; that Job had gotten out of the will of God, and now God was punishing him, or judging him, with this tremendous trial. No.
The Truth for us in this is that we could possibly be 100% in the will of God -- in the context of the light we have; we could possibly be believing and obeying God the best we are able to do so with the light given -- and yet God may allow a great trial to come upon us. I say that because it is so easy -- if we were sailing along, believing and obeying God – that if something horrible happens, to think that either God is unfair or that we surely must have done something wrong to merit this kind of punishment from God. Isn’t that true? That's what we think. In fact, Job and his friends spent the better part of 40 chapters arguing that point back and forth. And yet it is not so.
Now I want to follow this up, and talk more about it -- talk more about how God chastises us in LOVE -- here in a minute. But I want to finish up the thought of this prequel to the trial Job.
Trials Purify Our Hearts
God points out to Satan: Job. He points out that he's a good and upright man, one that fears God and hates evil. In verse 1:9, Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him? And about his house, and about all he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has, and he will curse You to Your face.”
Now -- another principle here: Satan is basically saying to God, “Yes, Job obeys You. But he obeys you, God, because it PAYS him to.” And so, another purpose built into suffering is that God wants to purify our hearts, so that we don't simply obey and believe because it PAYS us to. God wants people who will voluntarily give their all to Him because we LOVE Him.
We are not capable of that in the beginning. It IS true of us in the beginning -- I think this is one of those hidden motives for us – when we first come to Jesus and don't know a whole lot more -- at that point I think one of the things that is in our hearts is that we come to Jesus, and we walk with Jesus because we want the blessings that are attached to that. I think that's a fact. And one of the reasons that God allows trials to come is that he wants to purify our motives. Of course, this is based in self-righteousness. We ARE self-righteous and we DO obey God because it pays us -- on the basis of that self-righteousness. God wants to set us free from the whole thing.
And so Satan accuses Job of obeying and believing God because it pays him to. Now this was NOT a completely untrue accusation. Job DID obey God -- to a degree -- because he felt that God would bless him. The whole argument of the book of Job is, “I have obeyed God but He has NOT blessed me. He has allowed terrible suffering to come upon me. How can this be?,” Job said. And his friends and himself -- they argue back and forth about this: “You do good and you get blessed; you do bad and you get cursed.” That's what they believed. God is allowing this trial to shatter the self-righteousness that is behind that. We are all guilty of that -- Job was no exception.
The Sovereignty of God
The Lord said unto Satan, “’Behold, all that he HAS is in your power. Only upon himself but not forth your hand.’ So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.” Notice again: Satan is only allowed to do what God gives him PERMISSION to do. There's nothing here that's, “falling through the cracks.” Satan did not ambush Job without GOD’S knowledge. Satan did not ambush GOD. Everything -- from start to finish -- is 100% in the hands of, and in the sovereignty of GOD.
Now, that is ever more so for a New Testament Christian. We are not only, “in God's hands” -- Christ Himself DWELLS IN US. And so you can be sure that whatever you're going through -- this is fully within the sovereignty of God -- and that all you need to do is seek God, no matter what, and ask Him to do and get His purpose through the suffering. Tell God to do whatever it takes to get HIS purpose in your situation. God will answer that prayer every time.
One other thing that I want to point out before we move on: Job was completely unaware of this conversation was taking place between God and Satan. He did not know about that conversation. All he knew were the calamities that began to come upon him. He did not know, at this point, there was a purpose of God in it. That is part of his trial: He didn't know. And isn't that also the fact with us -- that there is so far MORE involved in what God is doing in our lives through suffering than we can imagine? And it is so easy -- because we are blind -- to speculate; to be afraid; to accuse God; to feel condemned. God would tell us, “Hold your peace and simply believe and abide in Me.”
Well, the Lord opened the hedge around Job – but I’m not going to read all the things that came upon Job. He lost everything. He lost all of his possessions -- his sons and his daughters -- and in verse 20 -- this was after he lost his possessions -- it says, “Then Job arose and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground and worshipped, and said, ‘Naked came I out of my mothers womb, and naked shall I shall. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ In all of this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.’”
Now, Satan wasn't satisfied. He came before the Lord again, and again God pointed out Job -- in verse three of chapter 2. “Have you considered My servant Job? That there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and upright man, one that fears God and hates evil? And still he holds fast his integrity, although you moved Me against him, to destroy him without cause.” We see here an idiom, or figure of speech, in Hebrew -- where even though Satan did all of this, God Himself takes responsibility for it: “You did it, Satan, but I let you, so I'm taking responsibility for what happened.” Again, God is never out of control.
And Satan answers and says, “Skin for skin. Yet all that a man has he will give for his life. But put forth Your hand now and touch his bone, and his flesh, and he will curse You to Your face!” And the Lord said unto Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand. But save his life.” And in verse 7, Satan smites Job with sole boils from head to foot -- and it got to the point were even Job’s wife suggested to him that he ought to curse God and die. And I'm not so sure that this is not a suggestion by Job's wife that he simply commit suicide. I don’t know how else to read it. “And Job said to her, ’You speak as one of the foolish women speaking. What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, but shall we not receive evil?’ And in all of this Job did not sin with his lips.”
And so we have Job losing all of his possessions, and praising the Lord, and then we have him losing his health. The health part is especially difficult because once you are tormented by health problems, such as Job was, now even your mind begins to rise up -- you cannot find rest; you can't hide from trial anymore. It's just on your person -- similar to the way in which Paul had a thorn in the flesh -- and yet, at this point, Job is not sinning. He is holding fast his faith in God.
Chastisement, Not Punishment
Now, all of that being said, I want to get into the New Testament here a little bit with regard to everything we have read as to the story behind Job's suffering. Let's turn to Hebrews 12. As we begin reading Hebrews 12, I want to go back to the principle that I mentioned earlier: Every one of us -- to one degree or another -- has an idea in our head that dictates that if we obey and believe God, He is going to bless us. If we disobey, and don't believe God, He is going to curse us. I’m not saying that our works -- our choices -- don't have consequences. Of course they do. But with regards to our relationship with God, if we operate that way, we are thoroughly under the law. In fact, we are basing our life with God on self-righteousness. We need to get it settled that once we come to Christ, things are no longer on that basis. They are on a new basis. Our basis is HIM -- and on the basis of faith in him. Consequently, and this is what I alluded to earlier – and we are going to read this in Hebrews 12 -- you and I can be 100% in the will of God; you and I can be believing and obeying God as far as we know -- making allowance for human frailty and our failures -- and yet, “calamity,” may come upon us. God may be allowing it.
We've already read why God wants bring us into an inward realization of His Son. But we need, at this point, to understand some terms having to do with that. All of this trial, and all of this calamity, that could come into the life of a Christian is NEVER, “punishment.” It's always CHASTISEMENT. And there's a big difference between the two. PUNISHMENT carries with it a sense of vindictive, punitiveness. In other words, we do wrong and God makes us pay for it. That's how PUNISHMENT basically works out. CHASTISEMENT, on the other hand, is not that (not punishment). CHASTISEMENT upon a son or daughter of God could be because we have sinned, or or gotten out of the will of God. But CHASTISEMENT is always to bring us back IN. It is for our betterment. It is always redemptive.
Note what I just said: If you are being chastised of the Lord, it could be because you have already been IN His will – and He wants to give you a GREATER freedom in Christ. That was the case to a great degree with Job. But if you are being chastised by the Lord, it might also be because you have made some big mistakes and you are OUT of the will of God. Both are possible for a Christian. But the goal of God is always the same: To bring you back into His will -- or to keep you in it -- and to cause you, if you yield to Him, to see Jesus Christ.
I say this because a lot of people – when they get into trials; when things go bad as a son or daughter of God -- they begin to re-trace their steps and catalog all the mistakes they have made, and then they think, “Well, I got myself into this mess, and so I cannot expect God to help me, or to redeem me.” But that's just nothing but another form of disguised self-righteousness. How many understand that if you believe that it is on the basis of your good works that God is rewarding you, that its just as much self-righteousness as if you believe, on the basis of your mistakes, God is making things go bad. No. You have got to take it all and put it in the trash bin. It doesn't matter HOW you I have gotten into the situation that we are presently in. If we have sinned; if we have made a big mistakes – confess those to God. The way out, if I can put it that way -- or the purpose of God in it (the trial) -- is exactly the same, regardless of how we got IN -- it is to come to the cross, is to unconditionally surrender, and lose our life to Jesus Christ -- that we may come into a revelation of Jesus. This is God’s purpose -- regardless of how we got into the mess we are in. And so Job was NOT being punished by God -- Job was being chastised by a loving Father -- just as you and I will be. God loves us, but we need Him to teach us.
Chastisement is Training
Hebrews 12 talks about this. It's really why God allowed Job to go through the trial that he went through -- and it applies to us. It's right here in the New Testament. The writer of Hebrews is talking about trials and tribulations in verse 3 and 4 of Hebrews 12. But in verse 5, the writer of Hebrews, who I believe is Paul, brings in this exhortation: He says, “My son” -- and daughters are included – “despise not the chastening of the Lord.”
Now, that word, “chastening,” does not mean, “punishment.” The meaning of that word in the Greek has nothing to do with, “punishing.” The word actually means, “to train a child.” God is training us to live with Him forever. How? By bringing us into an inward realization of His Son -- God is teaching us CHRIST. That's how. And it's the only way it can be accomplished. God is a Heavenly Father who loves us. He is training his sons and daughters.
And that's what this is talking about: “My son, despise not -- the training in love; the chastening, in other words -- of the Lord. And do not faint when you are convicted by Him, or rebuked of him.” Don't reject the conviction of God because it makes you look bad. Don't reject the conviction of God because you cannot accept that you could be that wrong. You ARE that wrong. We all are -- but instead embrace it. There are a lot of people who get a certain concept of God in their head. And God comes along and He convicts them that they're in error -- but they won't budge. They think they are standing for truth. No. You are standing for your own thoughts; and for your own beliefs. God never says stand for what you believe in. He says, “Stand for the Truth.” And so, “My Son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, nor give up when you are rebuked of Him.”
We read there in chapter 42 of Job – how at the end -- Job had to confess what God had convicted him of -- that God was bigger than Job’s beliefs about God; that God was bigger than what Job could understand; that Job thought he had arrived -- but now saw that he had only begun. Well, this is the kind of humility that we are going to have to face. As I said before, you see God, and you see Jesus Christ, you are going to see how small you are -- but you are going to rejoice in the fact that you are small. How many understand that if you see Jesus Christ, you will rejoice and be glad that you are barren inside without Him -- because it will bring you to the place where you will embrace and receive all of HIM. And so, “My son, despise not the training or chastising of the Lord, nor faint when you are convicted by him.”
Now in verse 6 it tells us WHY God is doing all of that: “For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and He scourges every son that He receives or POSITIONS.” Now, a great Truth in this: God Almighty is chastening us because He loves us. It's all for our good. And He is allowing us to suffer, and go through trials, because He is, “POSITIONING us in Christ.”
Now what does that mean? Well, it really is a reference to something that Jesus Christ said in the gospel of John, chapter 14. There, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me.” He said, “In my Father's house” -- and we have to remember that this is is a phrase that means INHERITANCE. Inheritance, in the Old Testament, was often referred to as, “the father's house” -- so He is talking about God's inheritance for his people through Jesus Christ: “In My Father's house.” We might even say that Jesus Christ IS the Father's house. Well, are we not IN HIM? Don't we live in Him? Yes. So Jesus Christ IS the Father's house -- Jesus Christ IS -- figuratively speaking -- God's inheritance that He has for us. “In My Father's house are many abodes. If it were not so, I would have told you. But I go to prepare a place for you. But if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there you might be also. And whither I go, you know, and the way you know.
Now -- just that much: Jesus is saying that He is going to be -- it's really for 2000 years what Jesus has been doing in His people – He is saying, “For 2000 years I will be away, waiting to come back. But while I am away, I am going to be preparing a place for you IN MYSELF; in My Father's house; in the inheritance of God.
In Hebrews 12, it speaks of this exact same inheritance in Christ -- but only from another angle. Instead of talking about the fact that Jesus is preparing a PLACE for us, Hebrews 12 speaks of it from the angle of US being prepared for the place. So it is. God is, “positioning,” us as sons and daughters in Christ -- that we may, because we are in Christ, live in Him; abide in Him -- the Father's house -- and live and abide in all of the inheritance that God has for us in Jesus Christ.
This is why God is chastising us, and it is why He allows suffering -- He wants to bring us into an inward realization of Jesus Christ, so that we may be positioned in Christ and abide in Christ. That's for this age; that's where it BEGINS. But it is all unto the eternal inheritance that God is preparing for us -- and is preparing us for it. So it's exactly the same Truth: God is positioning us as sons, so that we may live and move in Him forever through His Son, Jesus Christ. And chastisement and training is unto that end – IF we will believe and receive and obey.
Notice the further descriptions given here: Verse 7: “If you endure -- if you, “abide under,” God's purpose through chastening -- then God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is he whom the father chastens NOT?” So the emphasis here is that all of this is because God loves us as a Father. He says, “If you are without chastisement, whereof we are all partakers, then you would be illegitimate, and not sons. Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh, which corrected us, and we gave them reverence -- shall we not much rather be in subjection under the Father of spirits and live?” And so he says in verse 10, “For they are temporal, earthly fathers. Verily for a few days they chastened us after their own pleasure” -- in other words, according to what they thought was right. “But God chastens us for OUR profit.” Why? “That we may be partakers of His holiness.”
We can only be partakers of His holiness if we see Jesus Christ – have Him revealed in us, and begin to walk in Him. So all these truths that are popping up here are connected. It all gets back to the Person of Christ in us -- and our coming into an inward realization of Him. Christ is made TO BE unto us SANCTIFICATION. (I Cor. 1:30) Well, sanctification IS holiness – it is the same Greek word. And so in order to be, “a partaker of His holiness,” we have to see Jesus. But in order to see Jesus, we need to be chastised and trained.
Travail and Seeing Jesus
There is a whole lot more that I could read here out of Hebrews, but I want to stop right there -- and what I want to do to conclude for today -- and this ties directly into the conclusion we saw in Job, and the reason for chastisement – I want to turn to John chapter 16.
Jesus spoke this word to His disciples right before He was going to be crucified -- He knew that they would need some encouragement ahead of time. “Seeing their sorrow,” He said in verse 21, “A woman, when she is in travail” -- in other words, in the middle of this great pain and suffering of childbirth. This is a comparison to OUR trials and tribulations in life. He says, “A woman, when she is in travail, has sorrow, because her hour -- or her season of suffering and travail -- has come.” And so, while she is in the pains of childbirth, that is what her mind is on. He says, “But as soon as she has delivered the child, she remembers no more the anguish -- because she now sees a man, or a child, is born into the world.”
Now what He is saying here is that when we are in the midst of trials and suffering, it is going to hurt. We are going to suffer. There is going to be anguish and pain. God isn't despising that; He knows it's going to happen. And we don’t need to feel guilty about it. In fact, we can believe and trust God – ALL THE WHILE it's happening: Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” But all that being said, we will NOT understand what's going on while we are in the trial -- most of the time. We will not see a reason for it. BUT something is being BORN. Something is being birthed. We are being brought into the fullness of Jesus Christ. There is that birth taking place. Once we begin to see Jesus, then we are going to look back and say, “My God, as much as I was kicking and screaming all the way through this, it was worth it.”
It was worth it because, “the suffering of this present time cannot be compared to the glory that is to be revealed in us.” And that, “glory,” is HIM. It’s the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ -- revealed in us in its fullness -- now, only partly as to EXPERIENCE in this present age -- but it's all unto the fullness of release in the next age. Colossians 1:27: “Christ in us” -- that's NOW. “The HOPE of glory” -- that points to the full release and the eternal wages -- of what it means to be united with Christ in spirit.
And Jesus is saying that here: “You are like a woman in travail. It hurts. But once you see what is born -- Christ in you -- then you are going to rejoice -- and you are not going to remember the pain anymore.
How many understand that when we finally meet Jesus Christ at the end of the age, that all of the suffering, and all of the circumstances that went into that suffering -- ALL of it is going to pass away into history? And what is going to be left is NOT the circumstances that caused the suffering; what is going to be left is NOT the suffering – what IS going to be left is what the suffering was used to help BIRTH: Christ in us -- and our relationship with Him.
Now, Job caught a glimpse of that. He said, “I wanted answers. I wanted information. I wanted to see WHY.” But God said, “I am not going to let you see why, and I'm not going to let you see the information -- I'm not going to let you see the answer. I’m going to give you something better: I’m going to let you see ME.” And Job got a revelation of God.
And you'll notice that the end of the book of Job, that when he got the revelation of God, he was still suffering. It didn't end at that point. Now it eventually did. But from that point Job no longer was going back and forth about it -- because God was his answer. He did not need to ask WHY.
If you read John 16, you will see there that Jesus alludes to that -- he says, “In that day, when what is born -- a revelation of Jesus Christ – in that day you are not going to ask Me any more questions because I will BE your answer.” Jesus Christ is the Truth. Jesus Christ is all that God has for us -- and all that is in Him. You come into a revelation of Him; you come into an inward realization and knowledge of Jesus – and in THAT day you will not ask as many questions as you did before. You will ask SOME, because there is never any end to His unfolding. But that is what Job came to see and know: God Himself. And the questions ended.
This book of Job has in it great revelation for us today -- as we have been seeing. And I think that one of the things that it tells us is really how we ought to pray. Most of us pray for information; for answers. Most of us want to know WHY -- we want God to explain things to us. And I understand that – I’ve done that. You have done it – we are human -- and God knows that. But the lesson of Job ought to tell us what we really ought to be praying for: We ought to be praying -- NOT for answers; NOT even, “to have more faith.” We ought to be praying for a REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST.
Paul said that he prayed that God would give the church, “a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Himself.” How many understand that if God begins to reveal Christ IN you and I, that faith will come -- because faith comes by hearing the Word. HE IS the Word. How many understand that if we SEE JESUS that questions will begin to cease. We need an inward, ongoing revelation of Jesus -- which is exactly what God says He WANTS to do -- and He uses suffering to accomplish it.
So this is the
purpose of God in suffering: That
we may come into an inward realization of Jesus that will set us free and be the
foundation for inheritance; the foundation for holiness; the foundation for
being able to live, and walk, and commune with God, forever -- throughout the
eternal ages .
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