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God's Blueprint for Trials
by David A. DePra
The book of Job is a kind of blueprint about trials and suffering. In it you will find almost every argument and human reasoning that we could come up with when we are suffering. You will also find revealed God's purpose.
Let’s lay out some quick facts, in order to truly frame what is happening in the book of Job. First of all, let’s look at what God Himself said about Job at the beginning of the book, BEFORE Job’s trial began:
And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and hates evil? (Job 1:8)
God doesn’t lie. He doesn’t whitewash even His own people. So we can be sure that what God said about Job was the truth. Thus, we have fact number one: Job was a perfect and upright man.
That is an important fact. For it tells us that all that was about to come upon Job was NOT because of any sin on his part. In short, from a justice point of view, Job did not deserve what happened to him. It was not punishment for any sin.
Now notice WHO started this conversation between God and Satan: God. God started the whole thing rolling. And of course, Satan took the bait. Satan’s response to God was that Job obeyed God because it PAID him to obey. He challenged God to allow him to take away many of the blessings Job had. Satan claimed that if the blessings for obedience were taken away, Job’s obedience would cease, and Satan would be proven right.
We need to see that what Satan claimed – the Job obeyed God because it paid him to obey God – had SOME basis in fact. I don’t think that Job was anymore self-righteous than the rest of us, or that he had terribly impure motives for obeying God. After all, God Himself had called Job one who truly feared Him. But there is something in every one of us that obeys God because it pays us to obey Him. We obey God either because we want a blessing, or perhaps because we think it keeps us out of consequences for NOT obeying Him. But how many of us obey God simply because we love righteousness and love God? I’m sure Job was not perfected in this, anymore than the rest of us.
What I am saying is this: Job was everything God said he was. But there was a dimension of testing and proving that Job had never faced. Job had apparently never faced the possibility of being stripped of all blessing, despite his obedience. He had never accounted for the possibility that obeying God would not pay him. But now he was going to be faced with exactly that. And God let Satan be the one to bring about that test.
Right away we begin to see that this entire ordeal was being orchestrated by God – not to hurt Job, or play games with him, but to PROVE him – in the sense of making him stronger. It is one thing to obey God and get blessings in return. There is nothing wrong with that – indeed, God even PROMISES it. But it is another to obey Him and have everything fall to pieces. It is then that your motives are for obeying God are not only tested, but your faith in God is tested.
Job was going to be faced with a big question: Do I want blessings FROM God? Or do I want God Himself? Is my relationship with God based on what I get out of it? Or is my relationship with God based on LOVE? Remove the blessings for obedience, and what will come out in the end, is the REAL motivation for obeying God. Job was going to face this, and it is something all of us will have to face one way or another.
The Second Wave
God allowed Satan to take away from Job almost every material blessing. And Job remained steadfast. He said:
Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly. (Job 1:21-22)
So far, so good. Once again God commended Job. God said:
Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and hates evil? and still he holds fast his integrity, although thou moved me against him, to destroy him without cause. (Job 2:3)
As before, God always tells the truth. But Satan was not finished. He claimed that God had not given him enough freedom to strike Job. So Satan wanted to attack Job’s body. And God let him. These two waves of attack upon Job set the table for the rest of the book.
We have already established the fact that Job was a man who pleased God, and that nothing that happened to him was the result of any sin on his part. Rather, God was trying to build him, and purify his faith and obedience. But of course, Job did not know this. Job had not been in on the conversation that had taken place between God and Satan, and could not have possibly understood the purpose behind his trial.
Job – and the four friends that would approach him – had a fundamental belief about how a relationship with God worked. They believed that if you obeyed God, God would bless you. In contrast, they believed that if you sinned against God, He would bring curses on you. This created a big problem. For Job had been apparently cursed. Therefore, according to what they believed about a relationship with God, Job MUST have sinned. This had to be, or God was UNJUST. And yet Job had NOT sinned. Thus, we have the CONTRADICTION with which Job had to contend.
Put yourself in Job’s place. You have always believed that God blesses obedience, and curses sin. But despite the fact that you KNOW you have not sinned, it appears that you have been cursed. Add to this the constant accusations of your friends to the effect that you MUST have sinned – even if you don’t know it – because God is just. How do you resolve this situation? How do you gain understanding?
Most of the book of Job is a matter of Job contending over this very question of how God could bring these bad things on him -- a person who had obeyed God! But isn’t this really one of the basis questions WE ask? Have you ever obeyed God the best you know, and followed what you thought was His will, only to end up in a big mess? Perhaps a disaster? Perhaps your obedience has resulted in a life that will never be the same. What is the answer for situations like this?
Job Obeyed God
Before we move forward, we need to review what we already know: Job had NOT sinned against God. God Himself said so before the trial began. Indeed, God Himself said so even after the trial was ready to end!
And it was so, that after the LORD had spoken these words unto Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath. Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job. (Job 42:7-8)
Thus, we have the testimony from God Himself to the effect that Job had not sinned, and had, throughout the trial, spoken rightly about God. Never once does God accuse Job of sinning against Him.
And yet we DO have all of these terrible things that happened to Job. What was God trying to do?
Job faced a total contradiction to his understanding of God. He could not believe that obedience would result in anything but blessing. But Job knew he had obeyed God, and yet it resulted in what Job interpreted as curses. Job’s physical suffering was bad enough. But now the real crisis was his crisis of faith. Everything Job believed about the character of God was now in question. He desperately searched for answers from God. But he could not find them. God was silent. And this continued for a long, long, time. The trial of Job may have lasted for years.
Perplexity is a condition – with regards to God – wherein we are faced with a contradiction we cannot explain. We cannot think it through, and we cannot argue it through. We hit the wall every time. We know God is faithful, and we are not conscious of anything we are doing to sin against Him. To us, this ought to add up to blessing, or at least it ought to mean that God will tell us where to correct course. And yet God is silent. He won’t end the suffering and He won’t tell us what is wrong. And we are left, perplexed, without answers.
Job expressed this aspect of his suffering continually through his trial:
Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me. Will he plead against me with his great power? No; but he would put strength in me. (Job 23:3-6)
The KJV obscures the meaning here. Job is not demanding an audience with God so that he might accuse God. Rather, Job is pleading to find God so that he can ask Him WHY! Job is simply saying that if he knew where God was, and could ask Him why, then things would begin to make sense. In short, Job is saying, "Why won’t God just tell me what is going on so that I can obey Him, confess my sin, or do whatever – so that this trial can be over?"
Job is crying out for INFORMATION. He had not yet come to the place where God could give him the real goal of this trial: REVELATION. But ironically, Job was seeking exactly that. Job was seeking God:
Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hides himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: But he knows the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. (Job 23:8-10)
Notice that Job cannot find God – no matter which way he turns. But at this point in the trial, Job is beginning to get stronger in faith. He says, "I cannot see God." But then he says, "But I know that God sees me." This is one of the most profound definitions of faith found in the Bible.
There are times during a trial that God simply cannot tell us anything, nor can He give us the revelation that is the goal of the trial. We simply are not ready. The only thing God can do is leave us in the trial. The trial will deplete and reduce us to a place we didn’t know we were to go spiritually, and nothing but the silence of God in our suffering will get us there.
I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not…. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye sees thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:3-6)
We have already seen that Job had not sinned against God. Therefore, when we read about Job, "repenting in dust and ashes," it ought to raise a question: What was Job repenting of?
Actually, Job himself tells us. Job says, "God, You Yourself have said that I spoke of that which was RIGHT about you. You Yourself have said that I had obeyed You. But now I realize that despite saying the right things ABOUT you, I had never really seen YOU! I repent because I thought I knew YOU. I didn’t know. I knew true facts about You. But now I see YOU."
Job was like a person who teaches Biblical doctrine – and does teach the Truth. But this person has never really touched the reality about which the doctrine speaks. It is all book knowledge, intellectual assent to true facts, and doctrines. None of this is the same as seeing God Himself.
Job thought that knowing facts about God was equal to knowing God Himself. But once he finally saw God Himself, he had to repent of his shallowness.
This, of course, was the whole purpose of the trial of Job. God wanted to prove to Job that what Job believed about God was right, but God wanted to do this by REVEALING to Job HIMSELF. God wanted to prove that the Truth Job believed WAS the Truth – but more than that, to make this Truth a living part of Job. God took this man who had spoken rightly of Him, and make him right with Him. Job wanted to see the answers to his trial. Instead, Job saw God Himself.
This is always the purpose that God is working towards in our lives. He wants to reveal to us Jesus Christ. But it usually takes a crisis to push us to that point of receptivity. God has to put us in a trial where the only thing that will get us through is a greater revelation of Jesus. And like Job, we will think that we need INFORMATION. But we will finally get REVELATION.
What must we do in such a trial? Just what Job did: Be completely honest. Don’t say you have sinned if you have no consciousness of having sinned. But don’t accuse God of being unfaithful. Stay in the middle, perplexed, if necessary. Stand by faith. And go on. The crisis will come to the place where you will SEE JESUS.
The book of Job is a blueprint for God’s plan and purpose. God wants to reveal Himself to us. He wants to ENLARGE His dwelling place in us. This is never accomplished by giving us facts, explanations, or theological reasons. Indeed, those things can short-circuit what Gods really wants to do. The purpose of God is only accomplished if we will unconditionally surrender ourselves to God – and keep surrendering, despite perplexity – until the revelation of Jesus Christ dawns.
Jesus said, "Seek you first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness." The kingdom of God is really CHRIST IN US. Seek first CHRIST. We can be sure that if God tells us to do this, that HE IS working unto this end. It is therefore incumbent upon us to get on the same page as God. If we do this, we can never fail to see His purpose come to pass.
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