His name was Job but I wonder if his friends called him Murphy, because it seemed that anything that could go wrong for him, did go wrong for him.
He was kind of like the guy who said, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all.”
You might recall the story from the Old Testament book that bears his name. If you have your bible with you, then you can find it by going to the middle of your Bible, which should be Psalms or Proverbs and then turning toward the front.
Job was the righteous man’s poster boy. The Bible tells us that He was blameless, a man of complete integrity, who feared God and stayed away from Evil. And just to top it off, we are told that he was the richest man in the area. But these aren’t the things that made Job famous, and we’ve all heard of Job.
Even if you don’t know the story of Job, you probably have heard the expression, “The patience of Job” an expression that was most often used in reference to my Mother’s dealing with her eldest son.
This summer our theme at Cornerstone is Say What? And we are looking at familiar phrases from our everyday lives that found their origins in the bible, or at least came into common usage because of the bible.
We’ve looked at “My brother’s keeper”, “Cast the first stone” and last week we looked at three phrases that all came from the sermon on the mount “Turn the other cheek, Go the second mile, and give them the shirt of your back.” And those phrases were the first on my mind when I started planning the series. Week two we looked at one that is a little more obscure and that came from the Psalms and is the phrase “the apple of his eye.” That was new for me.
This week, when I started my message, I was thinking of the phrase that I mentioned earlier, the patience of Job. And that’s a phrase that most of us are familiar with, but you don’t have to read very far in the story to discover that the phrase the patience of Job is actually an oxymoron. Job may have trusted God and he may have been faithful, but patient he wasn’t. Listen to his words in Job 10:1-3 “I am disgusted with my life. Let me complain freely. My bitter soul must complain. I will say to God, ‘Don’t simply condemn me — tell me the charge you are bringing against me. What do you gain by oppressing me? Why do you reject me, the work of your own hands, while smiling on the schemes of the wicked?”
Not the words of a patient man, and the phrase: the patience of Job is never used in the bible. However, did you know “By the skin of my teeth” comes from the bible?
And it comes from the book of Job.
It’s found in Job 19 when Job tells his friends, Job 19:20 I have been reduced to skin and bones and have escaped death by the skin of my teeth.
You’ve probably heard the phrase before and you know what it means. If not according to Wikipedia, “In modern times, “by the skin of my teeth” is used to describe a situation from which one has barely managed to escape.”
But you have to know the story of Job to understand the reference. Now the first part of the story is a little confusing. I don’t understand it, and I really can’t explain it.
It seems that one day the various angels appeared before God reporting on what they had done and Satan shows up. During the ensuing conversation God questions Satan on his activities and Satan responds by saying, “I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going on.”
And at that point God draws Satan’s attention to his servant Job and how righteous he is, and Satan says “sure, and why wouldn’t he serve you, you have always protected him, and his property. Everything he touches turns to gold. Take away his possessions and I can guarantee that he will curse you.”
Now what I don’t understand is why at this point God agrees to allow Satan access to Job.
Someday I might understand it, but right now I don’t. A long time ago I discovered that God is way up there and I’m way down here and I can’t understand everything that God does, but that’s ok, because if I could understand everything about God he wouldn’t be much of a God. After all, I can’t even understand the opposite sex.
But that is exactly what happens. Not very long after this conversation Job is at home when a servant arrives telling him that his enemies have raided the farm, stolen his oxen and donkeys and killed all his farm hands. Just then another messenger arrives and says “you’ll never believe what happened boss, fire fell from the sky and burned up your sheep and shepherds” And a third guy arrives on the scene to inform Job that all his camels have been stolen by raiders from the north.
Now you gotta admit at this point Job seems to be handling it pretty well until the fourth messenger arrives to tell his boss that a powerful wind hit the house where his children were celebrating with their oldest brothers and there have been no survivors.
All ten of his children have died. It was at this point that Job broke down in grief. But even with that listen to what he says in Job 1:21 He said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!”
Man, and the bible sums it up in the next verse by saying Job 1:22 In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.
So, does that mean if he had blamed God that he would have sinned? Inquiring minds want to know.
Well someone must have come along and said “Cheer up Job, things could be worse” because he cheered up and sure enough things got worse. Kind of reminds me of what Paul Anderson said “I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you looked at it in the right way, did not become still more complicated.”
Up to now the tragedies happened to the things and people surrounding Job but not to Job himself, and Satan told God, “Well sure, he can still praise you, he still has his health, let me take that from him.”
And again, I don’t understand it but God agreed, saying “Just spare his life.” Now personally I think Satan underestimated Job as a parent, I think that the death of his children would be a far greater tragedy than mere physical discomfort. But Job became covered with boils from head to foot, yuck.
But you know Satan had some smarts because of all the things that Job lost, Satan left him with his wife. You say, “Denn, that’s just nasty.”
Not so. Listen to the comfort that Job’s wife offered in Job 2:9 His wife said to him, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.”
“Why thanks babe, I love you too.” And so, for the next forty or so chapters, we read how various friends came and the discussions they had concerning the tragedies that had befallen our hero.
It is from those encounters with his friends that we have the term, “Job’s comforters”. Which isn’t found in the bible, but means someone who offers advice that isn’t all that helpful. You know, you tell someone that you ran out of gas while out for a drive, and they offer. “Well, that’s what happens when you don’t keep an eye on your gas gauge.”
And it’s in one of these discussions with his friends that Job describes everything he’s gone through with these words, Job 19:20 I have been reduced to skin and bones and have escaped death by the skin of my teeth.
And we’ve all been there. We’ve all escaped something by the skin of our teeth, even if it was simply an awkward social encounter. And you know how narrow of a margin that is because your teeth have no skin.
And through all of this. Through the loss of his fortune. Through the loss of his family and through the loss of his health, through it all. Job remained true to God.
So, what can we learn from this story?
1) Stuff Happens Because you are a member of the human race you will have troubles, you can’t get around that. We live in a world that has been corrupted by evil and because of that bad things happen. Even to believers.
It would be neat if becoming a Christian exempted you from all hurt and heartbreak in life. If once you became a Christ-follower, if from that point on you never got sick, never lost your job and never suffered the loss of a spouse or a child. But that ain’t the way it happens.
It would be nice if our salvation was a passport out of suffering and tragedy. If that was reality, then we’d have to bar the doors to keep people out. But that’s not the way it happens, sorry.
Jesus’ brother James wrote a letter to the early church and in it he writes, James 1:2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.
Did you catch that? He didn’t say if trouble comes your way, he said when trouble comes your way. And there is a world of difference between if and when.
Jesus himself told his followers in Matthew 6: 34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Did you catch that? Today’s trouble is enough for today, tomorrow will bring its own worries.
C. S. Lewis kind of summed it up when he said, “We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ”Blessed are they that morn.””
And no, it isn’t fair. There are times that life isn’t fair, we live in a world that has been corrupted by sin, and stuff happens. Little stuff and big stuff.
In a 2014 edition of Psychology Today, Dr. Loretta G. Breuning wrote an article entitled “Why People Confuse “Fairness” With Self-Interest”. And her premise was that what we define as fair may only be fair to us.
So, in your mind it would have been fair if you got that perfect job, but what about the person who didn’t?
Life would have been fair if you hadn’t had your heart broke, or if you hadn’t been in the accident. Or if COVID hadn’t affected your job and your vacation.
But whether you think life has treated you fairly or not, you’re probably doing alright compared to Job.
Which leads us to the next point.
2) Don’t Take It Personally Sometimes when trouble happens we tend to look at it a couple of different ways.
As Christians, we often start by looking inward for reasons. We wonder: what have I done? Why me? I don’t deserve this.
Job hadn’t done anything wrong, there was no hidden sin in his life, and he wasn’t rebelling against God. He was a righteous man, full of integrity.
We need to realize that trouble happens to the just and the unjust. And I know that’s a cynical view of life, but Jesus said in Matthew 5:45 For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.
How often do we focus on our problems to the exclusion of everything and everyone else? We aren’t alone in this world and the chances are there are people with bigger problems than yours, it was Humphrey Bogart who said “Everybody in Casablanca has problems.” And everybody in Halifax has problems.
The second thing that believers do is to automatically attribute every problem in their life to Satan.
Now I don’t want to underestimate the power of the dark one, however, I think we give him way too much credit. I don’t know about you, but I’m a child of God and certain privileges come with that position. And my Bible still has 2 Thessalonians 3:3 But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.
Sure, you say, but what about when you’re in bondage?
Again, I don’t want to minimize spiritual warfare, but there are a lot of people out there who are in bondage because they choose to be in bondage. It’s a very convenient excuse when we enjoy a sin to simply throw up our hands and say “I can’t help myself, I’m in bondage to ________ and you fill in the blank.
I’m not sure that is what Jesus had in mind when he told his disciples in John 8:34-36
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.
I like that. If the Son sets you free, you are truly free. Maybe we each need to claim that promise ourselves. Maybe we need to start each morning by looking in the mirror and saying, “The son has set me free, so I am truly free.
“But Denn, what if what happened to Job happens to me? What if God allows Satan to strike at my family and I?”
Probably won’t happen. Job is very much an isolated incident in the scriptures. We can’t explain why God allowed it to happen the first time but we don’t read about it happening again.
And remember the description of Job, the Bible tells us “He was blameless, a man of complete integrity, who feared God and stayed away from Evil.”
If that is the criteria for being tested by Satan, then most of us have nothing to worry about.
Don’t be in so much of a hurry to give the Devil all the credit for the bad stuff that happens in your life. To quote C. S. Lewis again There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors.
3) It’s Not Wrong to Question
We are often given the impression that Job stoically endured all that happened. That he never asked why. That he never questioned whether it was fair on not. That he just endured.
And that just isn’t true. For most of the forty chapters in the book of Job, Job was asking; Why?
Listen to his words in Job 7:19-21 Why won’t you leave me alone, at least long enough for me to swallow! If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O watcher of all humanity? Why make me your target? Am I a burden to you? Why not just forgive my sin and take away my guilt?
And there’s nothing wrong with asking why. Throughout the Bible people questioned God, Abraham asked why, Moses asked why, Joshua asked why, David asked why, Isaiah asked why, Peter asked why, Paul asked why. Even Jesus when he was hanging on the cross looked up to heaven and asked “Why?”
But if you’re going to ask God why, you are going to have to be satisfied with the answers and that can be tough. Because as God asks Job in, Job 38:2 “Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words?”
Because I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, God is God and we are just people. But a little homework for this week, go home and read Job chapters 38-40, won’t take you long but it might help you understand God a little more.
4) We Have the Victory
Sometimes we can figure out a solution to our problem on our own perhaps by using Guptill’s First Law of Problem Solving: “When confronted by a difficult problem, you can solve it more easily by reducing it to the question: How would MacGyver have handled this?”
But more often than not, that’s not enough and so if you get nothing else out of this morning’s message get this, “We Win”.
When we are faithful to God, in the good times and in the bad we are the victors. Listen to what Paul wrote to the early church in Rome, and remember this was where the persecution broke out against the early church, where Christians were killed for the sheer sport of it.
Romans 8:35-37 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
Did you catch that? Overwhelming victory is ours.
And then we are promised in 1 John 5:4 For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.
We win. The story’s not over yet. So, don’t throw up your hands and say, “I quit”.
It was Billy Sunday who said, “Stopping at third adds no more to the score then striking out.”
Friends, the message I leave with you today is don’t quit, don’t give up, the victory has already been won.
So where are you at this morning?
Again, in Psychology Today, Dr. Mark Banschick writes, “The Book of Job asks “why good people suffer,” but never actually answers the question. What it does do, is correct misconceptions about why we suffer. The truth of this wonderful tale is that man can’t know everything.”
Do you sometimes find it tough to be faithful, to believe in the victory? I want to pray for you this morning. Life is tough, but God is there for us.
I don’t know what you are going through today, but God does. Regardless of whether you are here with us or at home with us.
There’s an old saying that says, “Let go and let God.” Is that what you need to do today? Do you need to let go and let God?