Sunday, September 16, 2012

Real Characters - Job

I'm going to start with some easy questions first. Is God loving? Is He faithful? Has He proven Himself to be full of grace? Yes. Absolutely. Is He to be feared? Is he to be obeyed? Is he to be worshiped? Of course. Is God just? Is He merciful? God fair?
That can be a hard question for some people to answer. We want the answer to be "yes". As believers, we want to be able to say that God will always be fair, He has always been fair and He never changes. Some people would say that it may not be fair now but in the end it will all be made fair. Honestly, I don't know where that passage is found.
We see lots of places where God says He will reward us for what we do and how we react and for our obedience; some of that reward will come in this life and some of it in Heaven, but nowhere, that I know of, does God ever say He will be fair to us. He has proven Himself just. He has proven Himself trustworthy. He has proven Himself loving, merciful and gracious.
But how do you respond when faced with a situation where you go to visit some family in another city and when you arrive your family tells you the bad news that soon after you left home your house caught on fire and everything you own is now in ashes?
What would be your response if you took your 5 year old son to the doctor and the doctor diagnosed him as having leukemia and gave him 1 year to live?
How do you react when your wife of however many years comes in one day and says, "I don't want to be married anymore."?
When the doctor says you have breast cancer, what is your first reaction?
When the doctor says, "I'm sorry. She's gone." What is the first thing you say to God?
Unless you have been in that kind of situation, you don't really know how you would react but we have a great model in the book of Job. Job is the book just before Psalms and it is an absolutely fascinating story about a real character, a real person who lived nearly 2000 years before Jesus. Scholars think it is probably the very first book of the Bible written but the story is as applicable today as ever.
Now a good preacher would probably turn the book of Job into at least a 3 or 4 sermon series and you could do many more than that if you wanted. But since you have me and we only have one sermon to sum this book up, we are not going to do justice to the study of Job but that’s ok. Turn to the book of Job and let’s see what God would want us to learn from it today.
Brian Amerman spent 40 years with the railroad and just recently retired but it is my understanding that he had not been there long when he applied to be a signalman. For his interview, he was told to meet the inspector at the signal box. The inspector asked him, “What would you do if you realized that two trains were heading toward each other on the same track?” Brian said, “That’s easy. I would switch the points for one of the trains.”
The inspector then asked, “What if the lever broke?” Brian said, “Then I’d jump down out of the signal box and I’d use the manual lever over there.” Next, the inspector said, “What if the lever had been struck by lightning?” Young Brian said, “Then, I would run to the signal box and phone the next signal box to let them know what was happening.”
The inspector continued on, “What if the phone was busy?” Brian said, “Well, in that case, I would rush down out of the signal box and use the public emergency phone at the crossing up there.” Then, the inspector said, “What would you do if the public emergency phone had been vandalized?” Brian said, “Oh, well, then I would run into town and get my uncle.” That answer puzzled the inspector. So, he asked, “Why would you go get your uncle?” Brian answered, “That’s simple. Because he’s never seen a train wreck before.” Contributed by: Lyndon Marcotte to
If you are like Brian’s uncle and you have never seen a train wreck before then hold on because you are about to see one. You are going to see one in the life of Job here this morning but more than likely you will see one in your own life one of these days if you haven’t already. The truth of the matter is that none of us are immune to tragedy and some of you may think you are attracted to it like 2 magnets.
The question is not if it is going to happen. The question is how are you going to respond when it does happen. The first chapter of Job could be a semester’s worth of study at the seminary but for today I just want to read verses 1-3 and 6-22.
In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. 2 He had seven sons and three daughters, 3 and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.
Stop right there for a second. I wish we had time to develop all of the significant points that are just in the first 3 verses but for now I just want you to notice where it says that Job was blameless and upright. This, of course, doesn’t mean he was perfect even though that is how the KJV translates it. The definition of that is to be complete or well-rounded. Think of him as a mixture of Donald Trump and Billy Graham with a little Mr. Rogers thrown in.
Of all the people in the Bible, Job is probably not the one we think of to be like. We might want to be like David or Paul or Stephen, but Job is pretty low on the list of guys we want to emulate and that is a shame. By the time this is over, I hope you will see that becoming more like Job is a good thing. Maybe not exactly like Job in every way but we can learn 3 things in our effort to become like him. To become more like Job it will take:
· Faith
· Integrity
· Discernment
The first is faith and we will see that in verses 6-22.
Now read 6-22. 6 One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.”8Then 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.”9 “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. 11But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”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.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.13 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 14a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, 15 and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”16 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”17 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”18 While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 19 when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised.”22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
I don’t care how this story ends, I find it hard to believe that anybody could read this part and say God is fair. In fact, somebody who didn’t know God, someone who had no relationship with Him might read this and have a good argument that God is a big old meanie-head. Satan practically dares God to do something and God falls for it? Is God mean or just stupid?
Those are understandable points and questions for people to have that do not have a relationship with God but we, as believers, know a different side of God, don’t we? Job had a relationship with God based completely on faith. Faith is the only way to have a relationship with God. It is the only way we can do it and it is the only way God will allow it. And faith is the only way that Job was able to say what he did in verse 21. It is only by faith that Job was able to lose everything he had in this world and still praise God.
The thing about trials and difficulties in this life is that it not only requires faith to get through them but it also strengthens your faith on the other side. If you just have enough faith to believe that God will get you through a small trial then you will, after the small trial, have faith that God will get you through the big stuff.
George Muller knew about big trials. He was known for starting orphanages in the mid-1800s with little or no money and yet saw the Lord do awesome things in his life. He said, “God delights to increase the faith of his children. We ought, instead of wanting no trials before victory, no exercise for patience, to be willing to take them from God’s hand as a means. I say – and say it deliberately – trials, obstacles, difficulties, and sometimes defeats, are the very food of faith.”
I Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
That should be very comforting to all of us but it also tells us something about God. Job didn’t fail this test of trial and difficulty because of his faith in God but also God knew Job could withstand it or he wouldn’t have put him through it. God had faith in Job! Do you understand that? When we are tempted to sin in any way, God is right there to say, “You can do this. You can overcome. I know you can. I have faith in you. I am not putting too much on you.”
Wow! That is incredible to think that the One in whom we have faith has faith in us and if we are just obedient then we can become more like Job. Let’s look at the next thing that is required of us if we are to have the character of Job. Let’s look at Job’s integrity. Look at chapter 2, verses 7-10.
7 So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. 8Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.9 His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
We don’t know exactly what Satan struck him with but Job’s symptoms, as we see throughout the book included painful sores over his whole body, nightmares, bad breath, fever and pain. And yet through all of this he maintained his integrity.
The dictionary defines integrity as having high morals or firm principals but it also says it is the state of being complete, undivided or whole. Job knew what integrity was and he placed a high price on it. In fact, as you keep in mind how the dictionary says it is being complete, undivided or whole, look at how Job himself describes it in chapter 29 verse 14:
I put on righteousness as my clothing; justice was my robe and my turban.”
From head to toe Job was covered, complete, undivided and whole.
He wore his integrity as his garment and nobody wants to be seen partially clothed. Nobody wants to be seen in rags or patchwork. And you will be seen. The question is how much is your integrity worth? When God looks at you, not to mention your friends, family and even non-believers, but mainly when God looks at you, how much is your integrity worth?
What is your tipping point? By “tipping point”, I mean, how much does it take before the negativity, trials and hardships of this life, trials that we all go through, how much of that can you take before your integrity starts to fray and tear and you start blaming God and cursing God?
For most of us it would take quite a bit, right? We have all been through some difficult times and I will tell you that I have yet to blame or curse God but what I am tempted to do at times like that is just ignore Him. When God doesn’t do things like I, in my great wisdom, think it ought to be done, then I sometimes am tempted to just say, “Ok God, why don’t you just go your way and I’ll go mine. Until I get this figured out, just leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone.”
And when that happens, do you know what happens next? Satan does a little happy-dance because he knows he has found the chink in my armor. Do you remember that passage in Ephesians 6 that talks about taking up the full armor of God? Satan looks at that armor and sees that it is lacking in integrity, that there is a tear in it, a spot that is unprotected and he takes careful aim and takes me out. Another win for the evil one. Another loss of blessing for me and another example for the world to see that there is no difference in Christians and non-Christians and that one god is as good as the next.
How much is your integrity worth? For some it may be pretty cheap and will become obvious when you have a bad hair day or broken finger nail. For others it may take more. For Job, NOTHING was as precious as his integrity and as he proclaimed in chapter 13, verse 15, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him!” Oh, God I pray that is our response as well!
Job had faith and integrity. Let’s look at Job’s discernment. At the end of chapter 2, Job’s 3 buddies show up. They had heard about his troubles and it says that they came from far off just to be with him and comfort him. And it says in verse 13 that they sat on the ground with him for a week without saying a word. Those are good friends. They really are. But as we all know the problem came at the end of that week when the silence ceased and the talking began. And from chapter 4- chapter 37 it is nothing but talk and as so often happens that talk was worthless.
For 34 chapters his friends try to convince Job that he has sinned and that is what is causing his problems. In chapter 4 verse 7 Eliphaz says, “Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished?
Where were the upright ever destroyed?
” In chapter 11, verse 6 Zophar says that God has even forgotten some of your sin. In chapter 25 Bildad even questions whether a man can be righteous in God’s eyes.
But Job, as I said before, has a relationship with God. He knows Him. He has spent time with Him. He has worshiped. He has sacrificed. He has prayed and meditated and he knows the character of God as well as any man can and in chapter 26, verses 1-3, he sarcastically says to his friends, How you have helped the powerless! How you have saved the arm that is feeble!3 What advice you have offered to one without wisdom!
And what great insight you have displayed!”
In times of trouble, most of you know you will get lots of advice. Some of it may be good advice. Some of it…not so much. The question is, how do you know what to do? Well, the answer is and always has been, what does God say? What does the Word say? What is God telling you in your quiet time? The answer is not, what do your friends think? The answer is not even, what do you think? The answer is, what is God telling you?
Does the Word say that joy comes in the morning? Then joy comes in the morning. Does God say He will never leave you nor forsake you? Then hang your hat on that. Does God promise blessings for obedience? Celebrate that! Count on that! Claim that promise! Does God promise this life will be fair? No. Have the discernment to know the difference between what God says and what you wish he would say. Know what His word says and you get that discernment by prayer, Bible study and worship.
Turn to the last chapter of Job, chapter 42. And as you do I will just say that while I want to be like Job in a lot of ways, I ultimately want to be like Jesus. That’s my goal. Job wasn’t perfect but Jesus was and that is my goal. But I love the last chapter of Job. Read 7-9.
7 After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. 8 So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the Lord told them; and the Lordaccepted Job’s prayer.
I know this life isn’t fair. I know it is extremely difficult sometimes. But in the end, I want to be known as Job was known. I want God to call me His servant. You can’t be God’s servant and be a servant to your work. You can’t be God’s servant and be a servant to your spouse, your hobbies, your kids or anything else. It is time to decide, right here and right now. Whose servant are you? To be God’s servant is going to require faith, integrity and discernment. It may not be fair, but it will be worth it!

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