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A reflection on life, suffering and God's sovereignty

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With the help of Job, as told by Jessie Penn-Lewis in her book,

The Story of Job.

 

Orientation.

Learning from Job's story is a special message for those who have learnt to walk in fellowship with God, with integrity attempting to maintain a conscience void of offence and being largely unswerving in their purpose of service. There must be some level of maturity before the child of God is ready for the lessons of the crucible, where he learns to endure the chastening that comes as he learns to be a partaker of holiness and growth into maturity, and the learning of the deeper things of God.

It tells of a stage of growth when suffering becomes a necessary part of God's training. In many places scripture tells of the leading through some pathway of trial for the ripest servants of God. The type of suffering mentioned here is not that brought about by disobedience to God, but only that which is brought about or allowed by God himself for his own special purposes, where the believer is basically beyond reproach.

Another facet of the story is this. Because Job's story was pre Christ and written for our learning, it has a different outcome from that which we might expect today. Job's brokenness resulted in abundance, whereas Paul's brokenness resulted in greater brokenness. It is our commission, that on the manward side of our life God will take us into still greater brokenness for the outpouring of life to others, whilst on the Godward side the soul is led from faith to faith, strength to strength and glory to glory.

This is because as we increasingly become partakers in the afflictions of Christ the outward man is always delivered unto death, as dying, yet living, chastened yet not killed, sorrowful yet rejoicing, poor yet making many rich, having nothing, yet possessing everything.

A. CHARACTERISTICS OF JOB'S LIFE.

1. Job had not yet ceased from clinging to his integrity. He had later to learn the uselessness of his efforts at self vindication.

2. Job knew his power and authority had been stripped from him and that he himself could not reclothe himself with it.

3. Job thought he still had rights, but he learned from God that he had no rights, as God is not under any obligation to any man.

4. Job knew that no matter what happened, he would not sink into oblivion, but that God would bear him up.

5. Job was not willing to be thought ignorant by his friends about the things of God.

6. Although Job trusted God these events now brought complaints and growing self-righteousness from him. Job complained God did not hear him, that God was punishing him and that God allows the wicked to prosper. Job's moral integrity and selfless service to God heightened Job's dilemma.

7. Job showed that he did not serve God for the benefit of the blessing bestowed on him. This was contrary to Satan's view.

B. GOD'S ATTITUDE IN REGARD TO JOB'S LIFE.

1. God knew that only He could humble Job and that it was an essential step in Job's development as a child of God.

2. God waited for the furnace ( into which He had placed Job ) to have fullfilled its purpose.

3. God yearns that we have complete understanding in all His dealings with us.

4. God revealed His heart to Job, then waited until Job passed judgement upon himself and his past.

5. God was dealing with Job as assayers deal with true gold, by placing him in a crucible of fire for the removal of dross.

6. God was leading Job on to a fuller knowledge of Himself and breaking him down on every side to make room for the reception of divine abundance.

7. God revealed His power, wisdom and sovereignty to Job.

C. THE CHANGES WROUGHT IN JOB'S LIFE.

1. Job acknowledges anew the sovereign power of God and gives Him rightful place in his life.

2. Job sees that in the midst of his writhings and suffering, God had not been hindered in revealing Himself to Job.

3. Job looks back upon the suffering and sees the purpose of love behind it all.

4. Job confessed his ignorance and that his own speaking had veiled the counsel of God.

5. Job learned that God sometimes withdraws His children from their work in order to save them from greater sorrow in the world to come.

6. Job sees that his earlier learning was a hearing of the ear only, but that now he sees with the eyes of his heart.

7. Job now knows himself and his measure at last, becoming the little child of his Father, content to lie upon His Father's heart, to know what the Father wants him to know and content to be what the Father wants him to be.

8. Job learned that superfluity of speech must be renounced if he is to walk in fellowship with God. He must stumble not in word and in fact, loathe his words. His words made him less able to endure. Job unknowingly had spoken for himself and sought his own glory in his attempts at self vindication. We now know from James that we cannot have contempt, condemnation, idle words with the tongue with which we bless the Lord, as out of the same mouth we cannot allow blessing and cursing.

9. Job learned he should suffer in silence and leave his vindication to God. He also learned that he should not attempt to clear his character with people who may misjudge him.

10 Job's deliverance came when he entirely ceased from himself and prayed for his friends.

11. Through his fiery trial Job had been led from faith to faith and was deepened and prepared to receive more from his God.

12. Job's self renunciation had also to be put to the test.

13. In the crucible Job learned to know himself, his soul was chastened and soft, his spirit bearing the marks Jacob bore after God interviewed him at Peniel.

14. Repentance and obedience in prayer led to his restoration.

15. Job learned that he had to humble himself before God and submit to God's process of purifying his life through trials.

16. Job caught a glimpse of God's divine perspective when he acknowledges God's sovereignty over his life and no longer demands an answer as to the "why" of his plight.

17. Job learned that all God's dealings with His children are for their eternal good and that He still loved and pitied Job even when He placed him in the crucible.

18. Job loathed his self vindication.

19. Job learned that although he may have good reason to be righteous in his own eyes, by virtue of his sacrificial living and service, no man can rest on that form of self righteousness. We ( now ) are only righteous in Jesus.

20. Job had to learn that self can still live and please itself, thus needing to be brought to nothing.

D. WHAT MORE WE CAN LEARN FROM THE STORY OF JOB.

1. Innermost knowledge of God is only given when the soul has been stripped of all that may dim its inner vision, keeping it preoccupied with its blessing and work, rather than with God and His will.

2. The gifts of God and present knowledge of Him may even keep us from the deepest knowledge of God Himself.

3. If we have nothing, we may fully possess all things in Him.

4. We should refuse to dwell on second causes in our lives, knowing that as we do, these second causes that can be satanic or human in origin, come about only by the express permission of God. We must abide in Him leaving to Him the stilling of the enemy and the avenger.

5. We must not wait for outward and manifest deliverance from our sorrows, but must cease from ourselves and our affairs and attend to the needs of our friends / neighbours / acquaintances.

6. We must pray for our friends with desire, with our whole soul, especially for those who have judged us or dealt with us harshly, blessing them, even though we ourselves are left undelivered. The Spirit of Jesus must be seen in us, following Jesus on the pathway to the cross.

7. If we are in a crucible of trial and have been stripped of all past strength and power and have agonized in affliction, we too need to cease from ourselves, turn from ourselves, leave ourselves in the hand of God and look to the needs of others.

8. Scripture means us to recognise the hand of God above all, especially when His hand allows evil to come upon us.

9. Satan's challenge to God became God's opportunity to build up Job's life. Job's case proved the power of God in changing the satanic attempt to ruin Job and changed it into a means of greater and richer blessing for his soul.

10. We must learn to trust in the goodness and power of God in our adversity, knowing that God is worthy of worship no matter what he chooses to do.

11. In the challenges of life, God is our Redeemer, Mediator and Advocate.

12. Suffering is not the invariable result of transgression, but can be permitted by God, as a means of refining us.

13. God shows that we need the lesson of the crucible to make us know ourselves, so we can truly renounce ourselves.

14. Although the devil sets his heart upon every child of God who seeks to shun evil, the devil can only touch them so far as he is allowed by God ( provided we do not give further licence by disobedience )

15. Feeling pain as a form of suffering can be banished in two ways. By passively removing that which causes the pain, or by adding a new power, the power of God, which shall turn it to joy. The first way may be against God's purposes.

16. All ministry for the Father, must be possessed by the sacrificial spirit of Jesus. To be fruitful, Christian service must be baptised in the spirit of a suffering compassion. Being in this position keeps open the richest vein in our nature.

17. We must learn to trust God for what He is in Himself, not just because of His promises. To reach this level of trust it may be necessary for us to be faced with the experience of the loss of all things, both inward and outward, that the soul may experience emptiness of all consolation, bereft-ness, desolateness, to allow progress for the soul from death into life, just as Jesus experienced death before resurrection.

E. NOTES ON INTERIOR SUFFERING.

There are many types of grades of suffering among the children of God. When a soul abandons itself entirely to God, the Holy spirit takes charge of every form of suffering one has and saturates every incident, trial and grief with the providences and purposes of God.

The true Christ life is the life of the cross, of crucifixion, pain, mysterious and unaccountable trials, delicate and keen. If the child of God is truly yielded to God, the Holy Spirit will gather every thread of spin and weave it through His loom into a pattern of the life of Christ. Some of these sufferings are:

1. The sense of utter weakness to accomplish the great task of life. This produces faintness, trembling, and overwhelmingness.

2. Heart loneliness, by which the soul seems shut off into a strange isolation from others. God intends to unite, but before this He takes each devoted soul in a private manner off to itself. Natural affections must be circumcised, as must attachments to plans, times, dreams and hopes.

3. A holy pathetic sorrow for sin without any sense of guilt. Sorrow for past sin and the awfulness of sin in the world. Under the Holy Spirit this sorrow can be free from despair, despondency and bitterness. Sometimes this may seem as if we are squeezed with sadness and dread. However, if given to prayer, will result in quietness.

4. Bitter enmity of others. We may feel the malice of our fellowman, resulting in painful shootings in the heart, from the hatred and criticism that comes. This pain yielded to God in prayer will bring us great tenderness and love.

5. When God seems to fight against the soul, as if He were beating our spirit with a rod. However, we are told not to despise the chastening of the Lord.

6. Inexpressible desire for God. To gaze at Jesus, to despise ourselves, to look away from self and with such burning thirst for Christ, to forget our unworthiness.

Ken Walke