The Lord Giveth … The *Devil* Taketh Away (Chapter 6)

JOB COVERLOOKING AT JOB THROUGH JESUS

CHAPTER SIX: KNOWING TRUTH EQUALS FREEDOM

Once Job knows the truth about himself and about God, he is set free from the devil’s lies and his own deception and is able to respond to that truth with an act of faith: repentance and new commitment to God. And once Job is operating in repentance and faith, God is able to move in blessing.

His first move is to address Job’s three friends and let them know that since they have not seen fit to acknowledge their ignorance and repent, they are still in an unfit state to pray for any help from God themselves. “After the Lord had spoken … to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of Me the thing that is right, as my servant Job has.’” (Job 42:7, Amplified).

Now the reader needs to be cautious here, that he does not interpret this statement to mean that Job has been saying the right things about God all along. Remember, the Lord has just spent three chapters arraigning Job for his words spoken out of ignorance concerning God. No, this statement refers only to Job’s words once he recognizes his own ignorance and pride and repents.

God continues His instructions to Eliphaz in verse eight: “Now therefore take 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 I will accept [his prayer] that I deal not with you after your folly, in that you have not spoken of Me the thing which is right, like My servant Job. So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went, and did according as the Lord commanded them; and the Lord accepted [Job’s prayer]. And the Lord turned the captivity of Job and restored his fortunes, when he prayed for his friends; also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.”

Once Job is back in faith, he is able to release that faith in prayer for his friends. And it works for Job the way it works for the believers in the Body of Christ to this very day: when they pray for others, the doors are open for God to bless them as well. So through this doorway of faith, which Job opens through repentance and prayer for others (even others who have hurt him), God gives Job abundant blessings in every area of his life.

And just as Job’s new understanding of the truth set him free, so the believer’s understanding of the truth about the book of Job will set him free in his understanding of God. It was God who had given Job his abundant blessings. God says in Deuteronomy 8:18 that it is He that gives His people the power to make wealth. He also says that children are His reward to man. (Psalm 127:3). So the blessings all came from God. It was the devil who killed, stole, and destroyed in Job’s life. And he had an open avenue to do so because of Job’s lack of covenant, his great fear, and his inherent pride. Once again, just as in the Garden, man allowed Satan a place in his life and the right to function there.

But it is God who works with Job to bring him back to a place of knowing the truth and repenting, actions necessary to moving in faith. And it is God alone who gives the blessings in response to that faith.

And just as the truth set Job free and opened his life to abundance from God, so the truths contained within this study of Job – when received and applied diligently – will set each reader free and open his life to more of God’s abundance as well.

~~~


An ONLINE APPENDIX is available at the St. Ellen
Press website. It offers expanded explanations of the
passages earmarked in this text as areas that may
prompt readers to seek further details and references.
To access the appendix, click the link below.

StEllenPress.Com/ReadNow/Appendix

The Lord Giveth … The *Devil* Taketh Away (Chapter 5)

JOB COVERLOOKING AT JOB THROUGH JESUS

 

CHAPTER FIVE:  ‘PRIDE GOETH BEFORE A FALL’

 

The quote by Elihu which closes chapter four of this book could be ignored by the reader and attributed to the man’s own prejudices except for the fact that God Himself uses almost the identical words when He finally gets fed up with Job’s grandiose bellyaching and decides to set him straight. Before looking at that specific conversation, however, the reader needs to note one other lengthy statement by Job himself.

In chapter 13, verses 13-27, he says, “Hold your peace! Let me alone, so I may speak, and let come on me what will. Why should I … put my life in my hand [incurring the danger of God’s wrath]? nevertheless I will maintain and argue my ways before Him – even to His face. … Listen diligently to my speech, and let my declaration be in your ears. Behold now, I have prepared my case; I know that I shall be justified …. Who is he who will argue against and refute me?” (Amplified)

Then he speaks directly to God: “Then [Lord] call, and I will answer; or let me speak, and You answer me. How many are my iniquities and sins [that so much sorrow should come to me]? Make me recognize and know my transgression and my sin. … For You write bitter things against me … and make me inherit and be accountable now for the iniquities of my youth.” (Amplified).

Again, it’s evident that Job did not understand a covenant relationship, nor did he have one with God. Men in covenant with God understand that there is forgiveness of sins as a result of sacrifices instituted by God (and ultimately, according to Philippians chapter 2, the destruction of all those sins and the indictments against man as a result of Jesus Christ and His final sacrifice.) But Job understands none of this. Nor does he understand his own sins, which have indeed opened the door to what he has suffered.

As noted earlier, Job’s lack of covenant, along with his fear and pride, have put him in the enemy’s territory and opened the door to Satan’s attacks. But the reader sees absolutely no repentance in Job at this point. In fact, he insists that even if it costs him his life, he is determined to “argue his ways before God” and prove that he is “justified” and that there is no one who can “argue against him and refute him.”

This attitude denotes abject arrogance on Job’s part, as well as ignorance. And the ignorance goes so far as to deny the resurrection of the dead: “For there is hope of a tree, it if be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender shoots of it will not cease. [But] … man must die and lie prostrate; yes, man breathes his last, and where is he? … man lies down and does not rise. … As waters wear away the stones, and as floods wash away the soil of the earth; so You, O Lord, destroy the hope of man.” (Job 14: 7, 10, 12, 19, Amplified). At this juncture, Job is exceedingly proud of himself: proud of how “good” he is; proud of how much he “knows.”

However, as the reader continues throughout the book and finally comes to chapter 38, he comes face-to-face with, not only the climax of the story, but with the TRUTH.  In short, the reader – and Job – come face-to-face with God Himself. Surely many a Bible student has wondered why God took so long to get fed up with Job’s attitude and words. But being a gracious and merciful God allows Him to patiently withstand such foolish behavior, not only from Job, but from so many of His misguided children today as well.

But once God gets fed up, He leaves no doubt about where He stands. Beginning with verse one of chapter 38, and continuing through to the end of chapter 41, God sets the record straight. “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now your loins like a man, and I will demand of you, and you declare to Me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Declare if you have and know understanding. Who determined the measures of the earth, if you know? Upon what were the foundations of it fastened, or who laid its cornerstone …?’”(Amplified).

And so goes God’s inquisition of this egotistical man, until he brings Job to a thorough understanding of the fact that he knows virtually nothing when it comes to the subject of God. In modern English, the words would read something like, “Just who do you think you are, spouting out all this ignorance? Now stand up like a man, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, and let Me teach you a few things!”

The Message paraphrase comes beautifully close to the wording God would surely choose if He were writing this to the 21st century man: “And now, finally, God answered Job from the eye of a violent storm. He said: ‘Why do you confuse the issue? Why do you talk without knowing what you’re talking about? Pull yourself together, Job! Up on your feet! Stand tall! I have some questions for you, and I want some straight answers. Where were you when I created the earth? Tell me, since you know so much! …” (Job 38:1-4).

Then at the beginning of chapter 40, God becomes even more direct: “Then the Lord said to Job, ‘Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it.’ Then Job answered the Lord and said, ‘Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to Thee? I lay my hand on my mouth. Once I have spoken, and I will not answer; Even twice, and I will add no more.’ Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm, and said, ‘Now gird up your loins like a man; I will ask you, and you instruct Me. Will you really annul My judgment? Will you condemn me that you may be justified? Or do you have an arm like God and can you thunder with a voice like His? Adorn yourself with eminence and dignity; and clothe yourself with honor and majesty.’” (Job 40:1-10 NAS).

And, once again, The Message paraphrase reflects these sentiments so perfectly in 21st-century language: “God then confronted Job directly: ‘Now what do you have to say for yourself? Are you going to haul me, the Mighty One, into court and press charges?’” Job answers God: “’I’m ready to shut up and listen,’ Job answered: ‘I am speechless, in awe – words fail me. I should never have opened my mouth! I’ve talked too much, way too much. I’m ready to shut up and listen.’”

After forty-eight more verses of God’s direct interrogation, Job is finally able to see himself as he really is, and the true nature of his boasting comes to light: “Then Job answered the Lord, and said, ‘ … I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. [You said] ‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask Thee, and do Thou instruct me.’ I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees Thee; Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.’” (Job 42:3-6, NAS).

And once more The Message allows the everyday language of modern man to make these points even more clear: “Job answered God: ‘ … You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?” I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head. You told me, “Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.” I admit I once lived by rumors of You; now I have it all firsthand – from my own eyes and ears! I’m sorry – forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise! I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.’”

For the very first time in forty-one chapters of this man’s story, he finally sees the truth about himself. And, most importantly, the student of the Bible now sees the truth about him and the situation he is in. Now the picture is complete and true to life.

Here is a man who, although he was a faithful servant of the Creator of the universe to the best of his knowledge, and his heart was completely devoted to that Creator, as far as he knew, yet he did not truly know that Creator at all. He says he had based his ideas about God on what he had heard from others (who were also ignorant). And, of course, some of his earlier statements make it obvious that he based some of his judgment concerning God on his own assumptions from what he saw and felt in the natural world.

By not knowing and understanding God, and by not having a covenant relationship with Him, Job was prey to spirits of fear and pride, and he had let them have places of rulership in his life to the point that he had actually left himself and his family open to the devil’s attack.

But the story does not end here, with Job’s new revelation concerning Himself and His God. And, in fact, his new ability to see himself as he is and to repent (which means to turn around 180 degrees) allows God to move Job into new acts of faith which will result in great blessing for him and his friends.

Watch for the final chapter tomorrow.

The Lord Giveth … The *Devil* Taketh Away (Chapter 4)

JOB COVERLOOKING AT JOB THROUGH JESUS

 

CHAPTER FOUR:  RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE WORD

 

Another serious problem with the book of Job is that readers make the mistake of assuming that because a statement is made in the Bible, that statement has to be a truth — or it has to be something God agrees with. That idea is a fallacy, and it is also why God admonishes his people, as Paul did Timothy, to learn to “rightly divide the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Think about it: The Bible is full of stories of people who do not know God at all – some of whom even cursed Him and terrorized His followers. Those people are quoted in scripture so that the reader will know what they felt and how they acted. But everything they said is not a fact — nor is it something God wants his followers to believe. The statements of these people are truly reported — but they are not statements of truth.

It is incumbent upon any Christian who really wants to know God and become like Him to learn to determine which statements in scripture are simply statements relating events or other people’s opinions or words — and which statements are God’s covenant principles and promises. Only those statements that are God’s own personal statements to man concerning His plans for man’s salvation and His principles of interacting with man are to be taken as His truth. Those are the statements upon which people must build their relationship with God and upon which they can rely confidently for their future in eternity.

The book of Job is full of statements – by Job, his wife, and all of his friends – which are definitely not truths. They are not accurate in the least, but are the product of their finite human reasoning, trying to explain the Creator of the universe and His ways. And even that reasoning is founded in basic ignorance of the spiritual realm and the Creator of the universe. They may have been intelligent men, but intelligence makes no difference if the information necessary to understanding isn’t available. A man can be a genius, yet have no access to true information concerning a subject or a circumstance upon which to base any judgments or decisions, so he is ignorant concerning that particular subject.

That Job and his friends were ignorant concerning God and His ways with man is clearly evident. In fact, this study of Job does not begin to have room to deal with all of the statements made by these men which are totally dis-proven when Jesus comes on the scene in the New Testament. But for the sake of clarity, this chapter will deal with a few of them.

In chapter one, after Job receives the last report concerning all of his losses, he makes the following statement: “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.” This particular passage has been accepted into the mainstream of Christendom, quoted, slobbered over, included in thousands of funeral services, and even used to supposedly “console” grieving survivors concerning the loss of their loved ones. The problem is that in the mind set of most Christians, a statement like this one sounds “holy.” It amounts to another way of saying, “Well, God is in control, and He knows best.” Or another way of saying, “None of this would have happened if God hadn’t wanted it to.”

But the truth is — Wait —

Does the church want the truth? Perhaps now is the time to ask that question. Do the majority of Christians really want to know the truth? Because if they do recognize that truth — that God is not always in control because He has chosen to give man some control through the covenant — then the Christians are going to have to stop using that verse as a cop-out. They are going to have to step back and say, “Wait a minute. I have a part to play in this. The devil has a part to play in this. What does my covenant say? Have I failed to learn how to walk in that covenant correctly? What does the promise of God say? Is there a condition required by that promise that I have failed to meet?”

Knowing the real truth makes the Christian responsible for a whole lot more than he’s responsible for if he can always toss off some serious loss of a blessing by saying, “Oh, well, the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away whenever He wants to. I have nothing to do with it.”

Well, where does one go for the truth in this instance? The same place God sends His people for every answer: to Jesus Christ. Jesus was quite explicit when He was teaching His followers how to recognize their God — versus their enemy. He said, in John 10:10: “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

It couldn’t be any more clear. Jesus has, in two sentences, rightly divided the Word of God and drawn the battle lines. He — representing all that God is — has come to give life only, and that in abundance. The thief is the one who steals, kills, and destroys. The devil is described as a liar and a thief at other places in scripture, so his identity should be clear to any student of the Bible. The reader also needs to bear in mind that even losses due to destruction caused by elements of nature are the result of the enemy’s interference in those forces. Because the devil has a right to operate on earth (including its atmosphere) — and because he is a spiritual being and knows how to use spiritual power — he can make use of natural elements for his own destructive ends.

To sum it up simply, if the Christian — or anyone else — is experiencing loss as a result of having something stolen, something killed, or something destroyed, Jesus says God didn’t do it. So when Job says, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away,” is his statement true? It cannot be true! Either Job is wrong, or Jesus is wrong. That decision shouldn’t take more than one second to make. “Well, then,” the reader may ask, “does that mean the Bible is wrong?” No. The Bible has truly reported Job’s statement. But Job was wrong! His statement itself is the result of Job’s ignorance concerning who gives and who takes away.

Job himself makes it clear that he is in ignorance because he says in chapter 9, verse 24, “The earth is given into the hand of the wicked; He covers the faces of its judges so that they are blinded to justice. If it is not God, who then is it responsible for all this inequality?” (Amplified Bible). Job is at least honest at this point. He says, “If God isn’t the one responsible for everything being the way it is, then who is?” He honestly doesn’t know. So he assumes that his opinion is correct. This attitude has been man’s downfall in all generations when he has tried to explain and understand God by his own finite mind.

Job is missing two very important bits of information here. First of all, he has given absolutely no consideration to the fact that he has an enemy in power on the earth: Satan. He evidently has no knowledge of Satan — or he has become like so many modern Christians — and would rather ignore him and blame God for everything. Moreover, while Job recognizes that the earth has been given into the hand of the wicked, he doesn’t recognize that it was man — not God — who handed the earth over to Satan and his forces. Job seems to be in ignorance concerning the sin in the garden, by which man chose to disobey God and submit to Satan, thereby giving him a legal right to take control in the earth. God had given man the legal control of the planet, telling Adam and Eve clearly to “rule” over every creature and to “subdue the earth” — bring it into subjection to their authority and control.

Since Adam and Eve chose not to rule over the serpent, but to believe him and obey his admonition, thereby rebelling against God, they subjugated themselves and their domain to him and his power. Job seems unaware of this fact, but he is definitely aware of the consequences of it: the fact that the earth is, at the time of Job’s life, in the hands of the wicked. (Until such time as Jesus came as a human being to win back that rulership for the human race and for God.)

But Job blames God. Moreover, he says in the two verses above verse 24, “God destroys the blameless and the wicked,” and then goes on to add, “He mocks at the calamity and trial of the innocent.” Not so. Whether Abraham was a contemporary of Job or a forerunner, his experience with God, in covenant, was that God would not slay the innocent with the wicked, nor would He laugh at their calamity. In fact Abraham had a long talk with the Lord about that very subject when the future of Sodom was at stake, and Abraham, who had a better understanding than Job concerning God, made a point to the Lord that he was sure God would not slay the innocent with the wicked. (Genesis 18:25).

David has something to say on this subject as well. God identifies David in words that He uses for no other major spiritual leader in scripture: He says David is “a man after My own heart.” (Acts 13:22).Now here’s a man who had spent years out in the fields as a shepherd, communing with God, and as a result, penning hundreds of psalms describing God and His relationship with man.

In Psalm 91, David gives an incredibly detailed account of how all-encompassing God’s protection is for those of His creation who keep themselves in an intimate relationship with Him (dwelling “in His secret place” and “under His shadow”). Like any of the promises of God, these promises have provisions. Man must, first of all, know that the promises exist; then he must believe them enough to make sure he meets the provisions; then he must activate his faith in receiving and applying those promises to his own individual life.

That’s the process by which every believer received the new birth experience. He heard the promise that he could be saved by calling on Jesus and His finished work; he obeyed the provisions of that promise; then he applied it to his life by faith, accepting the fact that he was now a child of God. He spoke it out of his mouth and lived daily in agreement with the Word of God concerning his salvation. So it is with all of God’s promises.

And according to Psalm 91, the man who will believe the words of this Psalm and apply them to himself by his lifestyle and his own words — who will put himself and keep himself in intimate relationship with God — will be kept from terror, attack from his enemies, pestilence, sudden death, and all kinds of plagues and calamity. Moreover, the Lord will deliver him from all trouble.

And as far as Job’s statement that God “slays the innocent with the wicked,” is concerned, this Psalm written by the “man after God’s own heart” says to the innocent and Godly man: “a thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not come near you.”

Now, if all of the promises in Psalm 91 are true, something’s wrong in Job’s life. He must not have been in that intimate relationship with God. In fact, according to him, he didn’t even know about any of these promises, and he obviously didn’t believe for them to come to pass in his life, because he says he was continuously fearful — even greatly fearful — so his lifestyle and his words could not have lined up with these words of God. And, once again, it is important to cite that Job seems to have had absolutely no written record of anything God had said or done concerning a covenant relationship with man.

One of Job’s other frequent complaints is that when he calls to God, God will not answer him. He says this a number of times in different ways, but, here again, his statements are diametrically opposed to everything else in scripture that is a promise or covenant principle set forth by God Himself. Again, in Psalm 91, God addresses this issue with these words: “He shall call upon me, and I will answer him.” Another similar promise is found in Jeremiah 19:12-13: “Then shall ye call upon me and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”

David has something else to say, in Psalm 41, that counters another of Job’s complaints that was rooted in ignorance of God. Job refers to himself in chapter 29 as a person who faithfully took care of the poor, the fatherless, the widows, the blind, and the lame. If that had been true, and he had been in a covenant relationship with God as David was, he would have known God’s promise to give special care and protection to the people who did those things. David talks, in Psalm 41, about how God treats the man or woman who specifically cares for the poor, the weak, and the sick. That Psalm says the Lord will deliver that man in the day of trouble, He will protect him and keep him alive, and He will refuse to give him over to the desire of his enemies. But Job is in total ignorance of a God like that.

These few examples are, by no means, the complete picture of Job’s total misunderstanding of the situation he’s in. He consistently accuses God of being his enemy and the perpetrator of all that is darkness, hardship, and evil in his experiences. But every time, the problem is rooted in his lack of knowledge and understanding, lack of intimate relationship, and, ultimately, lack of covenant with God.

To be sure, Job says a few things that are correct. In spite of all he believes God has done to hurt him, he still seems to have some degree of understanding that this God will be the only one who can deliver him and will also be the only one who will control where Job spends eternity. He refers to the fact that he knows that his “Redeemer” lives, and that he will eventually see Him when this fleshly life has come to an end.(Job 19:25).

And it is also true that the Word says that even in Job’s ignorant responses, he did not act in a way that was considered sinful. Job 1:22 says, “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” That word “charged” means to attribute folly to someone. So the indication is that, although Job accused God of doing evil, he did so out of honest ignorance and refused to judge God as evil or hold Him guilty of wrongdoing. Therefore, even though Job is wrong in his estimation of God, he is not held guilty of deliberately rebelling against Him or blaspheming Him.

But the reader needs to be careful not to take this statement as an indication that Job is correct in his judgment of God. Another similar statement comes close to the end of the book when God speaks to Job’s friends and says, “Ye have not spoken of Me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.” (Job 42:7). But God does not say this about Job until Job himself has changed his tune completely — and then only after God spent four chapters worth of time getting him straightened out.

When all is said and done, Job spends the vast majority of his time doing exactly what Elihu accuses him of in chapter 35, verse 16: “Therefore doth Job open his mouth in vain; he multiplieth words without knowledge.”

The following chapter will continue this detailed look into some more problematic passages.

The Lord Giveth … The *Devil* Taketh Away (Chapter 1)

LOOKING AT JOB THROUGH JESUS

JOB COVER

WARNING:  The following book is radical. It will force the reader to take a long, hard look at what he genuinely KNOWS about God, as compared to what long-held traditional doctrines and translations have TOLD him about God. Be prepared to think and pray — and to be set free to move up to a new level of relationship with the Creator and Lord of the universe. (If you’d rather not have to think and pray right now, you should read something else.)

INTRODUCTION

Years ago, a seasoned Bible scholar stood before a class of eager young men and women who were training for ministry in the Kingdom of God. He asked a simple question, which shocked some, challenged others, but held the attention of all. The question: “How Christlike is your God?”

I never knew this man personally, and I learned of his challenge to this group of budding ministers only a few years ago. But it touched a very deep chord inside of me, because during my 40 years of ministry, the one over-riding desire in my heart has been to teach in such a way that I could help people see the truth about who God is and what He feels, thinks, and desires. I learned at the beginning of my ministry that there is only one way to understand God as He really is, and that is to understand Him through Jesus Christ — not through my own thoughts and experiences — not through the doctrines of various denominations or cultures — only through Jesus Himself.

St. Paul, in writing to the church, expressed his deep concern — to the point of fear — that the young Christians were being drawn away from looking to Jesus Christ as the only clear and true representation of God and His will in their lives. “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve, through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:3).

I experience the same fear for people today. There are so many teachings, translations, traditions, and doctrines (inspired by that same serpent) that have taken scriptures out of their context as part of the entire Word of God and twisted them in order to explain God according to man’s limited understanding and experience. Man has tried to make God like man — rather than looking at Jesus Christ and staying focused on Him until man becomes like God.

The Lord has had me teaching these truths for decades now, and with respect to the book of Job, I have seen these truths set hundreds of people free from their false ideas of God as some ogre who can’t be understood, and who is just waiting to slap them down with some horrible problem or torment. The Lord dealt with me for years to get these truths into book form, and I lagged in my obedience. Finally, He managed to convince me that I was overdue in that obedience and that He was sorely disappointed. Needless to say, I got this book together in record time. I’m grateful it has helped so many people, and I offer it on this site in an effort to help even more.

Now back to the question I mentioned at the beginning of this introduction: “How Christlike is your God?” It is my prayer that this simple question will serve as the standard of measure for every sincere Bible teacher when evaluating any and all subject matter relating to God and His Word. And to that end, I have dedicated this book.

 

CHAPTER ONE: REALITY OR MYTHOLOGY?

It’s a well-known, well-worn story. In fact, it’s safe to say that most people in the world have heard it at least once, and often repeatedly:

In the early days of human history, there lived a man by the name of Job, who was “perfect” and “upright,” and who served the great Superbeing of the universe faithfully. The devil went before this Superbeing one day, and Superbeing decided He’d like to prove to the devil just how much greater He was than His adversary, so He picked on Job and decided to use him to prove His point. He taunted the devil with these words, “Have you considered my servant Job — how good he is and how faithfully he serves me?”

The devil knew Job was faithful, and he could see how much Superbeing loved Job, so he did a little taunting of his own. He challenged the Superbeing with the accusation that Job served Him only because he was blessed. The devil dared the Superbeing to take away Job’s blessings and inflict him with pain and grave loss – just to see if he would still be faithful.

Superbeing took up the challenge and, insisting that he would be proven the winner in this contest, he gave the devil free rein to do anything he wanted to do that would hurt Job — except to take his life. In effect, He said, “No matter what you do to him, he will still serve me. You’re free to do anything you want except kill him, and I’ll prove to you that he will still be faithful to me.”And in the end of the story, Job is proven faithful and receives multiplied blessings for proving the Superbeing right and the devil wrong.

Wow!   What a story!   The superpowers of the spirit realm seeking to glorify themselves – taunting each other over which one had the most faithful followers. And subjecting those followers to severe, heart-rending trials in order to prove their boasting true.

Yes, it’s an amazing story, but it’s not a unique story at all. It is exactly like the ribald stories told of gods and goddesses throughout Greek and Roman mythology: You know Zeus, Jupiter, Poseidon, etc. — the powers of the heavens vying with each other for glory and using their subjects like pawns on a game board to prove one deity more powerful or more glorious than the others.

These religions are replete with tales of how their “gods” treated their subjects in exactly this demeaning way. They made sport of them in order to manipulate each other and feed their own pride.

Wait a minute: Was Job dealing with a god just like those of the Greeks and Romans?

If Bible readers believe the story of Job as it has been incorrectly translated and handed down traditionally through several generations, they would have to answer “Yes.” They would have to believe that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – Jehovah – Jesus Christ – is just as selfish and capricious as the deities of the Greeks and Romans.

That being the case, students of the Bible are then faced with a very unwelcome question: Is this traditional story of Job and the kind of God it portrays a true story, historically accurate and trustworthy — or is it just another myth?

The answer is simple, yet complicated. The “true” story of Job is indeed a “true story.”

But this story that has been incorrectly translated from the original language and then handed down for generations is another entity altogether. Made up of one part fact, one part mythology, and one part man’s endless effort to make his God out to be just like himself, it is nothing but a myth.

Are you afraid to read further?  Don’t be. You’ll be glad you kept going.

At this point, many readers will close this book and never look back. Those readers will relegate the author to the long historical list of heretics and continue to walk in the fantasy of the Job story they have always been taught. It’s the story they are comfortable with. As long as they hold to that story, they don’t have to study the Word of God more closely or think deeply and seriously for themselves about what kind of God they have.

But, more importantly, those readers who fail to give themselves a chance to learn the truth will continue to suffer the loss and destruction that are inevitable when people believe lies about God. Because in their failure to understand the truth about this story, they fail to understand their God.

He is a God who has victory for them over the evil in this world. But they also fail to understand that the same devil whose lies were accepted by man at creation is also the one who has added the lies to this story. He is the same devil who inflicts evils on human kind; and it is of paramount importance to him to keep men believing that these evils come at the will of their own God.

And herein lies the crux of the matter. The majority of people who consider themselves Christians on the earth today don’t actually know their own God very well. They know what other Christians have told them. And many of them believe what their own imagination tells them. So they frame God with their own understanding rather than with the revelation of the Spirit of God Himself or with the mind of Christ.

But somewhere deep down inside many of those Christians is a nagging little question that keeps coming back to ask of the traditional Job story, “What’s wrong with this picture?” Or if the spirit is really brave, it will sometimes even ask, “Is this really the kind of God I want?” Or braver yet: “Why is my God an inflicter of pain and suffering when I would never do that to the people I love?”

HERESY!  The cry goes up immediately when such questions are given their rightful place. It’s the cry of so many who consider themselves “watchmen” of God’s reputation. As soon as anyone asks a question – or offers some answers – that might cause them to have to reevaluate what they have been accepting for generations, these “watchmen” cry out against it, instead of giving the Lord a chance to renew their minds.

So only the spiritually brave Christian will continue into the deeper channels of this book. Only those who want to know in their own hearts that they have asked those necessary questions and found the answers for themselves. But for those few who are brave enough to continue past this point, the rewards will be worth it.

As much as the church likes to sweep such questions under the rug, the truth is that they do exist. Many Christians manage to beat these questions down until they convince themselves that they really do accept this kind of God. They convince themselves that a Father who deliberately inflicts hurt and pain on them can actually coexist with the loving, merciful, healing Jesus they met in the New Testament. But the naked truth is that those questions still exist — and rightly so.

Because rather than those questions being the result of heretical thinking and rebellion against God and His Word, they are actually the promptings of His own Holy Spirit inside of us, trying to get us to put forth the effort to find out for ourselves what kind of God we have.

And it doesn’t really take all that much effort. It requires no superior intellect to see that there’s nothing holy about the kind of behavior attributed to God in this story. The very word holy carries in its meaning the essence of being “perfect in goodness and righteousness.” Such capricious, self-centered behavior as that portrayed by the traditional teaching of God in the story of Job cannot fit that definition. Furthermore, there is no faithfulness in that kind of behavior. And the Word of God makes it quite clear that, second to holiness, God’s primary nature is best described in the attribute of faithfulness.

Even those people in the world who desire no relationship with Jesus Christ generally accept the fact that a god of any religion is expected to be better in character than his subjects. And, particularly where Christianity is concerned, a poll of thousands of people who do not even attend church regularly, will show that the vast majority of those people, when they hear about God or think about what He might be like, expect Him to be extraordinarily good and trustworthy.

They hear Christians talk about their God as a loving father, so they expect that He would act in accordance with that identity. They expect that He would never be guilty of any acts of molestation or abuse. And, in truth, those people, who have no God of their own, when they consider whether they need a personal God, are positive they would want one who is kind, compassionate, honorable and dependable.

But then they hear the church tell the story of Job — in the old traditional version — and they recognize that the God in this story is not what they thought God was at all. Sometimes, they even decide that they already have enough problems in this life, and they certainly don’t need a God who will inflict more pain and suffering upon them.

More than one Christian who has tried to witness to an unbeliever has been challenged with this problem. Those Christians are asked why an unbeliever should consider that his life will be any better if he comes into relationship with a God like the one commonly depicted in the story of Job.

Reverend Kenneth Copeland, of Fort Worth, Texas, has shared the story more than once of a Japanese minister who came to the United States many years ago to attend Rhema Bible Training Institute in Broken Arrow, OK, under the ministry of Copeland’s mentor, Kenneth Hagin. Copeland says this minister told Reverend Kenneth Hagin that, after WWII, the Japanese people were open to accepting the Christian God of the United States because He was the God of the nation that had defeated them. They believed their own gods had failed, so they wanted to learn about the God of the Christians.

The Japanese minster said, “But when we studied it out and researched it a little bit, we couldn’t figure it out. All we could find out was that your God would make you sick and take everything you had away from you – and every time you tried to serve Him, He’d knock you back down on your face. So we didn’t want him. So we just kept on serving our old dead gods, knowing it wasn’t any good, but we were in the habit of it.

But when I heard someone preach what you folks are preaching, I got over in the New Testament and read it for myself, and I found out that all that junk we had heard wasn’t in there. When I found out that God is love and that Jesus of Nazareth loved me without any reservations, even when I was a sinner, now that’s the God I was hunting for all the time.”

At that point, the man and his wife accepted the Lord, came to the United States to be trained for ministry, and went back to Japan to win the people of their own nation to the Lord.

One of the most troubling facts about erroneous stories from the Bible being told repeatedly for generations is that the world then picks up those stories and repeats them. They may not believe the Bible per se, but they believe that Christians believe the stories are true – which means that they believe their God is like the God in the erroneous stories.

The odd thing about that situation is that unbelievers seem to be able to recognize immediately that there is something seriously wrong with the picture portrayed by those stories. One excellent example of what often transpires in the minds of unbelievers was depicted quite accurately in an episode of a very worldly television cartoon series entitled South Park, produced by Comedy Central Productions.

Now, the author of this study of Job is not suggesting that the South Park cartoons are acceptable fare for recreational TV viewing. However, viewers of the series have noted and commented specifically on the fact that one particular episode accurately described their personal reaction to the traditional story of Job. And that reaction is worth noting.

In this episode, one of the young characters, a Jewish boy named Kyle, has renounced his faith because he feels he has suffered so much pain and injustice that there cannot really be a God. While he is lying in a hospital bed because of an injury he has sustained, his parents come into the room and talk with him. When he learns they want to tell him a story from the Bible, his reply is that he has had enough of the Bible. It hasn’t gotten him anywhere, and he doesn’t want to hear anymore.

His parents insist that he will feel differently when he hears the story of Job. They relate the story this way:

Job was a great man. He was blessed with ten lovely children, a wonderful wife, and many friends.

He was a godly and a good man and fed the poor. He was the most upright and honorable of men and every day he praised God.

But one day Satan went up to heaven and talked to God. … And God said to Satan, Have you seen Job? He is a great man, and he praises Me every day.

But Satan said, ‘Oh yeah, he only praises you because you gave him so much. If you didn’t give him those things, he would curse your name.’ To which God said, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll show you, Satan. I’ll take those things away from Job and he will still praise my name.’

And so God had a bunch of barbarians come in and slaughter Job’s ox and donkeys and murder all his workers. Then God sent his fireballs from the sky and killed his sheep and the rest of his employees.

And then, as Job’s sons and daughter were eating, God sent a mighty wind to collapse the house and crushed and killed them all.

Job was terribly upset, but he fell to his knees and said, ‘The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away,’ and he praised God’s name.

So then Job got painful sores all over his body. He was in terrible, miserable pain all day every day, but he still kept his faith. God said to Satan, ‘See, I told you. Job still praises me. ‘”

Kyle’s reply is, “That’s the most horrible story I’ve ever heard! Why would God do horrible things to a good person just to prove a point to Satan?”

His father answers, “Oh … uuh … I don’t know.”

To which Kyle responds, “Then I was right …. There isn’t a God.”

Now, some people’s response to this conversation will be to say that the cartoon version says that God Himself did all those things to Job, but what the Bible really says is that Satan did all of them — at God’s invitation. Which means???

If God invited Satan to attack Job so unmercifully, when He could have kept him from doing so, that makes Him just as guilty as if He had executed the blows Himself. And where the Christian mind is sometimes so set in tradition to the extent that it is willing to accept this picture of God, the unbeliever’s mind is still open and free to recognize clearly that it is God who is the real perpetrator of harm here. And why would that unbeliever ever want to submit and subject his life to such a God?

If the body of Christ is ever going to win the world to Jesus Christ, they must find a way to help that world understand that the God they see in Jesus is the one and only God, the God to whom they can turn for salvation. Which means that the church is going to have to learn the truth about the God of Job.

So, if this story as it’s traditionally told is a myth, what is the real story? In the remainder of this book the true story of Job and his God will become clear. And as it does, the reader will find that Jesus meant exactly what He said, when He promised: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Watch for Chapter Two tomorrow.

~~~

 

When Should Christians Suffer?


This article was originally posted several months ago, but its message is one that so many people are confused about that I felt I should offer it again now.

The word of God has much to say about suffering. It’s a subject with which everyone has had some personal experience, and therefore, a subject of much discussion in Christian circles. One group of Christians believes that those who live for the Lord shouldn’t have to suffer anything at all in this life. And then there are the Christians on the other end of the spectrum who believe that everything Christians suffer is either from God Himself, or deliberately allowed by Him as a part of working His perfect plan in our lives. Actually, if we look carefully at the Word of God, we find that both of those groups are mistaken.

The problem seems to arise from failure in many Christian circles to realize that, according to the Word, there are three different types of suffering that befall the believer. Each of these kinds of suffering needs to be understood and dealt with in a different way. When Jesus said that a would-be disciple must take up his cross and follow Him, He wasn’t referring to accepting any bad thing that happens in life as a cross that we must obediently carry.

If illness, loss of income, physical or mental handicaps, drunken, abusive spouses, or rebellious children are the crosses we carry for the Lord, then every human being alive, whether he’s born again or not, is carrying a cross for Jesus – because every one of us has had to deal with one or several of those problems during our lifetimes. These kinds of things befall all people. But the key word here is “befall.” These things fall on us – we do not choose to pick them up and make them part of our lives.

Jesus makes it clear that the cross He requires must be willfully and deliberately picked up by each of us individually – even as His was. It must be the same cross – the cross of dying to sin, the world, and our flesh. Then, and only then, will we be able to live the life of a disciple by his resurrection power. So suffering cannot all be lumped together as a cross we carry Jesus.

Now that we have determined what is and is not a cross for Christ, we need to take a look at the three different kinds of suffering that the Word of God shows us may take place in a Christian’s life. For the purposes of this article, let’s refer to these three types simply as A, B, and C.

Suffering Type A:

This suffering results from our own sin or foolishness. Galatians. 6:7 says, “Be not deceived: God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Psalm 107:17 says, “Fools because of their transgressions, and because of their iniquities were afflicted.” And Proverbs adds to this truth in chapter 18, verse 7, saying, “A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.” The verse 21 of that same chapter adds, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Going a little farther into Proverbs, to chapter 19, verse 15, we find this: “Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep, and an idle soul shall suffer hunger.” Now, these verses give us just a few examples of the fact that God’s Word says when we disobey Him, or remain ignorant of His ways, we will suffer.

This suffering is not God’s will at all. He has not deliberately allowed it; rather we have caused it.

Now let’s take a little side trip here to consider this word “allow,” as it is used in reference to God. Most of the time when Christians say God has “allowed” something, they mean that He has deliberately considered whether or not to let the thing take place in His child’s life and has decided that He wants it to happen. In reference to that idea, this article will refer to that concept as “deliberately allowing.” However, there is the fact (so often missed by Bible readers) that God is required to “allow” some things to happen in the earth even though He does not want them to happen. He has not considered whether to let those thing happen and decided in the affirmative. He is simply bound by His own Covenant and His own word of promise to let man do what he chooses by his free will to do, and to let the devil do what man has legally allowed him to do. Many people get uncomfortable – even angry – when faced with the idea that God doesn’t always get His way in all things. But it is God Himself who says that He does not.

Many times throughout the Old and New Testaments, God verifies that He did not want something to happen to His people, but because they would not follow the dictates of His Covenant (which would have protected them) He must stand back and let those things happen. We will mention only three examples in this article, but any reader who truly wants to get to the truth about this issue can do further personal study on the subject and find others.

Example 1: Ezekiel 22: 29-31. Israel has been guilty of horrible actions, and God says according to His Covenant, they deserve wrath and punishment. But He says that He does not want to pour out that punishment, and He searches the entire nation for just one man who will stand and intercede for Israel and open up the way for God to pour out mercy instead. But He says He cannot find one man to pray, so He has no choice but to allow the wrath and punishment that Israel has justly earned. God does not get what He wants.

Example 2: Matthew 23:37: Jesus weeps over Jerusalem because He (and the Father) have desired that the people will come to Jesus and allow Him to “gather them under His wings as a mother hen,” but they refuse. He does not get his own way.

Example 3: 1 Peter 3:9: God is not willing that any should die unsaved. But he does not get His way.

Now, some people think that these facts interfere with God’s sovereignty. Not so at all. It was God’s sovereignty that allowed Him to decide to make a Covenant with man, which would govern exactly how He would deal with His people, and what would be required of them and of Him. He is the one who made the sovereign decision to bind Himself to that Covenant, both by the Covenant itself and by His solemn promise that He would never break it. He used His sovereignty to willingly put Himself in a position of having to keep His own word. He will never go back on it or change it even one “jot or on tittle.”

So now let’s get back to Suffering Type A, that which comes as a result of our own sin or foolishness. It is part of the “law of sin and death,” that is in eternal motion in God’s universe. (Romans 8). Oh, yes, we can attempt to save face by trying to convince ourselves and others that we are suffering because God is “taking us through something to mature us.” But that’s a lie, and clinging to it will only work to keep us in a state of immaturity. If I don’t have a good relationship with my boss at work because I’m late too often, or always have a negative attitude, it sounds more pious to say, “I’m being persecuted at work because I’m a Christian.” Or to claim, “God is testing me with all this persecution to see how faithful I will be.”

If I’m a student who’s being disciplined severely at school because I haven’t been diligent in my work, or I’ve acted outside of the accepted conduct rules, it’s much easier on my conscience to tell myself, “I’m just misunderstood by all these authorities at school. I guess that’s just a cross I have to carry.”

And if my body is sick because I won’t let go of unforgiveness and resentment, but continue to feed on bitterness, I can comfort myself by saying, “Well, I’m sure the Lord has some reason known only to Him for letting me go through this battle. He will get glory out of it.” (Now, that’s one of the biggest lies the devil ever told anyone, anywhere. There is not one single example in the entire Word of God where God received glory or honor of any kind because someone was sick. He never received any glory until the people were healed. But that’s another point entirely, so we can save it for another article.)

Do you see that these alibis for sin-induced suffering will only keep us in immaturity? Unless we see the problem for what it is, we will not come to repentance. It is the honesty and repentance that brings us to maturity and to His mercy, which will be able to alleviate the suffering. Instead of being content to just sit back and say, “Well all suffering is God’s will for a purpose in my life,” let’s go to prayer and find out just which kind of suffering we’re undergoing. Ask the Lord if there’s sin or foolishness at the root. God doesn’t play games; He’ll tell us quickly if there is, assuming our requests are sincere, and He’ll tell us exactly how to deal with it.

Suffering Type B:

This type of suffering refers to the various evils in this world, resulting from sin in general and the resulting curse that is in operation everywhere. Some common examples are disease, birth defects, miscarriages, accidents, poverty, barren crops, destructive storms, violent attacks on our person, property, or nation, and so forth. All of these things are part of the curse of the broken law, according to Deuteronomy chapter 28. These are the things that Jesus bore for us, as our sacrificial substitute “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us ….” (Gal. 3:13). Isaiah 53:4-5 in the Amplified Bible is very explicit: “Surely He has born our griefs – sickness, weakness, and distress – and carried our sorrows and pain. … But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement needful to obtain peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes that wounded Him we are healed and made whole.” Those words translate from the original Hebrew text exactly, rather than shortening the definitions as some translations do.

Jesus bore all of these things in our stead. I find the word chastisement most interesting. It has two distinct meanings: a) beating and physical punishment; and b) teaching and training. You can see from the literal translation of Isaiah 53 above that Jesus bore the physical punishment for us (as our substitute), and that leaves us with only the teaching and training to walk through, if we are truly in Him. The Lord never wills sickness and infirmity or calamity on us to teach us something. He put all of that (as part of the curse) on Jesus. Rather, He tells us that it is His Spirit and His Word which will teach and train us. (See Prov. 2:1-6; John 14:26; John 15:3; and 1 John 2:17.)

So if we are undergoing these kinds of suffering in our lives, we need to take a definite stand against them. We need to find the promises in the Word that pertain to our situation, take that Word to the Lord in prayer for deliverance from that suffering, and persistently bombard that evil thing with the Word of power and truth until it yields, and we are free. These things are never God’s will. We must see them as the evil things that they are and refuse to accept them in our lives. It does our dear Jesus a great dishonor for us to grasp and hold on to any of these things that He already so horribly suffered for us and put away.

Suffering Type C:

Type C is the suffering of persecution and harassment from the devil and the world because we are living as Christ. This is the only type of suffering that we are to accept and live with. Moreover, the Word even tells us to rejoice in it and glory in it. “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in Heaven ….” (Matt. 5:11). He later says in Matt. 10:16-25, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; … and ye shall be hated of all men, for my name’s sake, but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. … It is enough for the disciple to be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household.” Then, of course, we have Jesus’ famous words from John 16:33: “These things I have spoken unto you that you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

So is it wrong to pray for deliverance from some of this type of persecution? Certainly not. If you have loved ones or fellow servants in the Kingdom who are being tortured in a foreign land because they have taken a stand for Christ, by all means, pray for their deliverance. God still delights in delivering His people. And He in no way indicates that we should not seek His help in overcoming the enemy and his tactics even in persecution.

But my point is that it is only this type of suffering – persecution for the Gospel’s sake – that is related to taking up our cross. It is received by choice. If we are not a Christian, or choose to be a Christian in name but still live like the world, we will not be persecuted in this manner. Only when we decide to be a true disciple, will we endure this kind of suffering. And the farther we walk away from the world and into the ways of Christ, the greater will be the persecution. But if it comes, we have this assurance: “For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example; that ye should follow His steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously ….” (1 Pet. 2:19-23.)

The key word here is “example.” Jesus is our example for how to endure the suffering of persecution. We must always respond in love as He did and trust ourselves to our Father God. But let us not get confused. The Word does not say He is our “example” for how to suffer the things that are part of the curse of the broken law: For that suffering He became our substitute, and there is a huge difference. If He has taken that suffering for us, then He intends us to walk free of those things as long as we walk in Him.

When Should Christians Suffer?

The word of God has much to say about suffering. It’s a subject with which everyone has had some personal experience, and therefore, a subject of much discussion in Christian circles. One group of Christians believes that those who live for the Lord shouldn’t have to suffer anything at all in this life. And then there are the Christians on the other end of the spectrum who believe that everything Christians suffer is either from God Himself, or deliberately allowed by Him as a part of working His perfect plan in our lives. Actually, if we look carefully at the Word of God, we find that both of those groups are mistaken.

The problem seems to arise from failure in many Christian circles to realize that, according to the Word, there are three different types of suffering that befall the believer. Each of these kinds of suffering needs to be understood and dealt with in a different way. When Jesus said that a would-be disciple must take up his cross and follow Him, He wasn’t referring to accepting any bad thing that happens in life as a cross that we must obediently carry.

If illness, loss of income, physical or mental handicaps, drunken, abusive spouses, or rebellious children are the crosses we carry for the Lord, then every human being alive, whether he’s born again or not, is carrying a cross for Jesus – because every one of us has had to deal with one or several of those problems during our lifetimes. These kinds of things befall all people. But the key word here is “befall.” These things fall on us – we do not choose to pick them up and make them part of our lives.

Jesus makes it clear that the cross He requires must be willfully and deliberately picked up by each of us individually – even as His was. It must be the same cross – the cross of dying to sin, the world, and our flesh. Then, and only then, will we be able to live the life of a disciple by his resurrection power. So suffering cannot all be lumped together as a cross we carry Jesus.

Now that we have determined what is and is not a cross for Christ, we need to take a look at the three different kinds of suffering that the Word of God shows us may take place in a Christian’s life. For the purposes of this article, let’s refer to these three types simply as A, B, and C.

Suffering Type A:
This suffering results from our own sin or foolishness. Galatians. 6:7 says, “Be not deceived: God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Psalm 107:17 says, “Fools because of their transgressions, and because of their iniquities were afflicted.” And Proverbs adds to this truth in chapter 18, verse 7, saying, “A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.” The verse 21 of that same chapter adds, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Going a little farther into Proverbs, to chapter 19, verse 15, we find this: “Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep, and an idle soul shall suffer hunger.” Now, these verses give us just a few examples of the fact that God’s Word says when we disobey Him, or remain ignorant of His ways, we will suffer.

This suffering is not God’s will at all. He has not deliberately allowed it; rather we have caused it.

Now let’s take a little side trip here to consider this word “allow,” as it is used in reference to God. Most of the time when Christians say God has “allowed” something, they mean that He has deliberately considered whether or not to let the thing take place in His child’s life and has decided that He wants it to happen. In reference to that idea, this article will refer to that concept as “deliberately allowing.” However, there is the fact (so often missed by Bible readers) that God is required to “allow” some things to happen in the earth even though He does not want them to happen. He has not considered whether to let those thing happen and decided in the affirmative. He is simply bound by His own Covenant and His own word of promise to let man do what he chooses by his free will to do, and to let the devil do what man has legally allowed him to do. Many people get uncomfortable – even angry – when faced with the idea that God doesn’t always get His way in all things. But it is God Himself who says that He does not.

Many times throughout the Old and New Testaments, God verifies that He did not want something to happen to His people, but because they would not follow the dictates of His Covenant (which would have protected them) He must stand back and let those things happen. We will mention only three examples in this article, but any reader who truly wants to get to the truth about this issue can do further personal study on the subject and find others.

Example 1: Ezekiel 22: 29-31. Israel has been guilty of horrible actions, and God says according to His Covenant, they deserve wrath and punishment. But He says that He does not want to pour out that punishment, and He searches the entire nation for just one man who will stand and intercede for Israel and open up the way for God to pour out mercy instead. But He says He cannot find one man to pray, so He has no choice but to allow the wrath and punishment that Israel has justly earned. God does not get what He wants.

Example 2: Matthew 23:37: Jesus weeps over Jerusalem because He (and the Father) have desired that the people will come to Jesus and allow Him to “gather them under His wings as a mother hen,” but they refuse. He does not get his own way.

Example 3: 1 Peter 3:9: God is not willing that any should die unsaved. But he does not get His way.

Now, some people think that these facts interfere with God’s sovereignty. Not so at all. It was God’s sovereignty that allowed Him to decide to make a Covenant with man, which would govern exactly how He would deal with His people, and what would be required of them and of Him. He is the one who made the sovereign decision to bind Himself to that Covenant, both by the Covenant itself and by His solemn promise that He would never break it. He used His sovereignty to willingly put Himself in a position of having to keep His own word. He will never go back on it or change it even one “jot or on tittle.”

So now let’s get back to Suffering Type A, that which comes as a result of our own sin or foolishness. It is part of the “law of sin and death,” that is in eternal motion in God’s universe. (Romans 8). Oh, yes, we can attempt to save face by trying to convince ourselves and others that we are suffering because God is “taking us through something to mature us.” But that’s a lie, and clinging to it will only work to keep us in a state of immaturity. If I don’t have a good relationship with my boss at work because I’m late too often, or always have a negative attitude, it sounds more pious to say, “I’m being persecuted at work because I’m a Christian.” Or to claim, “God is testing me with all this persecution to see how faithful I will be.”

If I’m a student who’s being disciplined severely at school because I haven’t been diligent in my work, or I’ve acted outside of the accepted conduct rules, it’s much easier on my conscience to tell myself, “I’m just misunderstood by all these authorities at school. I guess that’s just a cross I have to carry.”

And if my body is sick because I won’t let go of unforgiveness and resentment, but continue to feed on bitterness, I can comfort myself by saying, “Well, I’m sure the Lord has some reason known only to Him for letting me go through this battle. He will get glory out of it.” (Now, that’s one of the biggest lies the devil ever told anyone, anywhere. There is not one single example in the entire Word of God where God received glory or honor of any kind because someone was sick. He never received any glory until the people were healed. But that’s another point entirely, so we can save it for another article.)

Do you see that these alibis for sin-induced suffering will only keep us in immaturity? Unless we see the problem for what it is, we will not come to repentance. It is the honesty and repentance that brings us to maturity and to His mercy, which will be able to alleviate the suffering. Instead of being content to just sit back and say, “Well all suffering is God’s will for a purpose in my life,” let’s go to prayer and find out just which kind of suffering we’re undergoing. Ask the Lord if there’s sin or foolishness at the root. God doesn’t play games; He’ll tell us quickly if there is, assuming our requests are sincere, and He’ll tell us exactly how to deal with it.

Suffering Type B:

This type of suffering refers to the various evils in this world, resulting from sin in general and the resulting curse that is in operation everywhere. Some common examples are disease, birth defects, miscarriages, accidents, poverty, barren crops, destructive storms, violent attacks on our person, property, or nation, and so forth. All of these things are part of the curse of the broken law, according to Deuteronomy chapter 28. These are the things that Jesus bore for us, as our sacrificial substitute “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us ….” (Gal. 3:13). Isaiah 53:4-5 in the Amplified Bible is very explicit: “Surely He has born our griefs – sickness, weakness, and distress – and carried our sorrows and pain. … But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement needful to obtain peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes that wounded Him we are healed and made whole.” Those words translate from the original Hebrew text exactly, rather than shortening the definitions as some translations do.

Jesus bore all of these things in our stead. I find the word chastisement most interesting. It has two distinct meanings: a) beating and physical punishment; and b) teaching and training. You can see from the literal translation of Isaiah 53 above that Jesus bore the physical punishment for us (as our substitute), and that leaves us with only the teaching and training to walk through, if we are truly in Him. The Lord never wills sickness and infirmity or calamity on us to teach us something. He put all of that (as part of the curse) on Jesus. Rather, He tells us that it is His Spirit and His Word which will teach and train us. (See Prov. 2:1-6; John 14:26; John 15:3; and 1 John 2:17.)

So if we are undergoing these kinds of suffering in our lives, we need to take a definite stand against them. We need to find the promises in the Word that pertain to our situation, take that Word to the Lord in prayer for deliverance from that suffering, and persistently bombard that evil thing with the Word of power and truth until it yields, and we are free. These things are never God’s will. We must see them as the evil things that they are and refuse to accept them in our lives. It does our dear Jesus a great dishonor for us to grasp and hold on to any of these things that He already so horribly suffered for us and put away.

Suffering Type C:

Type C is the suffering of persecution and harassment from the devil and the world because we are living as Christ. This is the only type of suffering that we are to accept and live with. Moreover, the Word even tells us to rejoice in it and glory in it. “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in Heaven ….” (Matt. 5:11). He later says in Matt. 10:16-25, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; … and ye shall be hated of all men, for my name’s sake, but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. … It is enough for the disciple to be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household.” Then, of course, we have Jesus’ famous words from John 16:33: “These things I have spoken unto you that you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

So is it wrong to pray for deliverance from some of this type of persecution? Certainly not. If you have loved ones or fellow servants in the Kingdom who are being tortured in a foreign land because they have taken a stand for Christ, by all means, pray for their deliverance. God still delights in delivering His people. And He in no way indicates that we should not seek His help in overcoming the enemy and his tactics even in persecution.

But my point is that it is only this type of suffering – persecution for the Gospel’s sake – that is related to taking up our cross. It is received by choice. If we are not a Christian, or choose to be a Christian in name but still live like the world, we will not be persecuted in this manner. Only when we decide to be a true disciple, will we endure this kind of suffering. And the farther we walk away from the world and into the ways of Christ, the greater will be the persecution. But if it comes, we have this assurance: “For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example; that ye should follow His steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously ….” (1 Pet. 2:19-23.)

The key word here is “example.” Jesus is our example for how to endure the suffering of persecution. We must always respond in love as He did and trust ourselves to our Father God. But let us not get confused. The Word does not say He is our “example” for how to suffer the things that are part of the curse of the broken law: For that suffering He became our substitute, and there is a huge difference. If He has taken that suffering for us, then He intends us to walk free of those things as long as we walk in Him.