Suffering is often underserved, unexpected, unimaginable, and always painful. The Bible teaches us that God is sovereign over all things. He is sovereign over angels and demons. He has complete control over nations and nature. God stands above disease and death. In this message on Job 1–2, Pastor David Platt teaches us that God is supremely sovereign over all of creation.
- God’s sovereign design for our lives on this earth includes suffering.
- The sovereignty of God is the only foundation for praise in the middle of pain.
- Ultimately, our pain on this earth can only be understood rightly from the sovereign view of heaven.
One of my responsibilities as your pastor is to teach and preach in such a way that you are prepared to worship God in the middle of your suffering. I realize that in this room, there are men and women and families that have gone through various forms of suffering that I can’t even begin to imagine. I realize that there are individuals or families in this room that are walking through suffering right now, maybe because of something recent or maybe it’s suffering because of something that happened a long time ago and it just hasn’t gone away.
Still others of you I’m guessing are relatively unfamiliar with suffering. But you will suffer. The reality is suffering comes to all of us. The danger is how do we suffer in such a way that we don’t curse God but we bless God? How do we suffer in such a way that we don’t blaspheme God and speak lies about God which are so prevalent? How do we speak truth about God in the middle of suffering and how do we worship God in the middle of suffering? I believe there’s only one place where we can find an answer to that question. It’s in the gospel.
So if you have a Bible and I hope you do, I want to invite you to open with me to Job 1. For the next four Sundays we’re going to look at the gospel and suffering in the book of Job. This is an extremely relevant book in our day. We are surrounded by rampant cancer, deadly HIV/AIDS. Every single day 30,000 children in the world die of either starvation, hunger, or preventable diseases; in addition to turning on the news and seeing cyclones and earthquakes and tornadoes and hurricanes and school shootings and terrorist bombings. In the middle of it all we ask the question over and over again, “Why”.
It’s a question, it’s a word that’s used 25 different times in the book of Job and I want to warn you from the very beginning, Job does not give any trite answers to that question. I don’t in any way want to assume or try to communicate that this is an easy subject or that it has trite or easy answers. We don’t find those in the book of Job. I’m convinced we find rock solid biblical truths, bedrock truths to stand on in the book of Job and I want us to unpack them over the next few weeks so that you are as prepared as possible to worship God in the middle of suffering.
I know that even that is a bit lofty. We can’t be fully prepared. No one is fully prepared for that time when you’re sitting at your desk at work or you’re sitting in a restaurant or driving home and you get a call on your cell phone and something tragic has happened to your spouse or to your children or you’re having your quiet time in the morning and then you’re getting ready to go to work and you’re shaving and you feel the lump on your neck or you witness something that you never could’ve imagined witnessing to somebody you love. When those things happen, one author described it as jumping into a bitterly cold lake. You can prepare yourself all you want for what it’s going to feel like but when you jump in, immediately the shock to your system takes your breath away. I want to prepare you as best as possible with bedrock truths from God’s Word for those times, unexpected times. We had a team yesterday that flew to South Africa from this faith family and they got there. They’re great and doing wonderful but when they got there one of the drivers that picked up their luggage was taking their luggage and was bombarded there on the road and all the luggage was taken and stolen. The driver was hurt. He’s fine now. You can’t guarantee safety in South Arica. Some would say, “That’s why I’m not going on a mission trip because it’s not safe.” Well that just shows the foolishness of our thinking because we actually think our stuff here makes us safe. The reality is God that is sovereign over rural South Africa just the same way He’s sovereign over Birmingham and the reality is it may be on a business trip, a mission trip, or right in our backyard when suffering hits. So how can we be ready?
I want us to turn to Job 1-2 and see what Scripture teaches us. Now it might seem a little bit redundant. I want us to read these first two chapters. We’ve heard some of it expressed in poetry but I want us to hear the exact words of God as a foundation for what we’re going to look into. We don’t know exactly who wrote the book of Job. We don’t know exactly when it was penned—when it was written. We do know Job most likely lived in the 2nd millennium BC probably around the time of other patriarchs like Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. So you’ve got that time period and the Bible says this, Job 1:1,
“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. He had seven sons and three daughters, 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.
His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, ‘Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.’ This was Job’s regular custom.
One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. 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.’ Then 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.’ ‘Does Job fear God for nothing?’ Satan replied. ‘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. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.’ 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.
One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, ‘The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, 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!’ 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!’ 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!’ 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, 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!’
At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 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.’ In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”
On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. And 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.’
Then 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. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.’ ‘Skin for skin!’ Satan replied. ‘A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.’ The Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.’ So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. His wife said to him, ‘Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!’ 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 (Job 1–2).
God we pray that you would help us to understand the truths that are expressed in this picture of Job. God we pray especially for brothers and sisters who are walking through various types of suffering and we pray for each of us as we prepare for whatever suffering lies around the corner in our lives. We pray that you would teach us tonight how to bless you and worship you, not curse you or blaspheme you in the middle of suffering. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
I want to show you two portraits, the suffering of Job and the sovereignty of God, very clearly displayed in Job 1-2 and then I want us to bring them together in light of the gospel and bring three implications for our lives when it comes to suffering.
Job 1–2 Illustrates The Suffering of Job
Suffering is often undeserved.
So we’ll start with the first picture, the suffering of Job. Four truths about suffering that arise very clearly from the suffering of Job in Job1-2. Number one, suffering is often undeserved.
Now I want to be careful here because when you look in Scripture, you will see many times a relationship between our sin and our struggles, our sin and our suffering. If a husband is unfaithful to his wife, then that obviously is going to affect him, it’s going to affect her, it’s going to affect the family, the children. The result of that sin, when you compromise or I compromise in relationship with God, impurity or unholiness, there are affects of that as we walk down that road.
But when you get to the book of Job, that’s not the kind of suffering that’s being addressed; in fact, the author goes to great pains to make sure we’re not looking at suffering that way. The author is addressing suffering that seems undeserved, unjust, unwarranted. You see three different times Job described in 1:1, 1:8, and then chapter 2:3. He’s described with four characteristics. He’s blameless and upright. He fears God and he shuns evil. Blameless, upright, fears God, shuns evil; first, it tells us that and then God says those exact things.
Blameless, that doesn’t mean he’s perfect. This is a word that denotes his integrity. There’s only one who is perfect in Scripture and that’s Christ but the picture is Job’s integrity. He walks in a complete way with God, blameless, upright, straight, walking according to the ways of God, walking according to the Word of God. He fears God, he reveres God, he loves God, he honors God and he shuns evil, he avoids even the appearance of evil.
You look at how he leads his family when his children are feasting, which is a great thing. He would get up early to go and offer a sacrifice not because of their sin or for their sin but just in case they sinned. In addition to those four characteristics we see in the rest of the book of Job describing him as a man who is respected in the city as a judge, as a wise counselor. He was respected for his generosity to the poor and the needy, for his hospitality.
The author goes out of his way to show us that Job has done nothing to deserve what has happened here. That’s the point. This is undeserved. Suffering is often undeserved.
Suffering is often unexpected.
Second, suffering is often unexpected. The language here is masterful. In verse 13, “One day,” as if to say, “On that day.” The very day when Job is offering a sacrifice early in the morning just in case somebody sins, it’s the height of purity in his life. And then it is in rapid succession, one after another. “On that day a messenger comes in,” and says the oxen, the donkeys are gone. Then next, “While he’s still speaking,” you see the repetition there, fire of God comes from the sky and burns up the sheep and the servants. “While he’s still speaking,” yet the Chaldeans come in and they take off the camels and then, “While he’s still speaking,” unexpected, one after another.
Job didn’t wake up that morning thinking, “I’m probably going to experience suffering today.” Just like you or I probably don’t wake up, didn’t wake up this morning thinking today is going to be a day when something unexpectedly tragic happens. It comes out of nowhere. Suffering is often unexpected, unforeseen, catching you off guard. Not one of us in this room knows what will happen tonight or tomorrow or later this week.
Suffering is often unimaginable.
Suffering is often undeserved, unexpected, and suffering is often unimaginable. The circumstances in Job 1 that spiral progressively deeper, starting with the oxen and donkeys and then going to the sheep and the servants and then the camels and the servants and then the climax there in verse 18, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 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” (Job 1:18—19).
Seven sons, three daughters, all of a sudden dead. This is where we must keep from envisioning this story in some kind of fairy tale fashion. Put yourself in the shoes as a mom or a dad and imagine hearing your ten children who were feasting, celebrating, this picture of a tight knit family, all of a sudden completely gone. As if that were not enough, Satan says, “Skin for skin. At least he’s got his own skin. Of course he still blesses you God!” And so he is struck with boils from the top of his head to the soles of his feet.
Scholars have debated exactly what kind of disease he was struck with here. You be the judge based on these symptoms we see throughout the rest of the book. Inflamed ulcerous sores, itching, degenerative changes in facial skin, loss of appetite, depression, loss of strength, worms in the boils, running sores, difficulty breathing, darkness under the eyes, bad breath, loss of weight, chronic continual pain, restlessness, blackened skin, peeling skin, and constant fever. By verse 8 in chapter 2, the man who used to sit in the seat of respect in the city as a respected judge and counselor now finds himself sitting in the trash heap amidst beggars and waste and the dump as he takes a broken piece of pottery and scratches his oozing sores. In his worst nightmares Job could not have pictured this scene.
Suffering is often unimaginable. It has that surreal feel to it. I remember when my brother called me and said that Dad had just passed away of a heart attack. We get in the car and we go to Atlanta and the whole time you’re just pinching yourself and you’re saying, “This can’t be happening. This can’t be right. This just doesn’t feel real.” It feels surreal. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be.
Suffering is always painful.
Suffering is often undeserved, it’s often unexpected, and it’s often unimaginable. Fourth, suffering is always painful, regardless of what degree of suffering it might be. At the core, suffering is always painful.
I want you to see this in Job 1:20. We cannot gloss over this. When Job hears about his ten children dying, I want you to hear what he does. Verse 20, “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head” (Job 1:20). These are images, pictures, actions that we see in other parts of the Old Testament that describe violent grief, painful grief and I want to camp out here just for a moment because we’re about to look at the sovereignty of God, bedrock truths about the sovereignty of God but I don’t want to try in any way to communicate that the picture of grief in Job is not real and deep and heavy and that loss is not painful. It is. This is not a glossing over. This is not the Bible saying, “God is sovereign so put a smile on your face and move on.” It’s not what Scripture is teaching here.
God is not honored in trying to cover up grief and pretend like the pain is not there. God is honored in honest expressions of grief. This is what Job is teaching us. God is honored in honest expressions of grief. Now we have to be careful in those expressions of grief not to let those expressions of grief lead us to sin and it’s possible for them to lead us to sin. We have to guard against that. We’ll talk about that in just a moment. But there’s a real pain and a real loss here. There’s a real pain and real loss, real grief that’s represented all across this room when we walk through suffering and Scripture does not gloss over that and pretend it’s not there.
So there’s the suffering of Job: undeserved, unexpected, unimaginable suffering that is always painful. Now the sovereignty of God.
Job 1–2 Highlights The Sovereignty of God
Over 30 times in this book God is referred to as “the Almighty”. It’s a picture of His sovereignty, of His power. It’s all over the book of Job and I want you to see here in Job 1-2 just different facets of His sovereignty because the whole point of Job 1 all the way to the end is that God’s sovereign over everything. I want you to see specifically what that means in the context of these two chapters.
God is sovereign over angels.
Number one, God is sovereign over angels. Now remember for God to be sovereign over something, for anybody to be sovereign over something means to have authority over something or someone, to have ruling authority over someone or something. A king has ruling authority over his land and all the people and all the things in his land. For God to be sovereign means He has authority, ruling authority over something or someone. God has sovereignty over angels. In verse 6, “One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord” (Job 1:6), and the picture is, we have this all over Scripture, Psalm 103:20,
“Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.” At this moment, God is surrounded by a multitude of angels, heavenly hosts who do His bidding constantly, day and night, day and night, and He is sovereign over every single one of them. God is sovereign over angels.
God is sovereign over demons.
Second, He is sovereign over demons. We’re going to camp out for a second, specifically displayed in Job 1 and 2 is God’s sovereignty over Satan, translated “the Satan” in Job 1-2. It literally means “the accuser” and this is where we’re reminded that again, Satan is not some fairy tale figure in Scripture. Satan is a real personality. We see him in Genesis 3, the very beginning of the Bible tempting, luring people into sin. We’ve got the picture over in Ezekiel 28:14 of his relationship to the angels in the past and the picture we’ve got is that He’s the god of this age, lowercase “g,” god of this age, prince of this world.
Here in Job 1-2 we see that Satan has supernatural power. Don’t miss this. He has supernatural power to bring these things about, but we’ve got to stop there and realize that supernatural power is not the same thing as omnipotent power, all power, because Satan’s power in Job 1-2 is clearly limited. What’s it limited by? The power of Satan is limited by the prerogative of God in Job 1-2. The power of Satan is limited by the prerogative of God. In other words there is nothing, absolutely nothing that Satan can do apart from the permission of God.
To put it plainly, Satan is on a leash and God holds the reins. What that means is Satan is doing things in Job 1-2, no question, and he is directly responsible for these things that are coming on Job. But ultimately over Satan is who? God and so Satan is the direct cause in what’s going on here but there’s an ultimate cause in God because God is sovereign over Satan. God is omnipotent. Satan is not. God is omniscient. Satan is not. God is omnipresent.
Satan is not. God is sovereign and Satan is not sovereign over anything. God is sovereign over everything and He’s sovereign over demons. We’re going to talk about that a little more in just a minute but the picture is that God is ultimately over Satan and every single thing Satan is doing.
God is sovereign over nations.
Third picture of God’s sovereignty. He is sovereign over nations. The first and third tragedies here, Sabeans and Chaldeans, had come into this picture. The same truths we see over in Job 12:23 that says that God raises up nations and God destroys nations.” He’s sovereign over nations. He enlarges nations and He disperses them. Psalms 22:28 talks about how God has dominion over all nations and all rulers. All nations are under the sovereignty of God. If you watched the Olympic opening ceremonies and you see this parade of nations, God is sovereign over every single one of them.
He’s sovereign over the United States and He’s sovereign over China and He’s sovereign over North Korea and He’s sovereign over Iraq and Iran and Afghanistan and Israel. God’s sovereign over every nation and God is sovereign over every single dignitary that was represented. He’s sovereign over them all, not Satan. Satan’s not sovereign over North Korea. God is sovereign over North Korea.
God is sovereign over nature.
Not only nations, but God is sovereign over nature. The other two tragedies, the second and the fourth tragedies are both natural. The first one, the fire of God, the servant said the fire of God fell from heaven.
It’s the same picture we’ve got in 1 Kings 18 when God brings fire from heaven to light the altar with the prophets of Baal, that whole picture in 1 Kings 18. 2 Kings:1 when God brings fire from heaven to strike down two groups of men, God is sovereign over fire from heaven that comes down and brings this about. God is also sovereign over wind. The picture of the wind coming and sweeping in from the desert and striking the four corners of the house.
Hold your place here and go over with me to Job 37. Let me just show you this really quick. I want you to see the sovereignty of God in nature. Job 37, look with me, we’ll start in verse 6. You look in the Old Testament, you don’t see the Old Testament say, “One day it rained.” Instead you see, “One day God brought rain.” God is attributed with everything that’s going on in nature because He’s sovereign over it all. Look at Job 37:6, incredible imagery here,
“He [meaning God] says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’ So that all men he has made may know his work, he stops every man from his labor. The animals take cover; they remain in their dens. The tempest comes out from its chamber, the cold from the driving winds. The breath of God produces ice, and the broad waters become frozen. He loads the clouds with moisture; he scatters his lightning through them. At his direction they swirl around over the face of the whole earth to do whatever he commands them. He brings the clouds to punish men, or to water his earth and show his love” (Job 37:6—13).
The clouds don’t have a mind of their own. They’re not naturally operating. They’re operating at the command of God. God is sovereign over every single bit of nature; every single speck of dust is under the sovereignty of God.
God is sovereign over disease.
Next God is sovereign over disease. When Job is afflicted with these sores, it’s not Satan who has the ultimate power in job’s health. It’s God. You go to Psalm 106:15 it talks about how God is sovereign over the diseases, even of His people. This is a good reminder for us. Satan is not sovereign over cancer. Satan is not sovereign over HIV/AIDS. Satan is not sovereign over tuberculosis; he’s not sovereign over malaria. God is sovereign over cancer. He is sovereign over AIDS. He is sovereign over tuberculosis, malaria, the common cold, and everything in between. God’s sovereign over it all, not Satan.
God is sovereign over death.
And not just disease, but God is sovereign over death. When you get to Job 2, Job thinks he likely has a terminal disease. But the reality is Satan does not determine whether or not Job lives or dies in Job 2. God determines that. This is James 4:15, if God wills, we live. If He doesn’t, we don’t. Satan does not determine whether or not any one of us has breath at this moment. God determines that. Satan does not determine whether or not we have breath half an hour from now. God determines that, not Satan. God is sovereign over our lives and our death.
God is sovereign over comfort.
God is sovereign over angels, demons, nations, nature, disease, and death, and to sum it all up here in Job 1-2, God is sovereign over our comfort. He’s sovereign over comfort. All the blessings that Job has are attributed to God. All throughout this book.
God is sovereign over calamity.
And not just over our comfort though. God is sovereign over calamity. This is huge. God is sovereign over the blessings of Job and the sufferings of Job. It’s not that God’s sovereign over His blessings and Satan’s sovereign over his sufferings. God’s sovereign over them both. He’s sovereign over what is good and bad. This is exactly what Job says. “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away,” not God has given me these things and Satan has taken them away. No, God has taken them away. Chapter 2:10, “Shall we receive good from God and not trouble from God?” Not, shall we receive good from God and not trouble from Satan. No, good and trouble both coming from God. He is sovereign over the whole picture, everything, every verse, every facet of Job’s life, every facet of His possessions and His family; it’s all under the sovereignty of God, everything is.
The Gospel, God’s Sovereignty, and Suffering …
So there we’ve got clearly the suffering of Job and the sovereignty of God. Now how do you put these two together and I’m convinced the gospel is where these two come together in brilliant awe-inspiring fashion. So what I want you to see is I want you to see the gospel and suffering and the sovereignty of God all together in one with three implications.
Job 1–2 Explains That Suffering is Apart of His Plans
God’s sovereign design for our lives on this earth includes suffering.
Implication number one, this is practical, God’s sovereign design for our lives on this earth includes suffering. Now I emphasize the word “design” there because I think the picture here in Job 1-2 is deeper than God just allowing suffering. There’s definitely a picture of permission here, but I believe it’s deeper than that. There’s a design here that God has designed suffering in Job’s life.
You think about it with me. Who initiated Jobs’ suffering in chapter 1? God did. Did you catch it? Verse 8, “Then 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’” (Job 1:8). One author put it this way. It’s like a diamond thief coming into a jewelry store and walking around the store, looking at everything, getting to the back of the store and meeting the owner and the owner knows he’s a thief and the owner says, “What are you doing?” And the diamond thief says, “I’m looking around the store to see all the diamonds.” The owner says, “Well have you seen my most prized diamond in front? It’s the most valuable diamond we have, the most precious diamond we have,” and he shows him where it is and talks about it knowing that he’s a thief.
This is the picture we’ve got, the Lord giving and the Lord taking away, the Lord bringing good and the Lord bringing trouble. God has designed this whole picture. It’s all coming directly. Yes, there’s a work of Satan going on but ultimately this is the work of God. This is hard to really get our minds around.
Let me show it to you though in the New Testament, just a few places. It’s all over the place but turn with me to Luke 22. Real quickly I want to show you this. This is such a heavy truth. God designs suffering for our lives on this earth. Look at Luke 22 with me, Matthew, Mark, Luke. This is before Jesus is about to go to the cross. It’s a passage that may be familiar to you. Jesus is about to go to the cross and He’s having a conversation with Simon Peter and I want you to hear what He says to Simon Peter and I want you to see the sovereignty of God, the design of God in this whole picture. Look at Luke 22:31, Jesus is talking with Simon Peter and listen to what He says, “Simon, Simon, Satan has,” what? – “asked,” – same kind of picture we’ve got in Job 1, “asked to sift you as wheat.” Satan needs permission, but it’s deeper than just permission. Listen, “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32). Did you catch that? Not if you turn back, but when you’ve tuned back. This whole picture is designed to strengthen your brothers, strengthen your brothers when you turn back. There’s a design here.
Keep going to the right. Go to 1 Peter. The same guy here in Luke 22. It’s way back past Hebrews and James and 1 Peter. It’s right before 2 Peter. First Peter 3, look with me, we’re going to look at verse 17. 1 Peter was written, it’s a book, a letter that was written to a suffering church. Christians in the first century were facing persecution for their faith and they’re struggling in their faith as a result of that they’re being tempted to turn away. So this whole context in 1 Peter 3 is specifically talking about suffering and I want you to listen to what Peter says in 1 Peter 3:17. Listen to this, “It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil” (1 Pet. 3:17). It is better if it is whose will? – God’s will; God’s will to do what? – suffer. It’s the will of God for us to suffer.
Go over to chapter 5, same book, 1 Peter 5:8, he continues on. See the design of God. This is Peter warning his readers Satan will attack them and I want you to hear what he says. Look at verse 8, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Pet. 5:8—9). Listen to verse 10, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Pet. 5:10—11). Did you catch the design there? It’s God’s will for you to suffer and when you suffer He will restore you. You will be strong and firm and steadfast. God’s sovereign over this picture.
One more, go to the last book in the Bible, Revelation 2. Look at this one with me. Revelation 2, God’s sovereign design for our lives actually includes suffering. Look at Revelation 2. This is when Jesus is speaking to the different churches and he’s speaking here to the church in Smyrna and He is actually encouraging them in their faith amidst trial and suffering. Listen to what He says. We’ll start in verse 9 and then see it very clearly in verse 10. Look at Revelation 2:9, “I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan” (Rev. 2:9). Listen to verse 10, “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). You see what’s going on there? God’s saying you’re going to suffer. Be faithful in the middle of your suffering. There’s a crown of life waiting at the end of this picture.
You see very, very clearly in Scripture that following God does not mean absence of suffering. But God’s design for our lives may actually include more suffering. This is gospel. Don’t miss this. Did God just allow Jesus to go to the cross or did He design for Jesus to go to the cross? Was He sitting back thinking, “Well I guess, okay, this is the way it’s going to work out and I guess I will let this happen?” No, from the very beginning it was God’s design to take the suffering of His one and only Son and bring about the salvation of your soul and my soul. It was His very design for His Son to suffer.
It wasn’t an accident. Jesus makes that very clear. John 10:18, “No one takes my life from me… I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” This is the design of God involving suffering and praise God, His design involved the suffering of His Son. Isaiah 53, “It was the Lord’s will to”—do what? To crush Him. It was God’s will to crush His Son so that you and I would be saved from our sins and all throughout New Testament especially and church history since then, it has been suffering and suffering among the people of God that has often been the means by which the church and the gospel have advanced through the nations. Acts 6, 7 and 8 the perfect example, Stephen is stoned and the gospel scatters to Judea and Samaria and the ends of the earth and Satan’s attempts to stifle the work of mission actually promote the cause of mission. It’s an incredible picture because God has designed our lives to include suffering. That’s a heavy truth that leads to the second one.
Job 1–2 Shows The Importance Of Sovereignty During Suffering
The sovereignty of God is the only foundation for praise in the middle of pain.
Follow with me here. The sovereignty of God, this is implication number two, the sovereignty of God is the only foundation for praise in the middle of pain. You come back to Job 1:20 and Job gets up, tears his robe, shaves his head, and then it’s an amazing phrase. Job just found out that his ten children have died along with everything else gone and it says, “Then he fell to the ground in worship” (Job 1:20).
Again this is no trite worship. This is amidst heavy grief and loss and Job’s worshipping. How do you worship when you find out news like this? Amidst strife, how do you worship? It almost seems like it’s unbelievable. How do you worship like that? Listen to his words, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart,” and then he says, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (Job 1:21). Sovereignty, this is how he worships, based on the sovereignty of God.
Now I realize it’s at this point that many people might think, “I don’t get it Dave. How is the sovereignty of God a foundation for praise in the middle of pain? I mean, so what if He’s sovereign? I still have cancer. He still died. What does it matter that He’s sovereign? I’m still in pain, I’m still hurting, it’s still not gone. What does it matter if He’s sovereign because I’m still hurting?” This is where we are really chiseling in deep to Job 1-2 and I don’t want you to miss this. How is the sovereignty of God the bedrock foundation for praise in the middle of pain? I want you to see what flows from His sovereignty that makes it the foundation of praise in the middle of pain.
His sovereignty first assures us that God is in control. When you’re suffering, you don’t get a lot of assurance in the thought that Satan is in control. Not a lot of comfort in thinking hat Satan is in control. But the reality is this is where many people practically and theologically go.
Theologically, there are prevailing theologies today, open theism, process theism. These are ideas that basically say, they’re not the same, but they are ideas that basically say that God is not able to prevent evil and suffering, doesn’t have power or sovereignty over evil and suffering. God is apparently doing the best He can under the circumstances He is going through. He is doing the best He can with what He has to work with but He can’t stop this from happening.
Practically, just on a very practical level, you may have heard of or maybe even read books like Rabbi Harold Kushner’s When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Kushner went through a time where he lost his son and he began to question his faith and he basically came to the conclusion that God obviously couldn’t have done anything about his son’s life or death because if He could, He wouldn’t have let his son die. In his words, Kushner writes, “I can worship a God who hates suffering but cannot eliminate it more easily than I can worship a God who chooses to make children suffer and die.”
Again, this is one of those points that we’re not trying to find some trite answer or response. That is heavy. But I want us to realize when we think this way then we negate the very character of God. Process theism, open theism, this route I think is strikingly similar to what Job’s wife is saying in Job 2, “Curse God and die.” Job says, “You’re talking like a foolish woman.” He uses the same word there that’s used in Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1, which talk about the fool who says in his heart there is no God but to curse God is to deny God, to deny the character of God.
This is where many people go and where we are all probably in some way tempted to go when we see suffering in our own lives, in the lives of people around us, people we care about. Immediately we start to point the finger at God, “How can you even exist if this is happening? You’re not all good and all loving,” or “you’re not all powerful.” I want to urge you, I want to plead with you tonight not to go there. There are many questions that we wrestle with and don’t see clear answers for when we walk through suffering, but this we do know. God is all good and He is all loving and He is all powerful and to say that He is not is to sin, is to curse God, to deny the character of God.
Now to wrestle with these things, that’s one thing. Scripture says, “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:22). Job did not sin in what he said, did not curse God. He chose not to curse God. I want to plead with you to see the sovereign power and sovereign goodness of God in the middle of suffering.
What does that mean then? Well it means that every moment in our suffering that God is with us. This is the whole picture in Job. He doesn’t abandon faith in God because he knows in the misery of his soul God is there and he knows God is loving and he knows God is just and he knows God is righteous and he sees this suffering and he’s just trying to put them together and they’re not making sense. But he knows God is with him and I want to remind you, every single man, woman, boy, girl, when you walk through suffering, you are never alone. He is with you. This is gospel. Not unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, He is with us.
And not just with us, His sovereignty assures us that God is in control. When He’s in control we know that every moment He’s with us and at every moment in our suffering, because He’s in control, we can know that God is for us. This is key, not just with us but for us. You look at the beginning of the book, in Job 1:21, and the Bible said Job feared God and he avoided cursing God, and the name he uses for God, “Elohim”, is the more generic name for God so to speak. It’s a picture of His sustenance and sufficiency. But then you get to Job 1:21 and the picture you see when Job prays and he worships, he doesn’t say, “God gave and God has taken away; may the name of God be praised.” He says the what? “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21). He uses the covenant name of God, of the name that pictures the love and the faithfulness of God, the personal faithfulness of God, the personal love of God. That’s the title he points to and it’s an awesome picture here.
When you walk through suffering please know that God is not only 100% with you but he is 100% for you. God is not against His people. If you are in Christ God is never ever against you, ever against you. He is not 99.99% for you and He is always 100% for His people. This is why Romans 8 in the context of suffering can cry out, “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Rom. 8:31). It doesn’t matter. “He who spared His own Son will He not also along with Him graciously give us everything. Nobody can bring a charge against those whom God has chosen.” Nobody can bring any condemnation against those who God has chosen because Christ Jesus is the one who condemns and He’s at the right hand of the Father and right now “He’s interceding for us” and as a result, “nothing, absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” nothing. God is 100% for you. The sovereignty of God assures us that He’s in control with us and for us.
Not only that, the sovereignty of God is the foundation for praise in the middle of pain, not only because He’s in control, but because His sovereignty reminds us that Satan has been conquered. That’s what His sovereignty reminds us of. This is why we praise in the middle of pain. I believe part of the purpose of Job is to flat out humiliate Satan and showcase his lack of power.
You see this after chapter 2. Satan is silenced the rest of the book. He’s got nothing else to say, nothing else to say. The rest of the book we don’t see him. In fact you read throughout the rest of the Old Testament and you won’t see him. You see him in Genesis 3 and Job 1-2 tempting like this. You won’t see him acting like this the rest of the Old Testament. You won’t see that again until you get to Matthew 4 and Satan tempts Jesus three times. Three times Jesus resists him. You keep going to the end of the book of Matthew and you see Satan and Jesus going one on one at the Cross. Satan brings the full brunt of the consequence of sin upon the Son of God and Jesus takes all of it upon Himself and He is in the grave for three days and rises and He proclaims to every single person who trusts in Him, “You are battling with a defeated foe. He has been conquered and he is limited in all of his power and Satan has authority to do absolutely nothing.” There is absolutely nothing Satan can do in your life or my life outside of the will of a sovereign God who is with us and for us at all times. That is an awesome truth.
Martin Luther said,
Mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing, our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing. For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe; his craft and power are great and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal. Did we in our own strength confide our striving would be losing, were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing. Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus it is He; Lord Sabbaoth, his name, from age to age the same, and He must win the battle. And though this world with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God hath willed his truth to triumph through us. The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure for lo his doom is sure; one little word shall fell him. One little word shall fell him.
The sovereignty of God is the foundation for praise in the middle of pain because Satan has been conquered. Not only is God in control and Satan conquered but the sovereignty of God guarantees us that one day our suffering will conclude. See all of these things collide in the cross, grief, suffering, pain are real at the cross. Sovereignty, real at the cross, suffering real, sovereignty real, God in control of every single detail at the cross. He’s in control with us, for us, this is the picture of the cross. Satan conquered, Jesus rises from the grave as the risen and exalted King of Kings and Lord of lords who says to every man and woman who trusts in Him, as you walk through suffering, that one day it’s going to end, guaranteed.
It may not be today and it may not be tomorrow and it may not be ten years from now, it may not be in this life at all, but there is coming a day when the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords will literally wipe away every single tear from your eyes in a place where there is no more sin and no more sorrow and no more sickness and no more pain and no more suffering whatsoever because it’s gone. It has concluded forever. That’s the guarantee that comes from the sovereignty of God. If God’s not sovereign, the guarantee’s not there. If God is sovereign, the guarantee is there. This is why the sovereignty of God is the only foundation for praise in the middle of pain.
Our Pain on This Earth Can Only Be Understood Rightly From The Sovereign Perspective of Heaven
So God designed suffering for our lives. We’re going to see in a couple of weeks the purpose of God in that. His sovereignty is clear. The sovereignty of God is the only foundation for praise in the middle of our pain and the third implication is this, ultimately, our pain on this earth can only be understood rightly from the sovereign perspective of heaven. Ultimately, our pain on this earth can only be understood rightly from the sovereign perspective of heaven.
Now I want you to see this with me. Just listen for a second. I want you to see how this book is written. You’ve got Job going through the darkness of suffering and then you’ve got us as the readers with this bird’s eye view of Job’s suffering. We see what’s going on and we see this conversation in heaven between God and Satan. We even see the end from the beginning. We know what’s coming. Job you’re going to be restored. You’re going to see that God is great. In all of this, we know that from our perspective reading, but Job doesn’t know any of that. Job has no clue about this conversation in heaven. Job doesn’t know what’s coming. He’s sitting in a trash heap with boils all over him and everything’s gone and his wife told him to curse God and die. That’s what Job sees.
And the reality is when you or I walk through suffering, which perspective do we have? The same perspective as Job; we see the darkness right in front of us. We don’t see this bird’s eye view that we get the privilege of seeing. We live like Job is living this, not like we’re reading this. There’s a big difference. The sovereignty of God reminds us that there’s a whole other perspective to our suffering on this earth. There are undoubtedly when it comes to suffering, there are undoubtedly mysteries on this earth that we wonder why and we wrestle with this or that. There are mysteries of this earth. We’ve got to realize that these mysteries of this earth are dependent on matters in heaven and there’s a sovereign perspective to this whole picture that changes how we view suffering. We can’t see that perspective all the time. In fact when we try to figure out that perspective we probably get into more trouble. The picture is in suffering we trust that there’s a sovereign perspective that we cannot see. I mean, imagine, in Job 1, you’ve got Satan standing before God, surrounded by a multitude of angels, say 100,000 angels surrounding him, listening in on a conversation between God and Satan. Satan says to God, “You’re not worthy of worship. You have to pay people to worship you. You take their stuff away and they won’t worship you. You’re not that worthy. You’re not that good.” God says, “You can take it all.” Satan does, one by one, one after another he strips Job of all his possessions, his family, his children, and now you’ve got Satan back before God when Job has been stripped of all his possessions and he just found out his ten children had died. God, Satan, and 100,000 angels sitting in silence waiting to hear what Job says and Job gets the news about his sons and his daughters and he falls on the ground in worship and he says, The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21). And unbeknownst to Job, at that moment, 200,000 arms raised in the air in heaven and 100,000 mighty voices resound, “Worthy is the God of Job!” This is the sovereign perspective of heaven.
God may it be so in our lives. I’m not assuming nor should any one of us assume that whenever we go through suffering that apparently some deal has been struck in heaven or this has happened. We don’t need to try to figure these things out. But to know, may it be so God, that when we walk through suffering as your people that we show the heavenly hosts that you are worthy, that we would show the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms that you are worthy. May that be the cry of heaven based on the way we walk through pain on earth.
I invite you to see the sovereign perspective of heaven on the end of Job’s sufferings. I won’t in any way presume to know what suffering has looked or does look or will look like in your life but I will presume to know this. He is good and He is all powerful and He is sovereign and this is most evident in the cross of Jesus Christ. The sovereignty of God, the suffering of Christ brought together in the design of God to save your soul and to give you hope that no matter what this life brings Satan is a defeated foe and one day you’ll be with your King forever and ever.
So I want us in light of the gospel to have an opportunity to express, I believe in a much deeper way than Job ever could have in Job 1:21, what it means to say, “God you give and you take away and by your grace we will stand and say ‘May the name of the Lord be praised.’” In just a moment I’m going to invite you if you are walking through some suffering in your life right now, maybe something recent or maybe things that have happened in the past that still linger, I want to give you an opportunity to kneel before God and in the same way that Job did and say, “I will bless your name regardless of what you give and what you take away.” If you’d like to in your life just kneel before God, I invite you in these moments to take these bedrock truths we have seen, stand on them, and celebrate them.