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FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
 

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

LESSONS OF JOB
(Part 19)

ON SUFFERING

Today’s reading from the book of Wisdom gives us an insight into the hidden counsel of God regarding suffering in the world. Why do people suffer in the world? Especially good people? Wisdom does not answer this directly, but gives us enough understanding by which we can move on in faith.

First we look at certain divine truths. One, that God’s “grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with his elect.” (Wis 3:9b). Two, that “the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them.” (Wis 3:1). Here we see the divine wisdom of God’s calling us to be righteous and just. This is the way by which we will experience His grace, mercy, care and protection.

But if that is so, if “no torment shall touch (us),” then why do we continue to experience affliction (v.2b), destruction (v.3), punishment (v.4a), chastisement (v.5a)?

The book of Wisdom gives us at least two reasons.

One, God may be testing us, just like He allowed Job to be tested. Why? To see, just like in the case of Job, if indeed we will still be honoring and glorifying Him despite our trials and crosses in life. To see if we are worthy to be His children, disciples and instruments of His salvation, and will not turn away at the first affliction. If we pass the test, then we will be greatly blessed. “Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself.” (Wis 3:5).

Two, God is purifying us. We are purified by fire. This comes through affliction. There may be no better way to be purified than by the fire of affliction. “As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings, he took them to himself.” (Wis 3:6). When we are purified as such, we are formed in the way God desires us to become, and we become God’s sacrificial offering! We are worthy to be offered on the altar of God.

Such suffering is redemptive. It results in our salvation, and in the salvation of others whose lives God uses us to touch. “In the time of their visitation they shall shine” (Wis 3:7a).

Now such redemptive suffering results in some great fruit. These include hope (Wis 3:4), peace (Wis 3:3b), understanding of truth (Wis 3:9a), blessings (Wis 3:5a), and care from God (Wis 3:9b). While we may experience such fruit in the ordinary day-to-day circumstances of our lives, it is affliction and suffering that bring out the fullness of such fruit.

We truly hope when we trust in God despite our situation seeming hopeless. We truly are peaceful when we rest in God despite the intense turmoil in the world around us. We develop a deeper understanding of truth--about God, ourselves and the world--as we struggle, just like Job, with the trials and crosses that we encounter. We realize what blessings are, and we recognize the many blessings we receive, when we encounter deprivation and affliction. We surrender ourselves totally in God’s care, when we have reached the end of our human resources.

And so such should form our personal attitudes. Today’s reading from the book of Psalms gives us some direction.

First, be not afraid. “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom do I fear? The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom am I afraid?” (Ps 27:1). If the Lord is with us, who can be against us?!

Second, we are not afraid because we trust in Jesus. The opposite of fear, in a way, is not courage but rather trust. When we are afraid, then we lack trust in the God whose child we are and who is committed to care for us. “Though an army encamp against me, my heart does not fear; though war be waged against me, even then do I trust.” (Ps 27:3).

Third, focus on God the Almighty. Desire the only good, and that is God. Fix our eyes on Jesus, who leads us all the way to heaven. “One thing I ask of the Lord; this I seek: to dwell in the Lord’s house all the days of my life, to gaze on the Lord’s beauty, to visit his temple.” (Ps 27:4).

Fourth, as we focus on God, we give Him the worship that is His due. And because God gives us the privilege to enter into His holy presence, then this gives us great joy. “I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and chant praise to the Lord.” (Ps 27:6b).

Finally, given the many afflictions in life, given the temptation to give up or feel sorry for ourselves, we need to simply endure. “Wait for the Lord, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the Lord.” (Ps 27:14).

When we fully trust in Jesus in this way, then we have the key to a blessed life, free of anxieties, faced confidently despite affliction, and rejoicing in suffering for the sake of Christ.

God bless you all.

frank

(November 02, 2009)

"For to me life is Christ, and death is gain." (Phil 1:21)

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Lessons of Job - Part 19[PDF]
 
 
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