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(Part 2)


In 2007, a very crucial year for CFC, a turning point in fact, our theme verse was taken from the book of Lamentations. Our theme was “Hope in the Lord.” Hope was what would get us through the crisis that was to come. But the Lord’s bringing us to the book of Lamentations was deliberate. God wanted to point us to what happened to His people Israel. We were being warned.

We were given the chance to turn back from our infidelities and veering away, thus possibly avoiding the painful split. But many, including the very top leaders, were not mindful, perhaps even dismissive, of the lessons to be learned. We reaped the painful consequences.

Now our theme for 2010 comes from the book of Job. Once again, the story of Job is very relevant to what God wants to tell us and teach us. Just like in the book of Lamentations, we look to the larger context of the book of Job.

The story of Job

Job was a just and righteous man, who was tremendously blessed by God. Then Satan challenged God, saying that Job was God-fearing only because he was so blessed. Satan asked to afflict Job, which God granted. First, Satan caused Job to lose all his material possessions and all his children. Job did not say anything disrespectful of God. Then Satan afflicted Job with severe boils all over his body. Job still said nothing sinful, though sorrow afflicted his soul.

Job was visited by 3 wise friends, who deeply commiserated with him. Then there was a series of exchanges (cycle of speeches) between Job and Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. Job protests his innocence. His friends insist he is being punished for sin and should repent. Then young Elihu also speaks to Job.

Job asks to hear from God Himself. God answers, but not to explain His actions but referring to His omniscience and almighty power. Job accepts what God says, disowns what he himself has said, and repents.

Job is then blessed by God, and receives twice as much as he had before.

The turning points

Aside from the sufferings of our Lord Jesus, we would be hard put to find another person who suffered as much as Job. He lost everything, except his life. But that life was hardly worth living, as he had lost everything he held dear, and he was severely afflicted physically, spending his days just sitting among the ashes. His friends “saw how great was his suffering.” (Job 2:13b). Job longed for death.

But we know the ending. God restores Job and blesses him two-fold.

What were the transition points?

God only speaks after Elihu’s speeches (after our theme verse of Job 37:23). Our theme verse, speaking about who God truly is, is the first pivot point.

  • Between finite human wisdom and God’s infinite wisdom.
  • Between the great suffering of Job, and his impending restoration and two-fold blessings.
  • Between the just and righteous Job (Job 1:1), and the just and righteous God (Job 37:23).
  • Between fear of God that calls for a response, and fear of God that is unquestioning.
  • Between questioning suffering, and total embrace of suffering.
  • Between trusting in God in prosperity, and trusting in God in adversity.

What evolves from that point on was no longer just a test of Job’s faithfulness, or the consequence of spiritual battle between Satan and God. It was no longer between Job and Satan. It was now all about God, and consequent to that, all about God and Job.

God revealed who He truly was. Job finally surrendered. Job’s reply to God is the next turning point, the pivot point that restores his blessings.

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be hindered. I have dealt with great things that I do not understand; things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know. I had heard of you by word of mouth, but now my eye has seen you. Therefore I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:2-6, NAB).

The lessons of the book of Job

A prime lesson is simply the awesome majesty of God. This is something that Christians have lost.

  • God is no longer fully appreciated as the wondrous Creator and the great King of all kings. Christians are much more casual in His presence. Awe and reverential fear are no longer present.
  • Catholics walk casually into a Eucharistic celebration or a community worship assembly without appropriate respect and self-preparation.
  • People take their lives into their own hands, having lost the realization that it is God who has full control of our lives, and that apart from Him we are nothing.

The book of Job helps bring us back to our senses. We identify with Job as God speaks of His wisdom and power. God jabs us time and again.

  • “Where were you when I founded the earth?” (Job 38:4a).
  • “Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning and shown the dawn its place” (Job 38:12).
  • “Have you …. walked about in the depths of the abyss?” (Job 38:16).
  • “Do you know the ordinances of the heavens; can you put into effect their plan on the earth?” (Job 38:33).
  • “Have you an arm like that of God, or can you thunder with a voice like his?” (Job 40:9).

A second lesson is about redemptive suffering.

This is the suffering of Jesus. Jesus went through extreme suffering in order to redeem us. As those who follow him and as those who work to bring his salvation to the world, we too, like our Master, will suffer.

Paul rejoiced in such suffering. “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Col 1:24). This is a great mystery, that we can participate in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of God’s people.

Such suffering is redemptive. First, for ourselves, as we are purified and grow in the ways of God. Second, for others, as we expend ourselves and endure pain and hardships in order to proclaim the gospel.

The way of Jesus is the way of the cross. The way of the cross is the way to glory and victory.

The third lesson proceeds from the first two. It is looking to the justice and righteousness of God.

If God is not who He is, then it is difficult for a pious and upright person to accept extreme suffering. But since God is indeed who He is, then redemptive suffering is to be endured, even embraced, because it is allowed and willed by an omnipotent and omniscient God who loves us and has a great plan for our lives. Our God is one who is righteous and just, and we can fully trust in Him.

God is righteous and wants our holiness, as we are made in His image and likeness. Such holiness is purified by suffering. The greater the suffering for the sake of righteousness, the greater the potential of moving on to the very holiness of God.

God is just and is committed to give us what is our due, according to His eternal plan. God loves us as His beloved children, desires that we enjoy the bounty of His awesome creation, and wants to bring us home to heaven, the new paradise, with Him forever. But this happens on His terms, not ours. This is the problem with God’s people in the world. They are living their lives and even serving God on their own terms. So many times they are the very obstacles to their own spiritual well-being.

The book of Job teaches us to let God be God, and to trust fully in His justice and righteousness. God will never fail us.

“The Almighty!
Just and righteous is He.”

(September 25, 2009)

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