Standing In Times Of Testing
My goal is to build solid foundations so people can stand strong when trouble comes, and we can be sure that trouble will come. Life throws us a lot of curves, and sometimes we can get discouraged. Today I want to look at a man who had every excuse in the world to be discouraged and to turn away from God. Before I get to that, let me read you something I came across on the Internet. I think it shows an understanding that we all need concerning God’s working in our lives.
One Sunday morning at a small southern church, the new pastor called on one of his older deacons to lead in the opening prayer. The deacon stood up, bowed his head, and said, “Lord, I hate buttermilk.”
The pastor opened one eye and wondered where this was going. The deacon continued, “Lord I hate lard.” Now the pastor was totally perplexed. The deacon continued, “Lord, I ain’t too crazy about plain flower, but after you mix ’em all together and bake ’em in a hot oven, I just love the biscuits.”
“Lord, help us to realize when life gets hard, when things come up that we don’t like, whenever we don’t understand what You are doing, that we need to wait and see what You are making. After You get through mixing and baking, it’ll probably be something even better than biscuits.”
Here is a very important Bible truth this deacon understood.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Notice that it doesn’t say all things are good, it says they work together for good. All of us can think of times when something happened in our lives that we did not like. We can also see, looking back to the incident, that, in reality, what happened was for our good.
For example, as a child, I broke my arm twice. I assure you I didn’t think that these were good things. Later, when I was in the Army, I wanted to become a paratrooper but the damage from the broken arm kept me from doing the exercises needed to do so. I also wanted to become a motorcycle cop with the California Highway Patrol, again, for the same reason, my arm kept me from doing so. When I look back, I realize that I would have been jumping of of airplanes in Vietnam, and there is a good chance I wouldn’t have survived. Being a California Highway Motorcycle cop is not very safe either.
I am so thankful that God allowed be to break my arm so I could become a preacher of the Gospel. Had he not done so, I might not be here today.
Now let’s take a look at a man who had every excuse to turn away from God. His wife even suggested that he should do so.
There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. (Job 1:1)
The first thing I want you to notice is the character of Job. The word perfect here does not mean he was without sin, it means that he was mature in his faith in God. He was an upright man who feared God and hated evil. The word “eschewed,” means that he fled from evil and did everything he could to avoid it.
This tells us that what happened later in his life was not a punishment from God. God had other reasons for allowing what happened.
Satan had gone before God, and God had pointed out to Satan that Job was a faithful man. Satan accused Job of only being faithful because of the blessings God poured out upon him. God gave Satan permission to put Job to the test.
And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house: And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them: And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house: And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. (Job 1:13-19)
That is quite a lot to happen all at once. Job lost everything he had, including all of his children. I doubt that any of us have had this much happen to us in such a short time. As if this wasn’t enough, later Satan took away Job’s health.
What was Job’s response to all of this?
Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, 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. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly. (Job 1:20-22)
Job did those things that they did in those days to show mourning, but through it all he still worshipped God. He said that he entered this world with nothing, and he would leave the same way. He realized that everything belongs to God, and God has the right to give and to take away. He blessed God, and did not sin by charging God foolishly.
Most of the rest of the book of Job is taken up with conversations between Job and his so-called friends. His friends kept telling him that God would not have sent these calamities if Job did not have some secret sin. Job assured them that he did not.
There is a lot more I could say if I had the time, but, as Paul Harvey used to say, here is the rest of the story.
And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. (Job 42:10)
God not only replaced what Job had lost, He gave him twice as much as he had before. He even replaced his children.
He had also seven sons and three daughters. (Job 42:13)
This is the same number of children Job had before and, although the other children were dead, they were not completely gone. We can assume from this book that Job’s children were believers and, therefore, he would see them again.
I wanted us to look at the story of Job to show that we should be faithful to God no matter what circumstances befall us in this life. Our lives are like a work of embroidery. From underneath, all we see is a bunch of strings and knots. From above, it is a work of art. While in this life, we see things from underneath. One day we will see things from above, and we will understand the knots and the strings.
The most important question I want to ask today is, Why did Job have the strength to stand through these trials? I don’t know exactly how God communicated with people in those days, so I don’t know what Job really knew. However, I do know that he knew God, and he had full confidence in Him.
Today God communicates with us through His Word, the Bible. Everything we need to know to live our lives on earth is found in God’s Word. Having the faith that Job had requires us knowing who God is, and what He expects of us. It also requires knowing His promises. Where do we find this? In the Bible.
We are told that man is to live by every word of God.
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4)
This was the answer Jesus gave Satan when He was tempted to turn the stones into bread. If Jesus needed the Word of God to stand strong against Satan, we must need it even more.
The Bible tells us where faith comes from:
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)
For us to have a strong faith, a faith that does not fail when trials come, we need the Word of God. We need to hear it preached. We need to hear it in our personal study. Faith is the foundation that give us the strength to stand in difficult times. So, What is faith?
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
This verse tells us that true faith has two parts. The first is substance. Substance is that what stands under or supports for below, the things we hope for. In other word, it is the foundation upon which all our hopes are laid. This foundation is our belief in the promises found in God’s Word.
The second part of faith is evidence. You cannot see my belief, but if I have true faith, you can see it through the things that I do and the way I live my life. Job’s faith is evidenced by his faithfulness through the trials God allowed in his life.
All of this shows the importance of the Bible in the life of a Christian. Without the Bible, one cannot grow in faith. Without growth, our faith can never be really strong. Faith is like a muscle, the more we exercise it, the stronger it gets. We can’t exercise our faith if we do not know what God expects of us.
We also need to know that we can trust God’s Word. There is no authority greater than God, so what does He have to say about it?
The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.
Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. (Psalms 12:6-7)
There are several important things in this verse. First of all, God’s words are pure, there is no error or corruption in them. They have been tried as silver is purified seven times. The Word of God has been tested by faithful followers and proven to be what it claims to be, the very pure and eternal Word of God. We are told that God will keep His word. We can count on Him. We are also told that the preservation of His Word is not left in the hands of man, He has preserved them for every generation, including ours. Not one part of God’s word will ever fail.
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (Matthew 5:18)
We have a responsibility toward the Word of God. We are to make it the guide for our lives.
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. (Psalms 119:11)
Hiding God’s Word in our hearts is more than just memorizing it. I can teach a parrot to memorize passages of Scripture, but that does not mean that it has hid it in its heart. To hide God’s Word in one’s heart he must make its principles and precepts the guiding light of his life.
Every one of us has trials in our lives. If we are truly children of God, we can be sure that Satan will do all he can to turn us away from God, just like he did Job. God’s purpose in allowing Job to go through these trials was twofold. First of all, Job and his friends had some things to learn. Secondly, this story tells us that we can count on God to know what He is doing. In the end, faithfulness to His precepts is always the best policy.
The purpose of these lesson is to build a foundation that will stand in times of testing. We will be looking at things from the Word of God that will build the kind of faith we see in Job.