When Life is Hard

Job  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  31:55
0 ratings
This is a manuscript, and not a transcript of this message. The actual presentation of the message differed from the manuscript through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is possible, and even likely that there is material in this manuscript that was not included in the live presentation and that there was additional material in the live presentation that is not included in this manuscript.
Last week on Wednesday, the Kansas City Chiefs held a victory parade to celebrate their Super Bowl victory. Apparently some teenagers got into an argument and gunfire broke out and radio DJ Lisa Lopez-Galvan died after getting shot. From all reports, Lisa was a well-loved person who consistently and generously gave back to her community.
Unfortunately, we see tragic events like this occur pretty much every day. Most of us in this room have experienced some kind of bitter calamity in the past and we will likely face trials again in the future. And when they occur, the questions that inevitably come up are things like “Why did God allow this to happen?” or “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
For the next five weeks we’re going to wrestle with those kinds of questions. I’m going to tell you right up front, we aren’t going to come up with a satisfying intellectual explanation. While we do know that this world currently suffers because of the effects of sin, there is still a lot of mystery surrounding exactly why bad things happen to some people while others escape virtually unscathed.
But what I hope we will learn during this series is that even in the midst of the most difficult things we go through in this life, there is hope. We’ll see that it is possible to not only survive the hard times in our lives, but even to thrive and to grow even deeper in our relationship with God.
Obviously in five weeks, we don’t have time to cover the book of Job in detail. But, I am confident that by hitting some of the highlights of the book, all of us will learn some things that will help us cling to God in the midst of tough times in our lives.
One of the things I love about the Bible, and this is particularly true of Job, is that we get a peek into the lives of real people whose lives are a lot like ours. Even godly men like Job struggle at times to remain faithful to God. I think Job would definitely relate to this picture of our lives: {My plan, God’s plan graphic]
We’re going to see that this morning in the opening two chapters of the book. But before we do that, let’s begin this series with a brief overview of the book:
Based on the similarity of Job’s lifestyle to that of the patriarchs in Genesis, the events recorded in the book likely take place around the time of Abraham.
Here is a brief outline of the book
Ch. 1-2 - Prologue (Prose)
Ch. 3-31 - Job’s dialogue with three friends (Poetry)
Ch. 32-37 - Elihu’s monologue (Poetry)
Ch. 38-41 - God speaks (Poetry)
Ch. 42:1-6 - Job’s response (Poetry)
Ch. 42:7-17 - Epilogue (Prose)
As I was studying this week, I ran across a number of commentators who claim that the book of Job is not an actual historical account. They view the book merely as a parable or allegory. Some even go so far as to say that because of that we really can’t learn anything about God from the book. But in both the Old and New Testaments we find plenty of evidenced that the inspired authors of the Bible believed Job to be a real historical figure and that the events recorded in the book actually took place.
With that background in mind, let’s read the opening words of the book:
Job 1:1 ESV
1 There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.
In the opening verses of the book, we learn three important things about Job:
He is a god-fearing man who is described as “blameless and upright”. That does not mean that he is sinless. And as we’re going to see, his devotion to God is not always consistent. But overall, he does have a heart for God and desires to do what is right.
He is rich. Even today anyone who had the amount of livestock he possessed would be considered wealthy.
He is religious. He is concerned about the lifestyle of his children so he consistently makes sacrifices on their behalf.
Knowing those things about Job gives us a hint about the main idea that we’re going to develop this morning and what I would also consider the main idea of the entire book:

When life is hard, what matters is who I know, not what I know.

Or we could reword that idea like this:

When life is hard, relationship beats religion

Keep that idea in mind as we continue in verse 6:
Job 1:6–12 ESV
6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 8 And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” 9 Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
I’ve seen all kinds of bizarre commentary about what occurs here and what it teaches us about the nature of God. I even saw one commentator that claimed that God was “placing a bet on Job”. Others believed that God was somehow setting up Job for failure here. But that is clearly not the case. God knows Job and He already knows that Job is going to pass this test and remain faithful to God.
That doesn’t mean he won’t have some doubts and some questions along the way. But ultimately, as a result of Satan’s attacks, Job is going to develop a deeper, more personal, more intimate relationship with God.
I’m reminded here of Peter’s words:
1 Peter 1:6–7 ESV
6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
God does sometimes test us, but when He does it is not because He thinks we are going to fail. It is because He wants to show that our faith is genuine - both to us and to others. I think of many of the people here at TFC who have experienced some really tough times in their life and who have proven the genuineness and the depth of their faith with their words and their actions. I think of people like Shirley Williams and Harold Grimm and Julie Shoemaker among many others.
While I’m not going to spend a lot of time this morning focusing on what this passage teaches us about God or on the limitations that He places on Satan, I do want to point out that the book of Job reveals...


1. God is 100% in control
2. God is 100% good
3. God never makes a mistake
God is clearly in control here. He places strict limits on Satan and what he can do to Job. Satan can’t act without God’s permission.
Because God is good, He is not simply allowing Satan to torment Job for the fun of it. God already knows that Job is going to “pass the test” and deepen his relationship with God.
These truths are so foundational that I’m going to come back to them again near the end of the message.
Most of us know what happens next. In a matter of minutes, Job loses his servants, his livestock, and his sons and daughters. Let’s skip down to verse 20 and look at Job’s response:
Job 1:20–22 ESV
20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” 22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
We’re going to come back to this in a moment and develop several principles about how we should handle trials in our lives. But for now, I want to call your attention to two things here:
Three times Job refers to God by His covenant name, YHWH, which is translated LORD - all upper case in most English translations.
In his response, Job did not sin at all.
When we come to chapter 2, we see that Satan presents a second challenge. He claims that the only reason Job didn’t curse God is that his health was preserved. God, again knowing in advance that Job is going to pass the test, gives Satan permission to attack Job’s flesh, but not to the point of death.
So Satan afflicts Job with terrible sores. We know from Job 7:5 that Job was covered with open sores that were full of puss and infested with worms. This was not merely a mild case of the measles.
Let’s read Job’s response to this affliction:
Job 2:9–10 ESV
9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
At first glance, Job appears to respond to this second calamity with faith once again. But there are several things about his response here that indicate that perhaps his faith is wavering a bit:
The first clue is that he refers to “God” here rather than “LORD”. This is going to be an important contrast throughout the book. The Hebrew word translated “God” is Elohim - a plural noun that is the “generic” Hebrew word for God. It is the same word that is often translated “god” (lower case) in the Old Testament when referring to other gods. So it seems that at this point, Job’s relationship with God is not quite as intimate and personal as it was after the first set of calamities.
That’s real life, isn’t it. When we get troubles piled on top of troubles in our lives, it is certainly possible for us to develop doubts or begin to question God a bit without totally forsaking Him.
Job shifts from talking in the singular - I - to using the plural - we. In a sense it’s kind of like what we do when we fall back on the old “Sunday School answer” without actually believing that it applies to us.
Job shifts from focusing on what God does to what he needs to do: “The Lord gives...the Lord takes away” > “...shall we receive?” We’re prone to do that too, aren’t we. The more difficult life gets, it’s easy to try to take things into our own hands rather than simply trusting God.
Finally, there is a subtle but important difference in the way each scene ends:
“In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong”
“In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
See the difference? In the second chapter, he doesn’t sin with what he says, but the wording there sure at least opens up the possibility that Job sinned in his thoughts and his heart. Again, we can do the same thing. We can say all the right words, but not really believe them deep down inside.
Please don’t misunderstand me here. I’m not saying that Job has lost his faith in God after the second test. But what I am saying is that he is human just like us and that his faith is subject to some wavering and doubts, especially as life becomes more difficult. I actually appreciate that the Bible is honest enough to let us see that in Job’s life because it makes it much more real to us. It also reminds us that...

When life is hard, what matters is who I know, not what I know.

Ultimately, we’re going to see that is what God wants Job to understand all along. The book of Job is certainly a book about suffering, but I think it is even more about how God uses hard times in our lives to develop a deeper, more intimate relationship with Him.
I want to close our time by making this really practical. Let’s talk about...


Obviously the most important principle we can take away from this passage is...
Don’t listen to your wife.
Of course I’m being facetious here - at least to some degree. But I suppose that there is a warning here that we do need to be careful who we listen to when things get tough in our lives. We’re going to see that again with Job’s so called “friends”.
When life is hard there are always going to be some who will call on us to reject our faith or even reject God. That is why it is so important that we are actively involved in a church family where we are surrounded by people who will encourage us and go through our trials with us. Unfortunately Job didn’t have that kind of support and I think that is one reason why we see his faith falter a bit after his health is taken away.
Let’s look at three more crucial things we need to do when life is hard.

Express my grief

This can be hard, especially for us men. We live in a culture where expressing grief is sometimes viewed as weakness. But here we see that Job expresses his grief outwardly according to the customs of the day. He tore his robe and shaved his head. Those were public actions that those around him could see and know that he was in mourning.
I would even go so far as to say it’s good to express to God how you’re feeling about Him in the midst of your difficulties. We’re going to see Job do that later on in the book. It’s okay, and maybe even beneficial, to let God know if you feel abandoned or if you’re angry with Him. Let’s face it, God already knows what you’re thinking and it’s actually a healthy part of the grieving process to go ahead and express those feelings openly. I say that with confidence because the Bible is full as what is known as “lament”. We see that frequently in the Psalms, including in this Psalm written by David, a man after God’s own heart:
Psalm 13:1–2 ESV
1 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Obviously God had not forgotten David and David probably even knew that intellectually. But at the moment in time, he that’s what he felt like, so he shared those emotions with God. If it was okay for David to do that, we should be willing to do the same. We just need to make sure that we don’t stay there without moving on to the next two steps.

Focus on the eternal

One of the most important things Job did was to acknowledge his mortality. He came naked from his mother’s womb and he would leave this earth the same way.
I think one of the most profound sayings I’ve ever heard in my life is that you never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul. No matter how much we accumulate in this life, we can’t take any of it with us.
Job was a very rich man, but when all of his earthly possession and his family were taken away, he was able to move on with his life and maintain his faith in God because his focus was not primarily on the here and now. In fact, later on in the book, we’re going to see that Job understood that there is life after the short time we spend here on earth.
And because his focus was on eternal things, even in the midst of calamity, the first thing he did after expressing his grief was to worship God.
The apostle Paul reminds us that any hardships we face here on earth are only temporary and that therefore we need to focus on the eternal:
2 Corinthians 4:17–18 ESV
17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Let God be my treasure

We see clearly in this passage that Job’s treasure was not in what God had given to him, but rather in God Himself. He understood that all he had - his wealth, his family, his health - all belonged to God and had been bestowed upon him as a gift by God. I think Job was able to make God his treasure because he understood the three truths about God that we talked about earlier:
1. God is 100% in control
2. God is 100% good
3. God never makes a mistake
Jesus reaffirmed all three of these truths with these familiar words from the Sermon on the Mount:
Matthew 6:31–33 ESV
31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
We’ve seen this morning that...

When life is hard, what matters is who I know, not what I know.

I know that right now some of you are going through some hard times in your life. My prayer for you is that the account of Job will be an encouragement to you. I pray that you’ll take concrete steps to apply the principles that we’ve talked about this morning so that your trials will lead you into a deeper, more intimate relationship with God.
If life is pretty good for you right now, my prayer is that this message will encourage you to develop a mindset that will prepare you for future trials in your life. Acknowledge that everything you have is a gift from God and belongs to Him and that He has the absolute right to do whatever He pleases with those things. Meditate on the three truths about God that we talked about this morning. Ask God to help you focus on the eternal rather than the temporary.
We live in a world where it is often difficult to make sense of the tragedies that we see all around us. And in this life here on earth it’s very likely we’re not going to get the answers to the questions we have about those things.
But the good news is that none of this catches God off guard or surprises Him. And because He is 100% in control, 100% good and never makes a mistake, we can trust that God is working behind the scenes to accomplish His purposes and plans for this world and for us as individuals. We can be sure that one day Jesus will return and restore this world to the paradise of the original creation. And we can also be sure that in the meantime, what God wants for us more than anything is a deep, personal, intimate relationship with each one of us. And if we’ll allow Him, He will use even the most difficult times in our lives to draw us closer to Him.
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more