GOSPEL CULTURE  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  49:52
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As Americans, we prefer a God who is small
a God we can manage, predict and control. We want a God that feels safe to us. One that we can fully understand and explain. One that doesn’t embarrass, confuse, contradict us or make us made.
We want what C.S. Lewis called a “tamed lion”.
The God of the Bible is the opposite of small and manageable. He is bigger than all the words we use to say big. He defies our abilities to categorize or describe him. Most Americans want a God who is only a slightly bigger, slightly smarter version of us. But the God of the Bible is something altogether different. And here’s the irony:
Only a God like that is capable of explaining life’s mysteries
giving us a real sense of purpose in the world, and igniting our passions. It’s like the British philosopher Evelyn Underhill famously said,
A god small enough to be understood is not big enough to be worshipped.
Solomon calls this “the fear of God,” and says that it is necessary for any proper relationship with God:
Proverbs 1:7 ESV
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Without a trembling awe before the majesty of God, we’ll never really know God, or trust him, or walk with him.
If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know that I have tried to be honest with you about the struggles with belief I’ve had throughout my life. Like—
Why is there so much suffering in the world?
I get that God can use some pain for good purposes, but what possible good could God have had in the holocaust? Or,
How does the concept of hell align with a view of a loving God?
Or how about this one:
If Christianity is true, why do so few people believe it?
And why isn’t God doing more about it to get people saved? Why not send an angel down to preach the gospel? Maybe you have had some of these same questions. Maybe others. And sometimes I thought, You know, the fact that I can’t understand or explain these things may mean God doesn’t even exist.
I’ve come to see that one of my primary problems in all of this was a conception of God that was too small.
I thought of God as just a slightly bigger, slightly smarter version of me; a God that I should be able easily to understand and explain. But that is absolutely not the God of the Bible, and that conception of God is just not able to sustain faith.
Its only by grappling with the size of God that I developed the ability really to believe.
In this message I want to unpack the experience of the man in the Bible who had more questions for God than anyone else I know of. In fact, his name has become synonymous with confusion and doubt. His name is Job.
We don’t know much about Job.
He is said to be from “Uz.” Where is Uz? Scholars don’t know. It sounds like the place at the end of the yellow brick road.
We don’t know what time period Job lives in.
Or even what nationality he is. We know he’s not an Israelite because he doesn’t have an Israelite name. But this lack of detail, scholars say, is intentional, because evidently the author doesn’t want us to get fixated on Job’s particular historical situation; he wants us to focus on the questions raised by Job’s suffering—questions that are universal—questions everyone asks.
All we are told in Job 1:1 is that Job is a “blameless, upright man,”
which is a Hebrew way of saying that he helped little old ladies cross the street, always ate all his vegetables and turned in his library books on time. He read every word of the “terms and condition” on his new iPhone updates. Just a stellar fella.
Heavenly Meeting
right after this brief introduction, we get whisked off to heaven where God is apparently having a meeting, and among those attending this meeting is a feisty fella called, “The Sa-TAHN.” In Hebrew, this means “The Accuser” or “The Prosecutor.” And the Sa-Tan raises a critical challenge. He says,
You know, God, the only reason people serve you is that it’s in their own self-interest.
They serve you because you give them stuff. Let them suffer and they’ll give you up.” So, God says, “Alright, take Job. You can take everything in his life from him that he loves, and you’ll see that he values me for me.” And for the next 2 chapters, that’s what happens.
Satan takes everything from Job.
Interestingly Satan doesn’t touch his wife. I’m not sure what that means. She turns out to be pretty cranky. At this point in the narrative, you should be asking, “Wait—what?
Why in the world would God allow this?
And then we’d expect the rest of the book to provide answers to this question. But that’s not what we get. Chapter 3: Enter Job’s friends: Eliphaz the Temanite, Zophar the Na’amathite, and, the shortest man in the Bible, Bildad the Shuhite (get it, shu-height? You’ll want to write that down).
These men try to explain Job’s suffering using the best of ancient wisdom.
FWIW, they seem to be halfway decent friends. They sit with Job in his misery and try to comfort him. Basically, they say to Job, “Look, we know God is just. And we know everything happens for a reason. So, the fact that you are suffering means there is a reason God is doing this to you.”
Job pushes back
“That’s not true. I’m not saying I’m perfect but I’m innocent of anything that would warrant this.”
They hold their line
“Look, Job, there has to be something. God is just and everything happens for a reason. So, think hard. What is it?” And this goes on for 37 chapters.
Job, exasperated, says, “Listen, guys. You’re wrong. And the more you talk, the worse I feel. Your talking is not helping.”
It reminds me of the story of the man who gets pulled over. The officer says, “Did you know how fast you were going?” man says “no”; wife says, “Yes you did.” Did you know tail light was out? “Oh yes, he’s known for months.” Why are you not wearing your seat belt? Took it off when you were coming up. “No, you never wear it. Finally, the man yells, “Woman, would you BE QUIET?!” Officer: Does he always treat you this way? “Only when he’s drunk.” Stop talking! You’re not helping!
His friends, exhausted of their wisdom, leave one-by-one, and Job sits there, still confused.
The point: The wisdom of the ancients has been spent, yet the mystery of suffering remains.
And then, finally, chapter 38, God shows up.
And Job says, “At last. I’m going to get some answers.” But no. Instead, God shows up and starts to ask Job a bunch of questions: 64, to be exact. He says things (38–39) like:
Job 38:4–30 ESV
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’? “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it? It is changed like clay under the seal, and its features stand out like a garment. From the wicked their light is withheld, and their uplifted arm is broken. “Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this. “Where is the way to the dwelling of light, and where is the place of darkness, that you may take it to its territory and that you may discern the paths to its home? You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great! “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war? What is the way to the place where the light is distributed, or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth? “Who has cleft a channel for the torrents of rain and a way for the thunderbolt, to bring rain on a land where no man is, on the desert in which there is no man, to satisfy the waste and desolate land, and to make the ground sprout with grass? “Has the rain a father, or who has begotten the drops of dew? From whose womb did the ice come forth, and who has given birth to the frost of heaven? The waters become hard like stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.
There’s even some really random, odd questions in there, like:
Job, how much do you know about the reproduction habits of goats? (39:1)
Or, why are ostriches are so ugly? (39:13
As you are reading, you might be like, “I get the big questions, but why all these little ones?”
The point is to show perspective. God is saying: “Job, if you can’t even fathom all the mystery behind natural things, are you really in place to understand eternal things?”
You see, the assumption that Job and all his friends are working off of is that they know enough about the world to analyze and understand God’s ways.
But God says, “Actually, your perspective on the world is quite puny. Mine is HUGE.
You don’t even understand simple things like constellation creation or ostrich ugliness.
And see, if you don’t understand the mystery behind finite things like this, do you really think you are in a place to hold court on me?
To understand infinite justice, you need to have infinite perspective.
And then, chapter 40, God says,
“While we are at it, Job, would you really like to run the world for a day?
You really want to punish every little act of injustice in every instance? Do you know how many different things are happening in the world at one time and how many things are interconnected? (Bruce Almighty). At the end of chapter 40 God basically says,
“This is quite a bit more complicated than you thought, isn’t it, little man?”
The book ends with God restoring everything to Job, 7- fold, but we never get real satisfying answers to the question of why this all happened in the 1st place. Neither did Job. All we get are more questions, but these questions make 5 crucial points about the size of God.

My power is sovereign

In this book we see God’s absolute power over creation, angels, even Satan. We see that Satan does nothing except by permission! And we see that God has purposes in creation that go far beyond our purview. For example, God talks about watering a land where no one lives
Job 38:26 ESV
to bring rain on a land where no man is, on the desert in which there is no man,
C. S. Lewis said: The point is that not everything in creation is for man! Sometimes God does things solely for himself.
The one thing we do know about Job’s suffering was that its ultimate purpose was to bring glory to God. God was demonstrating his glory to Satan and all the angels through Job’s suffering. And I know some of you, you might say,
“Well, that’s a hard thing to live with—that God is using my suffering for his glory”
but I’m telling you that is the secret to a happy, fulfilled life. You, and all the world, exist for God’s glory, and when you realize that, you’ll find a joy and satisfaction you’ve never known, because you were created to live that way.
Isaiah 43:7 ESV
everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
God’s power is sovereign and His...

My perspective is infinite

The climax of God’s argument comes in 42:3, when God says
Job 42:3 ESV
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
“Job, if you don’t even understand the mystery behind natural phenomenon like storms and stars, are you really in a place to understand the purposes of the eternal God above them?”
There is a problem philosophers call “problem of evil.”
It was first stated by Epicurus (5th century BC) — “If God is all loving and all powerful then why do suffering exist?” Missing premise. Wisdom.
Do a thought experiment with me about how much higher God’s power is than mine.
Think about how much power it would have taken to create the known universe. Even if you don’t believe—if there is a God, how much power must he have? Astronomers estimate the number of stars at more than 3,000 billion trillion. Septillion.
Million, billion, trillion, or septillion all sound the same after a while.
Do you know what you were doing a million seconds ago? Middle of the previous week. 11 days. What about a billion seconds ago? Do you remember what you were doing then? That’s 31 years and 8 months ago. Some of you, of course, can’t remember what you were doing then because there was no “you” to speak of.
How about a trillion seconds ago?
How long ago do you think that would be? A couple centuries back? A trillion seconds ago was 29,672 BC. The 1st Rocky movie had just come out. Now think about the fact that there are at least three billion trillion stars, each one putting out roughly the same amount of energy as a trillion mega ton atom bombs every second. Some are so big they defy description—like Eta Carinae in our own Milky Way, which is 5M times brighter than our sun!
All of them were created in a single moment with a single word from God.
Now compare that to my power. Concept 2 rower. Watts: 60, I’m powering a light bulb.
If his wisdom is as high above mine as his power is above mine, the most rational conclusion is that there will be some things beyond my immediate ability to understand!
It is entirely possible that God has beautiful purposes that he is working out that we just can’t see yet.
Bart Ehrman says he lost his faith because of the presence of “purposeless evil”?
But there is a huge assumption behind his claim of “purposeless evil.” That if there is a purpose, he’d be wise enough to detect it. Isn’t it rather arrogant to assume that with our limited knowledge we would be able to perceive every purpose of an infinitely wise God.
One of our core problems is that we don’t think of God as that much bigger than us: only a slightly smarter version of us.
But does that make any sense when we think about how big he had to be to pull off creation? It’s like we think of God as a being with huge, powerful, star-creating muscles but a little, itty-bitty, teeny-tiny head. Job, in response to this, says:
Job 42:3 ESV
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
A right understanding of who God is helps us to ask right questions.
God’s power is sovereign, his perspective is infinite, and . . .

My purpose is guaranteed

Let me encourage you with this truth;

Because God is sovereign and his perspective is infinite, even Satan’s attempts to attack God’s people only further God’s purposes.

All of Satan’s attacks on Job yielded a book that has provided encouragement to countless believers down through the centuries.
Do you think that’s what Satan had planned? No, and yet we see this throughout Scripture.

Satan’s strategy to defeat the sons of God only serves to provide salvation for the sons of men.

God is doing the same thing with your struggles. If you think about it, you can probably already see some of the good things behind some of what God is doing: I think here of the words of British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge:
Contrary to what I would have expected, I look back now on experiences that at the time seemed especially devastating and painful with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything of value that I have learned in my 75 years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence has been through affliction, not through comfort and ease.
Here’s the perspective of Job: If already we can look back and see a good purpose for some of the suffering in our lives, don’t we think given infinite time and perspective we’ll see a reason for all of it?
Sometimes what God is doing, he is doing in you.
Sometimes God lets us suffer in order to chastise or correct us—to bring them back (We see that in Jonah) Sometimes it is so that he can work salvation in others (think Joseph) Sometimes, however, it’s purify us so that we would love him more and that’s what we see in Job.
Suffering is how God shapes you for himself.
Martin Luther, said as soon as God chooses you, he lets the devil afflict you to turn you into a “real doctor” of the word. Luther said, “I credit the devil, the pope and all my other persecutors with my deep knowledge of the word. Through the devil’s raging they have turned me into a fairly good preacher, driving me into the gospel in to depths I never would have reached without their affliction.
This is what this gospel is all about: Satan’s strategy to defeat the sons of God only serves to provide salvation for the sons of men.
Believer, this is what he is doing in your suffering.

My promise is everlasting

Job 19:25 ESV
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.

At the last

In eternity. The last scene in the book of Job is God restoring to Job 7-fold of all that he lost. 7 is a picture of eternity. In this scene we are given a glimpse of what eternity will be like, when God restores to us all we have lost and gives us perfect joy. I love
Psalm 16:11
Psalm 16:11 ESV
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Fullness: joy that could not get any stronger. Forevermore: joy that could not last any longer.
Think, how long is eternity? The whole life you’ve lived so far will be like just the 1st few seconds a never-ending day. Your life is just a brief ellipsis compared to the expanse of eternity. That means that compared to eternity, what we go through here in life is nothing!
Mother Theresa, compared to eternity, the worst things on earth are like nothing more than a bad night in a cheap hotel.
Recognizing that is the key to coping with suffering in this life.
C.S. Lewis, “If you look at this world as a place to find happiness, you’ll be miserable and confused. If you look at it as training, you’ll find purpose and joy.”

My presence is pledged

Job 19:25 ESV
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
I wonder what Job was thinking about when he wrote that?
Because, see, we know it even more than he did: We saw our Redeemer come and stand on earth with us! ●
Why did he come?
He came to take our punishment in our place so we would never be separated from God again. He was wounded so I could be eternally healed. He was abandoned for me so I could be eternally embraced.
His mercy is ever-present with me and I never have to worry about what he is doing in my life.
He stands by my side because he stood in my place. I love the words of A.W. Tozer here:
“With the goodness of God to desire our highest welfare, the wisdom of God to plan it and the power of God to achieve it, what do we lack?”
I may not know exactly what God is doing in my pain, but the cross shows me what my suffering can’t mean. It can’t mean that God has forsaken me or he’s lost control.
Think about the cross.
God’s love. Rom 8—He that did not spare his own son. God’s control. If there were ever a time when it looked like God was absent or had lost control. But there, God was doing his greatest work. And that’s what he’s doing right now through your pain. It may feel to you like a dark night of the soul but God is working in it the power of resurrection.
Your Redeemer came and stood in your place—entered into your pain for you, took death for you—and now stands victoriously by your side in the resurrection, promising you that one day you’ll stand with him eternally.

So, in your pain, you have his presence.

This is what God showed Job: My power is sovereign my perspective is infinite; my purpose is guaranteed; my promise is everlasting and my presence is pledged.

Job wanted answers; God gave him presence.

And that presence was enough. As soon as Job saw who God was, Job was satisfied. Before he was restored.
When God finally appeared, Job was so busy repenting that he did not have time for any further questions.
His rage was now directed at himself:
Job 42:6 ESV
therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

You think you need explanations you can understand.

You are like Job’s friends—you think, “God if you would just explain it all to me I’d be satisfied). What you really need is a revelation of a God who is big enough—who is GOD ENOUGH—to work all this mess out for good, and faithful and loving enough that he promises he’ll do just that.

A revelation of God, not an explanation of suffering, is what God gives to us.

This has been the experience of countless suffering believers down throughout history. Corrie Ten Boom, who suffered for years in a Nazi prison camp, wrote,
“No matter how deep our darkness, the love of God is deeper still.”
The Auca 5
Steve Saint
whose father was murdered on the beaches of Equator led to Christ the man that murdered his father. He bapized the very man who killed his father, Mincaye, and adopted him as his kids’ grandfather. He said:
“Why is it that we want every chapter to be good when God promises only that in the last chapter he will make all the other chapters make sense?” Don’t we see God will do this with all our stories in eternity?
Elisabeth Elliot, the wife of Jim Elliot who also was murdered, said, wrote: “God never gives a thorn without his added grace, he takes the thorn to pin aside the veil which hides his face”
Let’s say to God what is true about Him.
Your power is sovereign; Your perspective is infinite; Your purpose is guaranteed; Your promise is everlasting and Your presence is pledged.

I may not know why I am suffering, but I know my Redeemer lives.

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