The Job Series: Considering the Source

Overwhelmed by his circumstances, Job’s friends surrounded him to provide comfort- namely Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar and Elihu. After Job’s monologue in Chapter Three, these friends would prove to be “miserable comforters.” During the three rounds of discussions, Job reveals five key points for comforting those in pain.

  1. Avoid babbling
  2. Do not lecture or give evasive answers
  3. Do not criticize
  4. Try to empathize by placing yourself in the other person’s place
  5. Identify ways to help and encourage then follow through

Job’s friends failed on all five points. Instead of providing comfort, they condemned Job for causing his own suffering. In addition to being miserable comforters, they all had flawed and differing viewpoints regarding suffering, wisdom, and their attitudes towards God.

Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar shared the belief that Job’s suffering was due to sin. This was not the case with Job as God was using Job to silence Satan. Unlike the other three friends, Elihu believed that God was using suffering to mold and train Job. This answer was partially true, but incomplete.

Each of his friends varied regarding the source of wisdom. Eliphaz believed that wisdom was obtained through personal observations and life experiences. Bildad depended upon the secondhand knowledge of traditional proverbs and sayings. Zophar’s position was that wisdom belonged to the wise. Elihu recognized that God was the only source of true wisdom, but he did not use God’s wisdom to help Job. God is our ultimate source of wisdom. (James 3:13-18, NIV)

Job’s friends possessed conflicting views on God and how God operates. Through his personal observations, Eliphaz claimed to have a full knowledge of God and how he operates. Bildad contended that their predecessors understood God; therefore, following their knowledge is key. Zophar considered himself wise and believed that only the wise understood the nature of God. Elihu conveyed that God was speaking, but Job was not listening. Who can fathom all of God’s ways? (Isiah 55:8-9, NIV)

Although each friend had nuggets of truth within their explanations, their answers were incomplete and often misleading. It is imperative when seeking counsel that we scrutinize the character and values of the advisor. The Bible tells us of the benefits of godly counsel and the detriments of ungodly counsel. (Proverbs 12:5, NIV) To evaluate the merit of one’s advice we must factor in the person’s motives. Our friends and family may offer misleading advice based upon the own fears, insecurity, or obtuseness.

We should Identify godly counsel by testing the spirit. (1 John 4:1, NIV) Does this individual have a personal relationship with God? Is the advice offered in alignment to God’s word? Does the advisor have any ulterior motive? While it is wise to seek guidance from a group of advisors that form a harmonious consensus, we cannot assume that the majority is always correct. Therefore, test and ensure that the guidance we receive is true, honest, just, pure, loving, of good report that would glorify God. (Philippians 4:8, NIV) Before soliciting advice or entertaining advice offered, we must consider the source.

The Job Series: Satan’s Schemes Revealed

The Scriptures give us insight to the Satan’s stratagems. God has placed Satan under the eternal judgement referred to as the “pits” to live in moral darkness. (Jude 1:6, NIV) Therefore, Satan can navigate any area of darkness even the areas that exist in a Christian. As with Job, Christians can be oppressed by demons occupying un-regenerated mindsets especially when those thoughts are defending self-deception or false doctrines. With his crafty abilities, the enemy is able to form demonic strongholds in our minds through our ideologies and thought patterns so that we may forsake true devotion to God. (II Corinthians 11:3, NIV) A demonic stronghold is any type of thinking that exalts itself above the knowledge of God.

We are warned that the thief [Satan] comes to steal, kill, and destroy. (John 10:10, NIV) We need to be alert because he is on the prowl seeking for someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8, NIV) Satan feeds upon our earthly, carnal nature. In other words, our enemy dines on what we withhold from God. Satan camouflages himself as an angel of light and his servants masquerade themselves as servants of righteousness. (II Corinthians 11:14-15, NIV) In the Book of Job, we learn that Satan was unable to penetrate the “hedge of protection” that surrounded Job and all that was connected to him. Satan needed God to remove the hedge of protection to gain access. Satan does not have the ability to kill Job (or us) for God prohibited it.

Satan used crime, murder, and natural disasters as fiery darts to perform his demonic assault on Job. Why would God allow this to transpire if Job was such an upright blameless man? Job honored God and had a true relationship with God. Satan believed that Job only worshipped God because of his wealth and protection. God used Job to silence Satan. The impact of the demonic assaults oppressed Job bringing him to the crossroad of his faith. This was a test of Job’s faith. Will we still worship God during times of great suffering? Whether it is the death of love ones, loss of financial stability, or experiencing a decline in our health will you still refer to God as unbiased God? Job being oppressed by his hardships would expose what was truly in his heart.

Satan’s schemes consist of the “Five D’s” which include doubt, discouragement, diversion, defeat, and delay. Doubt is used to make us question God’s word and His goodness. Discouragement which makes us focus on our problems rather than God. Diversion which causes the wrong things to be more attractive than right ones. Defeat makes us feel like a failure so we will not try. Delay makes us procrastinate so we will not accomplish what needs to be done.

Our goal is to proactively and reactively disarm our enemy. Satan fears virtue. Humility is an important virtue that leads to overcoming the devil. We need to submit our un-regenerated areas to God and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV) For example, capture the thought, “I will never get out of debt.” Repent and ask God to forgive our disbelief. We need to continually focus on the renewing of our minds through studying the Scriptures and remember that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. (Romans 12:2; Philippians 3:13, NIV) When we are fearful, we must remember that God has not given us the spirit of fear but of love, power, and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7) When we put on the garment of praise it removes the spirit of despair and confuses the enemy. (Isiah 61:3, NIV) Can God trust us to remain faithful? Is God seeking us?

The Job Series: The Oppressed Christian

In the prior two chapters of the Book of Job, we are given a profile of Job. Job was the upright and blameless man from Uz, who shunned evil (Job 1:1, NIV). He was a family man with one wife, three daughters, and seven sons (Job 1:2, NIV). He had substantial wealth in livestock (500 yokes of oxen, 500 donkeys, 3,000 camel, 7,000 sheep) and many servants (Job 1:3, NIV). Although the Bible does not provide a full list of Job’s possessions, by calculating the amount of livestock alone would be over 5 million dollars in modern day. His wealth most likely would have exceeded that amount due to numerous servants on his payroll, land ownership, and agriculture as he probably grew his own grains and vegetation.

Despite being blameless in God’s sight, Job would endure hardships. The Sabeans would rob Job of all his oxen and donkeys then killing Job’s servants except for the eyewitness who alerted Job (Job 1:14-15, NIV). Lightning would strike killing and disintegrating Job’s sheep and shepherds only sparing the observer that would testify about the event to Job (Job 1:16, NIV). The Chaldeans would raid and rob Job of his camels killing all except one bystander who would inform Job (Job 1:17). A great wind destroy Job’s eldest son’s house causing it to collapse killing all of Job’s children and servants except witness who would notify Job (Job 1:18-19, NIV).

 All of these events happen in succession to one another. As each eyewitness proceeded to describe an event, they were interrupted by another servant reporting more bad news. Under these overwhelming circumstances, Job did not curse God. He responded in worship and sinned not (Job 1:20-21, NIV). At a later time, Job would be inflicted with painful sores all over his body (Job 2:7, NIV). Job’s wife advised Job to curse God and die (Job 2:9, NIV). Yet, Job did not curse God and was willing to accept the bad after receiving the good from God (Job 2:10-11, NIV).

In the Book of Job, Chapter Three, surrounded by his friends Job breaks the seven day long silence by cursing the day of his birth. Now, Job is obviously depressed an exhibits a blatant disregard of God’s creation of himself by verbalizing his blasphemous thoughts aloud. The entire chapter covers Job’s monologue in which Job becomes quite liberal with his curses. This is exemplified by Job’s irrational and absurd petitions to have his birthdate blotted out from the calendar (Job 3:6, NIV), for his mother’s womb to be sealed (Job 3:10, NIV), and calling upon soothsayers to have the Leviathan swallow the day of his birth (Job 3:8, NIV).

This chapter is a perfect illustration of the battlefield of the mind. God has given Satan legal access to dwell in the domain of spiritual darkness. This means that Satan has the ability to navigate in any area of darkness, even the darkness that still exists in a Christian. We may be able to empathize with Job’s trials; however, his behavior by cursing his own existence does not honor God. Satan used crimes, murders, and natural disasters in an attempt to have Job curse God. Although Satan was unsuccessful in his quest to have Job curse God, he was able to oppress him to the point of cursing his birth. Job had hit a crossroad of a faith. He could either give up and curse God or trust God and wait to be restored. Will we still trust God in times of calamity? Is God seeking us?

The Job Series: What Type of Encourager are You?

“A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17, KJV) Unlike “fair weather” friends, our true friends support us during good and bad times. At the end of Chapter Two, Job’s three friends – Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, heard of Job’s hardships and went visit Job to provide comfort. For seven days they sat with Job in silence empathizing with Job’s pain.

In Chapter Three, Job breaks the silence by cursing the day he was born. It was evident that Job was depressed. He suffered great losses. He had an estranged wife, deceased children, and lost his source of income. Now, his health is failing. When most of Job’s friends and family had forsaken him Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar where there to give him support. (Job 19:14) Another one of Job’s friends, Elihu, is also present during the time of these discussions. After Job’s speech in Chapter Three, Job and friends have three rounds of discussions. During the discussions we learn that Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar are horrible encouragers.

When we are being tested by trials, who are members of our support system and what type of support do they offer? Do they offer you godly advice, pray with you, and help keep you grounded? Or do they offer poor guidance, encourage bad behavior, and make empty promises of support? In the case of Job, all of his friends had great intentions but their ignorance regarding his plight led them to rebuke Job at a time where he needed to be uplift.

The Apostle Paul offers an “Encourager’s Checklist” in I Thessalonians 5:11-23. When we set out to encourage, we should be respectful and not judgmental. We should promote harmony, not discord, as well as avoid every kind of evil, and resist retaliation. We need to remind the injured party that God is in control. We need to pray continually, be prepared to listen, and follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Lastly, during this time of conversation and connection with God, we need to remember to be patient and reassuring during this process.

In Colossians Chapter One, the Apostle Paul offers four points regarding prayer for one another. One, we should be thankful for their faith and changed lives. Two, we should ask God to provide them with clarity and deep spiritual understanding. Three, we pray for God to help our Brother or Sister in Christ to live their lives for Him. Four, we should seek God and ask to continually be filled with joy, strength, peace, and thankfulness.

Are we good encouragers that offer godly counsel, compassion, and prayer? Or do we encourage bad behaviors? Do we offer someone a shot a whiskey, revenge tactics, or other advice that will not address their problem but satisfy the desires of their carnal nature? What type of encouragers are we?

The Job Series: Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

Why do bad things happen to good people? It is a common question asked in the aftermath of tragedies. It is especially challenging to grasp when calamity befalls the upright members of our society. In the Book of Job, we learn that trials in our lives are not necessarily caused by sin or a wrath sent by God. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” (Psalms 34:19 ESV) In the case of Job, God used him to silence the enemy. God does not promise a life without tribulations but promises deliverance from them.   Suffering is like a two-sided coin. On one side, God uses our suffering to bring out the best in us. On the other hand, Satan uses our suffering to bring out the worst in us.

God seeks to make us like Christ. God uses our suffering to cultivate us, just like gold is refined by fire. When gold goes through a refining process, the impurities are removed. As God refines us through suffering, it produces the Fruit of the Spirit, powerful testimonies to share, sensitizes us to the suffering of others, and drawing us closer to Him as we seek God for strength, courage, and deliverance. Our refining process transforms our minds, allowing us to be more fruitful, and strengthens us.

The advantages of our suffering is that it gives us an opportunity to examine ourselves, and ask the questions that we would ask in our normal routines. God can use our suffering to tear down our barriers so that we are in position to grow spiritually. Our suffering allows us to bear our crosses just as Jesus suffered on the cross for us.  The flip side of our suffering is that it causes us to reject God, accusing Him of being unjust, and blaming Him for our problems. We may become self-centered, despondent, as well as self-righteous. We may miss the opportunities for self-examination, obtaining help, and spiritual growth.

There are three possible responses that we can have when we are being tested. We can despise the trial, faint under the pressure of it, or grow from it. Suffering can be excruciatingly painful and challenging. It is vital to the lives of the Believers to seek God, trust in His promises, and continue to praise and worship Him. Despite our misfortunes, we must learn to always give God glory because we are assured a victorious outcome.

The Job Series: Can God Depend On Us?

We can proclaim to be Believers or even True Worshippers when things are well with our finances, health, and relationships. But, what happens when calamity surrounds us? For example, we experience a job loss and our 401K retirement plans are exhausted due to a stock market crash. Suddenly, our spouses become estranged not lending support whether financial or emotional. Illness attacks our bodies leaving us in debilitated state unable to pursue other employment opportunities. Hurricane winds rip through our towns and destroys our properties with our children inside. Now, imagine all of these things happening at once. Can God depend on us to be faithful?

The Book of Job provides a recount of an upright man in the land of Uz named Job. A man who seemingly had everything and who devoutly worshipped God. Yet, tragedies would strike him on all fronts. Job lost his wealth, children, property, spouse, and his health. He did not respond in anger. He accepted what God allowed and offered praise. This is not to say that Job was not perplexed or did not bear a spirit of heaviness. Job desperately desired to hear from God. Not to question God’s sovereignty but to understand the cause of his troubles.

Job did not understand why he had to endure these hardships. After all, Job was a righteous man that shunned evil. What Job did not know is that God was using him to shut the devil’s mouth. While Satan was seeking whom he could devour, it is apparent that Satan had no authority to torment Job on his own accord. Job 1:10 indicates that God had a “hedge of protection” that surrounded Job and anything directly or indirectly connected to Job. Satan charged that if the “hedge of protection” was removed so that he could have access Job would curse God.

God knew Job well. God took pleasure in Job as his servant. (Psalms 147:10-11; Jeremiah 9:24) God wanted Job to be prosperous. Job was not only wealthy because of material possessions and his family, but because he had an intimate relationship with God. Satan believed that the Job’s piety and relationship with God was superficial and could easily be severed if he had access. God knew Job’s heart and trusted him to stay faithful. Can God depend on us to do the same?

The Book of Job is gives us so much insight to Satan and his stratagems allowing us to identify how to fight a spiritual battle and win. Satan utilized crime, natural disaster, physical illness, deceiving spirits, and the psychological attacks of depression as stratagems to cause Job to curse God. Satan’s objective was to squeeze Job to his breaking point. Job’s strengths were his patience, endurance, and trusting God. Job worshipped God through his suffering, anticipated an audience with God, and expected God to deliver him.

What we must learn from Job is that God is not arbitrary or uncaring about our welfare. Having a relationship with God and knowing Him is better than having all the answers. The trial or tribulations that we may endure are not always a punishment. Standing on God’s promises leads to victory.