Our Staff Job Studies
From Grant Dibden
We had a wonderful time considering several of our staff Job studies during the year. It is such a packed book and we were challenged as we reflected back over the whole book, its themes and big lessons as part of our final study time.
The book of Job explores why God sometimes allows tremendous suffering by those who deserve it least. God seeks to give us knowledge of Himself and to add to that chief blessing many other temporary ones.But Job teaches us that sometimes God must interrupt His normal policy in order to deliver us from trivializing Him as a business partner or loving His gifts more than we love Him as the giver. When God allows inexplicable suffering, when God gives us seemingly strong reasons to give up on Him, when He appears to treat us like an enemy, He is forcing us into a relationship with Him in which He is truly seen to be God and Lord—the only kind of relationship that will save us. The book of Job shows us that, much to our surprise, a great war is being fought in heaven over the saints during such trials. We learn that Satan is under God’s control. Spiritual warfare is real, and we may not know it is happening. We watch as Job struggles and criticizes God but cannot bring himself to give up on Him, and he is vindicated for his faith. We also watch as Job’s friends attempt to comfort him but only add to his pain.
We are sobered as we reflect on our ability to damage people God loves and approves of merely by what we say. Just like Job’s friends, we can sound very spiritual and give advice that is superficially plausible and theologically correct, only to malign deeply a servant of God and hurt them in the process.
A central lesson in Job is that the children of God may indeed suffer. And when they do, it is not a punishment for sin. Christ has borne the punishment for our sin, and there is no double jeopardy!
The suffering of the children of God is not the firm application of a principle of retributive justice. It is the free application of the principle of sovereign grace. The suffering of the righteous is not the fire of destruction but the fire that refines the gold of their goodness. For the righteous it is not punitive but curative. Suffering makes a righteous person sensitive to his remaining sinfulness and helps him hate it and renounce it (Job 36:10 cf Psalm 119:71). This is how John Piper challengingly puts it:
“Suffering is not dispensed willy-nilly among the people of God. It is apportioned to us as individually-designed, expert therapy by the loving hand of our great Physician. And its aim is that our faith might be refined, our holiness might be enlarged, our soul might be saved, and our God might be glorified.”1
We learn that God is a relational God, and the wisdom of God is not just fear and rules-based like Islam, or western intellectualism, but it is relational and personal. God is enough for us. Just Him and not what benefits we get. The only answer in Job-like suffering, the only thing that can comfort us in inexplicable loss, is not further explanation but a deeper vision of God.
Finally, we learn that these experiences are blessedly temporary and that, having confirmed us in our relationship with him, God never fails to give us exactly what we need.
1Compare 1 peter 1:6,7; Hebrews 12:10,11; 2 Corinthians 1:8,9 and James 1:2-4 for a New Testament take on this.
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