STUDY TWELVE: WHAT DOES THE BOOK OF JOB TEACH US?

© Rosemary Bardsley 2020

We have seen how God, through Job’s suffering, brought Job to a deeper and more powerful understanding of his sovereign control over the universe, and, by doing so, expanded Job’s faith.

But what are we, the readers, supposed to learn from the book of Job, regardless of whether or not we are personally suffering at the moment?

 

A. THERE IS AN ENEMY

Although Job and the friends and Elihu were never given this information, we, the readers, have been told that there is an enemy, and that this enemy roams around the earth. He is intent on attacking and accusing everyone who belongs to God. His hatred of God is so intense that he hates and seeks to destroy whatever and whoever God treasures. How we live as God’s children is observed by this enemy. He hates it when our lives glorify God. He wishes to discredit both us and God who has saved and justified us.

We have seen also how easy it is for humans to place themselves on the enemy’s side by their wrong perceptions and destructive words. We are cautioned not to unwittingly aid and abet his purposes.

B. SUFFERING AND TRUE FAITH EXIST TOGETHER

As we saw in Study 2, Job was a man of true faith and true faithfulness. He is commended as a man of faith in the Prologue once by the narrator and twice by God himself; he is again applauded by God in the Epilogue. Yet he suffered – long and hard and horribly, in every area of his existence. What we have learned of this man and his faith and his well-meaning but mistaken friends forbids us to accept the mentality that says that the presence of suffering indicates the absence of faith or the lack of right or sufficient faith. It also forbids us to conclude that we suffer because we have harboured doubts or negativity.

Three errors are behind these false perceptions:

[1] The error that physical healing is in the atonement. This is commonly taught in some churches today.

For example, Kenneth Copeland wrote: ‘God put our sin, sickness, disease, sorrow, grief and poverty on Jesus at Calvary. For Him to put any of this on us now would be a miscarriage of justice. Jesus was made a curse for us so that we can receive the blessing of Abraham.’ (The Troublemaker, p6).

Benny Hinn says: ‘The Bible declares that the work was done 2,000 years ago. God is not going to heal you now - He healed you 2,000 years ago. All you have to do today is receive your healing by faith.’ (Rise and be Healed, p44).

This kind of understanding usually takes Isaiah 53:5 as its foundation, failing to consider the parallelism of Hebrew poetry, in which parallel thoughts are placed one after the other. It is quite clear in this verse that the first three thoughts are speaking of spiritual salvation, of Christ dying for our sins as our substitute. The next thought, that ‘and by his wounds we are healed’ is the fourth of this quartet of parallels: so it also speaks of spiritual healing. To interpret it physically is to wrench and twist the meaning of the passage.

[2] That health (and wealth) are our right as believers in Jesus Christ and recipients of the blessings of Abraham.

Kenneth Copeland states: ‘The first step to spiritual maturity is to realize your position before God. You are a child of God and a joint-heir with Jesus. Consequently, you are entitled to all the rights and privileges in the kingdom of God, and one of these rights is health and healing. You will never fully realize or understand healing until you know beyond any doubt that .... God wants you healed....’ (Healed ...to Be or Not to Be, p31,32).

This fails to understand that the blessing of Abraham is that he believed God and God credited that faith to him as righteousness. It is this blessing of imputed righteousness which people of true faith inherit with Abraham. This is made quite clear in Romans 4, Galatians 3 and Hebrews 11.

Resulting from this concept of health and wealth as the believer’s right is a demanding attitude in the presence of God.

[3] That faith (or ‘positive confession’) has power in itself. Because symptoms of sickness are seen to be the Devil’s attempt to make us believe we are sick when we are really well, ‘faith’ teachers tell us to refuse to believe in their reality. Here we are told of the importance of right thinking (positive confession) as opposed to wrong thinking (negative confession).

Hagin: ‘It makes a great deal of difference what one thinks. I believe that is why many people are sick .... The reason they are not getting healed is that they are thinking wrong .... They simply kept thinking, believing, and talking wrong. ... The thing that makes a believer a success is right thinking, right believing, and right confession’ (Right and Wrong Thinking, 19,24).

It is taught that to admit to sickness opens the door to Satan:

Copeland: ‘When you say, “Every time the flu comes to town, I get it,” you are not licensing the angels of God; you are licensing Satan and his agency. Then your actions support your words and give him continuous access to your affairs’ (Walking in the Realm of the Miraculous, 37).

In contrast, we are told of the ‘power (or force) of faith’ (name it and claim it; blab it and grab it).

Marilyn Hickey: ‘Say to your body, “You’re whole, body! ...” and once you have spoken and believe that you have received, and don’t go back on it. Speak to your wife, speak to your husband, speak to your circumstances; and speak faith to them to create in them and God will create what you are speaking’ (Claim Your Miracles, Tape 186, side 2).

So strongly do some believe that no believer should ever be sick, that they even deny they are sick.

These teachers are so convinced of the power of ‘negative confession’ that they refer to Job as one of the greatest faith failures of all time, who brought calamity upon himself by his negativity.

As the erroneous opinions of Job’s three friends added to his suffering, so too does this type of teaching today. Many Christians diagnosed with terminal illness have been told ‘If you had enough faith you would be healed.’ If they accept this teaching, and the outcome is that they are not healed, they are devastated. They can only conclude that the reason is a failure in them. Guilt and self-negation are added to their misery and their burden. And just as the Gospel does not allow us to credit our sickness to our lack of faith, nor does it allow us to credit any other kind of calamity or misfortune to our lack of faith.

Faith and suffering exist together. Faith is not a guarantee against suffering. Suffering is not evidence of lack of faith. See studies 5 and 7 in Suffering Revisited.

 

C. SUFFERING AND RIGHTEOUSNESS EXIST TOGETHER

The book of Job also forbids us to think that our personal suffering is directly related to our personal deliberate, unconfessed, or hidden, sin. Yet our legalistic mentality automatically looks for a ‘why’ for our suffering in the way we live, just as Job’s friends did. We think that we must have some unconfessed or hidden sin; we think that perhaps there is some area of our life which we are ‘holding back’ from God, or that perhaps we are not ‘fully committed’ or ‘totally dedicated’, that there is something in us that is hindering God’s perfect (that is, free from sickness or poverty) plan for us. The Word of Faith teachers zero in on this, torturing sincere, but misinformed believers, promoting guilt, self-condemnation, introspection and the like. On the basis of this theology of suffering, sincere, godly believers have agonized for years pleading with God to show them what hidden sin is causing their chronic illness.

But, when we search through the Scriptures we find that Job was not the only believer to suffer.

Check these verses. What do they say about believers suffering?
2Corinthians 1:3 – 11

2Corinthians 11:16 – 23

2Corinthians 12:7 – 10

2Timothy 5:23

Philippians 2:25 – 30

1Peter 1:7

1Peter 2:19

1Peter 4:12 – 19

From some of the above references we see that true believers suffered poverty. So also did Jesus (Matthew 8:20). Jesus also said that ‘a student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master’ (Matthew 10:24), indicating that we should expect the same kind of suffering and rejection as he did.

 

D. TRUE FAITH ENDURES, NO MATTER WHAT

This is one of the more important lessons we can take from the book of Job. There is so much uncertainty today about the endurance and permanence of faith, and about assurance of salvation. But here in the book of Job this is a dominant focus. This is what Satan deemed impossible. As he saw it, not even Job’s faith would prove genuine if enough pressure was applied. Even Job, Satan confidently stated, would give up, give in and curse God.

But Job didn’t. And God had absolute confidence that he would not. He has the same confidence about us also, who believe in Jesus Christ. Because faith, true faith, is his gift. It is not a human thing. It is part of the salvation that God freely gives to us in and through his Son.

In addition, true faith, God’s gift to us, endures because God makes sure that it does.

Look at these verses. What do they say about God’s faithfulness towards those he has saved?
John 10:28, 29

Romans 8:28 – 30

Philippians 1:6

2Timotny 1:12

1Peter 1:3 – 5

 

E. SUFFERING DOES NOT DENY GOD’S ACCEPTANCE OF US, NOR HIS LOVE

It is obvious from Job 1 and 2 that Job had God’s love and acceptance at the time when the suffering occurred. The suffering did not negate or alter that. It is only our crooked legalistic mindset that makes us think that our suffering indicates the lessening or removal of God’s love and acceptance.

Read Romans 8:28-39. How does Paul affirm God’s constant love for us in the midst of suffering?

 

 

 

 

F. WHEN WE SUFFER THE GREATEST PAIN IS THE SEEMING SILENCE OF GOD

This is agonizingly obvious in Job’s experience and in the experiences of David.

Read these verses. To what extent do you feel the same when overwhelmed with suffering?
Job 13:13 – 28

Job 16:7 – 21

Job 19:7 – 12, 21 – 2 7

Psalm 4:1

Psalm 10:1

Psalm 13:1 – 4

Psalm 22:1 – 21

Psalm 28:1 – 3

Psalm 42:1 – 11

 

G. THROUGH SUFFERING GOD LEADS US INTO A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF HIS GREATNESS AND HIS GLORY AND THUS TO GREATER, DEEPER FAITH

This was what Job gained through his suffering. Unlike the reader, he was never told the reason for his suffering. All he was given was a greater knowledge of God: his ‘hands-on’ involvement in both the macro and micro aspects of the universe, his authority, power and glory, and with that overwhelming knowledge of God Job needed no answers. It was sufficient that God is who he is, and is in charge – a God of infinite power and infinite care. In the hands of such a God we can leave both the questions and the answers in his hands.

And, like Job, find comfort. And, like Job, find rest. This quietness, this trust, is God’s desire for his children, even in the midst of suffering. May we, like Job find -

‘… in quietness and trust is your strength…’ (Isaiah 30:15).