And for everyone, why do innocent people suffer and how can we comfort those (including ourselves) who suffer?
This is the second lesson in our through the Bible series on Genesis and Job and in it we work to answer these questions from the big picture of God’s Word.
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Week Two of Thu the Bible—
Genesis & Job, answers to the Big Questions of Life,
**What about people who have never heard of Jesus?
**Why do innocent people suffer?
**How can we help people who are suffering?
Teacher, Yvon Prehn
Where we are in week 2 of through the Bible
• You are still reading through Job and in the previous lesson we established the truth that there is life after death.
• In addition, Jesus himself said that the only way to this life was through Him, which brings us to
• Question #4 What about people who haven’t heard about Jesus?
• If He is the only way to eternal life, the answer to this question is critically important.
• It’s also one that worries many and causes others to doubt the fairness of God.
How the book of Job helps with an answer
• It is true that no one gets into heaven without acknowledging and trusting Jesus as Savior but as for those who we assume “haven’t heard”—
• How do we know what God has revealed to them?
• Job reminds us that Bible does not tell us the story of all humanity.
• Because our Bible is primarily focused on telling us a narrow part of the human story, primarily that of a chosen people, the Jewish people in the land of Israel, whose history leads to the birth of the Messiah, Jesus and then continues with the Church in the New Testament.
• The story of how God narrows his focus from all humanity to one group starts in Genesis, which we’ll talk about in another lesson, but for now…..
What’s important to understand about Job—he isn’t part of that story
• Job was not a part of the chosen people; he was not a Jew or part of Abraham’s line.
• Yet he offered correct sacrifices and worshipped the true God.
• He was called “blameless” by God; he lived his life to please God.
• Job spoke of God as his Redeemer; he believed in an afterlife; he believed in moral accountability in accord with the standards later revealed explicitly in scripture.
• God personally intervened in his life after his trials and restored him.
• Though Job’s friends made some incorrect accusations and conclusions, it is obvious all of them believed in Jehovah God also.
• But neither Job or his friends were Jews, nothing else of their story is told before or after this book.
That isn’t our only glimpse of God at work in unexpected places
• We see many little pictures in the Bible of God’s saving involvement in the lives of those who were not part of the “chosen people.”
• Jonah—was sent to preach to the Assyrians in Nineveh, one of the most-cruel pagan nations of the time. We know many in Nineveh, repented in response to one of the shortest sermons ever preached with one of the worst attitudes, where Jonah simply went around the city shouting, “40 days from now and Nineveh will be destroyed” (Jonah 3). Many responded and came to know God.
• Rahab—a woman of ill-repute who was part of a nation God said to destroy totally because of their idolatry. Yet she knew about God and His power, risked her life to hide the Jewish spies, and becomes an ancestor of Jesus.
• Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, who were enemies and oppressors of Israel. His household servant, a captured slave, persuaded him to go to Israel for healing, which he did and in the process acknowledged a trust in the true God.
In the New Testament & today
• We have no idea of what happened to the many thousands as the book of Acts says “from every nation under heaven” who heard the story of Jesus at Pentecost and then went home to share that message.
• We read the story of the Ethiopian eunuch, who the Apostle Phillip found reading the book of Isaiah and whose heart was open to the gospel and who responded by being baptized and then returned to Ethiopia.
• Today we hear many stories of Jesus appearing in dreams to Muslims whose faith prepares them for visions and stories from missionaries, who go to isolated people who somehow know the story of Jesus.
• I imagine there are many more stories that we won’t hear until we rejoice over them in heaven, but Job gives a glimpse and assurance that God is involved in much we cannot see.
In conclusion, the answer to the question
• What about people who haven’t heard about Jesus as the only way to eternal life?
• Most important—how do you know about those you have no contact with?
• Trust God for them
• Second, for those you know—tell them.
• Many ways, personally, through social media, invite to a group.
• Bible805 has pods and vids about what it means to become a Christian, check out The Story of the Bible is Good News, the good news of salvation in Jesus.
• Christianity Explored for a group experience is highly recommended.
The next questions follow the conclusion that everyone is included in God’s plans, though perhaps in ways we can’t see, and these questions are:
• Why do innocent people suffer?
• How can we help people who are suffering?
• Now we’ll look at how the book of Job helps answer these questions
Why do innocent people suffer?
• First, we need to see if Job fits the description of an innocent person suffering.
• In Chapter one of Job, God said Job was blameless. Looking at his life then tells us what God what God considers a blameless life to be.
• See chapters 23, 29, 31, for specifics on what made him blameless before God, but in summary, Job did these things:
• Treasured God’s words, helped the poor, counseled others, wept for those in need, sexually pure, just to the least, did not trust in money, did not rejoice over enemy’s misfortune, did not conceal his sin.
• In summary he put into practice Micah 6:8 in that he did justly, loved mercy, walked humbly with his God.
• God’s requirements don’t change—personal godliness and caring for the less fortunate are always important—these things define a blameless person.
• Job certainly fit into the category of an innocent suffering person as many do who suffer today.
If Job did what God wanted
• Why didn’t God continue to bless him? According to Job’s friends obviously Job quit obeying God and so he was punished, right?
• WHY WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND this because this idea that you do something and then God will automatically do something that is what we hear today—
• Often proof-texted (pulling a verse out of context to prove something is in the Bible) by verses in Job.
• But here is why this is a problem and why this teaching can be dangerous and incorrect.
• Bear with me, not only to better understand Job, but how this applies in your life.
First in the context of the book of Job
• We know in Job that what he was suffering was instigated by Satan. God has told us that, so we know that the reason for some suffering is because of spiritual warfare we don’t see.
• Yet we struggle to explain it in human terms and here we see the recorded arguments from Job’s friends, why are they in the Bible? What are we supposed to learn from them?
• Hang in there—this is a complicated explanation.
• To understand this, you need to read the whole book as you do any book because sometimes it isn’t until the end all the pieces fit together. This is especially true in a book like Job because Job is part of what is called Wisdom Literature.
• When reading Wisdom Literature, you must read all the book, the entire book, beginning to end, carefully to understand the argument and then the all-important conclusion at the end of the book.
Here is God’s conclusion at the end of the book
• At the end of the book of Job in Job 42:7 “After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.’”
• You must keep this in mind when you read the statements and arguments of Job’s friends. Their statements sound so good, so sensible.
• But God’s summary of their arguments is that that they were not true.
• YOU MUST read their comments with this in mind.
• This is so important because the arguments from Job’s friends are the same ones people use today when someone is suffering, but again remember, God said they are false.
• Here is an example of what sounds good but is very wrong….
A typical statement from Job’s friends
• 21 “Submit to God and be at peace with him;
in this way prosperity will come to you.
22 Accept instruction from his mouth
and lay up his words in your heart.
23 If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored:
If you remove wickedness far from your tent
. . . . . 27 You will pray to him, and he will hear you,
and you will fulfill your vows.
28 What you decide on will be done,
and light will shine on your ways. Job 22:21-30 New International Version (NIV)
• You may want to nod in agreement, until you remember that God said their words were NOT TRUE.
• What is wrong with them? Shouldn’t we submit to God, be at peace with Him, return to Him? Yes, of course we should—that isn’t the problem.
• The problem is that by doing what we are supposed to do, humans do not obligate God to respond in the way a human thinks God should.
This view of suffering and reward is an incorrect transactional view of humanity’s relationship to God
• Let’s examine it carefully, because without thinking, this is how many people believe God acts today and it is wrong and ultimately disappointing.
• Job’s friends believed Job sinned and he deserved to be punished. If he quit sinning everything would work out well.
• They believed evil is punished and good is rewarded by prosperity—
on a continuous basis in this life.
• “Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you. Accept instruction from his mouth and lay up his words in your heart. If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored” Job 22: 21-23
• God did not validate this belief then and he doesn’t today—this is prosperity gospel preaching—you do this, God will do that—NO!
• We do not obligate God to do anything for us because we obey Him. He is our Creator and God, and we owe him our obedience, regardless of what He does for us. But this is not a popular view then or now.
Much more is going on than we can see
• We are not guaranteed simple answers to the trials and troubles of this life.
• Most certainly the answer as to why things happen is NOT a baptized version of karma, not a transactional view of God, where we do certain things and God will respond in a certain way. God is not a genie under our control.
• If we are honest, we don’t like this. We scream it isn’t fair!
• WE WANT TO BE IN CONTROL.
• We want to control God by our actions; we want to think that if we do this, He is supposed to do that, but it simply doesn’t work out that way.
• It didn’t for Job, and it won’t for us.
• Ultimately, we have no idea why there is the suffering in a particular situation, though Job shows us there is much more going on.
Spiritual warfare is a reality
• Ephesians 6 tells us our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
• Somehow, we are part of it; somehow the troubles of this world are part of it and as part of it we know that in our trials….
• We are being watched by God and angels and demons.
• What we do in our lives and trials matters, perhaps far more than we can imagine.
• And in this life, we will probably know nothing about it.
• As you read in the end of Job, God never answered his questions, he never knew from an earthly view what happened in heaven that caused his trials.
• With this in mind, we go to our next question:
How can we help people who are suffering (ourselves included)?
• Share what I previously talked about. One of the best things you can give a suffering friend is the truth that the Christian life is not a transactional exercise of be good and get goodies; be bad and get smacked.
• Share instead an eternal perspective that God is in control and will work out all things one day. That may not always help in the moment, but it is a core truth.
• Don’t be a miserable counselor or one who condemns or judges –WE NEVER KNOW why or what God is doing.
• The person suffering may be greatly honored by God with this trial or even if they are going through a time of discipline, let God do it, don’t pile on, don’t shoot the wounded.
• Follow Job’s advice here. “To the one in despair, kindness should come from his friend even if he forsakes the fear of the Almighty. My brothers have been as treacherous as a seasonal stream. “Job 6:14,15, NET
• Be kind and pray for others for strength and wisdom and trust in God.
Remind them (and yourself) that just because God is in control, does not mean it will get better in this life
• Though ultimate healing and blessing are guaranteed—timing is not.
• We will be healed and blessed, maybe on this earth, maybe not.
• It did get better for Job and for Joseph.
• It didn’t get better for Jeremiah or the Apostle Paul or for the unnamed heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11.
• Or for Jesus.
• It didn’t get better for Moses from an earthly viewpoint. After 40 years of exile, after answering God’s call to lead Israel out of Egypt he spent 40 years babysitting a quarreling, unthankful, constantly complaining group of people, and then he does not get to go into the Promised Land because he loses his temper.
• I think God gave him the story of Job as a comfort in this.
Advice on what to do in the midst of trials
• Do not wait “until” anything (for the pain to go away, for things to get better, for more money, health, whatever) before you:
• Express THANKS—not “for” but “in” all circumstances—make it a discipline. Affirm you serve a good God
• Give up a sin—sometimes we aren’t aware of what’s wrong until trials come:
Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I obey your word. Ps. 119:67
• Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.. . . . Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. 1 Pet.4:1a-2,7MSG
• Sometimes it takes a smack on the head to get us to pay attention to what is truly important, and trials can do that.
Pray for wisdom on how to respond.
• Look at the context of this verse:
• James 1: 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
• We need wisdom in the midst of trials, so ask for it with these questions:
• Am I doing wrong?
• What do you want me to change?
• What have I missed in this situation, in making this decision, or taking this course of action?
• And sometimes, what are you protecting me from?
• From boyfriends to business opportunities—God always knows what is best. What might seem like a trial can be a blessing if we wait and ask.
Study the Bible—
• Get a correct view of how God works which you will ONLY learn from reading the entire Bible and learning it well—which you are in the process of doing
• Observe in the Bible how others lived in trying times, we’ll see great stories coming up in Joseph’s life, David’s, and many other Old Testament characters.
• Study the whole Bible so you don’t have false expectations, but true hope as you come to see God’s long-term plans for his people.
Two more suggestions
• ONE, Share what is going on—trials give opportunities and people will ask.
• 2 Cor 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
• Often, we learn the most from others who have suffered the most.
• TWO, Don’t give up when hard times come
• Don’t confirm Satan’s accusation that you only serve God when things are going well.
• Acknowledge that God is good, faithful, and in control even if it is difficult to see now.
• Shake your fist and scream at the heavens if you need to that you believe and trust God—maybe through tears or pain—but let the hosts of heaven know.
In closing, let’s review what we learned from Job in answering the Big Questions of Life
• How did we get here? God created us and all there is
• What messed things up? Humanity in turning away from God; believing Satan rather than God.
• Who is Satan and what power does he have? A created being under God’s control, but for now causing pain and suffering, constantly accusing believers.
• Is there life after death? YES! It is clearly taught from Job and Genesis to Revelation. Please see lesson “Life After Death” for more.
• What about people who have never heard of Jesus? We don’t know what they have heard, but we do know God is at work in many ways we know nothing about.
• Why do innocent people suffer? Many reasons we don’t understand, but we know all suffering is under God’s control and no suffering will last forever.
• How can we help people who are suffering? Be kind, be honest, encourage them to develop an eternal view.
Concluding thoughts, underscoring key teachings.
• It is incredibly important for us, as it was for Moses to understand these truths as we go through the Bible and life. I think Moses needed Job’s story before he could serve for 40+ years in the situation he did.
• We need them to live what is ahead of us. We live in a tremendously difficult time now and chances are challenging trials are ahead.
• GOD does not interact with us on a transactional basis of if we do this, he is guaranteed to do what we want when we want Him to.
• God will do as He chooses even if it involves temporary suffering– and temporary might mean the rest of your life. But remember in light of eternity what a tiny time that is.
• Spiritual warfare is a reality that is pervasive, unrelenting, and somehow involves us, though God is always in control.
• God’s will for us and what happens to us goes beyond this life.
• And His will and plans for us are good.
• We may not get a personal vision of God as Job did, but we see Him in his Word
And in His Word,He promises
• In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
• He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:4
• Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Ps.23:6
• Keep in mind the lessons of Job, the long view of the trials, and be assured that the end of it all, with joy complete, we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
That’s all for now
• For notes from this lesson, related resources, and helpful links go to www.bible805.com