Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Avoid Pat Answers

This past Sunday, Ray and I went to Trinity Baptist Church in the morning. Ray has the notes from that message on his blog. The communion service was really good, and we had a dear brother minister to us in prayer after the service. We were once again overwhelmed with the love of God in providing the sacrifice to take the punishment for us.

Later we went with Renee to the 6:00 service at the Redeemer Presbyterian Church at Hunter College on 68th street. They were just starting a series of messages on the book of Job. It was the best message I've ever heard on the suffering of Job. I took notes as fast and furiously as I could, but I still not get everything. The following is most of what I managed to get down on paper.

Avoid pat answers. Embrace living in spite of suffering. There are two basic responses to suffering. Either frantic moralist (FM)or stoic cynicist (SC). FM sees suffering as a punishment from God, therefore if you live right, your life will go right. SC - God is not competent. Nobody is in charge or if there, He is out to lunch. If there is a God, he doesn't care.
Both of these approaches are spiritual dead ends.

Does Job fear God for nothing? If you believe in a personal God, it is inconsistent not to believe in a devil. There is another example in the Bible of dialogue between God and Satan. Jesus said to Peter (Luke 22) "Satan demanded to have you."

On the one hand God is not the author of suffering, not directly. God did not make disease and death. These are the forces that were unleashed when Adam and Eve sinned. God hated evil or suffering. Yet God is absolutely in control. Satan and God are not equals in this fight. God permits it, but he limits it. God overrules.

What was Satan's intent or purpose? - to expose Job as a fraud. God only allows enough suffering to defeat Satan's intent.

SC says life is a crap shoot. I'm in control.
FM says I will push the buttons. If I do this or that then God won't punish me. God will be happy with me. This person also says, I'm in control.

Bible says suffering is a mystery: does not give us a pat answer. But I will continue to serve God even though I don't understand suffering. Most of the time we never find a reason. Maybe 1% of the time we might see a reason. But it is not enough to just resign ourselves to suffering. It's important not to know.

Job loved God. Satan says "no - he just loves God for the things God gave him. " Satan is cynical. We need to love God for who he is, not just for what he gives. If you are godly and obedient and get nothing out of it, that's how you know that you really love God. Most people say, "If we could just see why, I could handle it." We should embrace that we don't need to know.

"I came naked from my mother's womb, and I will be stripped of everything when I die. The Lord gave me everything I had, and the Lord has taken it all away. Praise the name of the Lord." Job 1:21 We have something Job didn't have. We have Jesus. Jesus was absolutely innocent and he was abandoned by God. God said to him, if you will obey me you will go to hell. He served God for nothing. He got nothing out of it. He did it to die for us - to take punishment for us. Satan said to Adam and Eve, God doesn't love you. We need to know that God loves us - so that when we suffer, that we'll become like him. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

I hope I got enough of the notes, so that it conveys the message. If you have any questions or comments feel free to respond in an email.

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