Answer from a Suffering Servant

Steve Viars April 29, 2006 Job 1:

- Last summer, news reports began speaking about the possibility of a large hurricane heading for our southern coast...
- the computer models said that it could be a category 3, 4 or possibly even cat 5 storm and that it could hit near the city of New Orleans...
- of course that wasn’t anything new...people who live in that part of the country go through that all the time and some of the residents see such warnings as a good reason to throw another party...
- the standard evacuation warnings were issued, but then the storm picked up intensity...
- eventually a mandatory evacuation was ordered...but for many people it was just too late...
- then everybody’s worst fears were realized when several of the levies around New Orleans were breached and the water started pouring in...
- the loss of property and businesses was staggering...but more importantly was the danger to human life...
- some of the pictures coming out of the city were like something out of a third world country...
- and of course that was just one city...there were other cities and towns up and down the coastline affected as well...

- not long afterward, I was traveling somewhere and happened to catch CNN in my hotel room while I was getting ready in the morning and the headline at the bottom of the screen caught my attention...the question read – Is God Mad at Us? 
- yes, that’s where I got the idea for this series...I should probably pay some sort of fee to CNN [I’ll pray about that....]

- but that morning, CNN was interviewing 2 pastors...
1.  One was an African American gentleman who had pastored in the heart of New Orleans for many years...
- his position was that God had finally judged New Orleans for its wickedness...
- he talked about the many bars and other seedy established that had been washed off God’s earth by the hurricanes and floods and there was no question that the hand of God was behind it all...
- I found it interesting that he didn’t mention how many churches were also destroyed in the same event...or what’s God’s purpose was in all of that...
- but his position was...God is mad...the southern coastal states got what they deserve...there almost seemed to be a tinge of gladness about it...

2. The other man was a pastor from CA...and he took the exact opposite position...He said on national TV that God had nothing to do with those events...hurricanes and floods are evil...God has nothing to do with evil...
- so call it fate, luck, poor government planning, but don’t blame that on God...

- I found that fascinating for two reasons...one, that CNN was blazing the question across their screen, Is God Mad at Us seemed so surreal...
- but also, that when you get two pastors together on that question, you’re going to get...two answers that could not be any more opposite...
- you wish, if the world finally got around to talking about God, that people who proclaim to follow Him could come up with some sort of unified response...
- but that CNN report was not the only attempt to link God and the hurricanes...

- An Associated Press story earlier this year reported this:
Mayor Ray Nagin suggested Monday that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and other storms were a sign that “God is mad at America” and at black communities too, for tearing themselves apart with violence and political infighting.
“Surely God is mad at America.  He sent us hurricane after hurricane, and it’s destroyed and put stress on this country,”...

- so who’s right...we’ve got 2 entirely different ways to view calamity...
1. God is mad at you. 
- and the worse the calamity, the madder He is...
2. God has nothing to do with this.
- He’s a God of love, and grace, and mercy, and when bad things happen, He’s as surprised about it as anybody else.

- now, you might say, PV, there’s actually more than 2 positions...you’d be right about that...
- there are plenty of people who would say...the existence of events like this proves there is no God at all...it’s not a matter of Him being mad...or His not being mad...it’s a matter of Him not being real...
- in his excellent book...Where is God When Things God Wrong?... - John Blanchard said:
“The question goes back thousands of years and the argument behind it can be summarized like this:
1.  Evil and suffering exist in the world.
2.  If God were all-powerful, he could prevent evil and suffering.
3.  If He were all-loving, he would want to prevent these.
4.  If there were an all-powerful, all loving God, there would be no suffering in the world.
5. God is therefore powerless, loveless, or non-existent.”
(John Blanchard, Where is God When Things God Wrong?, p. 5)

- [show -- Is God Mad at Us header]
- now, I think we need to point out that this is much more than a philosophical discussion...
- people in our church and community find ourselves in situations where we think about this question on a fairly frequent basis.
1. Weather emergencies...On the Friday night of the Passion Play two weeks ago, we have a full house of guests from the community down at Long Center...towards the end of the production...the tornado sirens start going off...
- there was actually discussion with the leaders at Long Center about shutting down the production...
- and you say...we’re trying to do a good thing here...and we’re facing the possibility of tornados...
- of course the tornados went somewhere...well, Larry/Lisa Bosma were with a group of folks praying about the Passion Play in a side room at the Long Center...
- they came home to find out that the tornado actually touched down at their farm and tore the roof off one of their farm buildings...
- two of their children were inside the house at the time [thankfully, they had gone down in the basement like they were supposed to...]
- on the other side of SR 25 is the property that we were just given last fall...100 acres of beautiful property...we hope to begin building a seminary housing building there later this year...
- much of that land is wooded...but after that same storm...it’s a little less wooded...
- and there is a home on that property that Danny Little is living in until we get the property to the place that we can move missionaries there...
- Danny was home at the time...we could have lost Danny, or Greg and Jenny Bosma...
- this question is not just philosophical...it’s real...people right here in this room, all of us, have reason to wonder...

2) Then there are abusive authorities...
- we have people in our church who are in very difficult job situations...or other relationships where they are routinely treated in an uncivil fashion...
- well, couldn’t God have prevented that?...is He mad at those people?...
- or was He unable to prevent that from happening?

3) What about health?...
- we have some people whom we dearly love in this congregation who are going through significant trials with their health...
- others have family members facing such difficulties...

4) What about wayward children...
- where parents weep over decisions their children have made...

- my point is, this is anything but a cold, sterile question...and it deserves anything but a cold, sterile response...
- the good news is...God’s Word really has answers to all of this...
- not pious religiosity...but compelling answers that bring meaning and direction and hope...
- that is why the apostle Paul could say...... 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 - Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.  For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,

- with that in mind, I’d like to invite you to turn to the book of Job this morning....page 369 of the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you, and page 637 of our Chinese English Bibles...
- this spring we’re doing a series entitled Is God Mad at Us?...
- we’re looking for answers to the so-called problem of evil...
- last week, we sought Answers from a Fallen Tower...
- in Jesus’ day, a tower fell and killed 18 people...
- and Jesus Himself actually raised the question...do you think those 18 men were “worse culprits than all the other men in Jerusalem?”...
- and then the answer He gave was fascinating...No, but unless you repent, you will likewise perish...
- in other words, you can’t know why God allows something to happen in another person’s life...
- there are hundreds of possible reasons, and make no mistake about it...His wrath is one of those answers...
- but we can never know why God allows something to happen in other person’s life...
- now, to make things even more challenging... Remember - God is so wise, and so powerful, that He can accomplish multiple purposes with multiple people with multiple spiritual conditions simultaneously.
- so Jesus’ point was, you can’t know why that happened to those 18 men, and the reason may have been different for each one of them...but don’t fail to learn the lessons from that event...
- be reminded about the brevity of life, you need to be sure that your relationship with the Lord...you need to be ready always to meet Him...
- that was the answer from a fallen tower...this morning we want to examine... - The Answer from a Suffering Servant.
- read Job 1-2:10

- now, if you were here last year, I actually spoke from the book of Job almost exactly one year ago...5/1/05
- when I was finished with that, I felt like we covered a lot of very important material...but there was so much that went unaddressed...I’ve been looking for an opportunity fro us to get back here...[so if you want to do more study about this, you might want to go to the Internet and print off last year’s message and put them together...this is a marvelous book of the Scripture...]
- with the time we have left, let’s talk about...3 Lessons from the Trials of Job.


I. Sometimes People who face Calamity are God’s Choicest Servants.


- this passage could not be clearer about...
A. Job’s character.
- Job 1:1 – ...blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. 
- verse 5 even reported that he was so concerned for his children and their families that after the feast days he would offer sacrifices for each of his family members just in case they might have sinned...
- chapter 2, verse 10 reports that...Job 2:10 - ...In all this Job did not sin with His lips.
- Job possessed that level of godly character...
- yet the calamity that fell upon him is hard to even imagine this morning...
- now, what is the...
B. Impact on our key question, “Is God Mad at Us”?
- God may be allowing calamity in your life that He is especially pleased with you.
- whose idea was it that Job receives these kinds of tests?...God’s...
- He is the one who said...Have you considered my servant...Job?...
- in other words, I have been preparing him...and he has been cultivating a godly heart and a godly life...
- look at that “trophy of my grace...”...look at that example of purity that can be developed in a person’s life and family...
- I am greatly pleased with this man, God says...have you considered him?...
- and I realize you might say....well, then, I want to stay off of that list...
- I want to stay off the Is God mad at Us list?...- and I want to stay off the Is God pleased with us list?...is there a mediocrity list?...is there a “fly under God’s radar list?...
- this matter of living to please God is challenging, isn’t it?...
- I was talking to my son Andrew a few nights ago...and I wanted him to go somewhere with me and he didn’t really want to go...
- so I said, son...are you the king...”no, God is...”- I said, did you die on the cross for our sins, “no Jesus did...”well, then, who should we try to please?...”Jesus...but dad, I just want to please myself right now.”
- so it is a challenge, but the more you are allowing God to transform you into His image, the greater the possibility that He might trust you with a real challenge...with a real trial...not to crush you...not to harm you...but to demonstrate His power and grace in an unusual way through you...
- Is God Mad at Us?...Calamity may demonstrate that He is especially pleased with you...

- we could think of all sorts of other biblical examples of that, couldn’t we?...
C. Examples in Scripture.
1. Joseph
- who was the godliest of all of Jacob’s sons?...hands down, it was Joseph...
- who had the greatest trials?...was God mad at him?...
- but, God was especially pleased with him...and God used Joseph’s life and character in ways He could have never used Joseph’s brothers...at least humanly speaking...they couldn’t/wouldn’t have handled the temptations well...in fact, the way they treated their own brother proved that...
2. David.
- here’s Saul chasing David all over the countryside...trying to kill him on multiple occasions...
- on the other hand, David having opportunities to take Saul’s life and he doesn’t take them...
- and what is David’s reward for behaving in such a godly fashion...more grief from Saul...
- but the fact that David allowed God to work in his hearth in that way positioned him to write some marvelous Psalms that have been a blessing to God’s people for generations...
- have you ever been blessed by a Psalm written by Saul?...why, because he didn’t have the character to write one...
- David did...he wrote a lot of them, through character developed in the crucible of adversity...
- it is not that God was mad at him...it was the exact opposite...think about...
3. Queen Esther
- she faced the possibility of death for her people...
- was God mad at her?...
4. Jesus
- could there be any greater calamity than the cross?
- This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased...
5. Paul.
- 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 - ...in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—

- see, do you believe that God was mad at the apostle Paul?...the man He used to write a significant percentage of the NT?...

- and here’s what this means...if during a time of calamity...if we have done what we studied last week...if we have considered the need for repentance [repent, or you will likewise perish]...and we have considered any way that this trial could be used by God to identify ways we need to change---if we have jumped that hurdle...then its time to rejoice that God has considered us worthy to suffer for His name...
- isn’t that what Peter and the other apostles did after they were beaten for proclaiming the message of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection?...[and I know I like talking about events from the book of Acts...]
6. Peter
Acts 5:41 - So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.
- that is the answer from a suffering servant.

- now, what else can we learn from Job’s story?...


II. Often there are Spiritual Realities at Work that God may Never Explain to You.


- in the Lord’s subsequent conversation with Job if you want to call it that, there were a lot of things that we know, that Job didn’t...that may have helped him...that God did not choose to tell him...
A. Satan’s place in the drama.
- again, as far as we know, God did not tell Job about that...
- or at least that was not part of the conversation recorded in the subsequent chapters...
- why is that?...perhaps because that is not to be the focus...
- for example, in a few weeks, Lord willing, we are going to study Paul’s thorn in the flesh...
- was satan involved in that?...yes, because the thorn is referred to as a “messenger of satan, given to buffet him”...
- but then Paul keeps right on moving...that’s not the focus...there’s not going to be some big power encounter...satan is never given center stage...because greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world...

- we also know from the book of Ephesians that... Ephesians 6:12 - For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
- then the passages immediately to a discussion of what?...how powerful satan is, or how we need to obsess about his involvement in calamity?...
- Paul moves directly to a discussion of the armor of God and the importance of knowing Christ and being prepared with the tools that He has given us to serve Him well...
- but the story of Job helps us to understand that this side of heaven, there may be all kinds of things that we don’t know...because we don’t need to know...
- I think if God threw back the curtains of His inner workings, and showed us all the levels and all the dynamics of what is occurring in our lives right now, and what is planned in the days ahead...we’d all faint...
- it would be way too much information...
B. Possible ministry to others.
- God may be allowing that calamity in your life...not so much because of what He is going to do in you...but what He is going to do through you...and though God sometimes in His grace allows to see that piece of the puzzle...many times this side of heaven you’ll never know...
- you and  loved one may be in the hospital...it is not a matter of God being mad at you...
- it may be a matter of a nurse that He is drawing to Himself...
- and He wants to use your testimony as another piece of the puzzle...
- and the gracious way you treat that nurse even though you are in pain...or even though you’re frustrated...or even though you have some legitimate concerns...
- but there is a peace and graciousness top the way you handle that calamity that draws that other person closer to coming to Christ...
- and maybe the person will talk to you...or maybe they will go back to the individual who has been witnessing to them and say...you know, I had a patient today that must believe like you do, and boy is that person different...boy, is that family different?...
- is God mad at you?...He may be using you in ways you never know...

- [if time allows...develop the possible “calamity” this afternoon of being at a restaurant that is understaffed...]...

- now, one more important lesson this morning...


III. Let Calamity Teach You about The Sovereignty of God.


- a key passage here is...
A. Key passage – Deuteronomy 8:3
Deuteronomy 8:3 - He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

- I selected this example on purpose because there were times when God was angry with the children of Israel...but in this case He wasn’t...
- this is talking about the calamity of their hunger...
- and please notice the key phrase here...”to teach you”...”to teach you”...

B. Often calamity is the greatest opportunity to learn more about the sovereignty of God.
- at some point in this series we have to do business with this doctrine...
- the book of Job is crystal clear...God was actively superintending what happened to God...He did not cause it...but He did allow it...
- nothing happened to Job that was outside God’s control...

- if you would like to do more reading about this, I would strongly encourage you to read one or more of these books:
- Where is God When Things Go Wrong? by John Blanchard
- Is God Really in Control? by Jerry Bridges
- [really a repackaging of Trusting God]
- How Long, O Lord? by D.A. Carson

- friends, there is great power in getting to the place of being able to say... Job 1:21 - and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”
- and you might say, but how could he say that about his children?...
- he didn’t say it as some kind of stoic...verse 20 says that he tore his robe and he shaved his head...he was mourning...
- but just like the NT says....we sorrow, but not as those who have no hope...

- he knew that his children knew God...and that they would be in heaven...in NT parlance, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord....
- which is why at the end of this book, God restores his material possessions twofold...everything except his children...because he didn’t lose his children...they just beat him to the place that he would someday be...

D. The value of this doctrine.
[Titus will have this read earlier in the service]

Lamentations 3:19-32 - Remember my affliction and roaming, The wormwood and the gall.  My soul still remembers And sinks within me.  This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.  Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.  “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”  The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him.  It is good that one should hope and wait quietly For the salvation of the LORD.  It is good for a man to bear The yoke in his youth.  Let him sit alone and keep silent, Because God has laid it on him;  Let him put his mouth in the dust— There may yet be hope.  Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes him, And be full of reproach.  For the Lord will not cast off forever.  Though He causes grief, Yet He will show compassion According to the multitude of His mercies.

- God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain).

- [develop – the gospel...]

- [apply – Are you responding to whatever calamity you might be facing in a way that God could use you later?...tell the story of Todd Beamer...]

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video