When life “hit’s the fan”, the Church regularly turns us to the Book of Job to supposedly help comfort us, however, it seems to me that there’s a mismatch of messages. Are we really supposed to be comforted by the Book of Job or are we being “left in the lurch” for the sake of entertainment?
When my twelve day old sister died when I was about eleven years old I remember my Grandmother talking about Job. Of course I didn’t have a clue then. But recently I heard a sermon about Job and about suffering that started off by the Pastor saying if anyone thought they had a handle on understanding suffering they were deluded and if they tried to convince anyone of the same, they were trying to delude the other person too.
Well, personally, having been made bankrupt, my four year old daughter died in a bicycle accident, a quadruple bypass and then a messy divorce, I can say I’ve had some experience of suffering.
However, I believe that whilst we’re on this earth, we are in training for something far greater that will all become clear in eternity. I also believe that our flesh and bones are inconsequential and that our purpose is to learn to become more like Jesus in readiness for passing over to the “other side”.
Adam, Eve and the Fruit
A quick snapshot of my belief; I believe that Adam handed over his power and authority of the earth to satan, Jesus took it back again and gave it back to Christians. I believe that satan is allowed to retain dominion over the earth, but, as born again Christians, we have the power and authority to defeat him and keep him at bay, hence our status of “being in training”. We are to show our mettle to ourselves in the face of adversity, which is where our faith comes in.
So, according to this sermon, I am deluded! Fortunately, whilst I acknowledge that death and life are in the power of the tongue, I also know that I can rebuke anything said over me.
We are told to be like the Men of Berea (Acts 17:10) and test everything. I struggled being told that I am deluded when it seems quite clear to me and makes perfect sense that the Book of Job, whether a true story or simply fiction illustrates that satan is allowed to continue to “worry us like sheep” and has been allowed to remain in place as part of the overall training process.
The Catchy Tune
The sermon on Job concluded by the Pastor saying that it's not God who inflicted all this pain and grief on Job but satan. However, the service segued in to singing the Matt Redmond's "Blessed be the name of the Lord" and the reprise is sung "You give and take away" which comes directly word-for-word from Job 1:21 where Job is talking to God (not satan).
Now, here’s the thing… Job might have said “The Lord give’s and takes away”, but it had just been explained us that Job was wrong at the beginning of the Book to have blamed God and was put in his place in no uncertain terms by God by the end of the book and by chapter 42 Job is humbled!
In addition, God restores Jobs fortunes twofold after Job was instructed to pray for his friends. This appears to shows that Job must not harbour any unforgiveness? It also illustrates how we should behave and is indicative of an “instruction book”, hence my assertion that we are being trained.
Whether the Book of Job was true or fiction, God knew that the Bible, in its entirety, would exist as a training manual and life guide for us.
Ask for anything in my name
In John 15-16 we're told to ask God for anything in Jesus’ name and he will give it. Also, Jesus said on the Sermon on the Mount "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:8, Luke 11:11).
If we know or are taught that satan is the protagonist, why are we singing that God gives and takes away when Scripture tells us the opposite. Restrictions may occur that stops us from receiving “stuff” for our own good or perhaps another reason, however God wouldn’t kill all our family and make us lose our possessions, i.e. he wouldn’t give us a kicking to teach us a lesson.
It makes me feel uneasy combining M Redman’s song with Job as I believe that the training manual is so uplifting yet saying no one can understand suffering and if they do they’re deluded and reinforcing the point that God ‘gives and takes away’ seems to me to do more damage than good in the same way as saying Jesus was poor. I can’t see how this can benefit the Church?
Unbelief Affecting Others
In the Bible it tells us that Jesus couldn’t perform many miracles in Capernaum because of their unbelief (Mark 6:6). I can’t help thinking that, for me at least, when I go to Church, I’m looking for answers that will help build me up, give me direction as to where I can look or what I can do to progress my life and my faith. We’re told that we’ll do greater things than Jesus (John 14:12), greater meaning more. But if these abilities are based upon collective belief of the Body of The Church, then we’re not going to get very far.
It’s a bit clichéd mentioning Scriptures like”Iron sharpens iron” or Death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:22) or even Speaking things in to being that don’t already exist (Romans 4:19) especially as no one would want to quote Scripture out of context but unless more people read and desire to understand the Bible we will always be subject to the influences and instruction of others without knowing the real truth.
If people are leaving a church service the same as they came in, it can’t do them any good by sermons that compound a corporate belief message that renders them ineffective.
It also makes me think why anyone would want to find out more or search the Scriptures if they think it’s going to tell them more of the same thing, i.e. that God is a mystery, you can never work it out and therefore you might as well stay where you are! Then Matthew 7:21 kicks in, which say “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven...” Basically it becomes a “cop-out”, no effort in and no effort out and we’re all lost.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s feels like they’ve got electricity coursing through their veins in Church or when reading the Bible, but it can be a bit off-putting when others are not as enthusiastic “so-to-speak” and especially if they’re being told that someone like me is deluded
I hope you can see why I would struggle with these aspects of certain sermons especially as I’m “Ra-Ra, let’s go for it” kind of person! I see Christianity as an amazing adventure that keeps going on and on and yielding so much to those who seek it. I want to help people understand faith in Jesus and to experience this full life without being confused by the subtlety of a message simply because it seems to flow from sermon to song.