Sovereignty,Suffering and The Work of Missions by Steve Saint – son of missionary martyr Nate Saint who died in Ecuador with Jim Elliott (Desiring God)

Steve Saint, whose father Nate Saint was killed in 1956 in the jungles of Ecuador along with Jim Elliott, preaches about suffering at the 2006 Desiring God conference. The movie The End of the Spear depicts the ministry of his father.

Nathanael „Nate” Saint (August 30, 1923 – January 8, 1956) was an evangelicalChristian missionary pilot to Ecuador who, along with four others, was killed while attempting to evangelize the Waodani people through efforts known as Operation Auca.

In September 1955, Nate was joined by his teammates, Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Peter Fleming, and Roger Youderian. Saint finally found a Huaorani (also known as Aucas) settlement while searching by air. In order to reach the tribe, Saint and the team lowered gifts to the Huaorani in a bucket tied to the plane. The Huaorani were widely feared by other Ecuadoreans, because they combined a desire to be left alone with a willingness to use force. They attacked and killed any intruders without provocation. Nevertheless, the tribe was excited on receiving the gifts, gave some gifts back. Finally, the missionaries decided to attempt to meet the people on the ground, and on January 3, 1956, they set up camp four miles from the Auca settlement, using the beach as a landing strip. Their initial contact with the Huaorani started out encouraging; however, on Sunday, January 8, 1956 the entire team was killed on the beach (known as „Palm Beach”) when armed Huaorani met, and speared them.

After the death of Saint’s father, the family moved to Quito where Saint attended school. It was during this time that his aunt, Rachel Saint, and Elisabeth Elliotsuccessfully made peaceful contact with the Waodani and were living with them in the jungle. At 10 years of age, Saint first went to live with the Waodani, staying with them during the summers. He learned about living in the jungle, and also developed relationships with many members of the tribe. In June 1965, „Babae”, as he was called by the tribe, was baptized in the Curaray River by Kimo and Dyuwi, two of his father’s killers who had since converted to Christianity.

Reclame

Randy Alcorn – Is heaven real? And, does God purposefully hurt us through trials?

A couple of short succint answers to two of the all time questions each of us grapple with:

On suffering:

In an interview with Julia Stager, Randy Alcorn addresses this question and explains how God doesn’t put hard things in our path for His own benefit, but for ours. For more on suffering read, epm.org/resources/2001/Apr/9/how-could-good-god-allow-evil-and-suffering/

On heaven-

D A Carson – Going Beyond Cliches: Christian Reflections on Suffering and Evil

d a carsonSee an in depth article below video, with link to the full article on the Gospel Coalition website:

Lecture – Dr D.A. Carson – given Saturday, April 27, 2013 at the Lanier Theological Library in Houston, TX. Topic:Going Beyond Cliches: Christian Reflections on Suffering and Evil.

Dr. D. A. Carson is a Research Professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. He came to Trinity from the faculty of Northwest Baptist Theological Seminary in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he served for two years as academic dean. He also taught at Northwest Baptist Theological College, Richmond College, and Central Baptist Seminary in Toronto.

Dr. Carson’s areas of expertise include biblical theology, the historical Jesus, postmodernism, pluralism, Greek grammar, Johannine theology, Pauline theology, and questions of suffering and evil.

He is a member of the Tyndale Fellowship for Biblical Research, the Society of Biblical Literature, the Evangelical Theological Society, the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies, and the Institute for Biblical Research. Dr. Carson was founding chair of the GRAMCORD Institute, a research and educational institution designed to develop and promote computer-related tools for research into the Bible, focusing especially on the original languages. He is also a founding council member of The Gospel Coalition.

Carson was born in Montreal, Quebec, but grew up in Drummondville, Quebec. He earned his B.S. (1967) in chemistry and mathematics from McGill University, his M.Div. from Central Baptist Seminary (Toronto), and his Ph.D. (1975) in the New Testament from the University of Cambridge. Carson married his wife Joy in 1975. They reside in Libertyville, Illinois, and have two children.

Carson is the author or coauthor of over 50 books, including the award-winning book The Gagging of God (2010) and An Introduction to the New Testament (2005). He is general editor of Telling the Truth: Evangelizing Postmodern’s (2002) and Worship by the Book (2002). His other books include, Exegetical Fallacies (1996), Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon (2005), and also The Intolerance of Tolerance (2012). He has served as a pastor and is an active guest lecturer in church and academic settings around the world.

Six Pillars to Support a Christian Worldview for Stability Through Suffering

  1. Insights from the beginning of the Bible’s storyline
  2. Insights from the end of the Bible’s storyline
  3. Insights from the place of innocent suffering
  4. Insights from the mystery of providence
  5. Insights from the centrality of the incarnation and the cross
  6. Insights from taking up our cross (insights from the persecuted global church)

VIDEO by fleetwd1 for more information http://www.laniertheologicallibrary.org/

Going Beyond Cliches:

Christian Reflections on Suffering and Evil

Here is a very helpful article that outlines Carson’s 6 pillars of a Christian view of suffering – http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs In the blog post, Matt Smethurst, of the Gospel Coalition lists the 6 pillars:

After differentiating „natural” evil (e.g., tornados), „malicious” evil (e.g., sexual assault), and „accidental” evil (e.g., a bridge collapse)—and observing that this isn’t a uniquely Christian challenge („No matter your worldview, you must face the reality of suffering and evil”)—Carson proceeds to reveal the six pillars.

  1. Insights from the beginning of the Bible’s storyline. Carson observes: „What Jesus seems to presuppose is that all the sufferings of the world—whether caused by malice [as in Luke 13:1-3] or by accident [as in Luke 13:4-5]—are not peculiar examples of judgment falling on the distinctively evil, but rather examples of the bare, stark fact that we are all under sentence of death.”
  2.  Insights from the end of the Bible’s storyline. The believer’s ultimate hope is that the created order—now so disordered by the effects of sin—will one day be set right (Rom. 8:18-25)
  3. Insights from the place of innocent suffering. „Job 42 is to the rest of Job what Revelation 21-22 is to the rest of Revelation,” Carson observes. „Not only is justice done, it’s also seen to be done.”
  4. Insights from the mystery of providence. Here Carson sketches a brief defense of compatibilism in which he demonstrates two scriptural tensions: (1) God is absolutely sovereign, but his sovereignty never functions to mitigate human responsibility, and (2) men and women are morally responsible creatures, but their moral responsibility never makes God absolutely contingent.
  5. Insights from the centrality of the incarnation and the cross. God was not blindsided by Calvary (Acts 2:234:27-28).
  6. Insights from taking up our cross (learning from the persecuted global church). Though we often think of suffering primarily in terms of „cancer or old age or poverty or war,” Carson notes, the New Testament texts that most commonly speak of suffering have to do with Christian suffering—”and they are remarkable” (see, for example, Acts 5:40-42;Rom. 8:17Phil. 1:293:101 Pet. 2:20-23). As he observes, „There have been more Christian conversions since 1800 than in the previous 1,800 years combined, and there have been more Christain martyrs since 1800 than in the previous 1,800 years combined. And to this you have been called [1 Pet. 2:21].”A robust theology of suffering is necessary but not sufficient, Carson insists, for at least two additional attitudes characterize mature Christians: (1) they admit their guilt before God and cry to him for renewal and revival (see, for example, Neh. 8-9), and (2) they are quick to talk about the sheer goodness of God.

How Could A Good God Allow Suffering?

This video is from the Gospel Coalition LA Regional Conference on November 6, 2010. D. A. Carson (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has written or edited more than forty-five books, including An Introduction to the New Testament, The Gagging of God, and The Gospel according to John. VIDEO by WA BibleDepartment

John Piper – The Glory of God in the Midst of Affliction at The Legacy Conference 2013

piper 2

John Piper, author and former pastor of Bethleham Baptist Church in Minneapolis, preaching the Friday evening general session at The Legacy Conference (2013) on 2 Corinthians 4:1-6: The Glory of God in the Midst of Affliction.

See also Matt Chandler at the Legacy Conference –  Matt Chandler – Grace through the eyes of the Father (Luke 15)

piper

VIDEO by legacychannel

Give Hope: If we could see inside other people’s hearts (Pass this along folks)

Psalm 34:18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted

and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

If you could stand in someone else’s shoes, hear what they hear,

see what they see, feel what they feel.

WOULD YOU TREAT THEM DIFFERENTLY?

Be like JESUS !!!

Ephesians 2:10 (NEW TESTAMENT)

For we are God’s handiwork,created in Christ Jesus to do good works,

which God prepared in advance for us to do.

VIDEO by BestFunVideos1 Photo credit jesuschristblog.blog.com

Kirk Cameron – I’m a recovering atheist. (video) Plus trailer for the movie ‘Unstoppable’

Facebook and Youtube both blocked Kirk Cameron’s posts promoting his new movie coming out in September in theaters. This led to a campaign by many to share this picture below. Well, lo and behold, both Facebook and Youtube unblocked Kirk’s posts and called it a technical glitch.

Here’s Kirk’s plea to his Facebook followers after Facebook blocked his posts:

Calling all friends of Faith, Family, and Freedom! Facebook has officially „blocked” me and you (and everyone else) from posting any link to my new movie at UnstoppableTheMovieDOTcom, labeling the content as „abusive”, „unsafe”, and „spammy”! I can’t even write the real link here, or Facebook would block this post too!! Try to post it yourself and see! We have been officially shut down by Facebook and unable to get any response from them. This is my most personal film about faith, hope, and love, and about why God allows bad things to happen to good people. What is „abusive” or „unsafe” about that?! Please help us encourage Facebook to unblock our website soon by sharing this post with your friends so more people can see this transparent, faith-building project.

Also, in response, Kirk made this  new short & very powerful video making a very astute argument.

People have been asking me to respond to the atheist and activist groups that demand that my videos be removed from Facebook and YouTube. Major media outlets have also been asking me to give my side of the story about why there has been so much hate toward my new project, Unstoppable. I wanted all my Facebook friends and family to hear my response first. Enjoy this video, and please share.

FROM VIDEO:

Not many people know this, but I am a recovering atheist. I wanna share a secret with you. There are two things that you must cling to by faith, to be a good atheist: (1) There is no god and (2) I hate him!

Have you ever noticed how many people are so angry  at someone they say is not even there?

I mean, why do people hate God anyway? Why do they wanna shut you up from talking about God and your faith in public? Why do they wanna take down your videos from Facebook and Youtube?

Well, I’d like to suggest 2 reasons: (1) They hate His moral standard and (2) They hate the way He is transforming the world, even in the midst of tragedy and suffering.

Unstoppable : The Movie Trailer

Why does God let bad things happen to people? If God is good and He’s the God of love, and He is powerful enough to stop evil, and pain and suffering, why doesn’t He? That is the question that wrecks people’s faith. What do you do when the unexpected tragedy hits and your whole world comes crashing down?

I went on a journey to examine my faith, to be honest and face my questions, my doubts. This is the most personal project I have ever made…

Kirk Cameron returns to movie theaters September 24 with the follow-up to his record-breaking, one-night theatrical event, Monumental. Get tickets NOW!http://www.fathomevents.com/#!unstopp…

In UNSTOPPABLE, a brand-new documentary, Kirk takes you on a personal and inspiring journey to better understand the biggest doubt-raiser in faith: Where is God in the midst of tragedy and suffering?

For more information visit:
http://unstoppablethemovie.com

 

Dr. Ravi Zacharias – Suffering and Absolutes (Interview)

Ravi

From 2010, in Toronto, Canada. Zacharias talks about his life, postmodernism, atheism and how to stay connected to God when going through painful times. VIDEO by 100huntley

Part 1 (10 min)

Part 2 (9 min)

D. A. Carson – Job: Mystery and Faith (5) Job’s Happy Ending

I am indebted to Adrian for pointing me to this treaty on Job. Any dedicated believer, who has suffered deeply, or has seen a loved one suffer is fascinated with the mechanics of Job’s dialogue with God in the midst of his own deep suffering and the wisdom, peace, and understanding that can be derived from it. You can read this article in it’s entirety, in pdf form here (18 pages) –

http://s3.amazonaws.com/tgc-documents/carson/2000_Job_mystery_and_faith.pdf

d a carsonD. A. Carson is Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He is the author of numerous commentar- ies and monographs, and is one of this country’s foremost New Testament scholars. Among his books are Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility (John Knox Press, 1981; reprint, Baker, 1994) and How Long, O Lord?: Per- spectives on Suffering and Evil (Baker, 1990).

The topic is divided into
  1. READ Job chapters 1 – 3 Job’s Sufferings and Initial Reaction here
  2. READ Job chapters 4 – 31  Job’s Plaintive Outrage and His Miserable Comforters 
  3. READ Job chapter 32 – 37 Job and Elihu
  4. READ Job chapter 38 – 42:6 Job and God 
  5. READ Job chapter 42:7-16 Job’s Happy Ending (article below)

Here are some excerpts from the last section:

photo www.bibleartists.wordpress.com Job’s Despair by Blake

Job chapter 42:7-16 Job’s Happy Ending

These verses may be divided into two parts. The first, which we have already glanced at, reports God’s wrath with Eliphaz and his two friends for not speak- ing of God what was right, as Job did (42:7-8). They are required to offer sacrifice to God, and Job, whom they have despised and abused, must pray for them, for God will accept his prayers for them (and, by implication, not their own!).

In the second part (vv. 10-17), after Job prays for his friends, the Lord makes him prosperous again. His siblings and acquaintances gather around him and provide gifts, presumably to help him start up again. He sires another family, seven more sons and three more daughters, and gains herds twice the size of what he had before. No women were more beautiful than his daughters, and Job left them an inheritance along with their brothers—further evidence of Job’s com- passionate and enlightened treatment of those traditionally squeezed to the periph- ery of life (cf. chap. 31). He lived to a ripe old age, seeing his children and their chil- dren to the fourth generation. Eventually he died, “old and full of years”—an epi- taph reserved for the choicest or most favored of God’s servants (Abraham [Gen 25:8], Isaac [Gen 35:29], David [1 Chron 29:28], and Jehoiada the priest [2 Chron 24:15]).

If some critics are displeased with God’s answer to Job out of the storm, even more are incensed by this “happy ending.” The story, they argue should have ended with Job’s repentance. Whether he was restored is irrelevant; in any case it is untrue to the experience of many, who suffer at length without reprieve. To end the story this way makes the doctrine of retribution basically right after all. The conclusion is therefore anticlimactic at best, contradictory at worst.

This is, I think, a shallow reading of the text. Perhaps the following reflections will help unpack the purpose of this conclusion a little:

(1) We must beware of our own biases. One of the reasons why many people are dissatisfied with this ending is because in the contemporary literary world ambiguity in moral questions is universally revered, while moral certainty is almost as universally despised. The modern mood enjoys novels and plays where the rights and wrongs get confused, where every decision is a mixture of right and wrong, truth and error, where heroes and antiheroes reverse their roles.

Why this infatuation with ambiguity? It is regarded as more mature. Clear-cut answers are written off as immature. The pluralism of our age delights in moral ambiguity—but only as long as it costs nothing. Devotion to contemporary moral ambiguity is extraordinarily self-centered. It demands freedom from God so that it can do whatever it wants. But when the suffering starts the same self-centered focus on my world and my interests, rather ironically, wants God to provide answers of sparkling clarity.

(2) Throughout his excruciating suffering, Job has demonstrated that he serves the Lord out of a pure heart. True, he has said some stupid things and has been rebuked; but at no point does he simply curse God and turn his back on Him. Even his demand that God present himself before Job and give an answer is the cry of the believer seeking to find out what on earth God is doing. Even while sitting in the ashpit, Job trusts God enough to express extraordinary confidence in him, and for no ulterior motive.

In that sense, God has won his wager with the devil. Job may utter words that darken God’s counsel, but he does not lose his integrity or abandon his God. Is it there- fore surprising that there should be full rec- onciliation between God and Job? And if the wager has been won, is there any rea- son for Job’s afflictions to continue?

(3) No matter how happy the ending, nothing can remove the suffering itself. The losses Job faced would always be with him. A happy ending is better than a mis- erable one, but it does not transform the suffering he endured into something less than suffering. A survivor of the Holo- caust has not suffered less because he ultimately settles into a comfortable life in Los Angeles.

(4) The Book of Job has no interest in praising mystery without restraint. All biblical writers insist that to fear the Lord ultimately leads to abundant life. If this were not so, to fear the Lord would be stupid and masochistic. The book does not disown all forms of retribution; rather, it disowns simplistic, mathematically precise, and instant application of the doc- trine of retribution. It categorically rejects any formula that affirms that the righteous always prosper and the wicked are always destroyed. There may be other reasons for suffering; rewards (of blessing or of destruction) may be long delayed; knowledge of God is its own reward.

Job still does not have all the answers; he still knows nothing about the wager between God and Satan. He must simply trust God that something far greater was at stake than his own personal happiness. But he has stopped hinting that God is unjust; he has come to know God better; and he enjoys the Lord’s favor in rich abundance once again.

photo wikipedia Job restored to prosperity by Laurent de La Hyre (1606–1656)

(5) The blessings that Job experiences at the end are not cast as rewards that he has earned by his faithfulness under suf- fering. The epilogue simply describes the blessings as the Lord’s free gift. The Lord is not nasty or capricious. He may for vari- ous reasons withdraw his favor, but his love endures forever.

In that sense, the epilogue is the Old Testament equivalent to the New Testament anticipation of a new heaven and a new earth. God is just, and will be seen to be just. This does not smuggle mathemati- cal retribution in through the back door. Rather, it is to return, in another form, to the conclusion of chapter 8 of this book.

(6) Although I have repeatedly spoken of God entering into a wager with Satan, or winning his wager with Satan, I have done so to try to capture the scene in the first chapter. But there is a danger in such language: it may sound as if God is capri- cious. He plays with the lives of his crea- tures so that he can win a bet.

Clearly that is not true. The challenge to Satan is not a game; nor is the outcome, in God’s mind, obscure. Nothing in the book tells us why God did this. The solemnity and majesty of God’s response to Job not only mask God’s purposes in mystery, but presuppose they are serious and deep, not flighty or frivolous.

Nevertheless, the wager with Satan is in certain ways congruent with other biblical themes. God’s concern for the salvation of men and women is part of a larger, cosmic struggle between God and Satan, in which the outcome is certain while the struggle is horrible. This is one way of placing the human dimensions of redemption and judgment in a much larger framework than what we usually perceive.

(7) We are perhaps better situated now to understand precisely why God says that his servant Job spoke of him “what was right,” while the three miserable com- forters did not. True, Job is rebuked for darkening the Lord’s counsel: he became guilty of an arrogance that dared to demand that God give an account of his actions. But Job has been genuinely grop- ing for the truth, and has not allowed glib answers to deter him. He denies neither God’s sovereignty nor (at least in most of his statements!) God’s justice. Above all, so far as the wager between God and Satan is concerned, Job passes with flying colors; he never turns his back on God.

Contrast the three friends. Although they are trying to defend God, their reductionistic theology ends up offering Job a temptation: to confess sins that weren’t there, in order to try to retrieve his prosperity. If Job had succumbed, it would have meant that Job cared more for prosperity than for his integrity or for the Lord himself; and the Lord would have lost his wager. Their counsel, if followed, would have actually led Job away from the Lord; Job would have been reduced to being yet one more person interested in seeking God for merely personal gain.

This is, at the end of the day, the ulti- mate test of our knowledge of God. Is it robust enough that, when faced with excruciating adversity, it may prompt us to lash out with hard questions, but will never permit us to turn away from God? But perhaps it is better to put the matter the other way round: the God who put Job through this wringer is also the God of whom it is said that, with respect to his own people, “he will not let [them] be tempted beyond what [they] can bear. But when [they] are tempted, he will also pro- vide a way out so that [they] can stand up under it” (1 Cor 10:13). God could not trust me with as much suffering as Job endured; I could not take it. But we must not think that there was any doubt in God’s mind as to whether he would win his wager with Satan over Job!

When we suffer, there will sometimes be mystery. Will there also be faith? 

D. A. Carson – Job: Mystery and Faith (4) Job and God

I am indebted to Adrian for pointing me to this treaty on Job. Any dedicated believer, who has suffered deeply, or has seen a loved one suffer is fascinated with the mechanics of Job’s dialogue with God in the midst of his own deep suffering and the wisdom, peace, and understanding that can be derived from it. You can read this article in it’s entirety, in pdf form here (18 pages) –

http://s3.amazonaws.com/tgc-documents/carson/2000_Job_mystery_and_faith.pdf

d a carsonD. A. Carson is Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He is the author of numerous commentar- ies and monographs, and is one of this country’s foremost New Testament scholars. Among his books are Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility (John Knox Press, 1981; reprint, Baker, 1994) and How Long, O Lord?: Per- spectives on Suffering and Evil (Baker, 1990).

The topic is divided into
  1. READ Job chapters 1 – 3 Job’s Sufferings and Initial Reaction here
  2. READ Job chapters 4 – 31  Job’s Plaintive Outrage and His Miserable Comforters 
  3. READ Job chapter 32 – 37 Job and Elihu
  4. READ Job chapter 38 – 42:6 Job and God (article below)
  5. covers Job chapter 42:7-16 Job’s Happy Ending (coming)

Here are some excerpts from the 4th section:

Job chapter 38 – 42:6 Job and God

Finally God himself speaks, answering Job out of the storm (chaps. 38-41). “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace your- self like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me” (38:2-3). There fol- lows question after question, each designed to remind Job of the kinds of thing he cannot do, and that only God can. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand” (38:4). “Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place … ?” (38:12). “Have you entered the store- houses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail, which I reserve for times of trouble, for days of war and battle?” (38:22-23). “Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs?” (38:31-32). “Do you hunt the prey for the lioness and satisfy the hunger of the lions when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in a thicket? Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food?” (38:39-41). God then goes on to describe some of the more spectacular features of the mountain goat, the wild donkey, the ox, the ostrich, the horse, the hawk, the eagle. “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” (40:2).

photo genesistomalachi.weebly.com

Job had wanted an interview with the Almighty. He had, as it were, sworn an affidavit demanding that the Almighty appear and put his indictment in writing (31:35). But God’s defense wasn’t quite what Job had in mind. At the first pause, Job answers, “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more” (40:4-5).

But God hasn’t finished yet. “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me” (40:7). Then come the most blistering questions: “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself? Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like his? Then adorn your- self with glory and splendor, and clothe yourself in honor and majesty. Unleash the fury of your wrath, look at every proud man and bring him low, look at every proud man and humble him, crush the wicked where they stand. Bury them all in the dust together; shroud their faces in the grave. Then I myself will admit to you that your own right hand can save you” (40:8-14).

It is important to recognize that God does not here charge Job with sins that have brought on his suffering. He does not respond to the “whys” of Job’s suffering, nor does he challenge Job’s defense of his own integrity. The reason he calls Job on the carpet is not because of Job’s justifica- tion of himself, but because of Job’s will- ingness to condemn God in order to justify himself. In other words, God does not here “answer” Job’s questions about the prob- lem of evil and suffering, but he makes it unambiguously clear what answers are not acceptable in God’s universe.

The rest of chapter 40 and all of chap- ter 41 find God asking more rhetorical questions. Can Job capture and subdue the behemoth (40:15ff.) and leviathan (41:1ff.)? These two beasts may be the hip- popotamus and the crocodile, respec- tively, but they probably also represent primordial cosmic powers that sometimes break out against God. The argument, then, is that if Job is to charge God with injustice, he must do so from the secure stance of his own superior justice; and if he cannot subdue these beasts, let alone the cosmic forces they represent, he does not enjoy such a stance, and is therefore displaying extraordinary arrogance to call God’s justice into question.

Job’s response must be quoted in full (42:2-6), along with two or three explana- tory asides: “I know that you can do all things,” Job tells God, “no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowl- edge?’ [38:2]. Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me’ [38:3; 40:7]. My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you [i.e., Job has come to have a far clearer understanding of God than he had before]. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

What shall we make of this exchange between God and Job? Many doubtful interpretations have been put forward by various writers. Because God refers to so many natural phenomena, one writer argues that a major purpose of God’s speech is to tell Job that the beauty of the world must become for him an anodyne to human suffering, a kind of aesthetic aspirin. When one basks in the world’s beauty, one’s problems become petty, “because they dissolve within the larger plan” of the harmony of the universe.4 But to someone suffering intensely, the beauty of the world can just as easily become a brutal contrast that actually intensifies the suffering. Worse, it does not dissolve pain; rather, it is in danger of “dissolving” the sufferer in some kind of pantheistic sense of the fitness of things. This is surely a massive misunderstanding of God’s response. Not once does God minimize the reality of Job’s suffering.

Others, such as George Bernard Shaw, simply mock God’s answer. Job wants an answer as to why he is suffering, and the best that God can do is brag about mak- ing snowflakes and crocodiles. A contem- porary author like Elie Wiesel, writing in the aftermath of the Holocaust, holds that Job should have pressed God further. Doubtless Job needed to repent of his at- titude, but he still should have pressed God for an answer: Why do the righteous suffer?

Both of these approaches misunder- stand the book rather badly. They have this in common: they assume that every- thing that takes place in God’s universe ought to be explained to us. They assume that God owes us an explanation, that there cannot possibly be any good reason for God not to tell us everything we want to know immediately. They assume that God Almighty should be more interested in giving us explanations than in being worshiped and trusted.

The burden of God’s response to Job is twofold. The first emphasis we have already noted: Job has “darkened God’s counsel” by trying to justify himself at the expense of condemning God; and Job is in no position to do that. “God’s speeches show Job that his lowly station point was not the appropriate place from which to judge whether cosmic orders were suffi- ciently askew to justify the declaration ‘let there be darkness.’”5 The second empha- sis is implicit: if there are so many things that Job does not understand, why should he so petulantly and persistently demand that he understand his own suffering? There are some things you will not under- stand, for you are not God.

That is why Job’s answer is so appro- priate. He does not say, “Ah, at last I understand!” but rather, “I repent.” He does not repent of sins that have allegedly brought on the suffering; he repents of his arrogance in impugning God’s justice, he repents of his attitude whereby he simply demands an answer, as if such were owed him. He repents of not having known God better: “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore … I repent” (42:5-6).

To those who do not know God, to those who insist on being God, this out- come will never suffice. Those who do not know God come in time to recognize that it is better to know God and to trust God than to claim the rights of God.

Job teaches us that, at least in this world, there will always remain some mysteries to suffering. He also teaches us to exercise faith—not blind, thoughtless submission to an impersonal status quo, but faith in the God who has graciously revealed himself to us.

D. A. Carson – Job: Mystery and Faith (3) Job and Elihu

I am indebted to Adrian for pointing me to this treaty on Job. Any dedicated believer, who has suffered deeply, or has seen a loved one suffer is fascinated with the mechanics of Job’s dialogue with God in the midst of his own deep suffering and the wisdom, peace, and understanding that can be derived from it. You can read this article in it’s entirety, in pdf form here (18 pages) –

http://s3.amazonaws.com/tgc-documents/carson/2000_Job_mystery_and_faith.pdf

d a carsonD. A. Carson is Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He is the author of numerous commentar- ies and monographs, and is one of this country’s foremost New Testament scholars. Among his books are Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility (John Knox Press, 1981; reprint, Baker, 1994) and How Long, O Lord?: Per- spectives on Suffering and Evil (Baker, 1990).

The topic is divided into
  1. READ Job chapters 1 – 3 Job’s Sufferings and Initial Reaction here
  2. READ Job chapters 4 – 31  Job’s Plaintive Outrage and His Miserable Comforters 
  3. covers Job chapter 32 – 37 Job and Elihu (article below)
  4. covers Job chapter 38 – 42:6 Job and God  (coming)
  5. covers Job chapter 42:7-16 Job’s Happy Ending (coming)

Here are some excerpts from the 3rd section:

Job chapter 32 – 37 Job and Elihu

Chapters 32-37 are among the most interesting, and the most difficult, in the book. They start off by raising our expec- tations. Elihu, not mentioned until this point, has kept his peace throughout the debate, because the other participants are older than he: custom demanded that age take precedence. But now they fall silent, and Elihu, whose wrath has been stoked by the debate, declares himself angry with both Job and his three friends. He is angry with the three friends, “because they had found no way to refute Job “for  justifying himself rather than God” (32:2). And so his lengthy contribution begins.

photo www.myspace.com

We may summarize his argument this way:

(1) Elihu begins with a rather lengthy apology for speaking to his seniors (32:6- 22). Among the factors that compel him to speak is his conviction (as he says to Job’s three friends), that “not one of you has proved Job wrong; none of you has answered his arguments” (32:12). This does not mean he thinks Job is entirely right, as we shall see; but Elihu has care- fully distanced himself from the theology of the “miserable comforters.”

(2) When Elihu turns to Job, he first rebukes him for impugning God’s justice (33:8ff.). Job may be innocent (Elihu will come to that in due course), but that does not give him the right to charge God with injustice. There is a sense in which Job himself has been snookered by a simplis- tic doctrine of mathematically precise ret- ribution. The major difference between Job and his three friends is not their underlying views of retribution, but their views of Job’s guilt or innocence. Because Job is convinced he is innocent, he is pre- pared to skirt the view that God himself is guilty. Elihu will not have it: “But I tell you, in this you are not right” (33:12).

The first reason why Job is not right is that “God is greater than man” (33:12). By this Elihu does not mean to say that great- ness provides an excuse for wrongdoing, but that God may well have some pur- poses and perspectives in mind of which Job knows nothing. However much Job insists he is innocent, he must therefore put a guard on his tongue and refrain from making God guilty.

(3) The second thing Elihu says to Job is that God speaks more often and in more ways than Job acknowledges. “Why do you complain to him that he answers none of man’s words?” (33:13). The truth of the matter, Elihu insists, is that “God does speak—now one way, now another— though man may not perceive it” (33:14). He speaks in revelation: in dreams and visions (33:15-18). But God may also speak in the language of pain (33:19ff.). This is an advance on the argument between Job and his friends. Here is a chastening use of suffering that may be independent of some particular sin. Its purpose may be preventative: it can stop a person from slithering down the slope to destruction.

(4) In chapter 34, Elihu is so concerned to defend the justice of God that his rheto- ric becomes a little overheated. On the positive side, Elihu is determined to stop Job from charging God with injustice. The proper response to suffering is to accept it: God cannot possibly do wrong. By speaking the way he has, Job has added rebellion to his sin (34:37); “scornfully he claps his hands among us and multiplies his words against God.”

If Elihu is at times dangerously close to siding with the three miserable comfort- ers, it is here. Certainly he has not empathetically entered into Job’s suffering, or tried to fathom the anguish that leads Job to defend his integrity in such extrava- gant terms. But Elihu is right to defend the justice of God, and he has advanced the discussion by suggesting that Job’s great- est sin may not be something he said or did before the suffering started, but the rebellion he is displaying in the suffering. Even so, that does not explain the genesis of the suffering. It may, however, prepare Job to be a little more attentive to listen to God when God finally does speak.

In chapter 35, Elihu expressly disavows that Job is innocent. But unlike Eliphaz (22:5-9), he does not compose a list of sins Job must have committed, but challenges Job’s fundamental presumption. To take but one example: Job assumes that when people are oppressed they cry to God for help, and charges that God does not answer. Not so, insists Elihu: one is far more likely to find people crying out “under a load of oppression” and vaguely pleading “for relief from the arm of the powerful” (35:9), but still not praying. They want relief, but do not turn to God and pray. They cry for freedom, “[but] no one says, ‘Where is God my Maker … ?’” (35:10). God does not listen to such empty pleas (35:13). What makes Job think, then, that God will answer him when the assumption underlying his entire approach to God is that God owes him an answer, and may well be guilty of injustice (35:14-16)?

(5) In the last two chapters devoted to Elihu (chaps. 36-37), several themes come together, and Elihu begins to appear in more compassionate guise. The burden of the passage is this: whatever else may be said about the problem of evil and suffer- ing, the justice of God must be the “given”: “I will ascribe justice to my Maker,” Elihu pledges (36:3). But God is not malicious. He does care for his people. Therefore the proper response to suffering we cannot fathom is faith and perseverance; the response to avoid bitterness (for it is the godless who harbor resentment, 36:13). Job is in danger here: “Beware of turning to evil, which you seem to prefer to afflic- tion” (36:21)—that is, Job must not turn to evil as a way of alleviating his suffer- ing. Be patient, Elihu is saying, “those who suffer [God] delivers in [lit. through] their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction. He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food” (36:15-16). Be patient; it is better to be a chastened saint than a carefree sinner.

Billy Graham – TED talk from 1998 (subtitrare in Limba Romana)

Synopsis: Speaking at TED in 1998, Rev. Billy Graham marvels at technology’s power to improve lives and change the world, but says the end of evil, suffering and death will come only after the world accepts Christ. A legendary talk from TED’s archives. The Rev. Billy Graham is a religious leader with a worldwide reach. In his long career as an evangelist, he has spoken to millions and been an advisor to US presidents.

Pentru a vedea subtitrarea, clic pe View subtitles, apoi alege limba ‘Romanian’

Februarie 1998, Monterrey, California. (27 minutes). Billy Graham talks about the technology we have today, and how there are many problems associated with it, that have not been solved. Billy Graham lists these problems as:

  1. Human evil. Over and over, in the Psalms, David describes the evil in the human race. Why do we have these wars and revolutions in every generation? We can’t get along with other people, even in our own families.We find ourselves in a paralyzing grip of self destructing habits. The Bible says the problem is within us, within our hearts, within our souls. Our problem is that we are separated from our Creator. The problem is not technology, the problem is the person using it. The Bible teaches that we are more than a body and a mind, we are a soul. And, there is something inside of us that is beyond our understanding. That’s the part of us that yearns for God, and something more than we find in technology. Your soul is that part of you that yearns for meaning and life, and which seeks for something beyond this life. It’s the part of you that yearns, really, for God. 
  2. Human suffering. Writing the oldest human book is Job. And he wrote: Man is born under trouble and the saprks fly upward. Yes, to be sure, science has done much to push back certain types of human suffering. But, even here among us, in the most advanced society in the world we have poverty. We have families that self destruct., friends that betray us, unbearable psychological pressure to bear down on us. I’ve never met a person in the world that didn’t have a problem, or a worry. Why do we suffer? It’s an age old question that we haven’t answered. Yet, David said he would turn to God- the Lord is my shepherd.
  3. Death. Many commentators have said that death is the forbidden subject of our generation. Most people live as if they’re never going to die. Technology projects the myth of control over our mortality. But, death is inevitable. It is often difficult for young people to understand that they’re going to die. As the ancient writer of Ecclesiastes wrote: There’s every activity under heaven. There’s a time to be born, and there’s a time to die. I’ve stood at the death bed of several famous people whom you would know. I’ve talked to them. I’ve seen them in those agonizing moments when they were scared to death. Yet, a few years earlier, death never crossed their minds. A university student recently asked me what is my greatest surprise. I told him it was the brevity of life. It passes so fast.

Joni Eareckson Tada – Painting for God’s pleasure (Full episode)

Photo source : Voice of The Gospel Radio, Germany

Published on Sep 12, 2012 by 

Watch full television episode:http://www.joniandfriends.org/television/painting-gods-pleasure/
Over 40 years ago, artist Joni Eareckson Tada took a reckless dive that left her paralyzed in a wheelchair. Feeling abandoned by God, depression set in. But despair became satisfaction as God made beauty from ashes. Joni discovered that her talent for art came not from her hands, but from within. And she began painting with her mouth. With fresh joy and purpose, Joni found her art to be a new form of self-expression and worship to God. Watch as Joni shares how God has used her wheelchair as the perfect frame to showcase His gospel through her life and art.

Watch full television episode here: http://www.joniandfriends.org/television/painting-gods-pleasure/

Joni Eareckson Tada’s Biography from Biography from Voice of The Gospel Radio, Germany http://christliche-radiosender.blogspot.com/
(1950- present)

Joni Eareckson Tada is a remarkable woman. Injured in a diving accident at the age of 17, Joni has had to endure more physical suffering than most of us ever will. Though she suffered a deep depression and lost the will to live in the aftermath of her accident, she gradually came back to a deeper relationship with God. Because of her early struggles, she has become strong in her faith and is a testimony to the world of how when we are weak, God is strong. Her story is not one of bitterness and despair, as we might imagine it to be, but one of love and victory.

Joni Eareckson Tada was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1950 to John and Lindy Eareckson. She was the youngest of four sisters, Linda, Jay, and Kathy. Her name is pronounced „Johnny”, being he named after her father. Joni inherited her father’s athletic and creative abilities, giving father and daughter a special bond. Her childhood was an extremely happy one. She grew into a young adult surrounded by love, happiness, and security in her parent’s home. The Eareckson family shared a great love for the outdoors, which promoted family togetherness. They shared in various outdoor activities such as camping trips, horseback riding, hiking, tennis, and swimming.

In 1967, after graduating from high school, Joni had her fateful accident. It was a hot July day and she was to meet her sister Kathy and some friends at the beach on Chesapeake Bay to swim. When she arrived, she dove in quickly, and immediately knew something was wrong. Though she felt no real pain, a tightness seemed to encompass her. Her first thought was that she was caught in a fishing net and she tried to break free and get to the surface. Panic seized her as she realized she couldn’t move and she was lying face down on the bottom of the bay. She realized she was running out of air and resigned herself to the fact that she was going to drown.

Her sister, Kathy, called for her. She ran to Joni and pulled her up. To Kathy’s surprise, Joni could not support herself and tumbled back into the water. Kathy pulled her out and Joni gasped for air. Joni was puzzled as to why her arms were still tied to her chest. Then to her dismay, Joni realized they were not tied, but were draped lifelessly across her sister’s back. Kathy yelled for someone to call an ambulance and Joni was rushed to the hospital.

Joni’s life was changed forever that July day in 1967. She had broken her neck – a fracture between the fourth and fifth cervical levels. She was now a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the shoulders down. While her friends were busy sending out graduation announcements and preparing to go to college in the fall, Joni was fighting for her very life and having to accept the fact that she would have to live out the rest of her life in a wheelchair.

Joni’s rehabilitation was not easy. As you might imagine she was angry and she raged against her fate. She struggled with depression and often times she

wanted to end her life. She could not understand how God could let this happen to her. Before the accident she had felt that she wasn’t living the life she should be so she had prayed that God would change her life – that he’d turn it around. After months of staring at the ceiling and wallowing in her depression, Joni began to wonder if this was God’s answer to her prayer.

This realization that God was working in her life was the beginning of Joni’s journey to wholeness as a disabled person. She participated in various rehabilitation programs that taught her how to live with her disabilities and she immersed herself in God’s Word to become spiritually strong.

Joni’s life has been a full one. She has learned early on to compensate for her handicaps. Being naturally creative, she learned to draw and paint holding her utensils with her teeth. She began selling her artwork and the endeavor was a great success. There was a real demand for her work. She kept herself very busy with her artwork and gained for herself a degree of independence. She was also able to share Christ’s love in her drawings. She always signed her paintings „PTL” which stood for „Praise the Lord”.

Joni has also become a sought after conference speaker, author, and actress, portraying herself in the World Wide Pictures production of „Joni”, the life story of Joni Eareckson in 1978. She has written several books including „Holiness in Hidden Places”, „Joni”, which was her autobiography, and many children’s titles. But her most satisfying and far-reaching work is her advocacy on behalf of the disabled.

In 1979, Joni moved to California to begin a ministry to the disabled community around the globe. She called it Joni and Friends Ministries (JAF Ministries), fulfilling the mandate of Jesus in Luke 14:13,23 to meet the needs of the poor, crippled, and lame. Joni understood first-hand the loneliness and alienation many handicapped people faced and their need for friendship and salvation. The ministry was soon immersed with calls for both physical and spiritual help for the disabled.

JAF Ministries thus uncovered the vast hidden needs of the disabled community and began to train the local church for effective outreach to the disabled, an often overlooked mission field. JAF Ministries today includes local offices in such major cities as Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Phoenix, and SanFrancisco. The goal of the ministry is to have ten such offices in metropolitan areas by the year 2001.

Through JAF Ministries, Joni tapes a five-minute radio program called „Joni and Friends”, heard daily all over the world. She has heart for people who, like herself, must live with disabilities. Her role as an advocate for the disabled has led to a presidential appointment to the National Council on Disability for over three years. Joni also serves on the board of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization as a senior associate for evangelism among disabled persons. Joni has also begun Wheels for the World, a ministry which involves restoring wheelchairs and distributing them in developing nations.

Joni has won many awards and commendations throughout her life. In 1993 she was named Churchwoman of the Year by the Religious Heritage Foundation and the National Association of Evangelicals named her „Layperson of the Year”, making her the first woman ever to receive that honor. Also among the numerous awards she has received are the American Academy of Achievement’s Golden Plate Award, The Courage Award of the Courage Rehabilitation Center, the Award of Excellence from the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center, the Victory Award from the National Rehabilitation Hospital, and the Golden Word Award from the International Bible Society.

In 1982, Joni married Ken Tada. Today, eighteen years later, the marriage is strong and committed and they are still growing together in Christ. Ken and Joni travel together with JAF Ministries speaking at family retreats about the day to day experiences of living with disabilities. At the helm of JAF Ministries, Ken and Joni strive to demonstrate in tangible ways that God has not abandoned those with disabilities. And they speak from experience.

Biography from Voice of The Gospel Radio, Germany page http://christliche-radiosender.blogspot.com/2012/06/joni-eareckson-tada-biography-joni-die.html

When Should Christians Disobey

When should Christians engage in civil disobedience? What do we do when the regime turns hostile to Christian conviction and intrudes upon Christian and religious liberty?

Tim Keller, John Yates, Albert Mohler:

 

When We Suffer, When to Disobey from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Why Does God Allow Tragedy and Suffering? – Lee Strobel

Published on Jul 25, 2012 by 

 

July 22, 2012 – Shortly after the tragic Colorado Shooting (done by James Holmes at a movie theatre in a midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises), Lee Strobel (author of The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith) was asked to speaking on evil and the existence of God at a nearby Church (Cherry Hills Community Church). Can a good God exist in light of tragedies, holocausts, genocides, senseless murders, rape, pain, sufferings, etc.? Why would a good God allow this? Strobel explores this important question in this video.

Read the Notes from this message in pdf format here: http://www.chcc.org/resources/1/PDF’s/Lee%20Strobel%20Message%20on%20Suff…

 

 

Randy Alcorn – Difficult Truths: Sovereignty, Suffering, and the Promise of Heaven

From Randy Alcorns website Eternal Perspective Ministries

Randy Alcorn is an author and the founder of Eternal Perspective Ministries (EPM), a nonprofit ministry dedicated to teaching principles of God’s Word and assisting the church in ministering to the unreached, unfed, unborn, uneducated, unreconciled, and unsupported people around the world. His ministry focus is communicating the strategic importance of using our earthly time, money, possessions and opportunities to invest in need-meeting ministries that count for eternity. He accomplishes this by analyzing, teaching, and applying the biblical truth.

Before starting EPM in 1990, Randy served as a pastor for fourteen years. He holds degrees in theology and biblical studies and has taught on the adjunct faculties of Multnomah University and Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon.

Randy has written more than forty books, including the bestsellers Heaven, The Treasure Principle, and the Gold Medallion winner Safely Home. His books in print exceed five million and have been translated into over thirty languages. Randy has written for many magazines including EPM’s quarterly issues-oriented magazine Eternal Perspectives. He is active daily on Facebook and Twitter, has been a guest on more than 700 radio, television and online programs including Focus on the Family, FamilyLife Today, Revive Our Hearts, The Bible Answer Man, and The Resurgence.

From the video below:

Do not throw Romans 8:28 at people after a tragedy. Grieve with them. Don’t try to minimize their suffering by quoting this verse right away.
Look at Jesus. Jesus wept even though He knew He would be raising Lazarus from the dead.. He wept for Mary and Martha. He wept for the ugliness of death, and, knowing that even though raised from the dead, Lazarus would have to die again.
And, so Scripture as it looks forward to the resurrection does not minimize pain and suffering. Never the less Romans 8:28 says, „And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Read entire chapter 8 in Romans here.
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Cintarea lui Joni Eareckson Tada -English with Romanian Subtitles

As a teenager, Joni loved life. She enjoyed riding horses, hiking, tennis, and loved to swim. But on a hot summer day in July 1967 (Sunday July 30) that all changed. While on a beach with some friends, Joni dove into Chesapeake Bay not knowing how shallow the water was. She broke her neck—a fracture between the fourth and fifth cervical levels—and became a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the shoulders down. While her friends were preparing to go to college in the fall, Joni was fighting for her life and facing the fact that she would have to live the rest of her life in a wheelchair. Joni’s rehabilitation was not easy, and she struggled through it for the next two years. She was angry, struggled with depression, and had frequent thoughts of suicide. Her book relates her questions of how God let this happen to her. She participated in various rehabilitation programs that taught her how to live with her disabilities, and says she immersed herself in the Bible to become spiritually strong.

Despite her severe disability, she has led an adventurous life. She has written over forty books, recorded several musical albums, starred in a major autobiographical movie of her life and is actively involved as an advocate for disabled people.[1] During her two years of rehabilitation, Tada learned how to paint with a brush between her teeth, and later began selling her artwork.

Tada wrote of her experiences in her 1976 international best-selling autobiography, Joni , The unforgettable story of a young woman’s struggle against quadriplegia & depression, which has been distributed in many languages, and which was made into a 1979 feature film of the same name, starring herself, which told of her accident, struggles and subsequent life. Her second book, A Step Further, was released in 1978.

Tada founded Joni and Friends (JAF) in 1979, an organization for Christian ministry in the disabled community throughout the world. The organization grew into the establishment in 2006 of the Joni and Friends International Disability Center (IDC). The building was designed by Vincent Dyer AIA and the interiors were designed by Gensler and Associates.[citation needed]

Joni and her husband Ken Tada have been married since 1982. In 2001, Mr. Tada received Family Life Ministries’ Robertson McQuilken Award honoring “The Courageous Love of a Marriage Covenant Keeper.” Mr. Tada retired from 32 years of teaching in 2004 to work with his wife. Ken Tada, along with Joni, are permanent members of the International Board of Directors of Joni and Friends.

Led by Tada and President and COO Doug Mazza, the Joni and Friends International Disability Center has four flagship programs. Joni and Friends, a daily five minute radio program, is heard over 1,000 broadcast outlets. In 2002 it received the “Radio Program of the Year” award from National Religious Broadcasters. The organization offers family retreats. Wheels for the World collects wheelchairs, which are refurbished by prison inmates and donated to developing nations where, whenever possible, physical therapists fit each chair to a needy disabled child or adult.

In 2005, Tada was appointed to the Disability Advisory Committee of the U.S. State Department.

Tada is a conference speaker. Her articles have been published in Christianity Today, Today’s Christian Woman, The War Cry (Salvation Army), and newspapers around the world. Tada has appeared four times on Larry King Live.

In November 2009, Tada signed an ecumenical statement known as the Manhattan Declaration calling on evangelicals, Catholics and Orthodox Christians not to comply with rules and laws permitting abortion, same-sex marriage, and other matters that go against their religious consciences.[2]

On June 23, 2010 Tada announced that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She also announced she was scheduled to have a major surgery on Monday, June 28, 2010. Tada emerged successfully from breast cancer surgery and is hopeful of a positive prognosis. (biography via Wikipedia)
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John Piper – (1)Job rebuked in suffering

you can listen to the audio sermon here at DesiringGod.org

click photo for source

 

From chapter 4 to 31 Job conversed with his three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, about the meaning of suffering. The upshot of it all was that the theory of his friends was unsatisfactory.

The Unsatisfactory Theory of Job’s Friends

They had argued that suffering is basically punishment for sin and prosperity is reward for righteousness (4:7–8). Eliphaz had admitted (in 5:17) that some suffering was chastisement and could be good for us, but it becomes clear that for him this is the exception, not the rule, and that protracted suffering like Job’s could not be explained this way. So he winds up saying to Job, „Is not your wickedness great!” (22:5). Job’s extraordinary suffering can only be explained as the punishment of God for grievous sin.

Job had defended himself all along by saying, contrary to his three friends’ opinion, that there is good evidence from all over the world that the wicked often prosper and the righteous often suffer (21:29–30). And in his case in particular he was not an enemy of God and had not committed any grievous sin that would set him up for such suffering above others.

So Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar were not able to sustain their theory in the face of Job’s realism and integrity. Their speeches became repetitive, hostile, and shorter as the conversation comes to a close. Finally, only Job was left speaking.

The Argument Won, the Question Unanswered

He has won the argument. But he has not answered his question. He has shown that suffering cannot be explained by the simple principle of retributive justice, where each person gets what he deserves: suffering for the evil and prosperity for the good. But he has found no other answer.

We are left at the end of chapter 31 with the apparent capriciousness of God. All seems to be arbitrary. God rules the affairs of men. And no doubt he does so wisely (28:12–28). That Job never doubts. But why the righteous suffer—so far he has no answer.

It would be possible to live the rest of our lives at this level of understanding. Many Christians try. We could simply say, „Yes, I believe God rules over the world and controls what happens. I also believe that he is just and wise. And I believe that, though things look capricious and arbitrary in this life, all wrongs will be righted in the age to come. He has shown me his love in Jesus Christ and I know he is the only hope for meaning in life now and for salvation in the world to come. So I will be still and trust God, though I cannot understand his strange ways.”

That is not a bad way to live. But the writer of the book of Job is not satisfied to live that way. And he wants his readers to know that God has not concealed all of his ways. There is more to see of God’s purpose in suffering than we may think.

Elihu Breaks In

So a young man appears on the scene in chapter 32 named Elihu. His speech goes all the way through chapter 37. And here we learn something that neither Job nor his friends had discovered, namely, that the suffering of the righteous is not a token of God’s enmity but of his love. It is not a punishment of their sins but a refinement of their righteousness. It is not a preparation for destruction, but a protection from destruction.

The three friends have been wrong—suffering is not the proof of wickedness. And Job had been wrong—his suffering was not the proof of God’s arbitrariness. Nor had God become his enemy. Elihu has come to put the argument on a new footing.

Five Reasons We Should Accept Elihu’s Counsel

Let’s begin our survey of Elihu’s theology by asking why we should accept it. Many interpreters understand Elihu as no better than Eliphaz, Bildad, or Zophar. For example, I gathered from one commentator’s 40 pages on Elihu’s speeches the following labels: Elihu is cruel, cold, detached, crass, trite, perfectionist, vain, etc. (Francis Anderson, TOTC).

I admit that there are some things in Elihu’s speeches very hard to understand. And it is true that when you read his speeches, you hear some of the same things the three friends said (they were not totally wrong!). And it is true he is tough with Job, perhaps too tough sometimes.

But there are at least five reasons why I take the words of Elihu to represent the truth as our inspired writer saw it. In other words, I think Elihu gives the first step in solving Job’s problem, and that God then speaks in chapters 38–41 and gives the final conclusive word. Here are the five reasons I think this.

1. His Speech Is Presented as Something New

The words of Elihu are introduced to us in chapter 32 not as a continuation or repetition of what the three friends had said, but as something new. Verses 1–3:

So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. Then Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became angry. He was angry at Job because he justified himself rather than God; he was angry also at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong.

In other words Elihu disagrees with both sides of the argument. So he says in verse 14 to the three friends, „He (i.e., Job) has not directed his words against me, and I will not answer him with your speeches.” So Elihu has no intention of trying to settle the matter the way the three friends did. The writer wants us to listen to something new that takes us beyond the old argument.

2. Six Chapters Devoted to His Words

The second reason that I think Elihu is more than a continuation of bad theology, is that the writer devotes six chapters to his words (32–37).

The inadequacy of the theology of the three friends was demonstrated by the fact that their speeches got shorter near the end, and then died out completely. Bildad finishes with six verses (chapter 25), and Zophar can’t even manage a closing comment.

It would be very strange, then, if Elihu were given six chapters at this point to say all the inadequate things all over again and make no advance on the inadequate theology of these other three friends. Surely this large space given to his words signals that something crucial is being said here.

3. Job’s Response to Elihu

Job does not try to argue with Elihu.

He had been successful in silencing Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, but he does not say one word against Elihu even though Elihu challenged him in 33:32, „If you have anything to say, answer me.” The easiest explanation for this silence is that Job agreed with him. In fact, in 42:6 Job does repent for some of the things he said, which shows that Elihu’s rebukes are not all wide of the mark.

4. God’s Response to Elihu

In 42:7 God looks back over the period of suffering and rebukes Job’s three friends,

After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: „My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”

But God does not rebuke Elihu. Why not? Probably because Elihu’s words are not in the same class with the words of those three. Elihu’s words are true and prepare the way for the final, decisive words of God. (He claims to be guided by the Spirit of God—32:8.)

5. He Offers Something New and Helpful

Finally, Elihu really does offer a new understanding of the suffering of the righteous that Job and his three friends had not perceived. And his insight does indeed make sense out of the apparently arbitrary suffering that Job and other righteous people go through. Let’s try to learn this morning what this young man has to say.

Elihu’s Rebuke of Job

Elihu thinks that Job has been wrong in some of what he has said—indeed, he sees pride and arrogance in Job’s attitude (see 33:17; 35:12; 36:9). In 33:8–12 he puts his finger on Job’s error:

Surely, you have spoken in my hearing, and I have heard the sound of your words. You say, „I am clean, without transgression; I am pure, and there is no iniquity in me. Behold [God] finds occasions against me, he counts me as his enemy; he puts my feet in the stocks, and watches all my paths.” Behold in this you are not right.

Job is wrong to claim innocence at the expense of God’s grace. We know that Elihu is right about this because in 42:6 Job does in fact repent: „I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” His suffering had driven him to say things about himself that were overly optimistic and things about God that were disrespectful. Even though Job was a righteous man, he was not a sinlessly perfect man. There was a sediment of pride that began to cloud the purity of his life when it was stirred up by suffering.

Elihu’s Explanation of Suffering

At least part of Elihu’s understanding of why the righteous suffer has to do with this residue of pride in the life of the righteous. We see the first explanation of his view in 33:14–19. He describes two ways God speaks to man: by his word and by suffering. These were the days before Scripture, so the word of God takes the form of visions and dreams. He says,

For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon men while they slumber on their beds, then he opens the ears of men, and terrifies them with warnings, that he may turn man aside from his deed, and cut off pride from man; he keeps back his soul from the Pit, his life from perishing by the sword.

Man is also chastened with pain upon his bed, and with continual strife in his bones.

Not to Punish but to Save

So Elihu puts the pain of sickness and visions of the night side by side as two ways that God speaks to man for his good. Verse 17 describes God’s purpose: „That he may turn man aside from his deed, and cut off pride from man, and keep back his soul from the Pit.”

In other words God’s purpose for the righteous in these dreams and in this sickness is not to punish but to save—to save from contemplated evil deeds and from pride and ultimately from death. Elihu does not picture God as an angry judge but as a Redeemer, a Savior, a Rescuer, a Doctor. The pain he causes is like the surgeon’s knife, not like the executioner’s whip.

The „Righteous Sinner”

Elihu explains his view of suffering in one other place, namely, 36:6–15. The helpful thing in these verses is that Elihu makes clear that there is such a thing as a righteous person who still has sin that needs to be revealed and rooted out. To call a person righteous does not mean that the person is sinlessly perfect. There is a „righteous sinner.”

This is helpful because God himself called Job a righteous man in 1:1, and Job won his argument on the basis of his reputation as a righteous man. And yet at the end of the book Job repents and despises himself. So Job is righteous (by the testimony of God!) even though he has sin remaining in him. He is not among the wicked.

Elihu looks at these two groups of people, the wicked and the righteous, and he distinguishes the different roles that suffering has in each. We’ll start reading at verse 6:

He does not keep the wicked alive, but gives the afflicted their right. He does not withdraw his eyes from the righteous, but with kings upon the throne he sets them for ever, and they are exalted.

Now if he had stopped there, he would have sounded exactly like Eliphaz: the wicked suffer and the righteous prosper. There is a sense in which this is true in the long run. But the question plaguing Job is why the righteous suffer in the short run. So Elihu goes on in verse 8:

And if they [that is, the righteous] are bound in fetters and caught in the cords of affliction [so Elihu admits right away that the righteous are not always with kings on the throne; they do suffer], then he declares to them their work and their transgressions, that they are behaving arrogantly. He opens their ears to instruction, and commands that they return from iniquity.

In other words the righteous are far from sinlessly perfect. There is much of the old nature left in them, and from time to time this old nature of pride breaks out in actual sinful behavior—as it did with Job when he accused God of being his enemy. This is what Job repents of at the end of the book.

Suffering Refines the Righteous

Elihu’s teaching, then, is that affliction makes a righteous person sensitive to his remaining sinfulness and helps him hate it and renounce it. Suffering opens the ear of the righteous (v. 10). The psalmist said the same thing in Psalm 119:71, „It was good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes.” There are dimensions of godliness that the righteous can only learn through affliction.

So the new slant that Elihu gives is that the suffering of the righteous is not the fire of destruction but the fire that refines the gold of their goodness. For the righteous it is not punitive but curative.

The Purpose of Suffering for the Godless and the Righteous

Verses 13–15 describe the same contrast between the purpose of suffering for the godless and the purpose of suffering for the righteous.

The godless in heart cherish anger; they do not cry for help when he binds them. They die in youth, and their life ends in shame. He delivers the afflicted by their affliction, and opens their ear by adversity.

Verses 13–14 describe one group of people for whom suffering results in nothing but destruction—they are the „godless in heart.” But then (in v. 15) he describes another group whose ears are opened in their affliction and who experience deliverance by their affliction. These are not the godless or the wicked. They are the righteous. They are the people like Job, who are upright, and fear God, and turn away from evil, and have a blameless reputation. They suffer, too. But the divine purpose is not the same.

How Has Elihu Added to Our Understanding?

How then, we may ask, has Elihu advanced our understanding beyond the impasse between Job and his three friends?

His Two Complaints

We go back to the beginning of Elihu’s speech in 32:2–3. He had two complaints.

  1. He was angry because Job justified himself rather than God;
  2. and he was angry at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong.

Elihu has now succeeded in showing why his anger was justified in both cases.

1. He Shows Why Job’s Three Friends Are Wrong

He showed Job’s three friends to be wrong. They said that the only way to explain Job’s suffering was to say that God was punishing him for sin. Elihu shows that this is not the way to explain Job’s suffering.

The righteous do suffer. And their suffering is not a punishment for sin but a refinement of their righteousness. Suffering awakens their ear to new dimensions of God’s reality and new depths of their own imperfection and need. Suffering deepens their faith and godliness. So the three friends of Job are wrong.

2. He Shows Why Job Is Wrong

But Job is wrong too. He had no better explanation of his suffering than his three friends did. His conception of God’s justice was basically the same as theirs. Only Job insisted he was righteous, and so he could not make his suffering fit with the justice of God. He became so exasperated at times that he thought of God as his enemy.

How many are my iniquities and my sins? Make me know my transgression and my sin. Why dost thou hide thy face, and count me as thy enemy? (13:23–24)

Elihu said that Job was wrong to justify himself at God’s expense like this (33:8–12). God was NOT Job’s enemy and Job is not as pure as he claims to be. God is in fact Job’s loving Father. He has allowed this sickness to drag on for months because he loves Job, not because he hates him.

The suffering has brought out the hidden sin of pride in Job. Now Job’s ear has been opened to his remaining imperfection. Now he can repent and be cleansed and depend on God as he never had before. His suffering was not only an occasion for God to get glory over Satan (which we saw in chapters 1 and 2); it was also an occasion for God to deepen Job’s insight and trust and godliness.

The Central Lesson

So the central lesson for us from the book of Job today is that the children of God—those who trust in God and are led by his Spirit and have their sins covered by the blood of Jesus—may indeed suffer. And when they do, it is not a punishment for sin. Christ has borne the punishment for our sin, and there is no double jeopardy!

The suffering of the children of God is not the firm application of a principle of retributive justice. It is the free application of the principle of sovereign grace. Our Father in heaven has chosen us freely from before the foundation of the world, he regenerated us freely by the work of the Holy Spirit, he justified us freely through the gift of saving faith, and he is now sanctifying us freely by his grace through suffering according to his infinite wisdom.

Suffering is not dispensed willy-nilly among the people of God. It is apportioned to us as individually designed, expert therapy by the loving hand of our great Physician. And its aim is that our faith might be refined, our holiness might be enlarged, our soul might be saved, and our God might be glorified.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6–7)

Our Father disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:10–11)

We were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Why, we felt that we had received the sentence of death; but that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:8–9)

Therefore, count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2–4)

from © Desiring God

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