Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Trials and Tests 2

So far in this study we’ve learned that God expects us to commit to Him our works (the things we do and don’t do) and our ways (the direction our lives are heading). He also expects us to give Him our concerns and life issues.

We have defined our life issues in two ways: one, as trials that test us. Trials are neutral events of ordinary occurrences in life, but they bring with them a choice of how we will react. Last week we learned that whenever we face various trials we may be tempted to act in an unguarded manner and find ourselves defeated simply because we failed to resist Satan’s fiery darts.

In our trials is a test to see how we respond. Satan intends for us to fail the test. God wants us to pass. So within each test is an opportunity for our downfall or for our success. Our response determines the outcome.

The other life issue is when God tests us with trials. When there is an area in our life that needs some adjustment, God may create a situation that draws our focus to that area. When He does, Satan will try to push us toward failure. God will pull us toward success.

What we don’t know is which comes first: the trial and then the test, or the test and then the trial. So, our response must be the same: Roll the problem over onto the Lord, committing it to Him.
Now, knowing to roll and actually rolling our concerns over onto Him may not always connect in one fluid motion. In the gap between knowing the right thing to do and doing it, is a wall of resistance that interrupts the flow. It’s human nature to struggle with trusting someone else with our problems. 

The way we’re conditioned to take matters into our own hands is like a drowning man struggling to save himself. It is unnatural for him to stop struggling and allow someone else to rescue us. It’s how we’re conditioned.

We’ve been conditioned to pray about things but not to roll them over onto the Lord. We mistakenly think when we pray God will take our burdens. No, He takes our burdens when we surrender them to Him. In prayer we exercise belief that God hears us, but belief isn’t trust. Trust happens when we commit our concerns to the Lord. It takes faith to give the matter to Him and trust Him with it.

So, often, God will allow or create a test which initiates a trial designed to get us to acknowledge that His grace is sufficient to manage the details of our life. The test? Will we trust Him? If asked, we’ll say, of course God’s grace is sufficient. But in reality were not relying on that to be true. A trial will show us.

That was why God permitted Satan to attack Job. Satan was allowed to take away everything in Job’s life that Job saw as evidence of God’s goodness. His wealth, his family, his health. Satan’s goal: to get Job to curse God. God’s goal: to expose Job’s misplaced confidence in his own goodness.
Remember, Job was a good man but he thought God owed him for how good he was. He felt God’s blessings were evidence of how good he was, not how good God was.

One thing that makes Job’s story so important is it shows us that Satan can’t test us without God’s permission. He can tempt us but not test us.  Another importance is the vital question the story asks: Where do we find our answers for how we deal with difficult things we’re facing?

Job 1:9-12 Then Satan answered the LORD, "Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face." Then the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him." So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD.

Job 1:21-22 He said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD." Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.

Job 2:4-7 Satan answered the LORD and said, "Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. However, put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse You to Your face." So the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life." Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.

Job 2:10 But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

So far, so good.

Job 2:11-13 Now when Job's three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, they came each one from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite; and they made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him. When they lifted up their eyes at a distance and did not recognize him, they raised their voices and wept. And each of them tore his robe and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky. Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.

After a week of silence these men begin to offer their perspectives on suffering but each comes to his opinion from a different source.

Eliphaz finds answers only in what he has seen and experienced. He can only believe what has become real to him.

Job 4:7-9 Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright destroyed? According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble harvest it. By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of His anger they come to an end.

Eliphaz had no compartment in his mind in which he could find a spiritual answer. He was more like Doubting Thomas [until I see…]. He couldn’t put Job’s suffering into a spiritual context because He didn’t see spiritual things, only what’s in front of him. To him it was simple: As I see it, suffering comes when we do something wrong, so, obviously Job, you’ve caused your own misery.

Bildad was limited by tradition. If someone from the past, who he considered wiser and greater than he is in the present, said this is the way it is, then that was his answer. He has no personal connection to truth, only what others have told him to believe.

Job 8:8-10 Please inquire of past generations, and consider the things searched out by their fathers. For we are only of yesterday and know nothing, because our days on earth are as a shadow. Will they not teach you and tell you, and bring forth words from their minds?

Traditionally, others have said the righteous are rewarded with good and the evil are punished. There’s the problem—Job, you must not be as righteous as you think you are.

Mark 7:8-9 "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men." He was also saying to them, "You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.

Anything we hold higher than God’s word will become a limitation to knowing the truth.

Zophar was more like the rest of us. His answers came from what he could figure out. He had thought it all through and this makes sense to him. This looks like payback to me. Job, God is paying you back for something you did wrong.

Job 11:4-6 For you have said, 'My teaching is pure, and I am innocent in your eyes.' But would that God might speak, and open His lips against you, and show you the secrets of wisdom!

Job, secrets that I have figured out say you’re wrong. I declare you guilty so you deserve God’s anger. Agree and maybe that will fix the problem.

But to Zophar, and actually each of the friends, fixing the problem meant stopping the test, to end Job’s suffering, not letting the test fix the problem. You never want the test to stop until it has completed its purpose. [Struggle of the caterpillar.]

Job’s response to all of them: Job 12:2-3 Truly then you are the people, and with you wisdom will die! But I have intelligence as well as you; I am not inferior to you. And who does not know such things as these?

After all your great wisdom, I am as ignorant as when this all started.

So Elihu steps up. He says the answer lies in the wisdom of God. Only by God’s wisdom can we understand trials and tests.

Elihu’s source: Job 33:4 The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life…Job 34:10, 12 Therefore, listen to me, you men of understanding. Far be it from God to do wickedness, and from the Almighty to do wrong. Surely, God will not act wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice.

Though Job started strong, because of on-going suffering, he began to accuse God of no longer being good. [The agonizing question: If God loves me why am I suffering?]

Tests and trials are spiritual matters. They will affect us physically and emotionally but the target is spiritual. For Elihu, as long as we limit our answers to human reasoning we will never understand what’s going on. Human reasoning makes me look only at what hurts. No, we must ask: what’s going on within my spirit? What’s God working on?

Job 35:12-13 There [in the midst of the trial] they cry out, but God does not answer because of the pride of evil men. Surely He will not listen to an empty cry, nor will the Almighty regard it.
God will not respond to pride nor a faithless cry for help. How does Elihu know that’s the problem? Spiritual insight from what God has spoken.

Job 35:14-16 How much less when you say you do not behold Him. The case is before Him, and you must wait for Him! And now, because He has not visited in His anger, nor has He acknowledged transgression, so Job opens his mouth emptily; he multiplies words without knowledge.

  •  In your suffering, you are forming your opinion from your pain and remaining ignorant.
  • In your ignorance, you are misrepresenting God.
  • Because God is silent, you accuse Him of being absent?
  • Because you assume He is absent, you accuse Him of doing wrong?
  • Because you accuse God of doing wrong, He no longer loves you?

Job had justified himself before each of the other men by saying he had as much right as they had to decide what was true. He would be the source for his own answers. He even boasts that he would tell God the same thing if he could face him. Then it became one of those: He’s standing right behind me, isn’t He, moments.

Job 38:2-3 Who is this that darkens counsel By words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me!

It’s easy to reject the opinions of men but what do we do when God speaks?

Job 42:1-6 Then Job answered the LORD and said, "I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. I am he who hides counsel without knowledge.' Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know…therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes."

That’s the moment the trial was intended for: the moment Job would turn from the emptiness of his own wisdom and submit to God. There’s your answer, Job. Elihu was right.

If Job had taken Eliphaz’ advice and gone inside his own experience, he would have found he had no experience for what he was facing. He’d never been down this road before. There are lots of roads we’ve never been down before. I’ve never had cancer. I’ve never been this old. I’ve never lost a husband or wife before. I’ve never been without a job.

If Job had taken Bildad’s advice and tried to draw on how people have traditionally dealt with problems like his he would have found out: how God dealt with someone else even in a similar test may have nothing to do with why he was being tested.

If he had taken Zophar’s advice and thought I could figure it all out on his own, he’d have been fooling himself. As would I. I can’t even program my phone. I can’t figure out my remote. I can’t understand my grandkids’ language. And I think I can figure out the ways and works of God?

So the only one left is Elihu’s. His advice: God holds the answer.

Within God’s answer was for Job to gain victory in this battle so God could bless him in the end. Satan wanted Job to curse God. God won. Satan lost. Job was blessed.

Job 42:12-13, 16-17 The LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had 14,000 sheep and 6,000 camels and 1,000 yoke of oxen and 1,000 female donkeys. He had seven sons and three daughters…After this, Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons and his grandsons, four generations. And Job died, an old man and full of days.

  • What Satan had intended for evil, God intended for good. 
  • What Satan had devoured, God restored. 
  • What Satan had turned into ashes, God made beautiful again.

God wants your victory not defeat. Roll your trials and tests onto Him. Commit your works and ways, your life issues. Trust Him for it and see if He will not open the windows of Heaven and pour out blessing on your life.

  1. God expects us to commit to Him our works and ways, along with our trials and test, by rolling them off of us and onto Him.
  2. Typically, we resist doing this because of pride or a lack of trust.
  3. A drowning man cannot be saved until he quits fighting to save himself and submits to his rescue.
  4. When we submit these issues to God, He changes us, our circumstances, or both.
  5. But, as long as we trust in our own opinions rather than seek the wisdom of God, we will never find the answers that turn the trial or the test into blessing.

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