In Ephesians 3, Paul revealed a “mystery” (3:4-6). This mystery is the church where Jews and Gentiles can co-exist in peace.
In Ephesians 4, Paul expands upon this concept of “church” and gives all sorts of practical ways to improve church life…
- Be humble, gentle, patient, bearing with one another in love (4:2),
- Keep the unity of peace (4:3),
- Exercise spiritual gifts for the building up of the body (4:11-12),
- Put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor (4:25),
- In your anger, do not sin (4:26), and
- Earn an honest wage so that you might have something to share with those in need (4:28).
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen (Ephesians 4:29, NIV).
So what do we do when we encounter the depth of suffering that Job experienced in our own churches? Job is in utter despair because not only has he lost everyone and everything dear to him (apart from his wife)… he also thinks he has lost God’s favor. He doesn’t understand why God would strike him with such hardship, so he assumes that God has turned on him. The assumed loss of God’s favor is so devastating to Job that he longs for death – but fears the lack of renewal and the loneliness of death without God (Job 14:12; 18-22).
We have the privilege of knowing why Job is suffering. We hear the heavenly conversation between God and Satan where God repeats twice, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8; 2:3). We know that Job is suffering to prove to Satan that one can love God even when all the blessings are removed (Job 1:9-11). Job’s suffering has a higher purpose that he cannot see.
And even though we can’t know for sure why people within our churches suffer – or why we, ourselves, suffer, we can apply the principles of Ephesians 4 to these relationships. We can be gentle and bear with one another in love. We can speak truthfully and serve the church in ways that builds it up, instead of tearing it down. We can use our words in ways that build each other up according to their needs that it may be a benefit and not a curse.
I pray that no one in our churches has to endure the hardships of Job… suffering, alone, without a friend to offer the truths of the gospel. May we be a friend to the suffering. May we comfort the “Jobs” in our midst.