Job 22-24; Philippians 2
I think one of the most disturbing aspects of all of the speeches from Job’s “friends” is that they teach a “prosperity gospel.” In other words, they believe that if you do good works for God, he will make you prosperous. And if you sin against God, God will make you suffer on earth. This just isn’t true!
The best defense against this position is Christ, himself. Christ was absolutely sinless! Yet, he suffered greatly. He was born in poverty and lived in Egypt to avoid being murdered by Herod. As an adult, he had no home, no income and was unjustly arrested, flogged and murdered. Christ knew suffering – just as Job knew suffering.
But Job seems to have gathered himself and can think more objectively about his suffering in Chapters 23-24. He is able to articulate God’s sovereignty and understands that he is being tested (23:10).
But he is still confused by the apparent lack of justice in this world. He spends Chapter 24 wondering when and if the wicked will ever be judged. The question of why do the wicked prosper while the righteous suffer has been asked for centuries.
Job cries, “If this is not so, who can prove me false and reduce my words to nothing?” (Job 24:25). God, rather than “reduce [Job’s] words to nothing,” preserves them in Scripture and lived them thirty-three years in flesh. After the Fall of Adam and Eve, we live with evil and suffering and temporary injustice. We do not understand entirely why, but God himself has endured with us and has overcome it in the resurrection (Frances Bennett, Job, Lessons in Comfort, CEP, 2009, pg 68).
Paul talks about Christ’s suffering in one of the most profound passages on Christ’s incarnation in Scripture (Philippians 2:5-11). But Paul was using Christ as an example of how to serve others in love. He had just commanded the Philippians to “count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3).
Isn’t this the key to offering comfort to the suffering AND receiving God’s comfort in the midst of our own suffering??
It’s all about humility…laying down our idols of “entitlement” and looking to Christ’s example of pouring ourselves out for others.
Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-8).
If Christ wasn’t spared from suffering, then why would we? God expects and endures our questions, but it is our faith that brings God delight. Just as Paul instructed the Philippians…enduring suffering without grumbling or complaining is like a bright light in a “crooked and twisted” world (Philippians 2:14-16).
Lord, through the preservation of these questions and through the recorded pain of Christ’s life, You seem to say You know suffering exists, but You have a purpose in permitting it to remain until the Day of Judgment. Because Job endured and Christ overcame, You offer comforting assurance: those who look to You can also endure and overcome. Thank you Lord…” (Frances Bennett, Job, Lessons in Comfort, CEP, 2009, pg 68).