Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. When you're hit with bad news you can scarcely absorb, a friend can be a great help. However, the friends of Job were scant comfort when he was undergoing severe trials. Their advice demonstrates the limits of human understanding.
Stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, clearly bad things happen to good people. Is it wrong for a believer to ask, God, why me? David's certainly not wrong to ask that question.
As a matter of fact, I'm sure that all of us have asked it from time to time. The reason we know it's not wrong to ask it is because at the end of the book, God does not chide Job for asking that question. But God does rebuke Job's friends, because Job's friends thought that they understood why the suffering came. And that's why the dialogue in the book of Job is so interesting. I've written a short, accessible book titled God, Why Me? It's based on the book of Job. It will give you a summary of the arguments of the friends, but also what God thought of their answer. More importantly, it will show you God's interaction with Job.
I believe it's a message of hope. For a gift of any amount, it can be yours. Here's what you do.
Go to RTWOffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Of course, at the end of this broadcast, I'll be giving you that contact info again. Now let us listen carefully as we listen to God's Word. You see, because if you accept that theology, that everybody is supposed to be healed all the time. All that they need to do is to have faith. And if they aren't healed, it's because of lack of faith that can become cruel, diabolically cruel. And if you believe that, I suggest that you read the last part of the book of Job because God was not happy that those three friends tried to pound that into Job's head. It isn't that simple.
Sometimes when people become sick, there are those who send them books in the hospital underlined at the appropriate places, be sure to read this, and then those books are sent sometimes even anonymously, just saying, give with the program and you will be healed. What sin is it that you have committed that you have not dealt with? Number one, they talked without feeling, without feeling. They had many nice things to say, but Job was the one who was hurting. It was an unfair discussion, very unfair.
It's entirely different when that iron, hot iron, that steak is in your own flesh. Secondly, they talked without listening. They talked without listening. Now we don't have time to do that here. That's your assignment. You're supposed to be reading the book of Job, and I'm sure that all of you are.
I am a man of faith. And I expect you to be reading it, and one of the things that you should look out for as you read it is this. You'll find that Job asks a whole series of questions, and then the next person who speaks does not answer those questions at all, because really they are not interested in what Job has to say. They are interested in giving their theological discussion because they're saying, we have worked this out. We believe that everybody who reaps iniquity reaps it because they have sown it, and all that we are doing is we're trying to look at your life and to try to figure out why you're going through this experience, and if you only gave us the time and if you were only honest, you'd admit it's because you're a big sinner who has not really been willing to take care of sin in your life. And so Job asks questions that they didn't answer. They didn't treat him fairly.
They were not trying to look at life through his viewpoint. They were trying to say, this is the way it is. There's an old Indian proverb that says that no one should criticize someone else unless he has walked a mile in his moccasins.
Very good, very good. One of the best things you can do as a counselor, one of the best things you can do to hurting people is to try to put yourself in his or her shoes. One of the things that I find is that if you were that individual, in that context you would react probably the very same way that he or she is reacting.
We become much more tolerant of other people's failings and their pain when we begin to listen to them and try to walk a mile in their moccasins. They talked actually without feeling. They talked without listening. They talked without knowledge. They talked without knowledge. That was their big mistake. You see, the three friends, they didn't know what you and I know.
We have such an advantage, and that's why I don't want to be overly critical with them. They were working with the theology that they had. But you see, their theology lacked something.
It's like all of us have had the experience of walking along a street, or I remember out on the farm walking along a field and seeing some letter that had been torn up into all kinds of bits. And you get this bit of it and this piece over here, and you maybe get a phrase or you maybe get a word, but all the rest is missing, and you can't make sense out of it. And that's what they had. They had a little bit of knowledge here, a little bit here, and some very good insights over there, but they didn't see the whole picture. They didn't know that God and the devil had had this discussion about Job.
We know that. They didn't know it. They didn't know that Satan and God had the discussion, and God says, have you considered my servant Job that he's upright and blameless and he fears God and turns away from evil? And Satan said, oh sure, you're bribing him.
Anybody would. As long as you give him a lovely family, lots of money, lots of servants, a wonderful wife, and health, anybody would serve God with that kind of a payoff. And then God says, no, I think that he is going to serve me even if you take the other away. And Satan says, I believe that he'll curse you to your face.
God says, try it. And then they have two discussions about that because Job ends up with his health, and then Satan says, well, you know, just take his health away and you'll see what's going to happen. Friends didn't know that. They didn't know the past. They didn't know the future. They didn't know that someday God was going to give Job twice as much as he had completely and much less did they know that the time was going to come when Job was going to have to pray for them so that they would escape the discipline of God. That certainly was a shock that was still in the future. They didn't know that.
And you know what the other thing is? They really didn't know God's hidden plans. They didn't know what the Almighty was up to.
They didn't understand it all. Now I want you to notice what Job thought of his friends. In one place he says, he says, you know, I just like to have a friend. And they're saying, hey, you've got three of them.
It's just that we're trying to cram something into your head and you're having a hard time understanding it. Look at it in chapter 19, verse 1, 19, verse 1, Job responds, after all these speeches and the speeches are not through yet, because this book goes on for a while. If you've ever tried to read it, you know that it doesn't stop any time too soon. But notice in chapter 19, verse 1, then Job responded, how long will you torment me and crush me with words? These 10 times you have insulted me. You are not ashamed to wrong me. Even if I have truly erred, my error lodges with me and you vaunt yourselves against me and prove my disgrace to me. Know then that God has wronged me and has closed his net around me.
He's saying that that's the end result of what you folks are saying. But notice he says, how long are you going to crush me with words? In my life, I have met only one person.
So I want you to notice how generous my evaluation is. I met only one person that comes immediately to mind when I think of that verse. And this individual happened to be a lady who really felt that she knew about what everything God was doing in everybody's life, what his ultimate purpose was. I was convinced that this woman was able to wake up in the morning and read the fine print of God's diary so that she could tell everybody what his purpose was for everybody. And I remember sometimes saying to myself, oh, do no longer crush me with words.
And I suppose that all of us have met people like that, haven't we? Now having delineated three errors that they made, namely to talk without feeling and to talk without listening and to talk without knowledge, what I'd like to do now is to give you some advice that I have learned and that the book of Job would want to teach us regarding how to comfort people who are going through distress so that your comfort will not be discomfort. So that the person whom you visit in the hospital, when you say to them, is there any way that I can help you, they will not be tempted to say, yes, please leave.
And that might be the way in which you could help me the most right now. Number one, we must feel people's pain. Just feel their pain.
I have this all the time. People say to me, the most difficult thing to endure at a funeral are the glib, thoughtless comments that are made oftentimes at the wake or at the funeral by well-meaning people who quote verses of scripture and even say good things. They'll say to this widow whose heart is so broken and shattered, well, isn't it wonderful that he's better off?
Well, yeah, he is better off, but it's the unfeeling, careless way that it is said that just is like a dagger into that dear woman's heart. Their first responsibility is to feel their pain. Christ is touched with the feelings of our infirmities, the Bible says, and that's why he makes such a good high priest. And that's why the best person to minister to someone who has been abused is someone who has been abused, but who has worked through it and has seen God in the midst of the abuse. And that's why the best person to help an alcoholic is someone who himself once was an alcoholic but now is out of that lifestyle.
Why? Because then you get the feeling that this person has been through it. But we don't have to have all these experiences to comfort people, we just need to feel their pain. There are some people in the congregation here this morning as I look out, whom I know your pains because you have shared them with me and I consider the sharing of your pain with me a very sacred trust. One day Joe Bailey, who lost three sons, and some of you have read his books and he himself now has been reconciled with his sons in heaven, he died a few years ago. When his 19-year-old son died, Joe Bailey, I'm told, was coming down an elevator and on that elevator there was a nurse. And the nurse said to him with tears in her eyes, oh, Mr. Bailey, I wish I could say something that would make it better. And he looked at her and said, you already have, you already have. The tears in her eyes already communicated more than any words of wisdom could possibly communicate. You must always feel their pain. Secondly, we must accept the ambiguity, somehow I like that word ambiguity.
Let me say it again. We have to accept the ambiguity of God's will and purposes. Now you're going to say, well, is there a purpose for Job having suffered? Yes, there is a purpose. It's not the purpose you probably think, but there is going to be a purpose. And believe me, I'm not going to share that with you today. I want you to be around at the end of this book. But the fact is that the older I get, the more ambiguous God's ways sometimes are, and sometimes they keep making less and less sense to me.
And we have to be comfortable with that. Somebody comes to me and says, well, Pastor, I'm going through this trial. Is it because of some sin that I committed?
Am I being disciplined for the sin? Or what is its purpose? And I have to say, I don't know. Because the older I get, the more amazed I am at how few things God runs by me first before he does them in the world. And we must not be so quick and so glib as to think that we have found God's hidden purpose in all that is happening.
Now there is an explosive purpose, which will, as I mentioned, be explained in a future message. But God's ways are past finding out. I mean, how do you explain young people dying of a disease and older people who want to die being unable to die? And how do you explain missionaries dying in their youth who want to go to the mission field and they get a disease and they die and we know that God could have kept them alive because missionaries are needed?
I mean, how do you figure all that out? One of the things we need to do is to be very cautious as to what we say so that we don't fall into the condemnation there of Job. Getting back to this business of feeling their pain and accepting the ambiguity of God's purposes, the second funeral I ever conducted in my life was of a young woman who died at the age of 21 falling off a bicycle, hitting her head, and she was gone. And to this day, the autopsy is ambiguous. They never did discover whether it was the falling off the bicycle that caused the death or whether something already happened and she died and then fell off the bicycle.
But she was brain dead and eventually they took her off all these support systems. And Rebecca and I were there from about seven in the evening to about midnight with the family on the evening that had happened and we sat there and cried with them and read scripture with them and years and years later, whenever that couple would see us, they would thank us for that evening and they would always say, you had so much wisdom in what you shared. And I often wondered, I used to say to Rebecca, I wonder what I said that was so great. I should have recorded it and written it down, you know, because apparently there was a moment of wisdom there, probably.
There was not so much that was said. It was the feelings that we communicated. First of all, you feel their pain. Secondly, accept the ambiguity of God's purposes. Thirdly, realize that unanswered questions lead to ultimate questions.
Unanswered questions lead to ultimate questions. We're going to be demonstrating that in the book of Job in the next message and particularly, I think, in the fourth or fifth message of the series. We are going to see how that really when you begin to try to work through this whole process of trying to find out God's ambiguous ways, when you try to work through the process, what you begin to do is to come down to some very, very essential questions, namely a person's relationship with God. For example, Job is going to ask questions like this, how can a man be right before God? Now that's an essential question. We might not figure God out, but if we could only know how we could be right before him, why that might be part of the answer.
Job is going to ask another question that we're going to deal with in a future message. If a man dies, shall he live again? Well that's interesting because if the answer to that question is yes, then there's the possibility that someday God will make up for us in eternity future what we could not understand in this mortal life of time. And consequently, what we need to do is to recognize the fact that we are led, therefore, to some ultimate questions. In fact, one of the most obvious purposes of suffering, one of the most obvious, is that in kicking all of the props away, in kicking all of the props away, what we find is people leaning on God. Now maybe God isn't doing all the things that they think he should be doing.
He is not answering all the prayers that they would like to see him answer. But one of the things that suffering does do is it closes our other options that we might seek God. And having been comforted of God, as the scripture reading indicated, we then are able to comfort others.
When I was thinking of God's comfort, I was reminded of the fact that in the upper room discourse where Jesus is talking to his disciples before he goes to heaven, he says, "'When I go to heaven, I am going to send the Holy Spirit.'" And you know that the Greek word, therefore, Holy Spirit, is paracaleo, that's the verb form, at least. It means to call along the side of. And our translators translate it in many different ways. It has many different meanings.
But one of the most popular ways to translate it is to say comforter. I am going to send you another comforter who will abide with us forever. He will guide you into all truth. He will be there.
Jesus said, "'I will not leave you orphans. I will come to you.'" What is it that you need in your particular trial today, no matter what that trial is?
You need two things. First, you need a friend that sticketh closer than a brother, namely Jesus Christ, because it is through Christ that we are reconciled to God. It is through Christ that we receive the other comforter. We walk through our trial with God.
We walk through our trial with God. That's the first thing that you need, and that's maybe why God brought you here today, by the way, because that is the essential point that you need. The second is, you do need a human friend who knows all about you and who will stick with you, woman, single, mother, child on drugs, all of the things that are so difficult for people to deal with, said, "'I think I could make it if I had just one friend.'"
Just one friend. What she meant was, a friend who would really be a friend, and that's the way God has ordained it. He has ordained it, first of all, that he would be our friend, that he would walk with us, that the comforter would abide with us forever, and then that within the body of Christ, within a place like Moody Church and a safe place like here where we are all sinners and we know it and we are all hurting and we know it, we find that God leads us to others who will walk with us through that experience and at the end know that someday the sun will again shine, probably in this life, most assuredly, in the life to come. From line, let us be comforted of God, that we in turn might be the comforters that we should be. Join me as we pray. Father, we pray today that you might help us to think deeply but to also feel deeply deeply, and some of us have not been through the sorrows that others have been through.
That's for sure. But Lord, we pray that we might be compassionate and thoughtful and that the words that we say to one another may be words of help and meaning and not condemnation and judgment. Even in this congregation today and listening over the radio, thousands of people who are hurting help us today to meet their needs in the name of Christ, introducing them, first of all, to the wonderful comforter and then, Father, helping them bear their load.
In Jesus' name, amen. My friend, I've had the privilege of being a pastor for many, many years, and I have learned this—it is not necessary for us to understand all the reasons why people suffer. And when they're going through times of suffering, sometimes the best thing that we can do is to listen carefully, feel their pain, and pray for them. As a young pastor, I experienced that after a terrible accident that happened to a family in our church when their daughter was riding a bicycle, fell off, and died. Years later, they said, that is to say, the parents said that we were a tremendous blessing to them, and in retrospect, I realized that I said very little. But what I did do is listen, feel, and pray. For a gift of any amount, you can receive the book I've written entitled, God, Why Me?
It's a short, accessible book that will give you some insight to the book of Job and help you to know how best to comfort others. Here's what you do. I hope you have a pen or a pencil. You can write this down, go to rtwoffer.com. Of course, rtwoffer is all one word, or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. Let me give you that phone number again, 1-888-218-9337.
Thanks in advance for helping us. Thanks for praying with us. Together, we're making a difference.
You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 N. LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you understand God's roadmap for your race of life. Each one of us either has experienced or will experience some kind of suffering. You're hearing the story of Job, and it teaches lessons all of us need to hear for that time when it's our turn. Next time on Running to Win, don't miss The Size of a Suffering Soul. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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