Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.
It seems unfair. Some people seem to glide through life unscathed, while others bear unimaginable burdens. Job's anguish of soul during his fiery trials paints a picture that cries for the reason why.
From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Wind with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, to tell a believer that they'll have great reward and eternity for coping with awful suffering here on earth could be viewed as scant comfort. Yes, Dave, it most assuredly could be viewed that way. But on the other hand, we must understand that that is a message of hope. Now, I want to emphasize that Job went through a tremendous amount of depression. That's why we're talking about his size, that is to say, his grief. If you read the third and fourth chapter, you discover that he wishes he had not been born. I want to say a word to those of you who are suffering today, suffering because of depression. Job is going to have to learn a lesson that all of us have to learn, and that is that feelings are not facts.
At the end of the book, we discover that God had a purpose in it all. I want to thank the many of you who support the ministry of Running to Wind. It's because of partners just like you that this ministry can continue to grow. We're in 20 different countries in four different languages. Now, I want you to consider becoming an endurance partner.
Those are people that stand with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts. Of course, you need more info. Go to RTWOffer.com. When you're there, click on the endurance partner button or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now perhaps I gave this contact info too quickly.
I'm going to be giving it to you again at the end of this message. But always remember, running to wind exists because of people just like you. Job just really feels betrayed, not just by his friends, but by God. I looked at this text and I realized that what he is saying is, if I was wicked and suffering like this, I'd understand it because I'd be getting my just desserts. But I was a man who showed compassion.
I'm amazed at the compassion of Job here. He said he took care of those who didn't have clothing. Let's pick it up in verse 19 of chapter 31. If I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing or that the needy had no covering, then in effect he's saying, if this happened to me, I'd understand that I deserved it. Or let's look at verse 21. If I have lifted up my hand against the orphan because I saw I had support in the gate, notice verse 22, let my shoulder fall from the socket and my arm be broken off at their elbow. In other words, I would be getting what I deserved if I had not been kind to the orphans, not taken care of the widows, and not done what I should do in the land. But I'm doing all these things and God strips everything from me. He feels betrayed.
Basic inequity, it just isn't fair. And you and I know that. Here are wicked people who spend their lives in the service of the devil and they're healthy, wealthy and wise and they go on living. And here are people who take care of their lives and they serve others and they still have the flower of youth and suddenly they are stitched away by an accident or by cancer and the whole thing seems as if it is topsy-turvy and there is no sense to it.
So I have a question to ask you today. Where was God when all this was happening? Where was God during that deep, dark tunnel that seemed never to end? Well, I want to give you three lessons that we can learn so far that Job was beginning to learn and there are little bits and pieces and hints that he's beginning to learn it even though God eventually will come on the scene and those are the messages that I hope indeed you will be here for as God comes and finally reveals himself.
But notice a number of things. First of all, suffering tests our faith. It tests our faith. Look at chapter 13 verse 15, Job chapter 13 verse 15. He makes this remarkable statement which must have been music to the ears of our Lord. "'Though he slay me, I will hope in him,' King James.
"'Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.'" Do you realize how much that means to God? You see, in chapter 23 verse 10, I didn't read it that far when we were looking at that great soliloquy.
I wanted to save that verse until now. After he says, "'Behold, I go forward, but he is not there and backward, but I cannot perceive him.'" When he says, "'I cannot find God,' the very next verse says, "'He knows the way that I take, and when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.'"
You say, well, Pastor Luther, why all this bit in the Bible about faith, the trial of your faith being much more precious than of gold that perishes? Everything seems to funnel in believing God and trusting him against incredible odds. Why is it so important to God that we trust him?
And the answer is quite simply. God enjoys being believed. He enjoys being believed. If there's anything that delights the heart of God, it is when people believe him and believe that he is on their side, even when he appears to be doing things which are really contrary to that love. That's why faith is so precious.
And what God is doing, you see, during these experiences is he is taking all of our lights and snuffing them out so that we might turn to the light of his Son. Suffering tests our faith. It kicks the props out from under us that we might look to God, and God is trying to take that faith however small it may be, and even that faith is energized by his grace. And God says this faith is very, very special to me. Suffering tests faith. Secondly, suffering purifies faith. It purifies it. To carry on the imagery that when he hath tried me I shall come forth as gold, you know that as gold is separated from the ore in which it is found, little bits of gold here and there in ore, it is heated to a high temperature and then the gold comes to the surface. But even when the gold comes to the surface and is made into a liquid it may not yet be pure. And I'm told that one of the ways in ancient times at least they noticed that the gold was finally becoming purified is when it was so clear that you could look into it and it would almost be like a mirror you could see your face. Now that's what God does. He puts us into that kiln, he turns up the thermostat, his hand is on the thermostat, but he does it that we might be purified, and when Christ begins to be seen, when the image of Jesus is seen in our trials, God is satisfied.
He is satisfied. Yesterday my wife read a letter that came to us from some of our friends and she read this letter to me and I said, you know, there's a paragraph here I can use in the message tomorrow. Now you need to understand this couple. They have children of their own, but they also adopted a child at the age of seven and a half who had been so terribly abused that even though they ministered to this child in great love and parental acceptance at the age of fifteen, this girl had to be hospitalized. And after being hospitalized she tried to commit suicide and right now even as I speak part of her brain has been damaged and she has been severely handicapped as a result of her attempted suicide. Also that experience happened just as they were planning a wedding for one of their daughters.
So here's a fifteen-year-old who tries to commit suicide and then they have an older daughter who just days later was married. So you have this wedding going on and you've got all of the concern and the agony that surrounds this tragedy. She says, during the month of December I fell into depression. I had been struggling with depression, she says before this, mentally I was thankful for the many things that God had done but this did not change my feelings. I could not see the Christian physician that I was supposed to see and so forth. But then she goes on to say, I was encouraged by my father, that is her earthly father, a man whom incidentally my wife and I know, a good man, I was encouraged by my dad to affirm to God that I believe he is the blessed controller of my circumstances for my good.
I had done this before Thanksgiving and did it repeatedly and within a number of days I continued to do it despite my feelings. And God is so good that he turned my emotions around for my family's sake. Now if you were to meet these people you would see, even in their countenance, Christ. I had breakfast on Saturday with a couple who have been through their share of tragedies with immorality in the family and heartache with children and just a host of things and then both of them physically going through times of difficulty, a stroke on the part of the man and heart difficulties on the part of the wife. And with tears in their eyes the only thing that they could talk about is the faithfulness of God and the wonder of his promises to them. Suffering, my friend, purifies faith. It purifies faith. I wish that there would be a way to get at the purification process without suffering.
Sometimes it can be done without suffering, but seldom. We have some friends in Canada, bless his heart, who are not a greedy man, very kind and generous man, but he encouraged people to get involved in buying a certain stock on the stock market because this particular commodity was going to go up and up and up and up. And many missionaries even took money out of their banks and they bought some of these stocks that were going to go up and up and up and you know what they did? They did go up and up and up.
But then they began to fall and fall and fall and people said, well, we know that eventually they're going to go up and up and up. And so it began at 22, went to 44 and then within days was down to two, which is not a good investment if you're following my story. You know what this man did? He went to the bank and he borrowed money. He sold his home, took all of his money and used it to pay off every single person whom he encouraged to invest in that particular stock so that every Christian got his money back. And what this meant was that this man lost all of his money in the process.
But when we were eating together, what was so beautiful is now they're in a small apartment rather than a home because the home had to be sold. He said, you know, we would not have traded this experience for anything. He said, the things that God has taught us through this experience, even though he wasn't legally obligated to sell everything he had, but he felt he had a moral obligation. He said, the things that God has done in our hearts, we cannot even talk about the wonder of his love, of what happened because of that suffering and the need to get rid of all that we owned. Do you see how God does it? Suffering tests our faith. Suffering strengthens our faith.
Another lesson to be thrown in at no extra charge is when people ask your advice as to where to invest their money, be very, very careful. Now if you come up to me afterwards and say, Pastor Luther, I've got lots of money and I wonder where to invest it. I encourage you to do that though, because I'll tell you, give it to Moody church and at least you know it's secure and that you'll meet it again in heaven.
So I do sometimes, I do sometimes give advice, but I'm very, very careful beyond that. Now praying along finally, suffering strengthens faith. It strengthens faith. It does not strengthen faith at the time. In fact, you might find that your faith has been totally eroded and exploded. But eventually it strengthens faith.
At the end of the day, you come out stronger, perhaps not through the process, but when the refining time is over, you are stronger than ever. One of the things I've noticed is that people who have gone through the night and have found God's hand to be with them in the darkness no longer fear the next night when it comes. Because they have proven, they have proven that God is with them. And having walked through one difficult experience and experiencing the blessing of God, when the next difficulty comes, they are able to accept it with greater confidence because suffering strengthens faith. Jesus in Gethsemane went through a time of deep emotional darkness. You remember he said to the disciples, my soul is sorrowful even to the point of death. That did not mean that he was separated from God.
In fact, he said, Father, if it be thy will let this cup pass from me. God was still his father, but he knew what he was up against. It was not just Gethsemane, it was the cross that he was facing. And there on the cross, so far as I remember, the only time in all the Bible when Jesus did not call God the Father, he simply called him God. He said, my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? And in the black night of that emotional convulsion that he was going through, he was forsaken by God because the sin of the world was laid upon him and he became legally guilty of all of the evil things that you and I have done. But the good news is that because Jesus Christ was rejected by God the Father for those moments on the cross, you and I, if we believe in him, will never be rejected or abandoned by God.
Never, never, never. I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. I am with thee, whithersoever thou goest. No matter what happens, no matter what people say, no matter your circumstances, whether those circumstances are those that other people have brought upon your life or whether they are circumstances that you have responsibility for because you have blown it. If you're a child of God, God walks with you through all of your private soliloquies.
Can you agonize, even as Job did? One day Jesus told the disciples, he said, you know, I want you to get into this boat and go to the other side of the lake, Sea of Galilee. And Jesus, the Bible says, went up into a mountain to pray and he was there alone.
And you know the rest of the story. A huge storm comes up and this is the worst storm that the disciples have ever encountered and it's so difficult that they get four miles from the shore but can't make it to the other side. And then, you know, Jesus came to them walking on the water.
But here's the question I want to ask you. Christ came at about four in the morning. During those hours in the evening and after midnight going through this whole hassle, could the disciples see Christ?
No, not at all. In fact, they never even recognized him when he was walking on the water. They could not see Christ. Christ was up there in the mountain. But I want you to know that Jesus Christ, who is omnipotent and omnipresent and omniscient, he knew the longitude and the latitude of that little boat. He knew the force of the winds. He knew the height of the waves. He knew every word that was spoken among the disciples during their struggles. He knew those words, even those that did not come out of their mouths. He knew their heart rate.
He knew all of the details that attended to them and he knew the outcome. He knew all that, though they could not see him. And my point today is that in the blackness of depression, when a whole series of bad events come into your life, one after another, after another, after another, and you say, God, I can't take this anymore. I want you to know that at the end of the day, it is much more important that God see us than that we see God. You read the book of Job, chapter after chapter, Job is longing to see God and he does not see him until the end of the book. But I want you to know that God was with Job there in the ash heap. God knew the extent of the pain that the boils were bringing upon him. God knew the deep grief of Job's wife, who had just experienced the death of her 10 children. God knew all of these circumstances and he was listening to the conversations.
He knew exactly what was happening. And he says to you and to me that when you go through that dark night, it is not so important that you see me, but in the depths of your soul believe that I see you and I'm not afraid of that night and I will guide you through it. Because if you accept Christ as your Savior, you will find that I will never leave you nor forsake you. And when I have tried you, you'll come forth as gold, which is so precious to me.
I'm willing to turn up the heat so that you go through the process of purification. He is with us in the good times of life. He is with us in the bad times of life. He is with us in the storms of life. In the blackness of your night, God is there. God is there. Let us pray. And our Father, today we pray for those who have been listening to this message who need to be reminded that they are not walking through their tunnel alone. They perhaps with Job say, oh, for the good old days, or if I had been bad, I'd have deserved this, but look at what happens when I try to serve God.
Everything goes wrong. There may be some listening who had longed for death, oh, that I had never been born. This moment, Lord, help them to understand that you are well aware of their circumstances.
Their little boat is known completely to you. And we ask, oh, Father, for the comfort of Christ at this moment. And for those who have never received Christ as Savior, they have never believed on Him, and they believe in you generally, but not personally, through Christ.
Make this a day in which they trust the Savior so that they can then enter into all the promises that you give to those who believe. We pray in Jesus' name, amen. My friend, my heart goes out to you because I know that many of you are going through a time of suffering, a time of darkness, a time of unanswered questions. And I want to remind you that even though we go through those times, God is with us. I'm reminded of a pastor who said that God hides Himself in the dark, but never far away. God is with you in the trial that you are going through. And on the other side of the darkness, of course, eventually, as we pass through the gates of death, Jesus will be there waiting for us.
If you're a believer in Jesus Christ, I want to encourage you by inviting you to look at how it will end with a sure knowledge that all will be well. I want to thank the many of you who support the ministry of running to win. It's because of people like you that this ministry continues to expand, and we want to thank you. Even as I speak right now, I'm visualizing in my mind all those who are listening—some of you are listening in a car, some of you in an office or a home.
You may be listening online. You are our partners. Running to win is not the ministry of a church or of a man. It is the ministry of God's people. Now, would you consider becoming an endurance partner?
That's someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts. I hope that you have enough time to find a pencil or a pen. Here's what you can do. Go to www.rtwoffer.com. When you're there, click on the endurance partner button, or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337.
That's www.rtwoffer.com. Click on the endurance partner button or call us at 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois 60614. Running to win is all about helping you understand God's roadmap for your race of life. When we're the victims of economic collapse or the slander of others, something within us demands to know why. Next time on Running to Win, we explore the heavenly reasons for our earthly misfortunes. Don't miss Jesus, please answer Job. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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