Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost
When you’re suffering, remember that God loves you.
Job’s ‘friends’ assume that Job is being punished by God. They are unaware that someone else is behind Job’s suffering – Satan! Job isn’t sure what to make of it all. Is God punishing him after all? Deep down in his heart, he knows that God loves him. Job asks the question – ‘Would He contend with me in the greatness of His power?’. He answers his own question – ‘No; He would give heed to me’(Job 23:6). Job knows that God is a God of great power. He knows something else about God. He is a God of great love. He is not ‘all power and no love’. ‘God is love’(1 John 4:8). What really lies behind Job’s suffering? – ‘The devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!’. The time will come when God will say to Satan, ‘Enough! No more!’(Revelation 12:12; 20:10)!
Satan is working overtime! He is filling Job with fear. In his state of deep depression, Job says, “God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me; for I am hemmed in by darkness, and thick darkness covers my face’(Job 23:16-17). Where do these thoughts come from? Do they come from the Lord? No! They come from Satan! This is not ‘the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom’(Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7). It is a very different kind of fear, a fear which comes from Satan. How are we to overcome this fear? When depression threatens to overwhelm us, what are we to do? Look to the Lord. He ‘has not given us a spirit of fear’. He has given us His ‘Spirit of power and love’. He gives us ‘a sound mind’. Look to the Lord. Let His ‘perfect love cast out your fear’(2 Timothy 1:7; 1 John 4:18).
When you’re suffering, remember that Christ died for you.
Read of the Psalmist’s sufferings. Think of the Saviour, suffering for you (Psalm 22:7-8,18; Matthew 27:39,43,35). We highlight two statements: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’, ‘They have pierced my hands and my feet’(Psalm 22:1,16). Jesus Christ was ‘crucified and killed by the hands of the lawless men’(Acts 2:23). There is, however, more to His story than this: ‘The Lord has laid all our sins on Him’(Isaiah 53:6). When we read of Jesus Christ, ‘pierced for our transgressions’, we see Him ‘pierced’ by men and forsaken by God (Isaiah 53:5; Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34; Matthew 27:46). Looking on to Jesus Christ, risen, exalted and returning, we see Him still bearing the marks of His suffering – ‘the mark of the nails’, ‘a Lamb standing as though it had been slain’, ‘pierced’(John 20:25; Revelation 5:6; 1:7).
When you’re suffering, remember God’s Word of love: “Seek the Lord and live.”
‘Seek the Lord and live’. ‘Seek good, not evil…’(Amos 5:6,14). Those who truly seek the Lord are to live a godly life. God sees right through hypocritical religion. He is not pleased with it: ‘I hate your show and pretence – your hypocrisy of ‘honouring’ Me with your religious feasts and solemn assemblies… Away with your hymns of praise – they are mere noise to My ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is’(Amos 5:21,23). God is looking for true obedience: ‘a mighty flood of justice – a torrent of doing good’ – ‘Let justice flow like a river and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream’(Amos 5:24). God speaks to us about our sins – ‘Many and great are your sins. I know them so well’- so that we might learn to ‘hate evil’ and ‘love good’(Amos 5:12,15).
When you’re suffering, remember God’s Word of love: “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”
‘Lord, You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations… From everlasting to everlasting, You are God’(Psalm 90:1-2). The Bible begins with the words, ‘In the beginning, God…’. Before the world began, there was God – ‘the eternal God’. He is ‘the high and exalted One’. He is the God ‘who inhabits eternity’. He is the God ‘who lives for ever’. He has no beginning. He has no end. He is ‘the beginning and the end’. Our life on earth has a beginning. It has an end. Trusting in ‘the eternal God’, we rejoice in His precious promises – ‘The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms’; ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’; ‘The free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’(Genesis 1:1; Deuteronomy 33:27; Isaiah 57:15; Revelation 21:6; Jeremiah 31:3; Romans 6:23).
When, in your suffering, you hear God’s voice, do not harden your heart.
‘Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’. These words from Hebrews 3:7,15, are repeated in Hebrews 4:7. Make sure that you don’t miss the point! These are words that we need to keep on hearing – again and again. None of us ever reaches a stage where we no longer need to hear and heed God’s words of warning. Reading God’s Word can be a very uncomfortable experience: ‘God’s Word is living and active… God’s Word judges a person’s thoughts and intentions. No creature can hide from God. Everything is uncovered and exposed for Him to see. We must answer to Him’(Hebrews 4:12-13). This may not be the kind of thing we like to hear. It’s what we need to hear. We will only pray for ‘mercy’ and ‘grace’ when we see how sinful we really are. Then – and only then – will we come to Christ for ‘eternal salvation’(Hebrews 4:15-16; Hebrews 5:9).
When your suffering seems unbearable, remember this – God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.
The Pharisees came to Jesus – ‘to test Him’(Mark 10:2). They asked Him about divorce (Mark 10:2). He spoke to them about marriage (Mark 10:6-9). We need to be positive, well grounded in the basic principles of God’s Word. When the thorny problems come – as they surely will – we will face them with maturity, and not as ‘children, tossed to fro and and carried about with every wind of doctrine’(Ephesians 4:14). Jesus loved the little children (Mark 10:13-16). Do we? Some say ‘No’ to the love of Jesus (Mark 10:21-22). Say ‘Yes’ to Him. We cannot save ourselves. Salvation is God’s doing, not ours (Mark 10:26-27). Don’t let ‘self’ take the place of Christ: ‘we have left everything…’(Mark 10:28). Don’t say, ‘I have given so much to God, done so much for Him, given up so much for Him’. God has given you more! God has done more for you! God has given up more for you! God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son … (John 3:16).