Lucia's Blog: 2020-08-30
Google Logo
Image Caption goes here.

Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Thursday, September 3, 2020

GOD AMID THE STORM

"Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. 7 The LORD said to Satan, 'From where have you come?' Satan answered the LORD and said, 'From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.' 8 And the LORD said to Satan, '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?' 9 Then Satan answered the LORD and said, 'Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.' 12 And the LORD said to Satan, 'Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.' So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.'"
Job 1:6-12



Suffering is the universal experience of man. How do you deal with the dark days? If we don't understand what is going on the larger picture, it is easy to fall into depression and despair. The Scriptures are a gift of our Creator who truly understands. God gives us enough information to face adversity in the best possible way, even though He does not explain everything. If we will listen to the heavenly Father, we will find faith to strengthen us and hope to help us endure to the end. The following study is my attempt to explain the treasures of God's wisdom on these matters beginning with the wisdom of Job.

I have been reading the book of Job.  In its pages, I observe how Job remembers the good times (his prior blessings) before his trials struck.  The first chapter ends with success. Job proves His faithfulness to God, expecting nothing in return.  His faithfulness to God was not because of the many blessings God had bestowed on him. Despite Job losing his children, possessions, and wealth, he never sins, charging God with wrong (Job 1:22).  Satan (the accuser) had suggested that God had put a protective hedge around Job to assure his righteous behavior. Satan attempted to cheapen God’s righteousness and blessings.  While it is true that some do act righteously, not out of love, to receive God’s blessings or gain benefits, some will still serve God even when those physical blessings are removed. By the end of the book, we hope that God’s discussion with Satan is over, but unfortunately, it is not the case.


I.  HOLDING ON TO FAITH AMID SUFFERING:

  • God and  Satan:
"Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, 'From where have you come?' Satan answered the Lord and said, 'From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.' 3 And the Lord said to Satan, '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? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.'"  (Job 2:1-3)

The first two verses of chapter 2 are almost identical to chapter one, verse six, seven, and eight.
"Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. 7 The LORD said to Satan, 'From where have you come?' Satan answered the LORD and said, 'From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.' 8 And the LORD said to Satan, '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 1:6-8)

The apparent reason for this repetition is to show us that Satan was responsible for Job’s afflictions.  God gave permission to the adversary of men to afflict Job. The only difference between chapter two and chapter one is that this time God affirms Job's integrity before Satan.  Satan was proven wrong, and God was vindicated.  Once again, God remains blameless because He is not responsible for these temptations.
"Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God,' for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one"' (James 1:13).

The first three verses of chapter 2 start with the sons of God presenting themselves before Him.  .But Satan is doing all in his power, going to and fro through the earth. He still does that to God’s righteous children today.  He is a roaring lion seeking to devour anyone.
"Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8). 

As we saw in chapter 1, God is showing us the motive and purpose of Satan. God draws Satan’s attention to Job again. Job is blameless, upright, fears God, and turns away from evil. In verse 3, there is only one new statement made in this discussion.
“He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.”

God declared that Job was a man of integrity. He had remained blameless and did not curse God as Satan said he would do. Job did not have false motives. He was not hypocritical. He remained faithful to God despite his terrible circumstances, losing his children and possessions. But Satan is not more powerful than God. He needed permission to do what he did to Job.  Not only this, but God also constrained Satan.
"And the LORD said to Satan, 'Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.' So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.'" (Job 1:12

What Job had to endure did not happen without God’s knowledge or agreement. God took responsibility for what happened in Job 2:3.
"And the Lord said to Satan, '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? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.'"

God never said that Satan did it (though he did). Rather, He said that He did it Himself.
 "You incited me against him to destroy him without reason.'"  

But notice that this is not the only time that God did this.
“Then all his brothers and all his sisters and all who had known him before, came to him, and they ate bread with him in his house; and they consoled him and comforted him for all the adversities that the LORD had brought on him.” (Job 42:11)

  • Dark Despair:
Suffering is not God’s fault.  He is not responsible. Satan is the one afflicting Job (1:12; 2:3; 42:11).  Nothing that happened to Job was because he sinned. God did not punish Job for his sins, receiving what he deserves.  His suffering is undeserved.  Suffering is part of our Christian life. No Christian is exempt from suffering (Job 1).  Even the most righteous will suffer.  We are not exempt from experiencing suffering and difficulties just because we are Christians.  Often, it is the godly and the righteous who receive worse treatment than the world. We deceive ourselves thinking that we will be free of pain and suffering because we are righteous and faithful.  The righteous must accept that suffering is part of their path here on earth.  Job’s righteousness did not insulate him from undergoing the most traumatic of trials.

We can learn endurance that builds our faith through suffering, acknowledging that everything we have belongs to God. It is not ours.  God gives and takes away.  He does not have to give at all.  We are not in control if we have a miserable life from start to finish.  It is naive to think that God must be compelled to meet our life expectations just because we are faithful and righteous.  Instead, we must continue being faithful to God, even if we have to lose everything in life. So we must be willing to praise God no matter our suffering.

Endurance is submission to God even when we lose everything we have.  Job lost so much! He lost all of his possessions, and his children died. His body was afflicted with sores from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet. He sat in the ashes, grieving and mourning while scraping the sores on his body with a broken piece of pottery. His three friends did not even recognize him.  His suffering continued for many months. In his pain, shock, and grief, Job opens his mouth and breaks, saying,
“Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive adversity” (2:10). 
“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (1:21).

Job’s circumstances were dark, for there was no light or hope.  All his happiness and joy had vaporized. It disappeared.  He was in so much despair and pain that he cursed the day he was born. Job did not speak to anyone, not to his friends, or even to God.  He just expressed his pain. He did not curse God.
"After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. 2 And Job said:  3 'Let the day perish on which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man is conceived.’  4 Let that day be darkness! May God above not seek it, nor light shine upon it.  5 Let gloom and deep darkness claim it.  Let clouds dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it.  6 That night—let thick darkness seize it!  Let it not rejoice among the days of the year; let it not come into the number of the months.  7 Behold, let that night be barren; let no joyful cry enter it.  8 Let those curse it who curse the day, who are ready to rouse up Leviathan.  9 Let the stars of its dawn be dark; let it hope for light, but have none, nor see the eyelids of the morning, 10 because it did not shut the doors of my mother's womb,  nor hide trouble from my eyes.'"  (Job 3:1-10).

Job’s lamentation (3:11-19) is parallel with Jeremiah 20:14–18 and Lamentations 3:1–18.
“Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire?  12 Why did the knees receive me? Or why the breasts, that I should nurse?  13 For then I would have lain down and been quiet; I would have slept; then I would have been at rest, 14 with kings and counselors of the earth who rebuilt ruins for themselves, 15 or with princes who had gold, who filled their houses with silver.  16 Or why was I not as a hidden stillborn child, as infants who never see the light?  17 There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest.  18 There the prisoners are at ease together;  they hear not the voice of the taskmaster.  19 The small and the great are there, and the slave is free from his master."  (Job 3:11-19)

Job is hopeless amid the darkness of his pain. Death seems to be the only solution to his suffering. He wanted peace from his suffering and pain.  Because of all that he was enduring, Job thought he had lost his relationship or friendship with God.  He felt like God was not with him. So he grappled with tough questions:

  1. Is it worth it to hold on to faith when God would allow such things to happen?
  2. Is it possible to continue to believe in a good and righteous God in a world where righteousness is no longer rewarded?  

Job was at a loss and wanted peace from so much turmoil internally and externally. In verses 13-19, Job declared that it does not matter who we are or what status we enjoy in life, for death will bring rest to us.


  • So What is The Message For us Today?  
    • First, faith is not two dimensional: 

We are not supposed to look at Job and conclude that he suffered and trusted God. When we are suffering, there is despair and darkness.  One of the most extraordinary things we learn from Job is that faith, suffering, and hopelessness are not incompatible. And though we may have faith in God, we can still feel the crushing weight of our trials and pain that cause us to feel broken. Walking the narrow way of Christ is not sunshine and rainbows!

Our walk of faith is not  “put a smile on your face” and pretend you have no pain. Stoicism is not a godly response to suffering.  Often, many deceive themselves thinking that the way to handle suffering is to pretend that there is no pain.   It is a fact that trials hurt us. They can hurt us so deeply that we are not able to see the light but only darkness.

Faith and despair are not incompatible. We can suffer and feel despair and still have full faith in God. There is nothing wrong with us when we feel darkness.  David expressed this beautifully in Psalm 23.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” 

Friends, we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death sometimes. Pain and darkness are unavoidable in our lives. But the question is, what are we going to do when we enter the darkest valley? What will our response be?

    • Second, we serve a God who allows such unfiltered questions and laments amid our despair:   

God will let us cry out our pain and feelings when things are painful and difficult.  God can handle it, for He does not limit our feelings or expressions of pain. Consider how many Psalms express this kind of hurt, pain, suffering, and questioning!  The Psalms are wonderful to read and meditate on when we are in pain and suffering.  Listen to what God wants us to do.
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)

We have Jesus as our faithful friend who can sympathize with our weaknesses, for He endured temptations and trials just like we do. Jesus was deeply distressed and troubled.
"And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled" (Mark 14:33). 

So let us draw near to the throne of grace and receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need. Pain is not incompatible with faith.  Let us not sit in the darkness of our trials, hiding our pain, and pretending that we do not hurt. We all must enter the darkest valley. But what will be your response? God wants us to come to Him through His beloved Son Jesus, who is our sympathetic High Priest.  He hears our cries and pain.  He will give us mercy and grace.  Where could we go but to our Lord?!


II.  WHAT TO DO WHEN LIFE TURNS INTO LOSS:

Job’s greatest pain was believing that he had lost his relationship with God when he was God’s friend.
"And Job again took up his discourse, and said:  2 'Oh, that I were as in the months of old, as in the days when God watched over me, 3 when his lamp shone upon my head, and by his light I walked through darkness, 4 as I was in my prime, when the friendship of God was upon my tent, 5 when the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were all around me, 6 when my steps were washed with butter, and the rock poured out for me streams of oil!'"  (Job 29:1-6). 

He remembers  God’s presence and His blessings in his life and how God was with him through life’s darkness (29:3-6).  Job contrasts his present circumstances as he recalls his prior blessings and joyChapter 30 ends with Job’s expressing his hopelessness.
"Yet does not one in a heap of ruins stretch out his hand, and in his disaster cry for help? 25 Did not I weep for him whose day was hard? Was not my soul grieved for the needy? 26 But when I hoped for good, evil came, and when I waited for light, darkness came.  27 My inward parts are in turmoil and never still; days of affliction come to meet me.  28 I go about darkened, but not by the sun; I stand up in the assembly and cry for help.  29 I am a brother of jackals and a companion of ostriches.  30 My skin turns black and falls from me, and my bones burn with heat.  31 My lyre is turned to mourning, and my pipe to the voice of those who weep."  (Job 30:24-31)

Job’s final words are an appeal to his righteousness.

  • He is morally pure (31:1-4):
"I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?  2 What would be my portion from God above and my heritage from the Almighty on high?  3 Is not calamity for the unrighteous, and disaster for the workers of iniquity?  4 Does not he see my ways and number all my steps?"

  • He has lived in integrity (31:5-8):
"If I have walked with falsehood and my foot has hastened to deceit; 6 (Let me be weighed in a just balance, and let God know my integrity!) 7 if my step has turned aside from the way and my heart has gone after my eyes, and if any spot has stuck to my hands, 8 then let me sow, and another eat,  and let what grows for me be rooted out."

  • He has been faithful in his marriage (31:9-12):
"If my heart has been enticed toward a woman, and I have lain in wait at my neighbor's door, 10 then let my wife grind for another, and let others bow down on her.  11 For that would be a heinous crime; that would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges; 12 for that would be a fire that consumes as far as Abaddon, and it would burn to the root all my increase."
  • He has shown no partiality (31:13-15):
"If I have rejected the cause of my manservant or my maidservant, when they brought a complaint against me, 14 what then shall I do when God rises up? When he makes inquiry, what shall I answer him? 15 Did not he who made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb?" 

  • He has been charitable (31:16-23)
"If I have withheld anything that the poor desired, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail, 17 or have eaten my morsel alone, and the fatherless has not eaten of it 18 (for from my youth the fatherless grew up with me as with a father, and from my mother's womb I guided the widow), 19 if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, or the needy without covering, 20 if his body has not blessed me, and if he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep, 21 if I have raised my hand against the fatherless, because I saw my help in the gate, 22 then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder, and let my arm be broken from its socket.  23 For I was in terror of calamity from God, and I could not have faced his majesty."
  • He has been humble (31:24-28):
"If I have made gold my trust or called fine gold my confidence, 25 if I have rejoiced because my wealth was abundant or because my hand had found much, 26 if I have looked at the sun when it shone, or the moon moving in splendor, 27 and my heart has been secretly enticed, and my mouth has kissed my hand, 28 this also would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges, for I would have been false to God above."

  • He has shown hospitality (31:29-34):
"If I have rejoiced at the ruin of him who hated me, or exulted when evil overtook him30 (I have not let my mouth sin by asking for his life with a curse), 31 if the men of my tent have not said, ‘Who is there that has not been filled with his meat?’ 32 (the sojourner has not lodged in the street; I have opened my doors to the traveler), 33 if I have concealed my transgressions as others do by hiding my iniquity in my heart, 34 because I stood in great fear of the multitude, and the contempt of families terrified me, so that I kept silence, and did not go out of doors— "

  • Job's final cry to God (31:35-40):
"Oh, that I had one to hear me!  (Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!) Oh, that I had the indictment written by my adversary! 36 Surely I would carry it on my shoulder; I would bind it on me as a crown; 37 I would give him an account of all my steps; like a prince I would approach him.  38 “If my land has cried out against me and its furrows have wept together, 39 if I have eaten its yield without payment and made its owners breathe their last, 40 let thorns grow instead of wheat, and foul weeds instead of barley."


Job calls on God to tell him the charges He has against him (31:40).
  1. So what must we learn from Job’s experiences?  
  2. What must we do when life falls apart? 
  3. What must we do when life explodes? 

Indeed, we can learn many lessons in Job’s final speech.  Consider at least nine foundational facts that help us in our times of trial.

  • We can remain faithful and righteous while suffering immensely. 
We see this portrayed throughout the book of Job. Like Job, we have Jesus as the ultimate example of righteousness who was made to suffer.
  • We must continue to glorify God amid our suffering (Job 26). 
The apostle Paul shared these same sentiments.
"Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Romans 5:3-5)

  • The righteous hope in God for future justice (Job 27).
"For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly." (1 Peter 2:19–23)

  • The wisdom that we need while suffering must be based on fearing the Lord (Job 28).
Even when it seems like the righteous and the wicked’s fate is the same, we must know that wisdom still belongs to God. When we are suffering, we need God more, not less. So we must draw closer to God, not move further from Him.

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." (James 1:2-5)

  • Suffering does not mean we have lost our relationship with God (Job 29). 
And though Job felt like his suffering meant he was God’s enemy and that God had forsaken him, this is not the case, for God has given us wonderful promises.
"Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'" (Hebrews 13:5-6)

  • We must enjoy what we have now because it can be gone tomorrow (Job 30). 
We must not deceive ourselves, thinking that things will always be the same today and tomorrow, for everything can change with the blink of an eye. Job, a righteous man, woke up one day and saw that everything he had was taken from him.  All he had left was God. The writer of Ecclesiastes repeatedly warns us that life is just a vapor and that our circumstances are unpredictable, for they can change at one moment and then change the next.  So we must learn to appreciate and enjoy what we have today!


  • Even while suffering, we must remain pure and holy (Job 27:3-5; 31). 
Nothing would make Satan happier than turning to sin and forsaking God. After all of this suffering, imagine if Job had turned to sin and rebelled against God’s laws! It would have proved that Job only served God for the good he received. Will we only serve God when life is good and smiling at us? Or will we serve God and love God faithfully, no matter our experiences in life?  

We will never get any answers to why we are suffering. It is one of the big messages of the book. And though we might think we have the answers to our whys, they are just guesses and nothing else. We will never know the why of our suffering. When Jesus’ disciples found the blind man in John 9, they thought there were only two options: his parents sinned, or he sinned. Jesus said that neither of those options was correct. To say that we know the whys of our suffering is to presume that we know God’s mind and intentionsWe do not know God’s intentions and reasons!

  • Faith can grow through our trials (Job 3-31): 
Job’s faith increased from his early cries.  In Job 3, we can see that as his faith grew, he defended God.  So we must consider the growth of our faith and rule our tongue through our trials and sufferings.

Thus we must trust God to help us handle our sufferings to glorify Him. We need God to help us through trials (Job 6:14-30).  We must remember that God is with us amid our trials and suffering.  He loves us and will never push us beyond the strength that He supplies for us (1 Corinthians 10:13). God’s intent is not to destroy us but to save us. God allows trials to refine our faith and make us what He wants us to be.  God wants us to be His children and enjoy eternal life with Him. Let us hold firm to Him through our trials and continue to trust in Him.


III.   SUFFERING IS INSTRUCTIVE:

God uses suffering instructively.  God’s discipline is His Grace to save us. He is merciful and desires to deliver us from going into the pit.  He uses suffering to direct our steps so that we may not be destroyed.
"My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights." (Proverbs 3:11-12)
"And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? 'My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.' It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.'"  (Hebrews 12:5-11)

God allows discipline and instruction in our lives through suffering for our good, to make us what He wants us to be.  So we must rejoice in our sufferings, for God’s instruction and wisdom are found in them.
"Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Romans 5:3-5)
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4)

Suffering is an expression of God’s grace and mercy. Suffering is good for us, for pain is instructive and will help us not fall into the pit and harm our souls eternally.  We must acknowledge that God is not punishing through our suffering, but rather He is teaching us. God allows suffering in our lives to teach us to consider our ways and keep our eyes focused on Him alone.  He allows suffering to refine us and make us wiser and not lose our souls.  He wants us to draw closer to Him amid our suffering.


IV.   LET US NOT ALLOW OUR SUFFERING AND TRIALS TO GO TO WASTE:

In Philippians 1:12-26, Paul show us how to take advantage of hardships and suffering so that what he suffered would have purpose and meaning and not be wasted. Suffering is a great challenge to the faith of our walk with God. In the book of Job, we learn that Satan uses suffering to tempt us to forfeit our faith and turn away from the Lord. No one is immune from suffering, for everyone will experience suffering, difficulties, and trials in life. Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians while he was in prison.  We read about his imprisonment at the end of the book of Acts. Here we see the great apostle Paul, imprisoned for over two years in Caesarea. After a horrible journey to Rome that included a shipwreck, he is imprisoned in Rome, awaiting his trial before Caesar. Listen to what he has to say about his circumstances.  
"I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.  15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.  Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again."  (Philippians 1:12-26)

Paul’s imprisonment turned out for good, for his suffering helped to advance the Gospel. The Gospel has advanced among unbelievers. The whole imperial guard knew that Paul was imprisoned for the cause of Christ. The Gospel was spread in the city of Rome through Paul’s suffering and imprisonment.  Not only this, the apostle Paul declared in verse 14 that Christians were confident in proclaiming the Gospel due to his imprisonment. Other Christians have become bolder to speak because of Paul’s boldness that led to his imprisonment. Paul’s suffering has encouraged others to suffer, as well.  Isn’t it remarkable!

Paul was not angry, bitter, and wallowing in self-pity about his imprisonment and his circumstances. It was not the end of the world and the worst thing that had ever happened to him.  He did not shake his fist at God for his imprisonment, for he was happy to be proclaiming the Gospel.  Paul was able to see the positive in his circumstances. Not only this, but Paul also declared that some were preaching Christ out of envy and rivalry (Philippians 1:15-18).  Even though they were teaching from wrong motives, desiring to harm him, Paul still rejoices since Christ is proclaimed. Paul turned the negative as a positive worthy of rejoicing because Christ is proclaimed. 

Paul’s joy is that the Gospel is being proclaimed, and the message of Jesus is spread.  Thus, we must examine our lives through the lens of the Gospel’s progress, not by our comfort. Joy is rooted in the Gospel’s proclamation, not personal circumstances, as we so often evaluate our lives. We can have joy in suffering because Christ and the Gospel are benefiting through our turmoil. As Christians, our aspirations must not be rooted in wealth, marriage, children, travel, career, retirement, or anything else that is not the Gospel’s advancement. Our trials and suffering must be used for the advancing of the Gospel.

The apostle Paul seems to be quoting Job 13:16.
“Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face. This will be my salvation, that the godless shall not come before him.” 

When Job declared these words, he was also speaking about his spiritual salvation, not physical.  This makes the thrust of what Paul was saying more powerful. Paul’s faith will be vindicated, no matter how his trials turn out. He knew that through the prayers of Christians and the strength from the Spirit of Jesus Christ, all would be for his spiritual salvation. Paul’s point is the same point the whole New Testament makes about our trials and suffering refining our faith, molding us into what God wants us to be to remain faithful to the Lord till we die. Listen to Peter’s words.
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)

No matter our suffering, Christ must be honored. No matter what happens to us, Christ must be honored. If that means living or dying, Christ must continue to be honored.  Our purpose in suffering is to make Christ look excellent, honored, and worthy. How do we make Christ look worthy and honored? By trading everything, even life, to gain Christ. Christ must be greater in life or death!  

So, we must pursue Jesus regardless of the cost, for all that matters in this life is that Christ is glorified, honored, whatever our circumstances.  The value of gaining Christ is worth the loss of all things, even life itself. This is what it means to live for Christ and to die to be gain. It is how we treasure Christ in our lives. Paul saw death as the fulfillment of all his labors in life and the glorious possession of Christ. Our lives must bear fruit for Christ, even amid our pain and suffering.  We must be willing to serve and honor Christ regardless of our circumstances!  When we suffer, sacrifice, and die to self, we would not waste our suffering and trials.

Therefore, let us not waste our suffering and trials. 
  1. Let us use our trials and suffering to honor Christ and to advance the Gospel. 
  2. Let us use our difficulties to encourage other Christians to be courageous in the Lord. 
  3. Let us use our pain to grow our faith toward the salvation of our soul. 
  4. Whatever our circumstances, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 
  5. Let us honor Jesus in all things before the world.  
  6. Let us allow Christ to be the center of our relationships, aspirations, desires, and self-denial.  

Thus, let us rejoice even amid our pain.  When we approach our pain with strength, it is easier to spread that strength to others and strengthen their faith.   Our experiences and trials can strengthen others! The apostle Paul didn’t suffer in prison alone, for he allowed others to share in his suffering. He did not keep his “thorn in the flesh” quiet. He taught the Corinthians what he learned from it.  We must be open about our suffering to give and receive encouragement through our healing process!


CONCLUSION:

God puts limitations on what Satan can do to us. God is in control through Job’s trials. In Job 1:12, God tells Satan.
“Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.”

God tells Satan what he can and cannot do. Satan can do anything with what Job has, but nothing can be done against his body.
“Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” (Job 2:6)

Satan is not God and does not operate independently of God’s power. God’s children need to grasp well the problem of suffering. God is in full control of Satan. Whatever Satan does is within God’s constraints and rule.  This knowledge gives us hope. God is in control of the circumstances.  He is ruling over our trials, and nothing will happen outside His knowledge. Since God is ruling over our trials, we can be hopeful amid our difficultiesGod loves usHe sent His Son to save us, not to destroy us through our trials and sufferings.  So we must look at the cross and acknowledge His amazing and sacrificial love!  Although God puts limitations on what can happen to us, our faith must be tested.
Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written, 'The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.' 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents. 10 And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. 13 No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.”  (1 Corinthians 10:6-13)

After speaking about these tests that Israel experienced in the wilderness and failed, the apostle Paul tells us that these tests that Israel experienced in the wilderness and failed serve as an example for us not to fall and fail God like they did (1 Cor. 10:11-12).  In verse 13, we have a promise that gives us hope.
“No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.”

Many translations read this as “no temptation has overtaken you,” but there are others like the NRSV and NET that read “no testing” or “no trial.” The word that is translated “temptation” or “trial” here simply means “to put to the test or prove.” So we must read this text as a promise regarding our trials and temptations. God is sovereign over these events in our life.  God puts limits so that our testing will not press us beyond our strength. God is faithful. He will not let us be tested beyond our strength! Satan is limited. Satan needs permission. Satan cannot act beyond God’s power and knowledge.

If Job overcame his trial, we may rest assured we can overcome ours as well.  God is faithful, and He is with us amid our darkest stormsWith God’s help, we can endure what has been given!

“As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”  (James 5:10-11)

Often when suffering strikes us, we stop praying, praising, reading our Bibles, and meeting for worship with our brethren. A Christ-honoring attitude must compel us to pray, praise, study, and have fellowship with those of the like precious faith to help us in our sufferingWe must stop thinking from a fleshly perspective, serving self, but a heavenly perspective focused on honoring Christ!  Instead of complaining, saying, “How can I get out of this trial?” Why not think from a heavenly perspective,  “How can the Lord use this trial for His glory?”  Let us not miss the point of our suffering.  Christ allows suffering and persecution for a reason.  When we suffer with hope and praise, we honor Christ, proving that He is the solid Rock.

Paul and the apostles are our best examples of rejoicing during massive trials, persecution, empty stomachs, and imminent death.  Godly joy is rooted in something other than physical circumstances.  In Philippians 1:17-19, Paul rejoices because Christ is proclaimed, Christ will be honored in his body, he and the Philippians may soon die for Christ. 

In Acts 5:41, Peter and the apostles rejoiced after being beaten, for they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ. And though each of these circumstances was full of pain, the apostles still rejoiced. They did not rejoice because of their physical circumstances, but instead, they rejoiced because the Lord’s purposes were being accomplished. True life and perspective change joy for us!
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…”  (Philippians 3:8)

Suffering the loss of material possessions, academic knowledge, and even family have no worth in comparison to the joy found in knowing Christ. I would rather lose everything and gain Christ and still count it as joy.  We must determine to stop placing our hope in this world!  Our happiness must not be based on our economic situations, a successful day at work, healthy bodies, or our family and friends’ happiness.  Trusting in all these earthly things to give us joy or happiness will lead us to a miserable life, for they will fail us at some point in our lives.  There is no lasting joy when our primary focus is on these physical things to fill us.

Our priorities must be in the right places:  honoring Christ and the furthering of His Gospel. When our hope is in the firm foundation of the Lord, our joy will be full.  And though we may experience pain, sickness, and even death, we still can rejoice because of our hope.   In John 4:32-34, Jesus said,
“I have food to eat that you do not know about… My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.”

May the Lord’s will be accomplished through our suffering.  May we rejoice amid our suffering to complete the work of the Lord.

Luci


"THERE IS A HABITATION"


"And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb."
Revelation 21:10-14



The song, "There Is A Habitation," is such a beautiful and moving song.  This song helped me so much when my mother died, and it continues to help me with the recent loss of my father, mother-in-law, and cousin.  It gives us so much hope amid our troubled times and sufferings.  The Bible defines hope as the sure anchor of the soul.  Human hope is insignificant in comparison to the hope of the Bible.  This lovely song describes the great city, the New Jerusalem, where the glory of God dwells.  This precious city is filled with majesty, splendor, and glory.  This majestic and glorious city is filled with all precious stones, the 24 pillars, or foundations that are the 12 apostles and the 12 tribes of Israel.  In this majestic city, there is no temple, but our Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple and we, His church, are God's building, the holy Tabernacle as described in Ephesians 2:18-22.
"For through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord,  in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit."

I.  HEAVEN IS A HABITATION BUILT BY THE LIVING GOD:   
 
Our song describes the glories of heaven poetically.  A "habitation" is a dwelling place.  The church, as described in Ephesians 2:18-22, is God's habitation or dwelling place here on earth.  In the kingdom parables of Jesus, as recorded in Matthew chapters 13, 18, 22, and 25, the church is called the kingdom of heaven.  The church is the heavenly city. It had no need of the sun or moon to shine on it because God’s glory was enough to enlighten it, having our Lamb, Jesus as the central lamp.  This lamp would make all peoples walk in His light, bringing glory to it.  Its gates will not be closed because they will be there to bring the nations’ glory and honor into it. 

God also has built for us, His children, an eternal habitation or dwelling in heaven.  A city whose only foundation is God, for He is the principal Designer and Builder.  This "habitation" is the abode for all people "from every tribe and language and people and nation."  It is a kingdom of priests to God, reigning on the earth!  
"By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God."  (Heb. 11:8-10)
"And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying, 'Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."'  (Rev. 5:8-10)

II.   HEAVEN IS A CITY WITH FOUNDATIONS:

This heavenly city has foundations where there will be no wars.  As I mentioned earlier in my introduction, this heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, has twelve foundations: the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Revelation 21:14). These foundations are as firm and strong as God's throneNothing abominable or unclean will be there but God's throne and His Lamb. There will be no wars, nor desolations, for everything that is not clean, causing wars, will be excluded.
"And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb."  (Revelation 21:14)
"But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life."  (Revelation  21:27)

III.  THERE WILL BE NO SORROW, DEATH, OR DECAY IN HEAVEN:

There will be no night, sorrow, death, or decay in that glorious heavenly city, no yesterday or tomorrow, for there will be eternal life.
"And its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there."  (Rev. 21:25)
"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."'  (Rev. 21:3-4
"And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life."  (1 John 2:25)

IV.   IN HEAVEN, BOTH ANGELS AND GLORIFIED IMMORTALS WILL SING PRAISES TO THEIR KING:


In the glorious heavenly city, its "portals" are gates that have twelve gates within its high wall.  At the gates, there are twelve angels, and the names of the twelve tribes of IsraelWithin these portals or gates, angelic armies sing,
"Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!"  (Revelation 5:11-12)

In this heavenly city, the angels will join the glorified immortals, the redeemed of all ages.
"But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel."  (Heb. 12:22-24)

CONCLUSION:

Although life on earth is tough for God's children, there always is heaven’s hope, our "habitation."  This hope strengthens us and helps us to endure when the trials are difficult and painful.  Thus whatever may come our way, we know that our reward, our prize, is waiting for us in heaven if only we will remain steadfast ‘till the end.  Heaven is worth it all!

The faithful of God have the hope of eternal life in heaven, a habitation.  We Christians hope for a beautiful place called heaven, our habitation.  We look forward to eternal life within its gates.  We anticipate with joy entering the gates of the heavenly city, our eternal home, or habitation.  This hope gives us joy and quenches our sorrows here on earth. 

God’s Word often speaks of heaven as God’s “habitation” where He dwells (Isa. 57:15; 1 King 8:30).  Heaven is also the dwelling of God's throne, where He rules in majesty over His entire creation (Ps. 103:19).  Not only is heaven God’s habitation, but it is also the place where His faithful saints will dwell forever. They can rightly call heaven their eternal home, the glorious heavenly city!  O Zion, Zion, I long thy gates to see; O Zion, Zion, when shall I dwell in thee? I commend this lovely song to your thoughts.

There is a habitation,
Built by the living God,
For all of every nation
Who seek that grand abode.

A city with foundations,
Firm as th’ eternal throne
Nor wars nor desolations
Shall ever move a stone.

No night is there, no sorrow,
No death, and no decay,
No yesterday, no morrow–
But one eternal day.

Within its pearly portals,
Angelic armies sing,
With glorified immortals,
The praises of its King.

The chorus 

O Zion, Zion,
I long thy gates to see;
O Zion, Zion,
When shall I dwell in thee?


Luci