Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

25 January 2006

Title: Pain and Suffering?

Scripture Reading: Job 1:13-22



This evening I am going to talk about pain and suffering and how to face trouble, because from the cradle to the cemetery, we spend much of our existence trying to avoid pain and stay out of trouble. 


The longer we live, the more likely it is that we will have physical problems. 


I know that many of you are sick and hurting. 


When you get up in the morning your body begins to tell you; maybe you should have stayed in bed. 


So you are all familiar with the topic of our message; “How do you face trouble?”, because you have all experienced pain and suffering and overwhelming trouble.  


If you watch television commercials, you have probably noticed that many of them offer advice about how to manage pain; they advertise Tylenol, Advil, and a dozen other pain relievers. 


However, such solutions are only temporary. 


Some people try to escape pain through drugs and alcohol, but they find that their pain increases rather than disappears. 


Still others patiently just “grin and bear” their pain, and act like everything is alright. 


Satan uses pain to make people doubt God’s goodness. 


He wants to inject doubt into our minds until we distrust the character and behavior of our heavenly Father.


Satan seeks to promote bitterness and hate because of pain. 


We must beware of the strategies of the evil one; he is out to destroy us because he is the enemy of God and our enemy as well. 


If Satan can make us angry at God or make us react with bitterness and hostility toward either God or others, he is leading us down a path of self-destruction.


I want to ask a question: “Is there any good news for those who suffer?” 

In times when trouble strikes, we need to take an inventory to see if there is any good news that can cheer us up and help us to bear the burden of pain.


Trouble and suffering are facts of life that all of us must cope with sooner or later. 


An incurable disease may afflict someone we love or even us personally. 


A financial disaster may wipe out our savings and take our homes.


The things we worked all our lives for can be destroyed by fire in a matter of minutes. 


A domestic tragedy, such as divorce, may tear apart our home. 


There are fatal accidents on life’s highways. 


There are dead-end streets where all hopeful expectations are brought to a stop.


So, “How should Christians cope with suffering and trouble?”


When trouble comes, some people turn to religion, hoping it will deepen and strengthen their faith. 


Others turn away from religion in disappointment and despair. 


Still others turn against religion in hate and cynicism. 


How do people cope with pain and trouble? 


Some bluster and bluff and cuss, and act like there is nothing wrong. 


Some develop a headache and take an aspirin. 


Some drink or take drugs that enable them to escape the pain of reality temporarily. 


Some pray and trust God.


What will you do when trouble comes? 


Will you turn to God? 


Will you run from God? 


Will you turn against God?


Let’s take a look at Job, the ultimate example of a man who struggled with suffering in the times before Christ.


Job 1:13-22 is our Scriptures for today.


I am going to read from the New Century Bible, but first I will give you some background.


The Bible tells us that—


One day the angels came into the presence of God, and Satan was with them. 


God asked Satan, “What have you been doing?”


Satan replied, “I have been claiming the earth for myself.”

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Do you know about my servant Job?  No one else on earth is like him.  He is an honest and innocent man, and he honors God and stays away from evil.”

But Satan answers back, “Job honors God for a good reason.  You have put a wall around him and his family, and everything he owns.  I can’t touch him.  You have blessed the things he has done.  His flocks and herds are so large they almost cover the land.   But if you would destroy everything he has, he will curse you to your face.”

So the Lord accepted the challenge and said to Satan, “All right, then. You can do anything you want to Job, but you must not touch Job himself.”


Then Satan left heaven and returned to earth.


The Bible says-


13 Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house;
14 and a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them,
15 when the Sabeans raided them and took them away—indeed they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”
16 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”
17 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three bands, raided the camels and took them away, yes, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”
18 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house,
19 and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”
20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped.
21 And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.”


And the last verse says.

22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.


Let’s begin by looking at several aspects of Job’s character to see what kind of man he was.


First, Job is a dramatic illustration of one who experienced undeserved suffering. 


He is an example of how the innocent can suffer. 


These verses which we read, tell us four things about Job’s character that we should consider:


First, Job was a blameless man. 


Verse 1 says, “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect…” 


He was blameless in the eyes of God, in the eyes of others, and in his own eyes. 


Job was a man just like you and me, only better. 


He was a praiseworthy man, an important man and a man of distinction, a judge, and a man who had authority over others. 


The country he lived in was the land of Uz, in the eastern part of Arabia; the same place where Abraham lived before God called him out of that place. 


This was a very wicked land, but it was to Job’s praise that he was so exceedingly good in such a bad place.


Second, Job was upright. 


Verse 1 says, “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was upright…” 


This means that he was straightforward and genuine and right in his relationships. 


He was a very good man, extremely religious, and better than his neighbors. 


Third, Job feared God.   


Verse 1 also says, “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man feared God…” 


He was a reverent worshiper of God as far as he was able to understand Him. 


He was sincere in his religion. 


He was called perfect by God; but he was not sinless as he was later to admit. 


He said, “If I say I am perfect, I shall be proven wicked.” 


He respected all of God’s commandments, and tried his best to keep them. 


He was really as good as he seamed to be.


And fourth, Job was a man who turned away from evil.  


Verse 8 says, “And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and turns his back on evil?” 


There was no compromise in this man’s life. 


Notice the question that God put to Satan: “Have you considered my servant Job?” 


God speaks of him in an honorable way: He said that he is a servant. 


And, just like Job, godly men and women are God’s servants. 


God said, “Look at him.  There is none like him, none that I value like him, and none that have such great faith.”


Satan hates every child of God and he will do everything in his power to hurt us. 


We can take comfort, however, because Satan cannot harm us more than God will allow. 


The suffering of Job is a good example of this, because in the book of Job we reed that Satan had to ask permission from God to harm Job, because he said, “I can’t touch him because you have a hedge around him.” 


God allowed the devil to test Job, but put limits on what he could do.


Well, Job was certainly a good man, but next let’s look at his position in his family and the community he lived in.


Job lived in a time when people commonly believed that anyone who was good would be happy and prosperous. 


He fit the times, because he was a good man, and he was also happy and prosperous. 


There are five statements that can be made about his position within the community where he lived:


First, Job was the best of the best; there was no one else like him.


Second, Job enjoyed great wealth.


Third, Job had a wonderful family.


Forth, Job was a priest in his own household.


And fifth, Job was the epitome of success and happiness.


Verse 5, has this to say about his position as a priest in his home and his love for his children: “So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did regularly.”  [Every day]


It is apparent that Job loves and cares for his children. 


Those who are good will be good to their children, and will especially do all they can to see that they come to know Jesus as Savior. 


On the occasion that Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned,” he is expressing his concern that they may have taken the liberty to celebrate by drinking too much and have “cursed God in their hearts.” 


But Job had a remedy for their sin. 


As soon as the celebration was over, he ordered them to examine their own consciences and repent of what they had done wrong during the feast, and to prepare themselves to worship God. 


He kept his authority over his children and they submitted to it, even though they were adults, with their own homes. 


He was the priest of the family, and they still worshipped at his alter. 


Job, like Abraham, had an alter, where he offered daily sacrifices for his family, and he encouraged them to join him in worship and in prayer. 


Friends, I believe that nothing has greater influence with children than to see their parents reading God’s word and praying.


Job was the priest of his family. 


He believed it was his job to teach them about God, and to lead them in worshiping God. 


That would also be a good belief for us to have.


Let’s not depend on pastors and Sunday school teachers to do all the teaching—instead let’s teach our family about God and Jesus, at home.


But despite his good character and his good standing, Job experienced great catastrophe and suffering.


It came suddenly and it was both undeserved and unexplained.


First, Job suffered the loss of property. 


This is how it happened: “A messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were eating grass nearby, when the Sabeans attacked and carried them away.  They killed the servants with swords, and I am the only one who escaped to tell you!” 


The messenger was still speaking when another messenger arrived and said, “Lightning from God fell from the sky.  It burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who escaped to tell you!” 


The second messenger was still speaking when another messenger arrived and said, “The Babylonians sent three groups of attackers that swept down and stole your camels and killed the servants.  I am the only one who escaped to tell you!” 


Job lost all that he had. 


He had 500 yoke of oxen and 500 donkeys and he lost them all at once, along with the servants who cared for them. 


They were taken by his neighbors, the Sabeans, and it was Satan who put the thought into their minds to do it. 


He had 7000 sheep and they were killed by lightning, and the shepherds were killed at the same time. 


In this case, Job was told that the destruction came from heaven and that made it even more terrible, because he looked upon that as a sign of God’s displeasure with him. 


He had 3000 camels, and the servants who tended them, and he lost them all at the same time when the Chaldeans drove them off and slew the servants. 


Perhaps Job questioned why the wicked robbers prospered while he suffered this great loss.


Second, Job suffered the tragic death of his children. 


His dearest and most valuable possessions were his ten children; and, to conclude the tragedy, news was brought to him that they were killed and burned in the house where they were celebrating. 


This was the greatest of Job’s losses, therefore the devil kept it for the last.


The Bible tells us that—


After that, the angels came again to show themselves to the Lord, and Satan was with them again.

The Lord asked Satan the same question, “What have you been doing?”

And Satan answered like before, “I have been claiming the earth for myself.”

Then the Lord said to Satan, “What do you think about my servant Job?  He is the best man on earth.  Because of you I have ruined him for no good reason, but he continues to honor Me.”

Satan’s answer was, “A man will do anything to save his own life. But if you will hurt him with a disease, he will curse you to your face.”

Then the Lord said to Satan, “All right, then. Do what you want to Job, but you can not take his life.”

So Satan left the Lord’s presence.


And shortly afterward Job experienced the loss of his health. 


The devil has done all of this for one reason, so that Job will curse God. 


And now he provokes him even more by smiting him with painful boils. 


They covered him from head to foot. 


They were so severe that there was no way he could position himself to get relief. 


As bad as his condition was, his treatment for it was nothing less than strange. 


Instead of applying healing salves, he took a piece of broken pottery and scrapped himself with it. 


He has to tend to these boils himself, because his children and servants are dead and his wife is unsympathetic toward him. 


He has lost all his wealth, so he can’t go to a doctor. 


And even his former friends have refused to lend him a hand; to dress or wipe his running sores. 


All that he does to his sores is to scrape them. 


Finally, instead of lying down in a soft, warm bed, he sets down among the ashes; perhaps to wait to die.


Job suffered the loss of his possessions and his health, and then he experienced bad council and advice from his wife. 


Here are some of the most hurtful words I have ever heard. 


After all that Job had gone through his wife said, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity?  Curse God and die!”


Satan had spared her, when everything else had been taken away, for this purpose, to further trouble and tempt him. 


First she attacks his faithfulness to his religion when she asks, “Do you still have your integrity?” 


In other words she is saying, “Is this a God to be still loved, and blessed, and served. 


She urges him to renounce his religion and curse God. 


She says, “Curse God and die.” 


She pushes for him to become independent from God and to find his own relief through suicide; to end his trouble by ending his life.


Last of all, Job endured the frustration of sincere friends who blundered in their efforts to comfort and counsel him. 


Nevertheless, we should recognize that Job was fortunate in some respects.


First, his friends did come to him. 


And that required great effort on their part.


Then they sat in silence with him for seven days. 


Sometimes silence is the best way to support someone who is suffering.


And when they did speak, they gave the best advice they knew how to give. 


Basically they said to him, “Job, acknowledge your sinfulness. Admit your hypocrisy.  Confess your secret sins.” 


Job’s friends were philosophers and thinkers, and they offered him the best advice they knew for the complex problems he faced. 


Job and his friends believed that suffering was the result of sin and that people who suffered must have sinned. 


But, in the midst of his pain, Job held on to his conviction regarding his personal integrity. 


He was convinced that he did not deserve the suffering he was experiencing. 


His suffering was totally out of proportion to any sin of which he might have been guilty.


We learn from the book of Job as we study it in its entirety that suffering is not always the result of sin. 


We also learn from the book of Job that God is often blamed for tragedies and catastrophes and hurts for which he is not responsible.


Job’s friends came to him with the suggestion that his sufferings were the unavoidable consequence of some great flaw in his character or in his beliefs or conduct that led him to commit some great sin. 


But, Job was patient in the sense that he held on to his since of integrity and denied that his sufferings were due to some great sin in his life.


When suffering comes to us, we must hold on to the conviction that God is love and then that God is good. 


We must believe that God always acts in conformity to His good character and does the right thing.


How will you handle trouble? 


Will it bring you closer to God? 


Will it turn you away from God? 


Will it turn you against God? 


There are several suggestions that may be helpful to us as we consider the possibility of suffering in the future. 


First, let’s get acquainted with Jesus as Savior and Teacher and Friend and Helper. 


Let’s study the example of Jesus as he dealt with the pain and suffering of others. 


And let’s be assured that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.


And before suffering comes, we need to develop some resources to assist us in times of trouble. 


In the same way that we take out liability or accident insurance, let’s take out some spiritual insurance. 


There are five things that we can do to prepare ourselves for future troubles:


First, we must develop the daily habit of a quiet time in which we let God speak to us from His Word. 


That calls for Bible study and meditation.


Second, we must let prayer be a conversation with God in which we not only speak to him but let Him speak to us.


Third, we need on a regular basis to participate in public worship and allow God to use this time to draw us closer to Him.


Forth, we need to develop genuine Christian friendships with other members of the family of God, so they can be the means of God’s ministry to us when trouble comes.


And fifth, we must expect the angels of God to come in our time of need. 


In the meantime, we must not be anxious about trouble that may come in the future. 


Let’s determine to live the Christian life now under the leadership of our risen Savior and in the power of the Holy Spirit.


I’ll give you the rest of the story, just in case some of you don’t remember.


In the last chapter of Job we are told—


The Lord gave Job twice as much as he had owned before.  The Lord blessed the last part of Job’s life even more than the first part.  Job had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand teams of oxen, and a thousand female donkeys.  Job also had seven sons and three daughters.


God restored everything to Job, and then gave him even more.


I believe that we can all relate to this message, because I know that each of you have experienced sickness, and sorrow and discouragement. 


But the message is clear from our study today; you don’t have to suffer alone. 


God will help; Jesus will help; the Holy Spirit will help; Christian friends will help. 


But, we must face the facts; God does not always remove the pain or trouble.


He didn’t remove the cup from Jesus, as He prayed and agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane; and He didn’t remove Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.”


When you pray for relief from the pain that plagues your body and seemingly there is no answer, what will you do? 


You will not be able to ignore the pain, because pain is no illusion. 


But God’s children can be sure of this: when God doesn’t remove troubles and temptations, He will give us grace sufficient to get through them. 


God’s grace is sufficient to comfort and strengthen us. 


Many people have this false impression that if they try to be good and try to do right that God will exempt them from pain and suffering and trouble. 


This way of thinking is unrealistic and unbiblical. 


It is contrary to the experience of great saints who suffered down through the ages. 


It is not always good to use one’s self as an example, but as I wrote this message, I thought of the many times that God has helped me get through physical problems. 


He has brought me through heart surgery, two hip replacements, two knee surgeries, two hand surgeries, gallbladder surgery, depression, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, hernias, a broken neck, pneumonia, arthritis, bulging and cracked vertebrae in the back, neuropathy in my feet, diabetes and more. 


I have prayed and asked God to heal me each time, but each time the answer has been, “I will get you through it.” 


Many of the problems still exist and I still have pain, but I am getting through with God’s help. 


Now I am able to look back and see that some of these troubles were placed on me by God for my own good. 


Several times sickness made me turn away from a sinful lifestyle and turn back to God. 


Several times He put me in a position where He was my only hope.  


I can see now that these things have made my faith in Him stronger. 


I depend upon Him now, and not myself or others. 


But let me tell you of my hero. 


His name is Michael Epps. 


I first met him when Sierra and I began a Sunday morning worship service at The Inn at Laurens. 


Michael was 40 years old, blind and had severe diabetes. 


But that’s only his “thorn in the flesh.” 


He wrote what I call spiritual poetry; poems that are based upon scripture.


He wanted to have them published, but that was not to be.


And I loved to hear him pray. 


His prayers recognized the holiness of God, and they brought praise and worship. 


He lived several years at Laurens Memorial Home, and he was a strong witness for Christ there, just like he was at the Inn. 


The amazing thing about him was that despite all his problems he never complained. 


He was always giving encouragement to others. 


He was my friend and he is a good example of one who copes with pain by trusting God.


Michael died last year, but I thank God for bringing us together.


I believe that Jesus helped him to live with his physical problems.


Jesus came to save, but he also helped people cope with pain. 


We have no record in the Scriptures of Jesus ever turning away from those who were in pain. 


He healed the sick. 


He gave sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf. 


He enabled the lame to walk. 


With faith in His love and kindness, we can face the pain that comes our way.


We can be assured that God’s blessings will rest on our doctors and modern medical facilities, and we should not hesitate to seek these services as we cope with pain.


Jesus also came to help us cope with the pain of being fallen creatures, mistake-makers, sinners who are lost and do not know the way home. 


Jesus came to help us cope with our incompleteness and our spiritual deadness toward God. 


Jesus came to help us avoid the agony of missing heaven when this life is over. 


He died on a cross and conquered death and the grave in order to prepare for us a home in heaven.


Let us trust Jesus to help us overcome all of the pain associated with being human beings, and let us rejoice in the fact that there will come a day when there will be no more pain, no more suffering, and no more trouble.


And the Bible tells us that He will provide everything we need personally.


If there is anything you need tonight, just ask God for it, and if it’s God’s will for your life, it will happen.


We are going to have an invitation now, and if you are experiencing pain, or suffering, or trouble, I hope you will come and ask your heavenly Father to either remove it or give you the grace to get through it.

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