This is the fourth in a series of sermons on the fruits of the spirit. The series is beginning at the end of the list of fruits in Galatians 5:22-23.
[Gary Petty] The book of Job is one of the most mysterious books in the entire Bible. To tell the truth, we're not sure who wrote it. And nobody's even sure of exactly when Job lived. I've seen all kinds of explanations of he lived at this period and this period and why, but the point is, nobody really knows when and exactly where he lived – what time period he lived in. And we don't even know who wrote it. So here we have this book, in the Old Testament, that God chose to put in here, to tell us a very important story.
We know a little bit about the man. We know that he came from a place called Uz, that he had ten children. And the most remarkable statement made about him was that he was "blameless and upright and one who feared God and shunned evil." This was a truly righteous man. That's what is very important to understand in this story of Job. We're going to go through parts of the story of Job today – and some other things – as we continue our series of sermon on the Fruits of the Spirit.
Let's go to Job chapter 1. There are some very fascinating lessons we learn here in Job. We know, in the first few verses, it talks about Job and the wealth he had. Not only was he a righteous man, but he was an extremely wealthy man. Just by the standards of any time in the ancient world, he would have been considered the Donald Trump of his day. It says in verse 6…. We need to set up…I mean, this man is going to go through horrible suffering, and we need to set up how it happened. We all suffer for different reasons. In a little bit I'll talk about five reasons why we suffer. Sometimes we suffer…you know, you walk out here and you step off the pavement here, walking in the parking lot, and you sprain your ankle. And you suffer. It's part of being human. But we have a story of why this man suffered that is unbelievable. And what's important to understand is sometimes we will suffer in the exact same way for the exact same reasons. Verse 6:
Job 1:6 Job 1:6Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.
American King James Version×– Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD and Satan also came among them. You know, when you look at descriptions of God's throne in the Bible, angels are coming and going before the throne of God. Satan appears before the throne of God to give an account of what he does. You know, Satan may be the god of this world, but he is still forced to be subject to the Almighty God. And here he appears before Him to give an account of what he does.
V-7 – And the LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" Satan answered and said, "From going to and fro on the earth – from walking back and forth on it. 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 – one who fears God and shuns evil?" Now it's very important in this story to realize that Satan didn't come before God and say, "You know, I want to talk to you about Job." God brings up Job. He says, "By the way, have you noticed Job? Now there is a true son of Mine!" Now, knowing Satan, as he's revealed in the Bible, his reaction to that is going to be very violent, because Satan sees himself as important as God. And the idea that there are going to be beings greater than him is just unacceptable to him. And every human being that is changed into the Kingdom of God – into the family of God – is greater than the angels. So every human being has the capability of being greater than Satan! This is something that drives him with a passion. And here God is, telling him, "Look at Job. That's the way humans beings are supposed to grow. That's what they're supposed to become."
V-9 – And Satan answered the LORD and said, "Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not made a hedge around him – around his household, around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of His hands and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to your face." And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power. Only do not lay a hand on his person." So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.
Now you read what happens. It's horrifying. Here is a man who is living a life of happiness, of wealth, of family, of joy, and within a few hours, he loses everything! His wealth is wiped out. All his children die. His whole world is just shattered and destroyed. He's suffering at the depths of what human beings can suffer. All of you know there is a level of suffering – whether it's physical suffering, or mental suffering, emotional suffering, spiritual suffering – there is a level of suffering for all of us that you can't bear. You can't bear it! He's at the point where you think, "How can a human being bear this?" It's more than he can stand. And yet verse 22 says:
V-22 – In all this, Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong. In the depths of a suffering that seems unbearable, Job's comment was…look at verse 21:
V-21 – Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD. He said, "You know, my life is in the hands of God, and sometimes there's good, and sometimes there's bad, and I trust God."
Now I find there are a couple of lessons here. One of them is, too, that Satan doesn't know the consequences of his actions. You know, we think Satan knows the future. Satan believed he would win this one. He doesn't understand the consequences of his actions. I have wondered, "Why can't Satan see that he will fail?" And then you realize he can't. He believes he will succeed. At some level, he believes he will succeed. He believed he would succeed against Job, and God said, "Go ahead. You won't succeed." Satan doesn't have the power, sometimes, that we attribute to him. At the other end of the coin, he has a power to deceive that we don't see in him either. There's the great problem. But he doesn't have the power to look out and predict what you're going to do. He can guess at it. He tries to manipulate us. But he failed here. Verse 1 of chapter 2:
Job 2:1 Job 2:1Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD.
American King James Version×– Again, there came a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD. And the LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" "I've been just out ruling the earth – trying to mess up humanity as best I can – trying to prove that my way's better. So I've been down there teaching them my way. And I've got things going pretty good here, except for a few." Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant, Job? Oh, by the way, how did you do with Job?" You have to understand. Job has no idea this is going on – just like you and I have no idea that there are conversations about you that go on between God and Satan. There are conversations…you know, I'd like to think I'm not that important. And you'd like to think you're not that important – that God and Satan would never have a conversation about you – or about me. I'm not important. Well, Job isn't important, except that he's obeying God. I hate to tell you this, but Satan knows you. He knows you by name – knows everything about you – knows your weaknesses – and he's always going to God and saying, "I got ‘em. Let me at them. I can destroy them." You think, "Wow! I'd hate to be the person he says that about." I believe – I can't prove this – I believe, probably, there have been times in the life of every person in this room that there's been a conversation like this between God and Satan – where Satan has said, "That one has Your Spirit. I can show you they will fail." Unfortunately, sometimes we do, don't we? Unfortunately, sometimes we do. And how is he going to make us fail? Well, for a few people, he'll make them rich. That doesn't seem to be what he's done with any of us in this room. Why can't Satan go and say to God, "God, I can destroy Gary. Just make him rich!" But I don't get that one. It's, "Make him suffer!" Make him suffer. Make you suffer. And we will give up on God. He believes that. So God says in verse 3:
V-3 – …there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And he still holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him to destroy him without cause. He says, "What I did is not because I have anything against Job. I love the man!" He said, "But you said you could take him, and you haven't." So Satan answered the LORD and said, "Skin for skin, yes, all that man has he will give for his life. But stretch out Your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh and he will surely curse You to Your face." The LORD said to Satan, "Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life." So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. The man was put into such horrible pain, he could not bear it. What he did was he went to an ash dump, where they burned garbage. Have you ever been in some kind of pain where you can't sit down, you can't stand up, you can't lay down. You just can't seem to function. There's nothing you can do. Well, that's where he was.
So he went and he sat in an ash dump, and he took pieces of broken pottery, and he scraped these sores that covered his whole body – his face, his hands, his torso, his legs – everything – his back. And he sat there alone scraping, unable to sleep, unable to function, unable to eat, and days go by. And the only person he has left is his wife. And his wife keeps saying, "Just curse God and die, you stupid man!" It's like, "Wow! The one person that's supposed to stand beside me in life…God didn't kill her! She is here to torment me!" Then, to make it worse, his three best friends show up. And they sit in the ash dump with him for days. And finally, at the end, they start to talk – the end of a week. He's sitting there now starving. He's dying. There's nothing left – you know, a little water, a little food, but he can't survive in the state he's in.
And what's amazing is, from chapter 2 to chapter 42, is three men telling Job, "You know what your problem is? You're an arrogant fool – a sinner – and you just won't go to God and repent! And He's going to continue to punish you until you repent." Good friends. That's suffering, isn't it?
When we go through the fruits of the Spirit – and we've been going through the fruits of the Spirit – and how each of these fruits must be developed in us, because they're part of the very character of God…. And we have gone through how we have to learn goodness, how we have to learn faithfulness, how we have to learn self-control – we've been going through all these – and now were to – in the list in Galatians 5 – longsuffering – the one of the fruits I wish I didn't have to learn. You know, I really would like to learn goodness – that active goodness we talked about last time. Remember? I really would like to learn active goodness – to know when to make a stand – to make a stand for God and what's right. I also want to learn that gentleness that we talked about, so that mercy can be shown. I want to learn self-control, because I know the more self-control we learn in the right way, the happier we are. But longsuffering…the problem is, it's long and it's suffering! It's not short-suffering, or just long. "You've got to learn long." It's longsuffering! There's nothing short about it. How long is long? I don't know! I mean, sometimes you suffer for six months. Sometimes you suffer for six minutes, and you go to God and say, "It's enough!" And sometimes it's six weeks, and six months, and sometimes it's six years. And sometimes it's six decades that you suffer with something! And you keep saying, "God, is it enough?" And God determines when it's long enough. And we says, "Isn't that unfair?" But then you have to stop and remember every one of the fruits of the Spirit is an attribute of God's character. And you and I are very, very fortunate that God experiences longsuffering. You say, "God doesn't suffer. Okay. Jesus Christ suffered. I understand. He came to this earth and He suffered –and that suffering comforts us – but God the Father…He doesn't suffer."
2 Peter. So we have self-control, and meekness, and faithfulness, and goodness, and gentleness, and longsuffering. 2 Peter 3. We're going to come back to Job in a minute. See, there is no health and wealth gospel. "Trust God and nothing bad will happen to you." It's not true. Now, the opposite isn't true: "Trust in God and we'll just be fatalistic." It's sort of the Muslim viewpoint of life: "Oh, it's just God's will – no matter what happens – it's God's will." You get hit by a car. "Well, it's God's will." Everything bad that happens is God's will. That's not true either. Most of the suffering that goes on in the world is not God's will. He has nothing to do with it. But you and I live in the reality of this world. And we live in the reality that suffering…and how do we make sense of it so that we can learn to suffer long? It doesn't say to suffer long so that you will be depressed, and suffer long so that you will have no meaning in life, and suffer long so that you will be a bitter, angry person. As we go up this list, the next thing we're going to be talking about is peace and joy! We'll, wait a minute. Aren't these opposite traits? "I can't suffer long and have peace and joy." God does. This is a hard one for me. Because when I'm suffering, I don't have much peace and joy, and yet, I'm supposed to. We're supposed to. Verse 14 of 2 Peter 3 – Peter says:
2 Peter 3:14 2 Peter 3:14Why, beloved, seeing that you look for such things, be diligent that you may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
American King James Version×– Therefore – sort of breaking into the middle of this thought – beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace – we have a peace within ourselves – without spot and blameless – that sin is being removed from our lives – and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation. "The longsuffering of our Lord is salvation."
Now, we know the longsuffering of Jesus Christ. His suffering was a whole lot more than the beating and crucifixion He went through. That's part of what His suffering was. His suffering was becoming a baby. His suffering was feeling pain. His suffering was the whole experience of being a human being. His suffering was having His own family turn against Him. Do you realize, except for Mary and Joseph, all His siblings didn't believe He was the Messiah until after He was resurrected! He was just Jesus, the whacko. At one point, He had hundreds of disciples. At the end He had a hundred and twenty. Most of them left Him. And He talks about…did you read the description? That was personal to Him. "God called these people. I'm working with these people. These people left!" It was very personal to Him. They left Him. He finally turns to Peter, and He says, "Are you going to leave Me, too?" Peter's answer was, "I have no place to go. You're it! There's no place for me to go." He suffered.
God the Father suffers. He suffered when Satan rebelled, because God loved Lucifer. He suffered when Adam and Eve rebelled, because God loved Adam and Eve. He suffers every time something happens on this earth. You know, you think about your suffering and my suffering. It's pretty small. It's pretty narrow. I don't, necessarily, feel suffering when a child starves to death in central Africa, because I don't know about it. God does. We forget God has value on that child. That child is His. We say, "Ooh, this is terrible," when we read about how American troops went in, and got in a battle, and killed three or four Afghan soldiers – fighters – they're not really soldiers – but killed them. And we think, "Oh, that's terrible." What does God feel? What does God feel for the ones who died? What does God feel for the ones that killed them – and the damage it's going to do for them for the rest of their lives? Every sin, every suffering on this earth affects God.
Now, if He did not suffer long, what would He do with us? See, this just isn't God telling us, "Oh, you human beings, you learn to suffer." God's saying, "You're going to have to become like Me. If you want eternity, you're going to have to become like me." We really must become of the children of God. We must be like our Father. We must be like our older Brother. And one of the attributes that they both have is they suffer a long time. They suffer all the time.
Read that again – verse 15 – and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation. If God doesn't suffer long, you and I won't get salvation, because He'll give up on us long before we get there. Why doesn't He give up on us? The grief we cause in His life all the time? You know, Job was causing grief in His life. Job wasn't a perfect man. And yet God looked at Satan and said, "Hey, there's one of My kids." That's what's scary. You know, if you're really, really close to God, there's probably a time when Satan is standing before God, and He says, "Hey, did you notice Joe in San Antonio? That's one of My kids." Boy, have you been set up for suffering! Why do we suffer?
Another scripture I want to look at is 1 Timothy 1. Here Paul is telling Timothy how to deal with his suffering and how to help others deal with their suffering – 1 Timothy 1, verse 15. You say, "Wow, God's setting me up. That's horrible." Well, wait a minute. Before you say, "Why would God do this? Me must be a sadist. He loves to see me suffer," we're going to go through the reasons we suffer and why God would allow you to suffer. Okay? There has to be a reason God did this with Job.
1 Timothy 1:15 1 Timothy 1:15This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
American King James Version×– This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. Paul said, "You came to save sinners, and I'm at the top of the list! I'm at the top of the list of the people He had to die for." However, for this reason, I obtain mercy – that in me first, Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern for those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. What an attitude! Can you imagine telling somebody – can you imagine telling your neighbor – they say, "What about the church you belong to?" And you say, "Jesus Christ died for me first. I'm at the top of the list…I'm at the top of the list of the most wretched of human beings…and He died for me first, so that He could show me a pattern of how to suffer." A little different viewpoint than how we look at suffering, isn't it? See, I find this uncomfortable. I would like to have skipped, and gone from that gentle kindness right to peace, which is the next one on the list. I really would like to have skipped this. This is a trait I have trouble with. I mean, it's times to confess here. I have trouble with this one. I stub my toe… "Oh God, heal me now…please, within the next six seconds." I just don't do well with suffering. I get a lot of it. I think I get a lot of it because I don't do well with it. This is tough one. But we have to learn this. Jesus Christ gave us a pattern of how to deal with longsuffering. How long did He suffer? His whole life! Now He had joy. He had peace. He was a happy man to be around…unless you were a Pharisee. If you were a Pharisee, He'd come unglued with you. But with everybody else, He was a happy guy to be around. People like Him. And yet, He was suffering. And He gave us a pattern of how to deal with that.
Human suffering, at times, can be unbearable. You and I have to have God's help. There are things in life – the death of a loved one, your own illnesses, sometimes just the stress of living in Satan's world…. I fear, at times, that some of God's people are just going to come apart, because we live in a deteriorating, evil world. Well, we were told it was going to be a deteriorating, evil world. It's not going to get better. It is not! "Well, if we could just get rid of President Obama, it would get better. If we got rid of President Obama, some good things might happen." But would human nature be changed? No. So guess what? The train is not stopping. It's headed toward the cliff. And it's got to go there. And God told us it's got to go there. And God told us that we're going to suffer because of the world we live in. So we suffer. We suffer because of that. We suffer because there are pressures that destroy our families and destroy our marriages. There's pressure on us to do evil – to do wrong. We fight our own human nature. And some days, it's easy, as a Christian, to get out of bed and say, "Ah, this longsuffering stuff…it just isn't worth it. It's not worth going on." That's why we have to go back and say, "What are all these fruits…?" Because they all come together…they all come together and you start to see the perfectness of God. God suffers, but when you go before the throne of God, you do not go before a depressed Being. That's what's amazing! The whole suffering of the world is on the shoulders of God! And when you go before God, He's not angry. He's not depressed. He is who He is.
Now there are five main reasons why we suffer. I'm just, then, going to go through these, but I'm going to kind of zero in on a couple of them more than others. One, we suffer because of our own sins. Two, we suffer because of the sins and mistreatment of other people. Three, we suffer because of bad judgment. Four, we suffer because we live in Satan's world. And five, we suffer because spiritual growth is sometimes painful. In other words, spiritual growth involves suffering.
Remember what it was like in school? For some of us, learning the multiplication tables was suffering. It was suffering. For others, it wasn't. For some people, learning to play a musical instrument was suffering. For others, it wasn't. (We had a wonderful time, by the way, last Sunday at the Choir Brunch. And being singers, guess what happened after everybody ate. People started singing. And pretty soon, the karaoke machine came out and we found out that Mr. Greg Johnson really wants to be a lounge singer. (Chuckles) It was a lot of fun. It was a great day. )
Remember, it's not fatalism. It is understanding that suffering in this life has a purpose for the next one. Suffering in this life has a purpose for the next one. You and I do not go into the Kingdom of God – you and I don't receive eternal life – without some suffering along the way. It's not possible. Of course, then you look at the guy next to you and say, "How come he gets to suffer less than I do?" It's like Peter saying, "Wait a minute…." Jesus told him that he was going to die, right? "They're going to bind you up and kill you some day." And he looked at John and said, "What about him? How come he doesn't have to die like me?" And Jesus said, "It isn't any of your business. I'll do with John what I want to do with John. You, Peter, are going to have to deal with what you're going to have deal with." It is a meaningless activity to ask why some people seem to suffer more than others – because the reality is, that's true. Some people suffer more in life than others. Some people have a different kind of suffering. I've met people that have a remarkable capacity for pain, but they're so empathetic that…my dad was sort of like this. I watched him play a softball game once where a ball – a line drive – hit him in his bicep and ripped it in half…he played the rest of the game. We watched that part of his muscle rip off and roll up into a ball. But he had half a muscle and that's all that he needed. He was one of the toughest men I ever met. But you know, he could sit with somebody that was suffering and come apart. He was so empathetic. Other people's pain was a burden on him. So guess what everybody did who was in pain? They came to him. The last thing he said to me before he died was, in tears, "Gary, why are there still so many troubles in the church?" He'd spent his whole life as an elder wanting people to go where God was taking them. And before he died, it was like, "Does anybody still get this? Does anybody get this?" His suffering was other people's suffering. It's different with all of us. So don't always judge the next person in their suffering. They may be suffering in a way that you can't even understand.
James, chapter 5. I impressed my dad one time. I was about twelve years old. I was a little older – maybe thirteen, fourteen. He was out working on his truck – because he was this tough guy, you know – and the jack slipped off that truck and flew through the air – you know, one of those big bumper jacks – that big metal strip. And I'm walking along and that thing hit me right in the jaw. I mean, if it had hit me any place else, it would have killed me. And I'm staggering around and I'll never forget the look…he's looking at me, and he's grinning, and he said, "Are you okay?" And I said, "Yeah, I think so." And he's smiling like, "Yah!" If it had hit me in the head, it would have killed me. So he was happy it hit me in the jaw, but man alive! But I saw respect in my dad's eye at that moment. I wasn't sure who I was, but you know….
James 5, verse 7. I don't know why I told you that story. That story has nothing to do with where we're going here. James 5, verse 7.
James 5:7 James 5:7Be patient therefore, brothers, to the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and has long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.
American King James Version×– Therefore, be patient brethren until the coming of the Lord. How long do you have to be patient here? How long do we suffer? "I want to suffer until tomorrow…about three o'clock. And then I want all my suffering to be done. Okay God, I'll suffer till tomorrow at three. Long suffering…boy, I'll have proved it by then, won't I? And then I want the rest of my life to be without suffering. I want no problems. I want enough money that I don't have to worry about anything. I want my human nature gone. I want my wife and my children just to be perfect. I want a perfect congregation. I want a better car. I just want it all. But I'll wait until three o'clock tomorrow. And that's about all the suffering I can do." We've got to do this until Christ comes back! It doesn't end tomorrow at three o'clock. Now, that's not fatalistic and that shouldn't make us depressed. It does end. It's a process we're going through. It says – verse 7:
V-7- Therefore, be patient brethren until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth – waiting patiently for it – until it receives the early and latter rain. This fruit that God's developing in you isn't completed yet. And here James says, "That fruit…you have to wait for it. It's going to come. Just keep working in it. Just keep doing it." He says:
V-8 – Also be patient, establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door. You know, what happens is, we take our suffering out on each other, don't we? We take our suffering out on each other. You have a bad day. Who do you take it out on? Your wife, your husband, your kids, your dog – whoever is in the way.
V-10 – My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. I don't like that either. I mean, you go back and look through what those prophets went through. You think, "Wait a minute. That's an example I have to follow?" Indeed, we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job, and seen its end intended by the Lord, that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. Now wait a minute, wait a minute. We've looked through most of the story of Job and how is God being compassionate and merciful with Job? Well, we'll get back to it, but he says that what we learn from Job is God's intended purpose and how He got Job where He wanted him to be so that He could give him eternal life.
So let's look at these five points very quickly. First of all, we suffer because of our own sins. You know, God forgives us of our sins and sometimes He takes away the penalties. Now God does take away the eternal penalty of sin. When Jesus Christ comes back, we don't have to live in fear – as long as we're right with God and we're following God – we don't have to live in fear that, when Jesus Christ comes back, we all get condemned to the lake of fire. We look forward to Jesus Christ coming back and us being changed! The eternal penalty of sin is gone, but do you know what? The temporary penalties aren't always erased. Sometimes they are. Sometimes God erases the temporary penalty. Sometimes He doesn't.
Somebody gets drunk, and they're a kid, and they go try to rob a convenience store…. I remember, one time, going to prison to visit a man – young man – who was on drugs, decided to rob a convenience store. He didn't have a weapon, but when the policemen came in – and this guy was huge…he was about, I don't know, 6'5", 260 pounds – just a big man – he decided he could take a gun away from a policeman. I baptized the man in a Jacuzzi in a prison, because he was paralyzed from the waist down, because the policeman didn't give up the gun. He spent the rest of his life paralyzed from the waist down. That's the penalty for that sin. What happens at the resurrection? Is he paralyzed from the waist down anymore? No. It's gone. But between now and then, unless God changes and does something and heals the man, there is a temporary penalty he will pay. And he will suffer. There are things in life he won't do. Now, I don't know if he's out of prison or not. That was many, many years ago. I hope he is. And I hope he's right with God. But he's probably still in a wheel chair. Sometimes we live with those. But that doesn't have to bring us down, because God promises there is a point where those things are gone – all those penalties are gone – erased. God promises that.
The second one is we suffer because of sins or mistreatment of others. I've said this many times. I've seen more Christians destroyed by offenses from others Christians than any other thing in life. We just can't deal with when we're mistreated – especially by people that are other Christians. But it's not just that. It's by the world. We get destroyed because other people mistreat us. It's one of the examples of Jesus Christ. Let's look at Colossians 3. How do we deal with this – because we suffer? It is horrible to feel betrayed. For some people, if we have a deep sense of loyalty, to be betrayed by a loyal friend is so painful. Now, there are other people that say, "Ah well, there are other people who betrayed me. I just shut them out of my life." And they go on. The hurt is temporary. Other people will live with the sense of betrayal for years – depending on their emotional makeup. And they suffer with the suffering that other people may not understand. Colossians 3, verse 12:
Colossians 3: 12 – Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies – we're talking about these fruits of the Spirit that we're going through in Galatians 5 – kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another – now he's talking specifically to the church here. He says, "You have to carry each other. And sometimes you just bear it, because the person next to you is being a jackass. It's that simple." Oh, but be careful, because I guarantee you, next week you've reversed the roles. See, that's what we forget! The next week, it's not that person acting terribly. It's you acting terribly. It's not that person being obnoxious. It's you being obnoxious. He said, "Carry each other. Bear this." Why? Because Christ did with you! You don't think we're obnoxious to God at times? You don't think there are times when God is bearing you? It's like…well, I can use this example because last week, when we were visiting my daughter, I watched my wife change diapers. I never changed one. I have to give my wife this enormous credit. She never asked me to change one diaper. But here she is, changing this diaper. Right? You don't think God, sometimes, just turns His head, when He's changing your diaper and my diaper spiritually? Yeah. Does He do it anyway? Yeah. Why? Longsuffering. Because He doesn't have to do that. Remember? He doesn't have to do that. It is just who He is. …bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another. Even as Christ forgave you, so you must also. It's not easy, is it? Sometimes we suffer because of the mistreatment of others.
We've been going through – in the eastside Bible study – which we just had this week…we went through 1 Peter 4. We've been going through 1 Peter. Next month we'll go through 1 Peter 5. But it's interesting. In the middle of 1 Peter, Peter talks about – in a practical sense – okay, how do you deal with suffering caused from different levels of life? So he goes through, "What do you do if you're suffering because you live with a corrupt government?" He said, "Well, you obey the laws and you pray for those in charge." And he says, "You do this so that you will be a good representative of God." Wow! Man! He even tells us why we do it. "But wouldn't it be easier for me to join some group and overthrow the government?" He actually forbids us to do so! He forbids us to do so. He goes on in that same vain there – in 1 Peter 2 and 3 – and he talks about, "What do you if you have somebody you work with, or some authority you're dealing with, and they're harsh?" He says, "Servants, obey your masters – the harsh ones and the kind ones." That goes against human nature, doesn't it? And then he says why! "So you'll represent God well – so in the day of visitation, they will remember your example." "You mean I've got to wait till Christ comes back before my boss gets it?" Sometimes. So we all do that. But it's not human nature. It's not the way we usually approach things. We suffer and we want to get the person. No, just bear it. Deal with it. Stay focused. He goes on and tells wives, "You know, being the second in command under your husband, sometimes you suffer. Do it because, who knows, you may make him a better man." He even tells us you why you do it! Then he says to the husbands, "By the way, sometimes you suffer, right? Love her in according with understanding." And then he tells us why – because she's equal with you before God. It's an amazing passage that deals practically with all these ways that we suffer because of other people. And the advice isn't the advice I want. It's basically, "Don't overreact. Deal with it. Pray about it. And be a good example." "But I don't want to do that. I don't want to do that if my boss is…." You say, "Well, you're a pastor. You don't have any boss." Oh yeah, I do. I have lots of bosses. There are regional pastors. There are all these different bosses – Council members and president. Sometimes they're easy to work with and sometimes they're not. But what does it say to do? Work with them. That's what it says to do. That's what we do.
The third is that we suffer because of bad judgment. Now you and I do this all the time. Did you ever buy a really clunker of a car? I bought a car one time. We had it for two years. So much smoke came out of that car that people would yell and pull us over to tell us our car was on fire. But I spent the last three thousand I had, so we drove it! I had to put a quart of oil in that thing every five hundred miles. But it got us through two years so I could save enough money to go get another car. It was a bad decision. Did we suffer? Yeah. Every time we got to church our eyes watered, the kids came out coughing and gagging, and we staggered around with carbon monoxide poisoning. I mean, it was horrible. That's life. Sometimes we just suffer because of bad judgment. The more mature we become, the more we accept that. "Yep, I made a stupid decision there." It doesn't always have to do with sin. I remember, years ago, people went and bought silver at fifty dollars an ounce. And then it dropped to five. Bad call! Right? They lost lots of money. Was that a sin? No, it was a bad decision. We make bad decisions.
The fourth reason we suffer is because we're in Satan's world. Thousands of years of people living in sin has created an environment of sin. Our own environment is against us. Right? I mean, we all have allergies. God didn't design us to have allergies! Why do you have allergies? People are born with deformities. Did God ever intend for people to be born with deformities? No. Why does that happen? Because we live in Satan's world. That's a reality. You look at your own suffering, but look at the way other people suffer. Look at some of the things people go through – live their whole lives in dirt huts and die at age sixteen from some horrid disease, never educated, always hungry. You say, "Wow, that's what's happening in the world?" Tens of thousands die every day from starvation in the world – tens of thousands! We forget that. The numbers are so great, and they're scattered all over, and they're not dying in Universal City, right? They're not dying in Schertz. They're not dying in San Antonio, so we don't recognize the suffering. You and I live in Satan's world and, because of that, we will suffer. And the more you try to obey God, the more out of step you are, and the more you will suffer. That's the reality. Now that doesn't have to make you depressed, or upset, or angry. It's just that you recognize it. You recognize the stress you feel when you…you know, every place you go. It can be uncomfortable living in this world. It can be uncomfortable going to work with all the Christmas decorations up, and you think, "Why does this make me uncomfortable?" Because it's not right! And you feel uncomfortable.
The fifth reason we suffer – and now we're going to go back to Job – is we suffer because sometimes spiritual growth is painful – just like, as a child…. You know, I can remember, as a child, having some assignment for school, and you had a month to work on it, and the absolute panic Sunday night, when I realized it was due Monday morning, and I hadn't done anything. "Mom, can you help me?" "You've got something for school? It's bedtime." "I know, but I have to have a diorama of the entire history of the United States tomorrow at eight o'clock." And I was suffering. And my mom made me suffer more. Learning involves…I mean, when it's done, you're excited – absolutely excited! I'll never forget. Kelly…one of her college classes – I forget what it was…I think it was an architectural class – she got her degree in art – and they were supposed to make some kind of project. Of course, she was married and busy, and so she just put something together at the last minute. And she said that she'll never get over walking into class, and here are these kids who have spent hundreds of hours on these incredible models, and she has some pieces of cardboard and popsicle sticks pasted together. It was like, "Uh, oh!" Sometimes learning takes…even if you love learning, there is work involved. And sometimes, there is pain involved. And sometimes the pain can be very intense when it involves spiritual learning.
Job, chapter 42. Remember what James said when he said, "Learn to be patient and look at Job, because we understand how it turned out." Now remember, Job did not know how it was going to turn out. He didn't get it for a long time. He didn't get it until his suffering was so great – so unbearable – that he cried out to God and said, "If I've done something wrong, show up and correct me!" And guess what happened? God showed up. And he's probably thinking, "Uh, let me take that prayer back. I didn't mean to literally show up. This was like an allegory, God. I mean, I didn't mean to actually show up!" God shows up! And God says, "Stand up like a man!" That's the scariest thing. I can't imagine God saying, "Come on, son, be a man." That's like, "Boy, are you in trouble!" "Stand up and be a man. And I want you to explain something. Explain how I created gravity." And He just goes through all of this stuff. "Explain space. Explain it! Explain nature – how these things interact with each other. That's all I'm asking." At least Job, at this point, had learned, "Don't say anything. It's rhetorical." And finally, he knew God! He had obeyed God, but he did not know Him. Do you understand that? See, you and I can obey God, but there is a point we have to know him. You and I can talk about Jesus Christ, but there's a point we know Him. And He said, "To be My disciples, you must love Me more than mother, brother, sister and your own life also." He meant it! You've got to know somebody to love them that much! There's a point we have to know God. Job was an incredible man. God said nothing bad about him. And yet He knew – He knew – Job really didn't know Him. He knew of Him. He knew about Him. And finally Job got to meet God. He got to meet Him! And he realized, "You know, all this stuff I do – all this goodness I do – before absolute Goodness, I'm not much."
We have such pride in our goodness. Sometimes we take pride in our Sabbath keeping. We forget the Sabbath was given to us by God. If He hadn't given it to us, we wouldn't know about it. How would you know about the Sabbath? Could you make this up? Could you make up the holy days? Could we make up the Ten Commandments? Humans beings have never made up something like this. It's only by God's grace that He gave it to us! Now, we have to respond to it.
Job 42:1 Job 42:1Then Job answered the LORD, and said,
American King James Version×– Then Job answered the LORD. Finally, after He talks to him for a long time, he says: I know that you can do everything and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, "Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?" Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand. He says, "I told people about You, I lived a life trying to obey You, and I was righteous in many ways, but," he said, "really, when I meet You, I realize that I really didn't understand – things too wonderful for me, which I did not know." When he finally met God, he says, "Wow! This is so much bigger than I thought."
V-4 – Listen please. Now this is a whole lot different than, "Hey God, You've some problem with me? Show up." Now it's, "Would You please let me say something? If You would be patient with me just a little bit longer." Listen please, and let me speak. You said, "I will question you and you shall answer Me." He said, "You're going to give me an answer." He said, "I've finally figured out what the answer is." He says: I have heard You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You." He said, "I lived my whole life trying to please You, but not really knowing You." And he said: Therefore, I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes. At this point, he realized absolutely, "Take my children, take my life, take whatever you want, because You're that good, and You're that great, and you're that perfect. And whatever suffering I'm going through is nothing compared to You. Who have I in heaven but You?" It took Job all this time to figure what David wrote in Psalms 73 – not that he would have read Psalm 73, but it's the same principle.
David suffered a lot to figure that out, too. It took him a long time to write Psalm 73. Did David write Psalm 73? Who wrote Psalm 73? It wasn't David. But whoever wrote Psalm 73 went through a lot of suffering to get there. Right? That's the purpose. That was the purpose of the sermonette. It took a lot of suffering to get to "I will go to Your sanctuary and whatever suffering I'm going through is okay, because You're teaching me, because You are making me your child, because in this I am becoming You."
You will never learn self-control until you suffer with self-control. You will never learn meekness until you suffer with meekness. You'll never learn goodness until you suffer with goodness. We'll never learn these things until we suffer with them, because it's not natural for us, with our corrupted human nature, to be this.
And finally Job said…see, he didn't say, "Why am I suffering?" He said, "Wow! You are so much more than I thought!" And remember, this was a man that God Himself said, "There's a man that obeys Me!" – bragged about him, cheerleaded him! See, God cheerleads for you sometimes. You just don't know it. I just don't ever want him to do it in front of Satan, because you know the response is going to be, "Of course You're cheerleading for him! He doesn't suffer enough!" We suffer because spiritual growth involves pain.
Years ago, I remember – in fact, Chris was very young. This was so exciting to him. We went to where John Deer created the first steel plow. And there was a blacksmith shop. It's a national monument now. And you go there and a lot of the original tools are there. And there was a blacksmith working there. What they do is, they take that metal and they melt it down – it's incredible heat – till it's so red – it's so hot – it's almost transparent. It's like you're looking into it. It's the strangest thing. And then they take this big hammer – this small sledge – and they pound this thing into the shape that they want. Then they heat up more. And then they pound it more. They heat it up more and they pound it more. And when it's what they want, guess what they do then. They stick it cold water, which stresses it so much it makes it strong. All this steam comes off of it.
You see, that's what God does with us. He takes this suffering. He takes this life. It's Satan's world. And He pounds you. First of all, He puts you in heat. He puts us in heat until we're transparent. It's uncomfortable. And then He pounds us until we're what He wants us to be! And when it doesn't work out right, He just sticks more heat on. And then He pounds us some more. We think, "Well, why does God do it? He's awfully cruel!" And then He sticks us into cold water of God's Spirit – of His own Spirit – and it's like, "Whoa, is this stressful!" And then He takes us out and we all go, "Whoa! That's pretty good work!"
It's amazing how you see other people suffer – I do this all the time…. I can see other people suffering and I see what God's doing in it and I'm thinking, "Wow! That's amazing work!" But I can't see that in my own life. When I'm suffering, it's like, "God, what's Your problem here?" But it's easy with other people. I mean, I see suffering that you're going through. People come and counsel, and I'll say, "Wow! God's working with that person! I can see it! They're changing. There's some heat going on, there's some pounding going on, there's sticking in the cool Spirit going on, but I can see it." But it's hard to reflect back and see that in myself. It's just, "Ah, nah, I want to suffer till three o'clock tomorrow. That's it. And then it's over." It doesn't work that way.
You've got to realize that God's producing in you eternity. You and I don't get to carry this corrupt human nature into eternity. We don't get to. You want eternity? You've got to be prepared for it. You have to be changed into it. You have to be heated up and pounded and cooled off, and the process goes over and over again, until God says, "Yes! This kid's ready!" And it's not easy. And the question that you and I have to answer is, "Do I want to be in God's family enough to suffer long?" That's the question. "Do I want to be like my Father and Elder Brother so much that I am willing – I am willing – to become like Them?" Because they've suffered ever since they made that first human being. They're suffering has never stopped. Do you know when it stops? When Jesus Christ gives the Family to the Father. When it's done, the suffering stops – but not until then. They'll continue to suffer. Through the millennium, they'll suffer. Through the Great White Throne Judgment, they'll suffer.
Let's end by going to Romans, chapter 8. Be careful. We want this longsuffering. Do not go to God and ask Him…well, I suggest you don't do this. You can if you want. "God, please help me to suffer long the same as You do." Don't ask that. Ask God to suffer long with you and develop this in you a little at a time – a little at a time. "God, help me to suffer like you do." Man alive! Next thing you know, they'll be dragging you down the street, nailing you to a cross. I mean, you really don't want to go there, folks. And yet, it's where we have to go, in a way, isn't it? We have to say, "I want to be like my Father, like my Elder Brother, but I can't." It's okay to say that to God. "I can't . I'm not that." He'll say, "Okay, let me take and hammer you a little more. It's okay. I understand. This is going to hurt." Whack! "Okay, you got it. Ah, that's hurts, but you're getting it a little more. Look, you're a little kinder because I whacked you. You have a little more self-control here. It wasn't easy, was it? I had to put you in that fire until you were transparent – till you could see the problem. And it hurt. But look, you've got it now." See, He's cheerleading us to become His children. Paul understood that. That's why Paul could say, in Romans 8, verse 19:
Romans 8:19 Romans 8:19For the earnest expectation of the creature waits for the manifestation of the sons of God.
American King James Version×– For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing – of what? – the sons of God. What's God doing? "Well, I'm making a Family!" You ask God what's He doing? "Well, I'm creating a Family. What are you doing?" Will we be part of it? We come into this a clump of iron that has to be turned into steel. And it's not easy to do. Verse 31:
V-31 – What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us, how shall He not, with Him, freely give us all things? What do you think God is going to hold back from you in this suffering process? What is it He's holding back from you? You know, when I anoint people a lot of times…you know, we go to God – you can't demand anything – but how many times have I anointed many of you in this room, and I say, "God, we have a promise that we can come and we can ask for that promise and expect it. You don't promise us eternal physical life and You don't promise us eternal physical health, but You do promise us to give us what we need so that You will complete the work You started in us." That's a promise! You can go ask for that promise every day – all the time! He will give you what you need so that He will complete the work He started in you. Why? Well, we're reading it right here. If He gave His Son for us, what more? What is He not willing to do? I tell you what He's not willing to do. He's not willing to let you and I go into eternity and become another Satan. He's not willing for that. That is unacceptable. So He heats us up, and He pounds us out, and dips us in the Holy Spirit, and then He works with us some more. That's what He does. He goes on – verse 33:
V-33 – Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. See, when Satan came before God and accused Job, God said, "Ah, he's still my son. You can bring all the charges you want. You can't take him from Me. So go ahead, make your charges. Show his faults." You know, every time you sin, you don't think Satan's up there saying, "Look! Bill over here…Mary over here" – I'm just making up names – "Look at them sinning! Why don't you destroy them?" And God says, "Hey, give me my hammer. Time for a little work. Time for a little suffering, folks. But we've got to hammer this out." Satan doesn't understand that any more than he did with Job. He doesn't understand why He doesn't throw us away. He doesn't understand that love. He doesn't understand what Paul's writing about here. He doesn't get it. But you can, because you have God's Spirit and God can teach this to you. He says – verse 34:
V34- Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died and, furthermore, is also risen – who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. "I know what it's like to suffer – been there, done that. I am here beside the Father all the time, telling Him about your suffering." That's what Christ does. "They sinned this time because of this weakness. Give Me My hammer. We'll have to work on that weakness." It's not, "Destroy them!" And so you suffer. And I suffer. And it is good, because we end up like Job. When we finally know God, we say, "It's a whole lot bigger than I thought! I obeyed You, but now I know You!" Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Or computer that erases your entire Bible study? As it is written, "For your sake we are killed all the day long. We are counted as sheep of the slaughter." That's suffering, isn't it? Yet, in all things, we are more than conquerors. How do you be more than a conqueror? We're more than victorious. That's the promise. Paul gets it here. He says, "I get it! We're more! It's more than we even imagine!" But we suffer to get there, because there is no way to have corrupt human nature removed without suffering. Because we like it. We don't want to give it up. But we have to. Yet, in all things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Then Paul says:
V-38 – For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. When you're suffering, remember that. Remember that you must suffer long. I must suffer long. But there's a purpose – there's a meaning. Unlike people in the world, whose suffering has no meaning, yours has a meaning. Because, in the end, this Great Blacksmith is working on you so that you will become His child.