Have you ever asked the question, “Why me Lord?”
It’s that wonderful time of the century again. It’s time for the General Conference, the General Conference of the universe that is. Heaven’s skies are filled with shining creatures as they stream toward the capital. Finally, everyone is assembled. The Father is on His throne. Jesus, Jesus has entered. The crowds have fallen before them. The Holy Spirit is hovering close.
And now they’re waiting for the opening remarks, when suddenly the crowd goes silent. Faces turn pale. Coming down the center aisle is none other but Satan himself. “Look,” an angel whispers. “It’s him! I can’t believe he’s here!” Another notices his appearance. “He’s just as beautiful as he always was. But his face, his face is so defiant.”
Satan walks right down to the front. Suddenly there’s a bright flash and Gabriel is standing before him. Satan calmly says, “Hello, Gabe. I do believe I have a ticket to this show. Adam traded it to me for an apple. I would appreciate it if you would let me by. “ Gabriel turns to the Son. Jesus nods. The angel steps back.
Then God’s voice booms through the halls of heaven. “From where do you come?” “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” “Does Job serve God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, but put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; and he will curse You to Your face.” Then the Lord said, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, just do not put forth your hand on him.”
Well Satan immediately begins his work, and Job soon finds himself receiving one messenger after another bringing terrible news. In one day all of his cattle are stolen, all of his sheep are burned, all of his camels are taken away. And then the servants that watched them are destroyed, along with them, except for one from each that comes and says, “Hey, I’m the only one left.” And worst of all, the most gut wrenching of all, is that all of his 10 children that he loved so much have been killed in a tornado.
As Job takes in one tragedy after the next I can imagine Satan standing there. “Come on, Job. Come on. Come on. Just curse God. That’s all I need.” But Job, Job in his trust in God says,
“Naked I came from my mother's womb,
And naked I shall return there
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the LORD.”
You know 6 weeks ago, you may have heard that I had pneumonia, and I was in the hospital, with oxygen and IV and then they put me on heart monitor because they thought there was something wrong with my heart, and it just went from bad to worse. Somebody wrote down that I was bed-ridden, so they were afraid I was going to get blood clots, so they put these boots on my feet that squeezed my legs all night long. And they gave me little shots in my belly so I wouldn’t get blood clots. And then somebody messed up my food order, of all things. And as I was laying there, “Man I’ve got to start thinking about my sermon. What was that again? Oh, yeah. Why me Lord? Why me?” Now that, you know, that was frustrating. It wasn’t the end of the world.
Some of you have experienced true devastation. True suffering. Maybe you’ve lost a job. Maybe you deal with a degenerative disease that doesn’t have a cure. Or a terminal illness. Maybe you have children who’ve gone through a divorce, or you’re a child of someone who has gone through a divorce. Maybe you’ve lost loved ones. You know, it seems like the normal course of things for us to have people die in our families. We hate it, but we know it happens. But when you have multiple deaths in one year, it just seems like, you know, “This is just too much. Why me Lord?” Some of you have had that. “Why me Lord?”
Well, Satan isn’t through with Job yet. He has a few more tricks up his sleeve. The G.C session is going great. The representatives from different planets are marching before the throne. Kind of like Pathfinders, right? “Eyes right” “READY, FRONT.”
Suddenly, everything comes to a screeching halt. Satan’s there, again, standing before the throne. Gabriel blocks him again. The Son has him step back.
There’s a heavy silence in that royal chamber. Trillions of eyes are watching and waiting. Ever since Satan made his first appearance, they’ve been watching Job. Maybe they have a big screen, ok. I don’t know how they do it in heaven. They have a big screen and they’re all watching live footage as it happens. They all cried with Job as the bad news poured in. They all cheered when he wouldn’t give in and when he didn’t curse God.
Once again, God speaks to the devil. “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause.” "Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. However, put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; and he will surely curse You to Your face." So, again God allows him to do it. He says, "He’s in your power, just don’t take his life."
Satan is gone. He has worked a deal again. And now everybody, all the marchers that were marching past the throne, they go back to their seats. They want to see what happens. They want to witness it.
What a miserable image Job makes. He’s half-naked. He’s sitting in a pile of ashes. He’s covered with hard, red, boils. He’s doesn’t have his clothes on because it would hurt too bad to wear them.
Have you ever had a boil? Did you know that George Bush got a boil? I just saw this in the news. I was looking up boils and there was George Bush. I’ve had a boil, though. Boils, they hurt. They hurt worse than chicken pox, worse than acne. Ok, they’re bad news. Job has boils all over his body. Plus, he has scabs and he has pus running out of his sores and there are worms living in those sores, according to Job 7. He is in bad shape.
Have you ever been in physical pain? Have you ever really hurt? You know, I think sometimes we don’t even realize just how much pain a person can suffer. I talked to a man who fell out of tree once, and the pain that he experienced with all of his broken bones. He was in Africa, and his care was bad. They flew him on this plane and didn’t give him enough pain medication. He said, “David, I was in so much pain. I was in so much pain, I really, really wanted to die. I really did. I didn’t know a person could suffer that much” And when you’re suffering like that, you’re very vulnerable. Vulnerable to giving up.
So it comes as no surprise to me that when Job experienced all this suffering, that he asked, “Why me, Lord? Why me? Have I sinned? What have I done to you, O watcher of all humanity? Why have you made me your target?”
If you look at the story of Job, the entire book, is Job, searching, trying to find the answer. That’s the main thrust of the story. “Why Lord? What’s, why are You doing this to me?”
I’ll tell you, Job is pretty demanding. He really wants God to give him an answer. So much so that he wants to even face God, face to face. “Come on Lord, come on. Where’s Your throne? Let’s talk this out like two men. What’s happening here?”
As we go through the book of Job we find different characters that try to answer the “why?” question. First one, it’s his wife. Then his friends try to answer it. And then a third character shows up, or I should say a fifth character, who, we’ll talk about him later. It’s a surprise character. And then God Himself comes in and puts in His words. Kind of shuts everybody else down. And of course, Satan behind the scenes is working through a number of the characters. So let’s look at their answers to the “Why?” question. “Why? Why is this happening?”
Well first of all, there’s Job’s wife. Job’s wife knows him. She knows him. She says, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!" She knows that Job has integrity. She knows that he’s been good. This doesn’t make sense. “Why? Why is God allowing this to happen to you?” Job’s wife’s answer to the “why?” question is, “Job, God is being unfair.”
Have you ever heard that answer before? God is unfair. It’s not fair that He’s let this happen to me. I had a friend in college. She had been through just the worst things. Her father had abused her. She’d been attacked. As an adult, she’d been attacked by a man in the worst way you could imagine. And then the police didn’t believe her story. And this very man was now stalking her. And he would actually corner her, he had cornered her one time in a parking lot and taken a cigarette and burned her on her skin and laughed in her face.
I was sitting in a car with her and she said to me, “David, I don’t understand how a good God could do this to me.” And I wasn’t a theology major then, but I was a pastor’s kid, and I thought I had the answers, and I kept trying, and the more answers I gave her the angrier she got. It’s a hard answer. A hard question to answer. “Why? Why is God being so unfair?”
So Job’s wife says that God is unfair. What are some other answers?
Well, Job has his friends. He’s wallowing in his misery. He’s in excruciating pain. All heaven is watching and wondering what’s going to happen next. And along come his three friends. When they arrive and they find Job sitting there in the ashes, they start tearing their clothes and throwing dust up into the air. Then they sit down and they don’t say a word for seven days. Seven days they don’t speak.
And that, my friends, is the smartest thing they say the whole time. Ok? And I think, if we were smart, we would be quiet, too. When we’re dealing with people who are suffering. As a pastor, I have heard the nicest people say the worst things to people who are suffering. They mean well.
“Oh, I’m sure you’re going to be O.K.”
“God must known that she would fall away from the truth. That’s why He let that happen.”
“You’ll feel better soon enough.”
“Well, if your husband had only been a vegetarian all of his life, maybe he would have lived.”
“Perhaps God knew your baby would be deformed, that’s why he allowed you to have that miscarriage.”
God does not need us to defend Him, ok? Just let it lie, just be there, be quiet, listen.
So now we come to the words of Job’s friends. Did you know that the major portion of the book of Job is dedicated to their words? They have a lot to say. In fact, I think you could really say that the book of Job is about, more about his friends and what they have to say. If I could rename the book I would call it, “Job Argues With His Lousy Friends”. Ok? This book, I mean, 35 of 42 chapters deal with what they have to say.
And I really wanted to tell you all of it, ok? Try to summarize it. I worked hard on this. I slaved away at the computer for hours, trying to narrow it down. And I realized that they don’t say a lot. They really don’t! I was going to put all the arguments down in exact order, but you know, in the end they all say the same thing.
And it’s this. “Job, God doesn’t let righteous people suffer. God only punishes the wicked. Job! You must be wicked. God is punishing you for your sins.” And that’s it. That’s it in a nutshell. That’s what they have to say.
And Job’s response to them is, “What kind of miserable comforters are you? I mean, that didn’t help at all. No. I’m innocent. I’m innocent.” Back and forth, back and forth. “No Job, God only punishes the wicked.” And finally they give up because he just keeps saying, “I’m innocent, and boy, I wish I could talk with God about this. Why are You doing this to me Lord? I want to talk with You.” So that’s Job’s friend’s answer. “Job, God is fair, and He’s giving you just what you deserve. Maybe even less.”
So Job’s wife says, “God is unfair! He’s treating you bad.” Job’s friends say, “God is fair. He’s treating you the way you deserve. God is punishing you for your sins.”
We don’t really hear that very much these days as an answer to the “why” question. We’re in an age of tolerance. You’re usually not going to hear somebody say, “Huh, huh. I know why you’re hurting, you wicked person, you.” Right? You don’t hear that. And yet, I bet you have. 9-11. Did you ever hear the stories? “Aw, you know, the people in the twin towers. They were so bad. They used to have these immoral parties. You would not believe. That’s why God allowed the twin towers to be hit.”
And then somebody was really concerned, because, “I hear that an Adventist died in those buildings.” “Aw, but you know, I heard that she had an affair with her Pastor.”
We think these things. But Job says “No.” "It’s all one; therefore I say, He destroys the guiltless and the wicked.” He hurts the righteous and the wicked alike.
Is Job right? Is he right!!?
What about that family in Africa? You heard that story, right? Their airplane crashed and they were saved. Wasn’t that because they were Adventists? I believe God protected them. But what’s going on here?
Bet you haven’t heard this story. A professor mine, his daughter was a missionary in Thailand. She was riding in the back of a bus, on the back seat. It was a middle seat, so that the aisle was right there in front of her. The bus flipped in an accident. She was thrown forward, out the front windshield and the bus landed on top of her. What happened to God’s protection there? Didn’t God promise? “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.” What are we to believe?
Well, we have two answers so far. God is unfair. God is fair, Job. God is punishing you.
Well what’s the next character? Out of the blue comes a fourth friend, Elihu. We have no idea where he comes from. He’s not mentioned in the beginning of the book. He’s kind of ignored at the end of the book. He’s just kind of this, boom, right there. And Elihu, he’s kind of a young kid it sounds like, and he doesn’t have a lot more to say than Job’s friends. He just says all the folly that they say, with a lot more venom. He’s meaner.
“Keep silent, and I will teach you wisdom.” talking to Job. “Tell me, has there ever been a man like Job, with his thirst for irreverent talk? He chooses evil people as his companions. He spends his time with wicked men.” What was he saying about himself? I don’t know. Maybe he was talking about the other friends. I don’t know. But in the end, Elihu says the same thing. “Job, God is punishing you. You wicked, wicked man.” You know, in many ways, Elihu, I think, is a very comical character, because he says all this folly, and in the worst possible way. He’s the meanest of all of them.
And then he ends, he’s waxing eloquent because he sees this great storm coming. And he begins to make all sorts of analogies about the storm. And he says, “Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds, The thundering of His pavilion?” “Listen to this, O Job, stand and consider the wonders of God. Do you know how God establishes them, and makes the lightning of His cloud to shine?” And then he talked about how God is in the storm. “God thunders with His voice wondrously.”
And then he says the dumbest thing of all. Speaking of how God is wrapped in the majesty of the clouds he says, “The Almighty—we cannot find Him.” And then immediately, ba-boom. God starts talking out of that cloud. Ok?
And at first it seems like God is talking to Elihu, because He says, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?”, and I’m like, “Yeah! Go.” You know? But He’s not. He’s not talking to Elihu. He’s ignoring him. He’s not even worth paying attention to. God is talking to Job. “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me if you have understandings. Who set its measurements, since you know?” And He also speaks of his power to sustain and tame its creatures. “Do you give the horse his might? Do you clothe his neck with a mane? Will the wild ox consent to serve you? Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it.”
Job’s three friends couldn’t shut him up, but God makes Job go silent. “Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply? I lay my hand on my mouth.” And then God really lets Job have it. “Now gird up your loins like a man; I will ask you, and you will answer Me. Will you really annul My judgment? Will you condemn Me that you may be justified?” Finally Job is completely overwhelmed. “I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. I have heard of You . . . but now my eye sees You; therefore . . . I repent in dust and ashes.”
Wait a minute! Did you catch that? Job is repenting. I thought he was the one who was right. What is going on here? Was he sinful after all? Was God punishing him for his sin? Is this why we suffer? Did my wife have a miscarriage because of her sins or my sins? Do I have arthritis in my back because of my sins? Did 100,000 people in Burma die because of their sins? What is going on?
And why do the wicked prosper, like Job says? Why are the rich who treat people so miserably and cause the poor people to lose more money? Why are they so comfortable? What about the defiant scientist who curses God? Why does he get a Nobel peace prize?
Wait a second. We know the truth. Job was righteous. God says so in the beginning. And then He tells his friends, He tells them that He is angry with Jobs friends “because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has.”
So what did Job repent of? Here it is, boiling down to, I think, the true answer. Job repented that he had asked “Why?”. Job repented that he had asked “Why?”. Why? And God says, “I’m just not going to tell you.” I hate that answer. I want to know why. But that is the main point of the book of Job. If you haven’t caught it before, Job really wants to argue with God. He wants to argue with Him face to face. He wants to know why, and God’s answer to him is, “I’m not going to tell you Job.” Where were you? But really, there is an answer. Shining through the depression of how that sounds is God saying, “Trust Me. Trust Me, Job. Trust Me. I have it under control. I know what’s going on. Ok? I’ve got it. I’m not going to drop the ball here. You’re in My hands.”
And Job is considered righteous, because even though he didn’t have the answers, he still refused to curse God. And he still, he put his trust in God, like God wanted. He may have asked why, and that’s fine. Ultimately, he said, “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth, and even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God.”
That’s God’s answer. “Trust Me. Trust Me when your child has leukemia. Trust Me when your finances go south. Trust Me when your friends turn against you. Trust Me when you have diabetes. Trust Me when you’re fired. Trust Me. Trust Me. Trust Me when your husband beats you. Trust Me when your kids make fun of you. Trust Me when no one visits you in the hospital. Trust Me when your grades are bad. Trust Me when your house forecloses and when the gas and food prices go up. Trust Me. Trust Me. Trust Me.”
So, what can we learn from the story of Job?
Number 1. When your friend is suffering, sometimes it’s best just not to say very much.
Number 2. If you try to comfort your friend, don’t try to explain why they’re suffering. God does not need you to defend Him.
Number 3. It’s O.K. to ask “Why?” when you’re suffering.
Number 4. Be true to God even when you ask “Why?”.
Number 5. Don’t expect to understand “Why?”
Number 6. If you HAVE sinned, God isn’t necessarily punishing you. God hurts the wicked and the righteous the same. At least that’s what Job said. That’s good news for all of us!
God’s answer to the “Why?” question, ultimately, is “Trust Me.” That’s the main point. “Trust Me.” And the final thing we can learn is that God will make it up to you.
We see that at the end of Job’s life. At the end, he gets back everything that he had, but doubled. If you read the numbers, exactly. He gets double the donkeys, double the camels, double, double, double. He does not get another wife, ok. Still has the one wife.
And he doesn’t get double the kids. He only gets ten kids. Now why was that, do you think? I know why. Dirty diapers, ok? No, you know, I think perhaps, that God is saying to Job, “Job, I’m going to give you those other 10 that you last back again some day. So I’m not going to double it now.” God made it up to Job.
You know, this is coming on Mother’s day, and I want to specifically talk to mothers for a second. Sometimes mothers go through all kinds of sorrow. Perhaps they lose a child. Perhaps they have a miscarriage. Maybe they just have to watch their children suffer. Being a mother is not always the easiest thing. Maybe you’ve watched your children grow up and turn away from God. And maybe you’ve asked, “Why?” But I want you to know that God is going to make it up to you. He’s going to make it up to you.
Have you lost your children? Have you had a miscarriage and you don’t have any children? He’s going to make it up to you. Don’t you think that there’s going to be orphans in heaven that need a mother?
You know, ladies, when you go out today, we have flowers for you. I want you to make sure you take one of those. And remember, no matter what has happened in your life, no matter what suffering has happened with your kids, God is going to make it up to you. Does it seem hard to imagine? Is it hard to believe that someday He’ll make it all right. God’s answer is, ultimately and finally, “Trust Me. Trust Me.”
Let’s open our hymnals to hymn number 530.
Hymn of Praise: #524, Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus Scripture: Job 19:25-27 Hymn of Response: #530, It Is Well With My Soul
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McDonald Road Sermon by Pastor David Cook 5/26/08.