“THINK OF OTHERS” JOB 42:1-6, 10-17

– The last installment in the 4-part Job series. After Job has humbled himself, God instructs him to pray for his friends who tormented him. Shifting the focus to God and others helps us to move beyond our own difficulties.
We have finally arrived at the gripping conclusion to the epic allegory of God’s Servant, Job. Today’s sermon is the last part of our four-week series covering the book of Job. We have been exploring how the story of Job is like a parable that shows us how a righteous person ought to behave when faced with undeserved suffering.
The parable story of Job is a great gift from God to us. It is a gift because a prayerful reading of Job shows how us how we can develop deep roots of faith in God. Roots of faith that can withstand even the cruelest of life’s sufferings. A powerful faith with deep roots is what allows us to love our God simply because God is good. A powerful faith with deep roots is what allows us to experience the full blessings of peace and rest in our lives through Jesus Christ. A powerful faith with deep roots is what allows us to love God even when God allows bad things to happen.
This powerful faith is found in Job. So far, Job has shown us what we can do when we face suffering caused by evil in the world. In the first week of this series, we saw that even when Job lost everything, he still responded to God with an attitude of gratitude for all things that he had received and then lost. He resisted the urge to sin by cursing God for taking away what God had given to him. In the second week, we read that, when Job’s suffering was intense, his best friends were trying to get him to lie and falsely reconcile with God just to regain his health and wealth. But Job held on to his faith by speaking his mind to God. Job lamented all that he lost, and his pain from his innocent suffering. By not bottling up his feelings, he was able to avoid sinning by forsaking God, or by lying to his friends and God to lessen the suffering. In the third week, we heard that Job had been standing a little too confidently on the fact that Job was innocent. He had to humble himself before God. Job needed to remember that Job could never stand on Job’s own righteousness. Job could never be on the same level as God, and Job’s relationship with God was all he could stand on.
Today, we have read the final part of the book of Job. We will see that there was one more key component to Job’s faith that allowed him to maintain his righteousness. Job had to think of others.
Job was lying in the ash heap, suffering, and in pain. He had just humbled himself before God. God had spoken to him out of a mighty storm. And God asks Job to pray for his friends. Once Job prays for his friends, only then does God restore Job.
Job’s friends offended God by speaking falsely. But Job, obeys God. Now Job has absolutely no guarantee from God that forgiving his friends for their ignorant speech will lead to his restoration. But Job obeys God anyway. And when Job turns his focus to Eliphaz and his pals, God does not punish them because of their poor understanding of who God is. God accepts Job’s prayers because GOD ACCEPTS JOB.
What would have happened to Eliphaz and his pals if Job had been too distraught to pray for them? Who knows. They may have been hit with flaming meteors. Or not, we don’t know. But I do know if Job had not prayed for his bothersome friends, Job would have been guilty of sinning.
Job shows us that we must think of others, even when the suffering we feel because of the evil in the world is sharp. If we become self-absorbed in our suffering, then we lose one of the fundamental things God wants us to do as people. Love one another.
In Matthew chapter 22, Jesus tells us the two greatest commandments. To Love God with all our heart, and to love others. Jesus teaches us that this is how we are to obey God. This is exactly what JOB is showing us. Job is showing us HOW to live out this seemingly simple but incredibly difficult instruction from God.
So now, let me attempt to bring all of the lessons from Job together into one big idea. All of the lessons in the book of Job have one goal: To help us Love God, just because God is good. Sounds simple, but what about when evil enters the picture? How can we love a God who allows horrible, terrible things to happen to people?
As human beings, we are self-focused and transactional. We tend to think of others in terms of what benefit they can be to us, and what we can get or trade with them to get. This holds true not only for others, but for GOD as well. Very often, people that believe in God slip into a very simple, transactional mindset with God. And this leads to a shallow faith that is easy to loose when evil rears up in our lives.
Job teaches us how to love God simply because God is good. This is not something that Job has that is special and cannot be had by us. Job’s love for God is made by the way Job acts as he suffers and struggles in his life.
When Job lost everything, he could have given up on God. He could have decided that God was not real because, Job was obeying God, but God was not blessing Job. Job could have simply cursed God and decided that God didn’t matter. But instead, Job responded with an attitude of gratitude. This was a choice. How can we choose an attitude of gratitude when evil causes us to suffer unjustly? For example, let us consider what happens when someone we love dies. This is a situation that we will all face at some point. We can choose to focus on the hopeless feeling of loss, or we can feel it, but remember all the good things that would never have come into our lives if that person had not been there. We can choose an attitude of gratitude by being thankful for the gift that the loved one was to our life. Like Job, we can choose to believe that God still desires to bless us, even though this particular blessing was taken away. Our God, is one we can love even in our suffering. This is deeper faith than simply believing that God is mean, and punishing us because we somehow messed up God’s rules.
Job could have bottled up his feelings, and withdrawn from conversation with his bothersome friends. Job could have hardened his heart, and not wasted his breath. Or Job could have lied to make his friends stop talking. But Job chose to speak his mind to God. Job lamented to his friends and to God. He felt the pain and expressed it to them, and honestly voiced his confusion and hurt. Job stayed in relationship with God, and his friends, even when he thought they might be wrong. How can we speak our mind before God, and avoid withdrawing or lying? One example might be when we become disillusioned with the church. More people have told me that they don’t believe in Jesus because Christians are hypocrites than any other reason.
When a church member does something that causes you to stand back and say “what??” you have some choices to make. For example, Consider Bill. Bill was a man who had a true servant’s heart. He faithfully mowed the church yard year after year. He had some other men in the church that he didn’t like all that much. Ones that he disliked because they liked to sit around and talk on committees instead of doing real actual work. One day, one of these men asked Bill for his key to the shed where the lawn tractor was kept. Bill said, “why?” The man said, “Oh, you won’t need this anymore.” And he took the key and walked into the building. Bill, without a word, went home. He never came back to the church again. He gave up on a God that would spurn him after his years of service. The deacons and the pastor called Bill and left messages, but he never returned their calls. Bill saw other church members in the market, but he would always make up an excuse to get them to leave him be. Bill could have chosen to lament his frustrations. He could have voiced is feelings before his friends, and fellow church members. If he had, Bill may have found out that the Church was collecting the keys because they had the locks changed, and Bill needed a new key. I believe that God speaks to us through others from time to time. If we isolate, we may never hear. Bill chose isolation instead of speaking his mind to God. Bill chose a very narrow, transactional view of God. How could Bill love a God that would allow His servants to be so easily discarded… in the church no less.
Job also chose to humble himself before God. Like Bill, Job knew that he was righteous. Job served and respected God. Instead of standing on his own righteousness, after a little prompting from the almighty, Job humbled himself before God. He allowed God to be sovereign and he stood on his belief that God intended Good for him. Job realized that God’s goodness was the only hope he had in the universe, so he put all his eggs in that basket. Trusting that God will look out for us no matter what, that allows us to Love God, because we always believe that God has got our back. Even if we can’t see it now.
Finally, to truly love God because God is good and not just for what God can do for us, we must follow Job’s example of thinking of others. When Job was suffering because of the evil that came upon him, he chose to obey God’s instructions to love others. He thinks of the needs of his friends, even without promise of reward from God. The only reason I can think of why Job would do this is because Job loved God. When we choose to think of others, even when we are in pain, it shows a much deeper understanding of God than simple transactions of behavior for reward. This can be lived out s simply as making a birthday phone call to your brother-in-law when you are having a bad day. Even though your are hurting, you call your Brother that constantly lets you down to tell him “Happy Birthday.” Choosing to meet his need for love, even when he disregards yours.
By imitating Job in our lives, we will be able to build a strong faith in God. We will not turn our backs on Jesus because we see evil around us. We will have an attitude of gratitude toward God. We will Speak our mind to God and not withdraw, We will humble ourselves before God, and put our faith in God’s love and God’s desire to do good for us. We will think of others, even when we would rather focus on getting relief from our own suffering. And in all these things, we will be like Job at the end of the book. Restored to double fortune. Not because we deserve a reward for enduring undeserved affliction, but simply because God has freely given to us more abundantly that we could ever hope or imagine.
The book of Job sets us up to truly receive the full benefits of putting faith in Jesus Christ, the one who connects us to abundant life, and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding. When we trust in Jesus, we are assured that in the end, all will be made new, and every tear will be wiped away. And we can follow in the footsteps of Job, God’s servant, because we will have deep faith that although God may allow a faithful servant to suffer ill-fortune for a time, when that time is over, he will bring COMPLETE healing and renewal. In God’s design, suffering may last a while, but God’s love lasts for a life-time and beyond.