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“What if?” can describe the paralysis of fear or the launch of faith. Leading into Easter, this series is about the essence and journey of faith; moving from fear to belief / trust, from one “what If?” to another.
The problem with ‘what if?’ is that it isn’t based on reality. It looks through the distorted lens of fear at what could happen that we can’t control or what already happened that we can’t change. Our fear and worry blinds us to what God is doing around us in His creation, what He has done throughout history, and what He has done, is doing, and will do in our own lives.
Humanity is laced with fear. Fear is exhausting physically, emotionally, but especially spiritually in the way it erodes our trust in the power and presence of God.
The Resurrection of Jesus flips the “what If? question on its axis.
What if it’s true? The Resurrection change the way we view everything - how we view ourselves, the world, and the One who calls us to follow.
That is the story of Thomas, a disciple who has carried the label ‘doubting’ with his name for a couple of thousand years. His storyline in the Gospels actually gives us a picture of holding faith next to our own doubts and questions. We know he walked and watched Jesus for three years. We know he was ready to die for Jesus. We know that he wasn’t afraid to ask questions of Jesus. We also know (John 20) that, after the Resurrection, he was the last disciple to see the risen Jesus and those eight days of waiting were filled with confusion, doubt, and frustration that he didn’t, couldn’t yet enter into the joy-filled celebration of the other disciples who had seen Jesus face to face.
After eight days, Jesus came to Thomas, showed him the scars, and Thomas’ “What if?” question moved from fear to faith.
Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’"
There is a different kind of seeing.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8–9).
The invitation to Thomas and throughout Scripture is (simply and not so simply) to believe; to put our trust and our hope in the living Christ. He invites us to be honest with our questions and doubts but also to move to a place of trust, as our doubts can actually become badges attached to our identity, idols that we hold onto.
Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. - Hebrews 11:1
Is there anything about your past, present, or future that Jesus is calling you to lay down (the illusion of control, the anxiety and shame of “What if?”) and just trust Him?
Where might Jesus be asking you to move from a place of fear to a place of faith?
Is there anything in your life right now that feels like faith?
In this sermon series on the book of Job, we are looking at what it means to become men and women who are not shipwrecked by the evil, injustice, pain and grief of this world but who instead sustain our faith over the course of our lifetime. In this final sermon in the series, we look to the New Testament Apostle James to help us see what Job has been all about. Though Job is an extreme story of one man going from the heights of a great life to a tragic fall into suffering, we see that his story actually represents the normal Christian life. From James 5:11 we see that the book of Job is meant to show us (1) Job’s Perseverance and (2) God’s Compassion, and that the normal Christian life is one that calls us to persevere with God and to rest in his compassion for us. Through compassion, God humbles us, accepts us, and will one day restore us. Just as Job received not just spiritual restoration, but total restoration on earth, so we anticipate the rock-solid restoration of God when he brings new heavens and new earth.
Job 14:14-15; Psalm 103:6-14; Isaiah 40:2; 61:7; Zechariah 9:12; Matthew 10:22; 12:34-37; 24:13; Luke 21:19; 22:31-32; Romans 5:2-5; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 10:35-39; James 5:11; 1 Peter 3:18; 4:12-13; Revelation 21-22
“Explanation defines, pins something down. Imagination cuts loose. Explanation reduces life to what can be used. Imagination enlarges life into what can be adored.” - Eugene Peterson
Job, in his long-suffering has continued to ask for an explanation for why he, though he is a man of character who loves and worships God, is in such incessant pain and grief. Job has been begging God to show up and now, much to Job’s surprise and awe, He does. Finally, after 37 chapters the Lord Answers Job. God responds to Job’s questions of “why” with the question(s) “where?”. Where were you________?
God gives two speeches (or challenges). The first is an invitation to understand the universe.
Throughout this first speech, God is making His case, not to explain Job’s suffering, but to stretch His imagination - to invite Job into the mystery of God’s power, majesty, creativity and loving care. Job’s response is “hand over my mouth” silence.
But God doesn’t want our silence. He wants our trust and love.
There is more.
So in the second speech, the second challenge, God gets to the core of Job’s questions of justice, fairness, and the problem of evil. God is okay with the “why?”
Why… is this happening to me?
When… will this be over?
What… can I do to do to get through this?
Where… is God in the middle of this?
But God seems to be more concerned with imagination than explanation.
There is a better question:
Who? Who will save me? Who can I put my absolute trust in?
1 John 5:20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
In this sermon series on the book of Job, we are looking at what it means to become men and women who are not shipwrecked by the evil, injustice, pain and grief of this world but who instead sustain our faith over the course of our lifetime. Job 4-31 presents three cycles of conversation between Job and his friends as they struggle with understanding God in the context of intense suffering. Job eventually realizes that his friends have misdiagnosed his situation and misrepresented God. His friends have done what many of us do in difficult circumstances: we let our situation define God’s relationship with us rather than letting our relationship with God define our situation. So how do our struggles rightly or wrongly shape our relationship with God, and what does it take to have a right relationship with God? Job struggles his way towards true hope when he sees that suffering, loss, friendship, and logic cannot define what it takes to have a right relationship with God.
After all the terrible tragedy Job experiences three friends come to sympathize and comfort him (Job 2:11-13). They sit with him for 7 days and nights and don’t speak. Then, from chapters 4 through 31 the friends use many words to comfort him, but are unable to really see or truly understand Job. Even with friends close by trying to help, Job still feels extremely alone (Job 19:13-19). The weight of Job’s words describing his loneliness resonate with us today, because we can often feel similar in our alone-ness. In this sermon we examine our loneliness in its various forms and our role in loving the lonely around us, which leads us to see how Jesus lived a lonely and forsaken life and died so we would not have to live a lonely and forsaken life.
Job 3 begins Job’s long lament, framed by the question:
“Can I hold on to God, can I hold onto trust in the middle of this suffering?”
When all the props are pulled out, when he loses everything, Job does not curse God, try to explain suffering away, or give instruction about how to avoid suffering. He doesn’t try to numb or ignore with a mask of self-protection. He laments.
Laments are prayers that leave the door open for hope, joy, peace; not a rant that has already reached conclusions, but an open-ended, humble desire to know and trust God more in the midst of pain, grief, or limited perspective.
A lament doesn’t suppress the need or desire for truth, but it also doesn’t isolate truth as simply a demand to know the ‘why.’ It is very much tied to the ‘who,’ the relational nature of truth.
Lament is a search that goes beyond our self-sufficiency and broadens our perspective (about our circumstances, about God, about us); forcing us to deal with the side effects of sin and what it means to live in a fallen and broken world, but also to deal with the radical love and grace of a good, eternal, merciful God.
Lament is language that is raw and honest and unbridled, but with words whose ink has not yet dried.
“Lament cuts through insincerity, strips pretense, and reveals the raw nerve of trust that angrily approaches the throne of grace and then kneels in awed, robust wonder.” - Dan Allender
"Job gives voice to our pain. He makes poetry out of what in many of us is only a tangle of confused whimpers. He shouts out to God what a lot of us mutter behind our sleeves. He refuses to accept the role of a deflated victim.” - Eugene Peterson
There is resolve.
There is restoration.
There is healing.
There is reconciliation.
There is a promise that is fulfilled.
There is not just an end but a beginning.
There is a turning point in the lament.
There is a hope that does not disappoint.
The cross ultimately answers the question of the problem of pain.
The cross is God’s lament and God’s remedy.
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up.” - Isaiah 41:10 NLT
In this sermon series on the book of Job, we are looking at what it means to become men and women who are not shipwrecked by the evil, injustice, pain and grief of this world but who instead sustain our faith over the course of our lifetime. Job 1:6-2:10 tells the story of two very bad days in which Job loses everything: his family, his wealth, and his health. And through his story we are faced with the greatest human difficulty in the world: the problem of undeserved suffering. Will Job keep worshipping God, or will his character fail him under the immense weight of undeserved suffering? From Job we see that undeserved suffering forces us to face grief, face temptation, and face God. The book of Job hinges on this question: does anyone really love and honor God simply because he is God, and so worthy of worship and obedience? Or do we love and worship God only to get good things we want for our lives? Because of suffering we may wonder, “What kind of world do we live in anyway?” In the end we see that, while we live in a world of undeserved suffering, we also live under a God who gives undeserved grace.
Job is a book about suffering, but not just any suffering: the suffering of a devoted follower of God. As we begin a 7-week sermon series on Job, we take a look at the introduction to Job in order to see the character of a Christian, the condition of a Christian, and the habit of a Christian. These three elements are essential to the story of Job, for we see that Job is a great man with a good life who is personally close to God and true to his faith in every area of life. But there is a question approaching Job and his good life that will test him in every way: when Job faces a terrible personal tragedy and his condition changes, will his faith remain in tact? Will his character fall as his life falls apart? What does it take to become men and women who can face evil, injustice, grief and pain and not lose faith but endure in faith throughout our lifetime? The beginning of Job’s story shows us that Job is able to sustain his faith for one reason: he lives his life under God’s approval.
Job 1:8; 2:3 13:26