Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Blessing of Adversity

Sometimes, things happen in our lives and we think that God has abandoned us. I hear this all the time, “Why would God let this happen?” “Where is God in all this?” “What have I done to cause God to be angry at me?” But that may not be the case at all. God is in heaven and he’s in control. In reference to that, I want to look at Job’s story today. Something happened in Job’s life that is like nothing any of us experienced. Job suffered a loss so great in one day that most of us would never be able to understand. He lost his children, all of his wealth and his health in ONE DAY. I wan to look at Job’s life and response and see how we can apply it to our own lives.

Job 1:1-22 (NKJV)
1:1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. 2 And seven sons and three daughters were born to him. 3 Also, his possessions were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a very large household, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the East. 4 And his sons would go and feast in their houses, each on his appointed day, and would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, "It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts." Thus Job did regularly. 6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 7 And the Lord said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So Satan answered the Lord and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it." 8 Then 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?" 9 So Satan answered the Lord and said, "Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" 12 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. 13 Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house; 14 and a messenger came to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 when the Sabeans raided them and took them away--indeed they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!" 16 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you!" 17 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "The Chaldeans formed three bands, raided the camels and took them away, yes, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!" 18 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, 19 and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!" 20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord." 22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.
Job Went Through It!

Look at what Job experienced in one day. The loss of everything that had meaning for him. He lost it all, his kids, all of his wealth, eventually even his health. Everything that was important to him was lost, with the exception of his wife.

What would you say if this was to happen to you today? What would you be thinking? The first thought we would have is, “The Devil is after me. That lying, stinking devil is trying to kill me.” When we look at what happened to Job, that’s not far from the truth. The devil was trying to destroy him. He was trying to get him to turn away from God and he thought he could do it by destroying everything that Job cared about or possessed. His thought was that Job only served God because of the blessing that God gave him.

Don’t you wonder sometimes how you would hold up under that kind of assault? Think about this, this is hard-core demonic attack. None of us have ever experienced that kind of assault. How would we handle it? I know people who have lost it over nothing: Christians who have backslidden over some small setback in their day. “My boss yelled at me, I’m going to go get drunk.” Maybe they just got mad at God over something that didn’t happen in their time frame. Maybe they blame God for something that happened that caused hurt or suffering.

Job has lost everything and the Bible tells us he didn’t even sin with his mouth. He didn’t roll up his fist and say, “This is your fault God.” His wife asks him, “Why don’t you just curse God and die?” Look at his response:
Job 2:10 (NKJV)
"What are you a fool or something? You sound just like those foolish women. Can we expect that God will only bless us?” He’s telling her God has a right to bring adversity into our lives. God can do whatever He wants.
Do you know what’s really interesting about this, though? The devil had to ask God’s permission for this and God gave him permission. God gave the devil permission to attack righteous, blameless Job.

The devil comes to Him an says, “Oh sure Job loves you now, because you’re blessing him, but he wouldn’t do that if you suddenly stopped blessing him.” That’s what ticks me off about the devil. He’s a liar, he’s the father of lies and he accuses us all time before God. He says the same thing about us, “Oh sure, he says he’s a Christian but what if things get really bad? He’ll fold up like a cheap, empty suit.” Look what God says in verse twelve of our text:

12 And the Lord said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person."
God says, “I can prove he’s faithful and loyal. I can prove that he’s blameless; you can’t get him to sin even if you take everything. So take it, it’s all under your power…but don’t hurt him.” God gave him permission to attack Job.

Why would God do that? Sometimes we think God gives permission because he doesn’t care about us. But that isn’t true, because when we rebelled He sent Jesus to redeem us. He could have just destroyed the entire human race but he didn’t. The Bible tells us that He loves us; John 3:16, right…”For God so loved the world...”

Other times we think God is punishing us. That’s what traditional Taiwanese religion teaches; that if we offend the gods they’ll curse us. That’s what Job’s friends think, too. Eliphaz the Termanite comes to comfort him. Look at his comforting(?) words:

Job 4:7-9 (NKJV)
4:7 "Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright ever cut off? 8 Even as I have seen, Those who plow iniquity And sow trouble reap the same. 9 By the blast of God they perish, And by the breath of His anger they are consumed.
But God doesn’t respond to us that way. Eliphaz is mistaken because in verse eight God calls Job a blameless and upright man. Blameless and upright means he is a man of integrity who is in the will of God. There’s no sin on Job’s part, so God isn’t punishing him. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Look at the Book of Psalms:

Psalms 34:16-19 (NKJV)
34:16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. 17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. 18 The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit. 19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous. What does that tell us; even though we’re righteous we’re going to be afflicted. We’re going to go through a few things. In Job’s case it was because he was blameless and upright that the devil asked to attack him. If you are in the will of God, you’re going to face demonic assault.

But it seems that Eliphaz, although he missed God’s purposes in all this, gave Job some good advice.

Job 5:8-9 (NKJV)
5:8 "But as for me, I would seek God, And to God I would commit my cause-- 9 Who does great things, and unsearchable, Marvelous things without number
. This is what the psalmist is telling us, too. If we cry out to God He will deliver us from all our troubles, and that includes afflictions. “Cry out to God, that’s what I’d do.” That’s his advice, and it’s good advice.

What if it Happened to You?

The problem is that when we are at our best with God, that’s when the devil tries to prove to God that we’re unfaithful. In our text, when did the devil ask God if he could attack Job? When God was bragging about him. Is God bragging about you? Let me ask that question another way. Is everything going right in your life? No little struggles or hardships? No big struggles or adversity? Maybe there’s no attack on you because you’re not that close to God, right now. What is it that pleases God? The Bible tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God. Maybe, because of what you have struggled through before, you’re not full of faith. There’s no reason to be Satan’s target in that case. Satan doesn’t have to drag you into deep sin to destroy your salvation; all he has to do is build unbelief and he wins.

Think about this for a moment. Peter declares that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. What a statement of faith! Jesus tells him that this is what the church of Christ will be built on. God is pleased by his faith. Peter is standing in the very center of the will of God. But what happens a few chapters later?

Luke 22:31 (NKJV)
22:31 And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.
The devil says, “Oh, this great man of faith, let me sift him like wheat.” It’s virtually the same thing he said about Job. So Jesus tells Peter that and after he delivers that bit of good news look what he says next.

Luke 22:32 (NKJV)
22:32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren."
What does that mean? It means Jesus gave the devil permission to sift him. He’s essentially telling Peter, The devil is going to sift you, and you’re going to backslide, but when you come back strengthen these others. Ouch.

Maybe when we’re at our closest with God, that’s when the devil gets really mad. That’s when he goes after us the most, like he did with Job and Peter. But there is some good news here. That is that God uses adversity to strengthen us, and then can use us to strengthen others. In other words, we go through things for God’s purpose sometimes.

Here is another thing to look at: You are working and trying to live in the will of God. You love God; you trust God; you’re in the will of God and yet you’re struggling. You just can’t seem to get a break. You look at others; the unrighteous, the liars, the cheaters, the thieves and they’re the ones getting blessed. They’re getting rich while you struggle.

Have you experienced that? You’re trying to do the right thing and live for Jesus. You’re not cheating people, you’re honest you’re doing it right. And the cheaters and liars and connivers and thieves, they’re making all the money and getting all the blessings. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that only the evil people get blessed. Not everyone who is blessed is like I described. I know people who are doing the right things and God is blessing them. But sometimes we’re tempted to think, “I’m doing it right God. Why are the bad guys getting blessed and I’m being punished?”

Matthew 5:45 (NKJV)
5:45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
God blesses whom he blesses. What have we really done to expect only good things from God? We have, at best, given only our reasonable service. God saved us from eternal torment in hell and he did that while we were yet sinners. While we were just as bad as those others we were just complaining about. We didn’t deserve God’s mercy but he has given it anyway. He has blessed anyway. Job really gets it right when he says, “shall we expect only good from God, and shall we not expect adversity?”

God uses adversity to bless us. If you go through something you can often look back and see the blessing that was hidden in the adversity. I was writing to my pastor recently, about Muscular Dystrophy and I said this: “I’m not going to go so far as to say that Muscular Dystrophy is a blessing, but if it wasn’t for that, I probably would never have responded to God’s call and gotten saved.” Through that adversity I was blessed and I think that’s how it often happens.

That’s How it Worked in Job’s Life

After Job went through all that he did, God blessed him.

Job 42:10-17 (NKJV)
42:10 And the Lord restored Job's losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. 11 Then all his brothers, all his sisters, and all those who had been his acquaintances before, came to him and ate food with him in his house; and they consoled him and comforted him for all the adversity that the Lord had brought upon him. Each one gave him a piece of silver and each a ring of gold. 12 Now the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys. 13 He also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 And he called the name of the first Jemimah, the name of the second Keziah, and the name of the third Keren-Happuch. 15 In all the land were found no women so beautiful as the daughters of Job; and their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers. 16 After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children and grandchildren for four generations. 17 So Job died, old and full of days
After all of that, God blessed him. He restored all that Job had lost and doubled it.

Before – After

1. Seven sons and three daughters - same
2. 3,000 camels – 6,000 camels
3. Five hundred yoke of oxen - 1,000 yoke of oxen
4. Five hundred female donkeys – 1000 female donkeys
5. A very large Household
6. He was the greatest of the people in the East

God doubled what he lost to Satan. He also restored his health because he lived another one hundred-forty years and saw his grandchildren to the fourth generation. He got blessed, but look at the adversity he went through to get there.

If you’re struggling right now, hang on to your integrity; stay away from the blame God game and the jealousy of lost and dying sinners and you just might get blessed, as well. In all he went through Job didn’t sin and God blessed him. He will bless you as well. Glory to God!

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