All Things Work Together for Good

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” If I had to choose only one example of this verse coming true in my life, it would be my brother’s death.

My only sibling, Jason, was fourteen months younger than me. Growing up we were similar athletically and academically. But during high school he started partying and abusing drugs. He dropped out of school and received his GED. We were encouraged when Jason enlisted in the Army. He joined the 82nd Airborne, which involved jumping out of planes. He said he developed pain in his knees. We don’t know if that was true or an excuse to obtain prescriptions from the military hospital. Either way, this is when he became addicted to pills.

Jason separated from the Army after four years of service. He started breaking into people’s homes and raiding their medicine cabinets to satisfy his addiction. He was arrested and I still remember how difficult it was the first time we visited Jason in jail. We had to speak to him on opposite sides of the glass. He was released, but soon after was arrested again. Unable to find a job because of his criminal record, he moved across the country hoping to rejoin the military. That was the last time we saw Jason. A few months later, I received the phone call from my dad that Jason had overdosed in a motel room.

How Did Jason’s Death “Work Together for Good”?

I was in my early twenties, single, and teaching elementary school at the time. I threw myself into my work, hoping to stay distracted from the grief. It didn’t work. I was struggling. Continue reading “All Things Work Together for Good”

4 Ways God’s Compassion and Mercy Is Shown to Job (and Us)

James 5:11 says, “You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.” The Bible contains several accounts that depict God’s compassion and mercy…

Manasseh

The wickedest king in the Old Testament. It seemed like there was no false god he did not worship and no command he did not break. He even sacrificed his own sons to Molech. God punished him by taking him into captivity. 2 Chronicles 33:12–13 records:

Now when he was in affliction, he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.

God not only forgave Manasseh, He even restored him as king.

The Ninevites

Some of the evilest people in the Old Testament. When they repented, God spared them. This made Jonah so angry that he wanted to die, but God rebuked him:

Should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left?” (Jonah 4:11).

The Prodigal Son

This parable reveals the heart of God the Father. Luke 15:20:

The son arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.

Jesus on the Cross

When He was crucified He prayed:

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).

These accounts make God look “very compassionate and merciful.” But He doesn’t look that way in the Book of Job. If someone said, “Show me an example of God being ‘very compassionate and merciful,’” you probably wouldn’t point to Job. Continue reading “4 Ways God’s Compassion and Mercy Is Shown to Job (and Us)”

Five Ways Job Is a Type of Jesus Christ

After Job suffered, he served as one of the clearest types of Christ in the Old Testament. Job longed for his Mediator, Advocate, and Redeemer throughout his trials, and then he became a picture of the Person, Jesus Christ, to his friends.

1. Job’s Sacrifice and Intercession Turned Away God’s Wrath

Job 42:7-8—And so it was, after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has. Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.”

God said His “wrath was aroused against [Job’s] friends.” How could God’s wrath be turned away? This was hundreds of years before the Mosaic law instituted the sacrificial system, but even then it was clear an offering needed to be made for sin. Seven is the number of completion, which means Job’s offering pictured a perfect sacrifice on his friends’ behalf. Continue reading “Five Ways Job Is a Type of Jesus Christ”

The Mediator, Advocate, and Redeemer in Job

The Book of Job provides some of the greatest revelation of the Messiah in the Old Testament. Although Job didn’t have the revelation that we have, he still looked forward to a Mediator, Advocate, and Redeemer. Centuries later, Jesus revealed Himself to be the reality and substance of Job’s words.

Job Needed a Mediator

He longed for a Person to stand between him and God:

Job 9:1–2—Job asked: “Truly I know it is so, but how can a man be righteous before God?”

This is the most important question people can ask, because it determines where we spend eternity. Job answered his question and explained why “a man [cannot] be righteous before God”:

Job 9:3–4—“If one wished to contend with Him, he could not answer Him one time out of a thousand.
God is wise in heart and mighty in strength. Who has hardened himself against Him and prospered?”

Nobody can stand before God and respond to His questions. Job learned this the hard way when he was finally given his audience. Continue reading “The Mediator, Advocate, and Redeemer in Job”

The Difference Between Stumbling and Falling

Paul asked, “Have [the Jews] stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not!” (Romans 11:11a). Stumbling is not the same as falling, and we can see the difference between the two by considering two men who had much in common. Who does this describe?

A well-known man received a unique opportunity when Jesus asked him to become one of the twelve disciples. In accepting the invitation, he became a student of the greatest Teacher in history. He could be with the Son of God day and night. The man heard Jesus’ teaching, and when His enemies tried to trap Him with penetrating questions, he heard the profound theological answers. He saw miracles that showed the Messiah’s authority over death, nature, demons, and disease. Jesus gave him some of the same divine power to cast out demons and perform miracles. He witnessed firsthand Jesus’ love, grace, and mercy. After experiencing all this, he betrayed Jesus in a strong, convincing way only hours before His crucifixion. Then he felt great sorrow.

Who is the man? If you say Judas, you are right. If you say Peter, you are right.

Stumbling Is not the Same as Falling

There are plenty of similarities between Peter and Judas, but one crucial difference. Regarding their faith, Peter stumbled, but Judas fell. Luke 22:31–34 records:

And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”
But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.”
Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.”

Notice the words, “that your faith should not fail.” Jesus knew Peter’s faith was about to be tested, so He graciously warned him. He reverted to Peter’s former name, “Simon,” to remind him of his old nature, and repeated it twice to reveal the gravity of the situation. Peter failed to appreciate Jesus’ warning. He responded pridefully, claiming he would not stumble. Continue reading “The Difference Between Stumbling and Falling”

Job Shows Perseverance Doesn’t Mean Perfection

Job is the New Testament example of a persevering saint. James 5:11b says, “You have heard of the perseverance of Job.” How did he persevere? He persevered the same way everyone perseveres—by maintaining faith in God. Twice Satan predicted he would curse God, and at one point his wife even told him to do so (Job 1:9-11, 2:5, 9). He rebuked his wife saying:

“You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (2:10a).

Basically, he said, “As readily as we accept God’s blessings, we must also accept the trials.” Then he succinctly described what it means to persevere when he said:

“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (13:15a).

He declared that no matter what happened to him, he would maintain his faith in God.

Be Encouraged Comparing Yourself with Job

Comparing ourselves with Job can be discouraging. Who wants to think they must endure trials as well as he did? We should be encouraged though because he was far from perfect. Trials bring us closer to perfection, which means we are not yet perfect. Sin has affected every part of us, including the way we respond to trials. Job is an example of this.

James 5:11 says, “You have heard of the perseverance (or patience) of Job,” but did he look patient? Did he remain calm, speaking up only to give praise to God? Did he “count it all joy” when experiencing his trials, or did he express frustration and even criticism of God, regarding his suffering?

Job’s Criticisms of God

9:23—“If the scourge slays suddenly, He laughs at the plight of the innocent.”

This is a strong accusation. He said God mocks the pleas of those killed. Continue reading “Job Shows Perseverance Doesn’t Mean Perfection”

Blessed by Persevering Through Trials

We need to expect trials, and persevering through them can be easier when we understand the blessings! James 1:12 and 5:11 state:

  • James 1:12—Blessed is the man who perseveres trials;
    for when he has been approved,
    he will receive the crown of life which
    the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
  • James 5:11a—Indeed we count them blessed who persevere [through trials].

The Greek word for “persevere” is hypomonē, which is the same word for “patience” in James 1:3 and 4:

Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience (hypomone). But let patience (hypomone) have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

Many Bibles translate “patience” as “perseverance” or “endurance.” This is fitting because patience allows believers to persevere. I prefer “persevere,” because “endure” sounds like tolerating or putting up with. Persevere is synonymous with success. Those who persevere through trials are victorious. They are triumphant and blessed as a result. Some of the blessings, such as maturing from trials, occur in this life. Other blessings occur in the next life when we hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).

A few years ago I was experiencing a trial, and this is part of a message one of my heroes, Dave Zumstein, sent me:

It may seem glorious to you to be a mighty man leading mighty men into battle. I think it is glorious to God to see a man quietly, but strongly, striving to fight the good fight amidst difficult times. When the call comes for difficult times, oh that we might be that type of man.

Continue reading “Blessed by Persevering Through Trials”

God Tests His People to “Know” Them

God reveals Himself through the pages of Scripture. He shows His character and the ways He deals with people. One of God’s most common approaches is giving His people tests:

  • Exodus 20:20—And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.”
  • Psalm 66:10—For You, O God, have tested us;
    You have refined us as silver is refined.
  • Job 23:10—But He knows the way that I take;
    When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.

See also Genesis 22:1, Deuteronomy 8:2, Judges 3:1, and 2 Chronicles 32:31

Why Does God Test People? To Know Them!

The Old Testament makes this clear if we understand two Hebrew words:

  • Nacah is the Hebrew word for “tested” or “proved,” and it means, “To test, try, prove, tempt, assay.”
  • Yada is the Hebrew word for “know,” and it means, “to know,” but, like ginōskō, it is describing intimate knowledge: “Adam knew (yada) his wife, and she conceived and bore a son” (Genesis 4:1).

David used both words when asking God to “test” him to “know” his heart:

  • Psalm 26:2—“Examine me, O LORD, and prove (nacah) me; Try my mind and my heart.”
  • Psalm 139:23–24—“Search me, O God, and know (yada) my heart; Try me…see if there is any wicked way in me.”

Continue reading “God Tests His People to “Know” Them”

Apostates Are Often Revealed by Trials

Apostates are people who appear to have embraced the faith, but then they reject – or fall away – from it. Their faith is shown to be insincere, and often trials provide this revelation. In the Parable of the Soils, the seed represents the Word of God, and the soil represents our hearts:

Matthew 13:5–6—”Some [of the seed] fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away.”

“Stony places” refer to shallow soil on top of a bedrock layer, where there is not much depth of earth. As a result, when this soil (or heart) receives the seed (or Word of God), it will not establish deep roots. Apostates often receive God’s Word enthusiastically—they are excited about their new faith and “immediately [spring] up”—but they do not last. Their faith does not have deep roots. It looks good at first, but trials reveal it was not genuine:

Matthew 13:20–21—“He who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.”

Sadly, we have all seen apostates like Jesus described—joyful until they experience trials. How many times have you been at church and heard, “Hey, what happened to so-and-so?” Then someone replies, “Oh, they went through this trial, and they have not been back.” Without roots, the insincerity of apostates’ faith is exposed, and they revert to their lives before the seed fell on their hearts. First John 2:19 says:

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

Apostates Look Like Christians

The church at Sardis was filled with people who appeared to be Christians, but Jesus told them, “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1). Sardis looked so good it developed a reputation (a name). Observers thought this was a thriving church because of how much it had going on physically (you are alive). Jesus looked at them and knew they were a church of unbelievers—spiritually dead people. Continue reading “Apostates Are Often Revealed by Trials”

Trials Test Our Faith and Prove the Genuineness of It

Trials accomplish two important works in our lives. First, trials improve, or mature, us. Second, trials test our faith. Augustine said:

“Trials come to prove us and improve us.”

I used to be a school teacher, and now I am a pastor. Both professions involve instructing others. I don’t want to sound overly simple, but good teachers provide information people don’t already know. If they already knew it, they wouldn’t need the instruction! Most letters in the New Testament are instructive. There is the occasional time an epistle will say, “I want to remind you…” but primarily they were written to provide new information. This is why James 1:3 is so unique! In the ESV and NIV it says:

You know that the testing of your faith produces [patience].

James was not teaching something new. He was telling readers what they already knew about trials. They test our faith!

There are weaknesses with the English language. One weakness relates to the word “know.” For example, I use the same English word when I say, “I know my dad” as when I say, “I know of Abraham Lincoln.” Obviously, I know my dad much differently than I know President Lincoln. We add the word “of” to differentiate between the types of knowing: knowing someone versus knowing of someone:

  • The Greek word for “knowing of” is epistamai. It means, “To put one’s attention on, fix one’s thoughts on, be acquainted with.” This is knowledge, but with no personal interaction or relationship.
  • The Greek word for “knowing” personally is ginōskō, and it means, “to learn to know, get a knowledge of, feel.” This is intimate knowledge. Ginōskō is used in Matthew 1:25 to say, “[Joseph] did not know (ginōskō) [Mary] till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.”

Continue reading “Trials Test Our Faith and Prove the Genuineness of It”