OVERCOMING TOUGH TIMES
Why Job Died Smiling
Job died smiling despite enduring suffering and loss. Did Job die smiling because God gave him an answer, an explanation for his suffering? In the final message of this series, Ben Young takes a look at how Job found satisfaction, healing, and hope with God in the end.
My little brother, Cliff is nine years younger than I am. And I’ve said this before, if I don’t make it to heaven, if I go straight to hell, it will be because I tortured and aggravated my little brother, Cliff. So any problems he may or may not have at this time in his life are not his fault, they’re my fault and my older brother Ed. It probably would have been better if he would have grown up in Auschwitz than in the home with us.
We used to scare him and aggravate him in many ways. One was through an album that we had by a group called Iron Butterfly. They had this song called “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” and it was kind out of the acid-rock genre. It’s a scary song, and we used to play that LP and scare Cliff with it. Then we’d also always threaten that we’re going to turn on the TV set and make him watch the Wizard of Oz. And he was scared of the wicked witch of the east, and those kind of “gargoyleish” monkey figures that flew across the sky. We were really mean in torturing him with that, but the Wizard of Oz was one of our trump cards.
When I think about that movie, and I’ve seen it several times – if you haven’t seen the Wizard of Oz, it’s a classic staring Judy Garland, who is a bright young star. I guess in the 50’s and 60’s and she was a starlet. She was Dorothy and she was trying to find her way back home to Kansas. The way she could find her way back home was to follow the yellow brick road. Unlike Elton John did in the 70’s.
Anyway, she had some friends who she met along the way, the Tin Man, who didn’t have a heart. She also met a Scarecrow who didn’t have any brains, and she also met a lion who did not have courage. They were all on their way to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz, following the yellow brick road. When they finally got to the city of Oz, they made it into this great temple palace. Once in the palace, they got into the presence of Oz who represented Almighty God in this movie. And he had this deep booming voice, “I’M THE WIZARD OF OZ – WHAT DO YOU WANT?” They were petrified by his voice. They were really freaking out because this wizard, who they thought would fix all their problems, was some powerful, mean, ogre, uptight kind of majestic wizard-figure. During one of his tirades as he was screaming and shouting at Dorothy and her friends, Toto (which was her dog) ran up to this place and there was a curtain.
Toto the dog pulled open the curtain only to discover that the Wizard of Oz wasn’t a wizard, he wasn’t this powerful God; he was simply a man.
This man began to talk – eye to eye – to Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and to the Lion. He said, “You know what? You already have the courage inside of you, and if you want a heart I can give you this ticking heart, but you already have a heart as you’ve shown your compassion.” He went on to say, “You already have brains. All the answers are inside of you, and Dorothy, if you want to go back to Kansas, just click your heels three times and say there’s no place like home.” Basically, that movie is a very entertaining movie, but it has a very destructive, philosophical worldview. What were they saying to the Wizard of Oz? They were saying there’s basically no God and the answers to your problems are found within and of yourself. There is no wizard, there is no god, and you are in this world all alone. You can figure out your life, and you can figure out the problem of evil and suffering, and why this happens, and why that happens, but basically, you’re all alone.
Now for the past few weeks, we haven’t been on our way to see the Wizard of Oz, some person who was acting like he was God. We have been looking at the land of Uz. And in the land of Uz, we see a lot of disturbing things happening. We find the original Uzite – a man named Job, who life has rained on his parade, to say the least. And we look at the land of Uz and realize – you know what? We all live in the land of Uz. What is the land of Uz? Where is the land of Uz? The land of Uz is located somewhere east of Eden – the land of Uz is imperfect – the land of Uz is full of messy, evil, catastrophic situations. Yes there’s beauty, yes there’s wonder, yes there’s splendor – but beneath the wonder, beneath the splendor, beneath all the glory and the glitz and the glitter, there’s that underlying current of suffering, of pain, and angst. That’s the land of Uz. Job lived in the land of Uz, and we all live in the land of Uz.
Now many of us have different storms that are attacking our lives right now. Some of us – there’s not a cloud on the sky. Others of us – it’s drizzling on us. Others of us – it’s raining. Some of us have been hit by a lightning bolt. Others of us have had a tornado or a hurricane just rip apart our lives. What happens when you watch CNN or the Weather Channel during a hurricane season, or a tornado runs through the Midwest? You see telephone poles snapped in two like toothpicks. You see entire houses that are removed. You see entire villages that are covered in mudslides. The pain and the death, and the injury caused by such storms is unbelievable. Not to mention the emotional pain that we experience during one of the storms of life.
So in the Wizard of Oz the message is there is no God – you are alone. In the land of Uz, the message is things are messed up – we do live in a fallen world, but you are not alone. There is a kind and benevolent and powerful heavenly Father who is behind this world, who is in control of the grand story, and in control of the smaller stories in your life and in my life.
Now I’ve entitled this message Why Job Died Smiling. Why did Job die smiling? Look at Job’s story. It’s incredible! Job had it made in the shade – he was a righteous man. He was a wealthy man, he had a successful business, he had a happy family, a wife, kids…he had everything. But as he was worshipping God and singing praises to Him, and counting his money and being benevolent, there was another story, a cosmic drama that was happening in the heavenlies between God and Satan. Satan had an interesting view on evil and suffering. He said, “Listen, God, you ask me to consider your righteous man, Job. Of course Job trusts you. You have given him a comfortable life. I mean, Dick Tracy – who wouldn’t follow you? Who wouldn’t worship you if you’d been blessed with millions of dollars and a nice home, and a nice car, and all the creature comforts and gadgets that you need, and a beautiful wife, and ten wonderful children. Why not? Of course he blesses you and praises you.”
So – what happened? God said, “Okay, go at it. But My man Job will come through.” And so he attacked him – boom – he lost everything, everything! His business, his employees, his servants, and then he lost all ten of his children – just like that, in a catastrophic storm, a windstorm. But Job did not curse God. “Naked I came into this world, naked I’m going to leave. The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” Unbelievable. Then Satan goes back to God, “Well, yeah. Skin for skin as long as you don’t hurt his body, he’s going to continue to worship you. That’s easy.” God said, “Okay – go for it. My man Job’s going to come through.”
So Job had already shaved his head and ashes into penance and mourning and crying and grieving. And then he was stricken with boils from the tips of his toes, the soles of his feet, to the top of his skinhead – boils covering him. And there he is – sitting on the top of this garbage heap, scraping himself with broken pieces of pottery. Pus was oozing out of him. His wife came up to him, “Job, give me a break! You’re still going to trust God after all this stuff that’s happened in your life? He’s taken away all of our kids, he’s taken over all of our money, all of our things, and we have nothing, and you’re naked with this disease covering your body? Get over it Job – why are you worshipping and praising God? Curse God! Die! Roll over.” But no, “Shall we only receive good from the Lord and not bad?
Then what happens in the story of Job? His friend’s come, right? Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar – kind of weird name for friends – finally Elihu and your message to Job is basically the same. “Job, the reason you’re so screwed up, the reason God has allowed this hurricane to absolutely devastate your life is because you are in sin. They couldn’t figure it out. And that’s the reason some people give us today – right? The reason this happened to you, the reason that you got cancer, the reason that this person died, the reason you’ve been rejected, the reason this happened, the reason that happened, the reason this particular storm hit your life is because you are in sin. That is not necessarily true.
Now, there are some people – some of us here – that are suffering tonight and you are the cause. You did sin; you did mess up. But some of us – we’re just experiencing life, we’re just living the land of Uz – this fallen, imperfect world full of disease, full of suffering, full of seemingly random evil that attacks us from all sides. That’s what Job’s friends told him. But we can see at the end of the book God finally speaks. Job is mad at God. And the reason Job is mad at God is because he feels like God’s not answering his prayer. And basically Job’s saying, “Lord, I just want a chance to plead my case in your court. That’s all I want! God, I just want you to show up.”
So, Job finally has his prayer answered. When God answers Job’s prayer, it’s interesting in Job 38 verse 1, it says; “The Lord answered Job out of a storm.” You find that fascinating? All these storms had wrecked Job’s life; but God spoke to Job out of the storm. And then verse three reminds me of a line that I learned in college. When I went to college I had a tough time making friends. I couldn’t make any friends, so I decide to join a club and then when I join the club I can rent friends every semester. That’s called, for lack of a better word, a fraternity. For people who can’t make friends – you rent them. And when I was in this rent-a-friend program, during pledge-ship, when you go into a room of a member (and I’m breaking some oaths right now by divulging the secrets of my rent-a-friend club), you’d have to greet the member and say, “Hello, Sir so-and-so.” And call him yes sir. And one of the first things he would tell you to do is hit a brace. Right? That’s a military term for just kind of standing at attention like that. And then they would just totally lay into you.
That’s what happens here in Job chapter 38. God says to Job, “Brace yourself like a man, and I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’’ Now in the book of Job, you will find some 288 question marks. In the following chapter, you will see that 78 of those 288 question marks come from God. And the fascinating thing is if you read this before you go to bed tonight, in Job 38 all the way through Job chapter 42, God never answers any of the questions that were raised by Job and his friends. He does not answer their questions. He just asks question after question after question. He gives Job a lesson on cosmology. He gives Job a lesson on zoology. He gives Job a lesson on physics and mathematics. Where were you, Job, when the foundations of the earth were laid? Do you know how difficult that was? Where were you when all the animals were made? What do you know about this? What do you know about that? And God just asked Job question after question after question that no human being could possibly answer.
The amazing thing is after God goes off on Job, this man who is naked, sitting on a big pile of garbage, scraping himself with a broken piece of pottery, his life is shattered, and his friends have given poor advice with the exception one – Elihu – who gave some truth to him. What kind of comfort is that? The amazing thing is that after God finished, Job was okay? Go figure that out. He didn’t answer any of his questions, just asked a bunch of questions – and Job’s okay.
Now if you read the book of Job, you’d know that Job had everything restored to him – he got a lot more camels, a lot more donkeys, and ten kids to replace the ten kids who had died in the storm. Had all this prosperity, was able to visit with his great-great grandchildren. He died a man – a happy man – at a ripe old age. How did it happen? Why did Job die smiling?
Did Job die smiling because God gave him an answer, a reason for why He took away his business, why He allowed His children to be wiped out in the storm – did God give him a reason why? Is that why Job died smiling? Because he finally had an answer, an explanation? No. Why? Why did Job die smiling?
Did he die smiling because God compensated him? That’s the point of the book of Job. If you have faith and trust God, He’s going to compensate you; He’s going to bless you in this life, and the life to come. Look! God gave him ten children to replace the other ten children. Is that why Job died smiling? He got a rebate and more?
No. You cannot replace the loss of a child, much less ten children. You cannot replace that loss. So why did Job die smiling? Look at Job 42:1: (After the Lord’s 78 questions) “Job replies to the Lord, ‘I know that You can do all things. No plan of Yours can be thwarted. You ask who is this that obscures My counsel without knowledge; surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, “Listen now and I will speak. I will question you and you shall answer Me.” My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.’”
Why did Job die happy? Why did Job die smiling? He did so because God gave Job a glimpse of the big picture. That’s it. God gave Job a view – a panoramic view – of the big picture. He gave Job a view of His power; He gave Job a view of His sovereignty. He gave Job just a taste of His presence, and Job was completely satisfied.
I’m a terrible photographer. I can’t take a picture worth a durn (to use a Texas slang word). I’ll be taking one of my wife and children – “Oh, this will be a great picture!” And we get them back and they’re all fuzzy. “Oh, you’ve messed up again, Ben! You can’t take a picture.” I know! I’m trying, but it’s hard to get the baby to smile. I got to click fast, and you got to hold it there and let it focus – all these cameras – I don’t understand the rules.
God is a great photographer, right? Because God has a wide angled lens, and God sees not only what’s in front of you, He sees what’s going on right now. And God sees the whole panoramic view of the history of the universe, and He sees the entire panoramic view of your life and of my life. So nothing happens on this planet without God’s permission, without God’s sovereign hand behind it. It doesn’t mean that everything that happens on this planet, everything that happens in your life is good. Real evil happens to real people every single day. There are some things in this life that you will never figure out. There are some wounds that you will experience in this life that will never fully heal. But God’s panoramic view, the fact that God is sovereignly in control, gave Job great solace, gave Job great comfort. It amazes me as I read the scripture, because I’m a why person, and even though Job didn’t get an answer, he was satisfied. Someone God’s non-answer satisfied Job. What did Job want? Job simply wanted God to show up, and God showed up on the scene! He made a cameo appearance. And that was enough.
Do you ever ask for that? Have you ever asked for that in your life? Have you ever said, “God, I wish You would come down out of heaven and talk to me.” “Lord, I want You to perform some kind of miracle, give me some kind of sign to know that You’re real.” “God, I sure wish You would give me some explanation for why I had to go through this particular storm, why I had to get this particular disease, why I had to go through this certain situation of rejection, why You had to take this person out of my life. Why I had to endure this affliction, this pain. Lord, I just want You to tell me, show me, show up, do something? Hello?” Have you ever had those feelings?
That’s why Job was satisfied. Job was satisfied because God showed up. And many of us say, “Well, hey! I would be satisfied, too, if God would show up.” I don’t know about that. Not to pick on praise courses in the last two weeks, but I’ll go ahead and do it. I don’t sing some of the courses today. I don’t know the different camps and meetings. People want to touch the Lord, and people want to embrace this and that, and get up close when I can feel Your breath, God. Uh-huh. You come dangerously close to being too intimate with God, too familiar with God in this last two decades. Most of the encounters I see with people of Almighty God, they’re like Isaiah, they’re like Job. Or they’re dead like Ananias and Sapphira. Or Nadab and Abihu.
But Job got what he wanted, and that was enough. I understand, God. You’re in control. You’re a powerful God. You know everything! And somehow, God’s appearance gave Job healing for his present situation. It gave Job healing for the present, and also God’s appearance gave Job hope for this future. And isn’t that what we need right now? Many of you who are living in the land of Uz who are going through incredible circumstances in your life, a time of doubt, a time of darkness with you and God. Don’t you need healing for the present? “God, heal me! Lord, if I could just touch the hem of Your garment – I don’t want to touch You, I just want to touch the hem, God, if You would just heal me.” “Lord, if You’ll just give me some hope that I’m going to make it through this storm, that I’m going to weather it. God, that’s all I want.”
Christ answers Job’s questions. Have you ever thought about that? Because through Christ, we have God’s presence with us. We want an audience with God; God has spoken to us through nature. God has spoken to us through His prophets. God has spoken to us through the law, and God ultimately spoke to us through His Son, the incarnation. God is with us. How many incarnations do we have to have? How many appearances do we need? And Jesus Christ offers healing for us – isn’t that great? I’m not saying He’s going to make everything hunky-dory – right? Just a snap of His fingers, just pray the prayer, believe hard enough and all your problems, all the pain, all the hurt’s going to go away. No. But God will, through Christ and through His presence, give you healing to know that His presence is with you. He’ll give you healing from the penalty of sin. That’s our deepest need – is to be made right with this holy, powerful God. And the only way to be made right with Him is through trusting in Jesus Christ and in Christ alone, who suffered in your place and in my place.
So, we look at Christ, we gain healing for the present and we also gain hope for the future. As we look to the cross, we realize that our sin and our life was so ugly, that it cost God the death of His only Son.
And we realized through trusting in the cross, through trusting in the person of Christ that we are forgiven. And then we receive a partial healing in this life, but we receive hope in the eternal life that we will one day be with Him in this perfect world, in this perfect universe, in the new heavens and the new earth, where there’s no sickness, where there’s no pain, where there’s no suffering, where there’s no asking why, why, why, why. But with God, everything’s great.
So Job was satisfied because God showed up. And even when God blessed him financially again, when God blessed him with children again, that was simply an appetizer. That was some nachos, that was some fried zucchini sticks, some chicken fingers. All the goodness, all the joy, all the happiness, all the pleasures that we experience here on this earth – it’s simply a foretaste, an appetizer to the big meal. Talk about super-sizing! We have no idea what heaven’s going to be like. We have no idea the joy that God has before us, and that’s our hope as Christians. If there is no heaven, then we have no hope, we have no healing in the present, and we have no hope for the future. No hope.
We know that Christ is coming back as the creed says, to judge the quick and the dead, and to bring about the new heavens and the new earth. So whatever we’re going through right now in the land of Uz, and the land of Uz is confusing, the land of Uz is disappointing, the land of Uz is painful. We know that it’s only temporary. Isn’t that great to know? It’s only temporary. You may suffer on this earth for 88 years, but that’s temporary! That’s just a speck compared to the joys and the pleasures and the comfort of heaven.
I was doing a conference a while back in Virginia Beach, and I was staying there at the Sheraton Hotel. And there’s some people running around that particular hotel where I was staying, that I could tell were of the same group. They were mostly women and they looked like they lived in the Amazon, or kind of away from society a little bit, kind of into the earth. A couple of them had three pony tails – two under their arms, and one on the head. Really earthy. Really earthy people.
I got on the elevator with them and I said, “What are you guys here for?” And they said, “Oh, we’re here for the vision conference.” And I said, “What’s the vision conference?” And they said, “Oh, it’s for the healing of your eyes, that you can heal your eyes.” And acting like I should have known what the conference was all about. Like you idiot! And I said, “Well tell me about that.” They said, “Well, we believe that you can improve your eyesight not through glasses, not through contacts, not through surgery, but through eating, you know, proper foods and through brain games and through meditation.” I said, “Really? Man, that’s great. You know what?
I had laser surgery about three years ago.” Well, you’d a think I’d had told these people, “I worship Satan.” I mean, they were like – hey, you know? I can see better now. You should be happy.
But I thought a lot about the vision conference and I thought about the story of Job. And how that’s what we need. Whether it’s through a natural herbal method or meditation, or through a laser zap – I don’t care – but we need to ask God, “God somehow, someway, give me Your eyes. Give me Your eyes to see what’s going on in my life, and give me eyes of faith to trust You despite my circumstances.”
Do you know what Job said? He said, “I heard about you, but now that I’ve been to hell and back, my eyes have seen You. My eyes have seen You, and that’s enough.” So I pray that God will give us those eyes of faith. That He’ll open the eyes of our heart that we might know that He is really here with us. He is really here with us.
So His word to us tonight is, don’t lose focus of God’s presence. That was the very first song that we sang tonight. “I love Your grace, I love Your mercy, but you know what? I love Your presence most of all.” Is that really true in your life? Do you really love God like Job did for nothing? Simply because of who God is, not because of what God does. That’s raw faith, that’s real faith. He’s promised us His presence, His presence. And God’s presence is with you whether you feel it or not.
Sometimes He allows us to feel His presence – I guess we’re feeling His presence. Sometimes He gives us those feelings, but many times there are no feelings there. Nothing – but God is with you. God’s with you. He’s with you. Don’t lose focus. Don’t lose sight of the presence of God. Also, you can never lose sight of eternity. You can never lose sight of eternity.
Listen to this poem entitled I Believe.
I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining.
I believe in love, even when I feel it not.
I believe in God, even when He is silent.
This poem was found scribbled on the walls of a concentration camp. Never lose focus on the eternity. The pain in this life, the disappointment in this life is real.
Many people may say, “Ben you have been so negative, you have been like a black cloud in this series.” Read the book of Job; one chapter of hope, 41 chapters of anguish and questioning. But there is a heaven, there is eternity. There will be a time when God will right every wrong. Revelation 21, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away (Uz will be no more), and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death (praise God) or mourning (praise God) or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’”
We are living now in the shadow lands. Our pain, our suffering is temporary. One day God will right every wrong and He will bring justice to this world, to this universe.
The Wizard of Oz, cute movie, but the message is not true. You are not alone; God is real. God is pursuing you in the midst of the storm. He is pursuing you ultimately in the Person of Jesus Christ. The only way to have your vision improved, your heart vision, is through looking at the Son. Look at the Son, trust in the Son. And you shall know and see the Father. How can I be sure that I am going to heaven? By looking at the Son. When you look at the Son, when we trust in the Son, when we walk with the Son together we are healed and we have hope…real hope. How is your vision?