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man sitting on steps contemplating life January 7 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading: Job 8, 9, 10

Endurance in Tough Times

Unemployed, sick, defeated, or just discouraged - these are areas in our life where we may think, “I can't win. I try. I do my best, but I can't win. God is against me. Nothing I do is right. I just want to quit.” Have you ever felt that way? We do not always express how we feel, but when we read Job's sufferings in the book that bears his name, we can certainly sympathize with him, especially if we have gone through tough circumstances. How can we endure it and win?

As was stated yesterday, Job was a patriarch of faith, apparently living about the time of Abraham (more...). God allowed Satan to tempt him to curse God, and so Job suffered the loss of his family, his business, all his wealth and his health. In today's reading, Job's second friend Bildad the Shuhite rebukes Job for complaining in the bitterness of his soul over his sufferings. Bildad and his friends are thinking, “Job, how can you say these things? Surely you are guilty.” Bildad says,

Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right? When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin. [He is apparently referring to the events of Job 1:18-19 and making a harsh, unfeeling judgment about the reason for his family's demise].

But if you will look to God and plead with the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your rightful place. Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be.

Surely God does not reject a blameless man or strengthen the hands of evildoers, (Job 8:3-7, 20, NIV).

Bildad tells Job to plead to God and He will restore him, if Job is as blameless as he claims. If not, Job must be guilty.

Job replies,

Indeed, I know that this is true. But how can a mortal be righteous before God? Though one wished to dispute with him, he could not answer him one time out of a thousand. His wisdom is profound, his power is vast. Who has resisted him and come out unscathed? (Job 9:2–4, NIV).

This is an age-old conundrum: God is transcendent in power and wisdom, so how can mortal man ever be righteous before him? Job feels like he cannot win. Job continues,

How then can I dispute with him? How can I find words to argue with him? Though I were innocent, I could not answer him; I could only plead with my Judge for mercy.

He is not a man like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court.

If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both, someone to remove God's rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more (Job 9:14-15, 32-34, NIV).

The poetry of the book of Job evokes the powerful emotions that he feels. Job and his friends often express their emotions in metaphors (picture comparisons) and hyperbole (exaggerations) as we might do when we are distressed by trouble or are angry. God is not literally beating Job with a rod, but Job feels like he is being disciplined even though he does not deserve it. Job pleads for a mediator. Perhaps at times we have felt the same way. The Apostle Paul encouraged suffering Christians in Rome.

The [Holy] Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express, (Romans 8:26b, NIV).

Job also feels that God does not understand what he is going through because He is God and not a man. He does not know what it is like to suffer (Job 10:4,5). But, God does know everything and man is created by Him, so he does understand his emotions and the capabilities of his physical stamina. Later his only Son Jesus becomes human and suffers the same temptations, and is later crucified (more about that later in this study).

Job feels like he can not please God. In his pain he says, “I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul,” (Job 10:1, NIV). In and of itself it is not wrong for Job to express his lament, but then Job takes his bitterness of suffering one step farther by questioning God's judgment. It is here that Job, in the suffering of his soul, steps over the line. In the last chapters of Job, Job wishes he had kept his mouth shut and waited for God, instead of charging him foolishly. Like Job, it is difficult when we are suffering not to complain and say foolish things. However, we can draw some encouragement to endure from another well-known example.

A couple thousand year later Jesus also suffers - he suffers a death by crucifixion for his people and us (Isaiah 53:3-11; Matthew 27:1-60; 1Peter 2:24,25). After he is beaten and mocked, crowned with a wreath of thorns, spit upon, and whipped, he is affixed to a rough - hewn cross by long spikes driven into his hands and feet. In a six-hour period he makes only seven short statements on the cross. In one of those statements he cries, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, NIV).

Jesus was as human as we are, yet he submitted to God's will in suffering. When he died, he won the victory over sin and death for us. When we feel like we can't win, let us remember Jesus. Hebrews 12:2-3 says,

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart,” (NIV).

If he can win, we can win, but we must be faithful and trust him even when times are very difficult. Endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2Timothy 2:3).

Lessons to live by:

•  Life can be very rough at times. We need God to help us endure (more...). We also need the help of caring and sympathetic friends. Be this kind of a friend to those who are suffering.

•  Pain can sometimes be long and difficult, but try not to charge God foolishly. Though it may seem like God is against you, if you are a Christian and are innocent of wrong doings, he is your advocate (1Timothy 2:5).

•  Draw encouragement from Jesus Christ, who suffered and endured excruciating pain for us for God's glory and our salvation.

Today's Bible Memory Verse:

Hebrews 12:2-3

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart, (NIV).

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