Six-year-old Johnny came to his dad, who was reading the newspaper, and asked, “Daddy, where did God come from?” Came the reply, “I don’t know, Johnny.” A second question, “Why is the sky blue?” Dad answered, “I don’t know, son.” Johnny tried again, “Why is the earth round?” His father said, “Beats me, Johnny.” Finally Johnny asked, “Daddy, do you mind me asking you so many questions?” “Not at all, son,” said the father, “how else are you going to learn anything.”
Sometimes it is in the struggle of our faith, in our asking of difficult questions at difficult times, that our faith is strengthened and brought to life. It was such a time in the life of Job. He had been caught-up in a web of deceit spun by Satan. Job’s faith and commitment were stretched to the point of breaking. Soul-searching and difficult questions constantly ran through his mind. His temptation was to curse God, but his faith yielded only abiding praise.
In the minds of the Jews, the righteous prospered and the wicked suffered. In other words, those who were in proper fellowship with God would have trouble-free lives with wealth and happiness; those who were the poor and the down-cast, and the sick, were sinners. Such thinking indicated that if a person were sick, he was out of fellowship with God and obviously a sinner.
This thought was very prevalent in Jesus’ time. The Pharisees posed the question to Jesus when bringing the man born blind into His presence: “Who sinned, this man or his parents?” Do you remember the treatment of the lepers? Because of their illness, the lepers were outcasts; they were not allowed to enter the temple, they were totally excluded from both society and religion. Religion belonged to the rich and the healthy, and virtue was often practiced for the earthly results it would bring.
So twisted became the thought that many soon believed there was direct correlation between serving God and obtaining His blessings. I call it the theology of prosperity and many still practice it today. It’s the idea that if I prove my love to God, then in turn He will shower me with blessings. Is it not true that many Godly people give to the church solely in the belief that God will give to them in return? It is a further twisted thought that says “If I’ve got problems — health problems, financial problems, problems with my house — it must mean that I’m not living right and God is trying to get me.” We haven’t learned much about God in the last 2,000 years.
The story of Job 1:1-5 of his great piety and prosperity. Listen to the words that describe his life: he was blameless and upright, he feared God and shunned evil, he had thousands of animals and ten children. Job 1:3 even indicates “He was the greatest man among the people of the East.” Job went to great lengths to ensure that his children were Godly and living in a pure relationship with God.
Here is Time’s Man of the Year. He is the best of men: a great guy, a great father, a churchman of the highest order. God Himself said, “There is no one on earth like him.” Look up the word “pious” in the dictionary and the definition fits Job.
The Job 1:3-10 are among the most interesting in all of Scripture. Job 1:6 describes some sort of celestial gathering. The angels have come to present themselves before God, and Satan comes too. God asks Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan indicates he has been roaming all over the earth. Here’s where it gets sticky. God delights in the faith of His servant Job and actually brags on him to Satan. In Job 1:9, Satan begins his twisted, deceptive word. In essence he says, “God, Job only loves you because his life is prosperous.” Satan insinuates that Job’s piety is inseparable from his prosperity: “Take away all that he has and he will curse you just like the rest.” And, oddly enough, God gives Satan permission to test Job.
We have read the story before and we know how it will turn out. Job is stripped of all he has — his home, family, possessions — yet he clings to God. At the end of the story, he is found faithful and all is restored. Today, I want to go back to the beginning and use that initial confrontation to expose the voice of Satan. It is a dangerous and deceptive voice. Let’s hear and understand it.
The voice of Satan must have echoed through Job’s mind a thousand times over the course of his sufferings. That voice said over and over again, “Curse God. Curse God.” It’s the same wicked voice we hear: “Curse God! He doesn’t love you, He doesn’t care about your life. After all, look at how you suffer; look at how badly you writhe in pain over the death of a loved one; look at all your problems. God doesn’t care, curse Him!” Satan’s lie to God about us is that we will curse God when the pain is enough; his He to us about God is that God doesn’t care.
Have you ever cursed God — maybe not outwardly, but quietly and questioningly? We’ve all done it, especially when we do not understand the events in our lives. Someone close to us dies and we demand of God, “Why did you let this happen?” The bottom falls out of our business and we plead, “Why God, why did you let me fail?” Our teenager turns to drugs and we shout at God, “If you love me, why did this happen?” Over and over again, Satan says, “Curse God. Don’t serve Him, don’t love Him, after all, what has He done for you lately?”
One of Satan’s best ploys is to get us to forget. Forget God, forget His love, forget His gift of Jesus. We’ve got to overcome the lies of Satan. How do you love God when you’re down in the dumps? How do you love Him when you feel defeated, depressed, abandoned? How do you serve Him when it feels like the rug of life has been pulled from under you? You love Him by remembering.
I want to offer four things that you must remember about God and the way in which God works. When Satan says, “Curse Him,” you can reply, “1 refuse, because I remember.”
1. Remember that your pain and/or illness is not a result of your sin.
We are more like the Jews of Jesus’ day than we would care to admit. We, too, seem to cling to the mentality that says, “If I do everything right to please God, then He must bless me. If I have sin in my life, certainly God will punish me with pain.” How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m not going to break that rule, I’m afraid of what God might do to me.” Very quickly we slip into the thought that if life is not going well, then sin must be the cause.
Allow me to let you in on something: it rains on everybody’s parade. Your Christian faith is not a guarantee against a problem life. Some of the best people I know have to deal with physical infirmity. It is not a reflection on their sin.
I have already mentioned the passage in John 9 when Jesus is asked in regard to the man born blind, “Who sinned, this man or his parents that he should be born blind?” Jesus replied, “Neither.” And then He went on to tell how through the illness God’s power would be displayed.
Understand very clearly that there are some illnesses that we bring upon ourselves as a direct result of our sin. If we over-indulge for years and years, we ought to expect heart disease, blood pressure problems, and joint deterioration. There are limitations on our physical bodies. But let us affirm with certainty that not all illness is a result of sin. God doesn’t work that way. God loves us and therefore He does not wish ill upon us. A friend is in the hospital for cancer; does it mean our friend’s spirituality is out-of-focus, does it mean that there must be sin in that life? Of course not. That’s foolish talk, that’s devil talk.
You and I must obey God, not out of a fear of what He will do if we don’t but rather out of a desire to please the One who first loved us. Is it not a part of human nature for us to desire to please the ones we love? Remember that your pain is not a result of your sin.
2. Remember that you are already the object of God’s grace.
The Bible affirms over and over that God cares about His creation. The psalmist writes, “When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and stars which Thou hast ordained; What is man that Thou dost take thought of him? And the son of man that thou dost care for him? Yet Thou has made him a little lower than God.” That is God’s grace. Or, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever would believe in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.” That is God’s grace.
You and I are loved by God. He knows our names. He knows our cares and He wants only the best for us. He is at work to that end. There is absolutely no reason for us ever to bargain with God and make promises we can’t keep in exchange for God’s merit and favor. He already wants what is best for us — always.
Matthew 7:11 records the words of Christ, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” Do you get it? We can love God even when times are bad for us, because even then God is at work in our lives providing His best gifts of grace.
Bennett Cerf once told the story about a little 8-year-old girl who had been passed from one orphanage to another. She was very shy and felt rather unattractive. The other children would not play with her, and the teachers considered her a problem child. In this particular place there was a rule that all outside communications had to be censored by the staff. One day the director of the orphanage happened to see the little girl carrying a letter toward the wall surrounding the institution. He saw her climb a tree near the wall and hang the envelope on a branch that could be reached from the street. The director rushed outside the gates, took down the letter and opened it. It simply read, “From Susan, to whomever finds this letter, I love you.” That is God’s word for us: I love you.
3. Remember God’s abiding presence
You and I cannot go where God is not. Jesus, in offering words of hope and encouragement to His disciples, says in John 14, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper that He may be with you forever.” God does not abandon His people. No matter how alone you may feel, no matter how abandoned life may seem, you are not alone. God has promised His abiding presence. We must remember that.
The devil would have us forget. The devil wanted Job to believe God had forgotten all about him, totally abandoned him. That’s part of the devil’s ploy and don’t you believe it. The God who loved you enough to breathe the breath of life into your body will be there when you draw your last breath. We must remember the abiding presence of God.
4. Remember God’s love is greater than our temporary suffering
Weeping lasts only for the night, joy comes in the morning. We serve an eternal God: a God who has placed all things and times to His good will and purpose. That God looks to the future with us.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:1, “For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” Add it all up. Our God and His provision for us far outstretches any pain or problem we can imagine. Yes, it is difficult to live in the meantime, but take heart, it isn’t over yet.
While visiting the ocean one day, the famous English art critic Duveen was unable to persuade his little daughter to join him in the chilly water. So he built a fire, heated a teakettle of water, and with great flourish poured the steaming liquid into the ocean. Then the child ran gleefully into the water without further hesitation.
Satan often mixes a little truth with a lot of falsehood and we wade in, not realizing we are being deceived. His voice today says, “Curse God, He’s probably not listening anyway.” Don’t you believe it.