Friday, April 15, 2016

"You need to LISTEN before you speak!"

Day #107

Scripture Reading:  Job 5 - 6 ...

Job was hurting; he was emotionally distraught; he was physically in pain; his spirits were low ... understandably so; yet he maintained his faith in God.  When his wife told him to “Curse God and die,” (2:9), Job replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman.  Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (2:10).  And we read, “In all this, Job did not sin in what he said” (2:10).  The Spirit of God was most certainly at work in Job and his faith in God was deep and strong.  It was not until his three friends came and remained silent for seven days, weeping and wailing upon seeing Job in such misery, yet saying nothing to comfort or encourage him, that Job began to feel sorry for himself and to question what God was doing.  Surely his friends would now come to his rescue - pointing him to the God who never abandons His children.  But no such comfort was forthcoming!

Instead, Eliphaz speaks without understanding and places himself in the role of God, becoming judge and jury and finding Job guilty.  It is a temptation for many of us when speaking with people who are suffering to assume that we know what they are thinking and feeling and what they need to hear to move forward.  Job's friends should have immediately pointed Job to his faithful God and encouraged him in his faith.  Even when Job expressed that he wished he had never been born, they had the opportunity to correct Job without judging him ... but instead, they began to speak without wisdom OR compassion.  Eliphaz declares that Job has supported others who have faced trials and has strengthened them, but now is not practicing what he preached!  “Now trouble comes to YOU, and you are discouraged; it strikes YOU, and you are dismayed!” (4:5).  You can hear the attitude in his voice.

And Eliphaz goes a step further; he assumes that Job must not be innocent in this, that he must be under God’s discipline for some sin he has committed.  As he rebukes Job he does say some things that are true:  "Who, being innocent, has ever perished?  Where were the upright ever destroyed?" (4:7).  But then in Chapter 5, he brands Job a "fool" (5:2-3), and tells him to lay his cause before the Lord, but to accept the Lord's discipline:  “I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before Him. … Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty” (5:8,17).  If, indeed, Job was being disciplined by God, this was fair advice ... but he wasn't.  Eliphaz made an assumption that many make today.  Since no one is without sin, it is easy to assume that most or all suffering is discipline from the Lord, but it isn’t! Certainly, that is not the case with Job in his current situation.

Who of us is wise enough to discern whether someone is being disciplined?  God says that He disciplines those He loves and that He intends it for good, for training in righteousness (Hebrews 12:5-11).  But what if suffering is NOT discipline from God?  Why then does God allow suffering and trials to come into the lives of His children?  For His glory!  We who believe in the one true God are called to be His witnesses in this world.  We are called to testify by our words and our lives that our God reigns.  Satan’s contention was that Job worshiped God only because his life was easy and blessed.  God knows that our testimony is even more powerful when, like Job at the beginning, we can say, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised!” (1:21). 

Assuming that Job was being disciplined and that he would be better off to confess his sin, accept the Lord’s discipline, and learn from it, Eliphaz declares, "We have examined this, and it is true. So hear it and apply it to yourself" (5:27).  That may have been a popular saying, but in this situation it comes across as arrogant and judgmental.  In response, Job seems to accept that God is disciplining him and he grieves his present circumstances.  Still, he stands firm in wanting it to be known that he has not denied God's words (6:10).  He confesses that he cannot help himself (6:13), and virtually begs for support from his friends, but considers them "undependable"(6:15) and so feels more alone than before they came.  "Now you too have proved to be of no help; you see something dreadful and are afraid" (6:21).

What could Job's friends have been afraid of?  Maybe they were afraid that they were going to have to care for Job or perhaps they were afraid that if this could happen to Job, it could happen to them!  Certainly, if someone like Job was being disciplined by the LORD, such suffering could happen to anyone.  There are people who are desperately afraid of suffering and who tie it to some kind of cosmic punishment from some “god” who is out there somewhere.  People need to know the God of salvation!  What people who are suffering need is wisdom, and the only way to have the necessary wisdom to speak a message from God is to listen - really listen - to the person who is suffering AND to God speaking to YOU, so that you can apply God's Word correctly to the situation at hand.

James speaks about the necessity of having wisdom when facing trials in James 1:2-5:  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”  Whenever you intend to give counsel to another, always pray for wisdom and be sure your counsel is given with an attitude of humility that points people to the God who truly loves those who believe in Him.

Finally, spiritually exhausted, Job laments, “Teach me, and I will be quiet; show me where I have been wrong” (6:24).  Listen to the heart of those who are suffering and be an instrument of God to bring healing as you share His truth.  Encouragement is always helpful.  Pointing people to God is always right. Beyond that, be careful how you speak, when you speak, what you speak, and God may use you to bring healing to a friend.

"My Father in heaven, You have healed my heart and my soul so often in the midst of suffering and trials.  Now help me to be an agent of healing to those around me as I listen, as I pray and as I share YOUR Word with my friends and brothers and sisters in Christ.  May YOU be glorified through the words you give me to speak.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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