Dr. Ed Young - The Great Question
Jack did not notice when Alice, three times, had reached over and hit the snooze button. But he realized how late it was this Sunday morning. He jumped up out of bed, getting ready to go to work. He didn't shave; he went in the shower. He threw on some clothes; he raced to the car to realize he had been asleep eight minutes before, and now he was backing out of his driveway, going to work. He said "Well, it's kind of unusual for me to go into work this early on Sunday morning". Then he thought about it. He said "No, it's sort of normal, recently..." Because Jack had been working almost 24/7 for weeks that grew into months, that grew into years as his company was expanding. And he was at the point of so many new enterprises. So he knew he had to get to work well, well early that Sunday morning in order to complete the task that must be ready for Monday morning.
Now as he was going to his automobile, he was thinking, "How long can I go at this pace? Here it is before 6:00 a.m., and I'm out moving"! He thought about how much he loved his three children, and how much he adored his wife, and he thought that "In a little while, maybe I'll have it all together! I won't have to work like this, and we'll have some bills paid, and we'll be a little more solvent in our situation" and, then he topped a hill, and he said "I hope I can make that southern crossing before that 6:08 freight train comes by! Because every morning, he tried to beat the 6:08 freight train"! He said "I don't know if I'm gonna make it today"! But as he went over the hill, he saw coming from his left that long train! He said "I think I've got plenty of time today! I think I'm gonna make it"! And he said "I'm not gonna take a chance".
Jack was not a risk taker. He was very conservative, very careful. He wasn't going to take a chance, but as he looked at that train coming, and he entered that crossway, he said "I'm gonna be all right! I'm gonna have plenty, plenty of room to spare"! And just as he got to the tracks-BAM! Coming from his right was 20 tons of steel! Another train he hadn't even noticed! I thought about an old song I learned as a boy. It said "If the left one doesn't get you; then the right one will"! This is Job, isn't it? Jack is Job! He's looking to the left, and all of a sudden, he's lost everything he has! He's lost all of his ten children, and he's totally beaten up! But then he looks to his right, and what happens? He's terminally ill! There's boils from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet.
And here is Job, at one time, the greatest man in the East, the Bible tells us! And now he is a zero! He is in the garbage dump, and his three closest friends hear about his dilemma; hear about his suffering; hear about his pain, and they travel to be with him! And in the beginning, they do a great job of comforting Job. They really do! We read and studied in our Scripture; Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar! Eliphaz was the slick, smooth person who talked about experience. He was the oldest comforter. And, then Bildad was, was the one who talked about tradition. "This is the way things work traditionally when you're suffering"! And Zophar was the "in-your-face" guy, remember? He was in your face saying "This is the way it is, Job..." And the thesis of these three men was exactly the same. "Job, you must be a sorry, secret sinner, or you just wouldn't be suffering like this! We've never known anybody in just a few days, they'd lost everything; and now they've-You've lost your health! On top of that, your wife has come and said 'You dirty rascal! Why don't you just curse God and die?'"
I mean, how dark can life get? How low can you go? How much suffering can you stand? And these three friends showed up. And they do everything right in the beginning. Remember, we talked about how do friends comfort friends? Friends first of all show up! They're there. They come! The second thing they do; they try to feel as you feel, and they enter into your suffering, into your pain, and they shed tears... And that's exactly what these friends did in the beginning. They got down in the garbage dump with Job! They spent seven days, seven nights with Job! They got down where he was! They, they shed tears! They threw dirt in the air, indicating their sorrow... And, what else do friends do? Friends also do not get turned off by what they see, or what they smell.
And these friends of Job-they didn't recognize him at first. He had no hair on his head! And his, his robe was torn apart! And, he had boils all over his body! He was moaning and groaning, and crying, and he couldn't sleep; he couldn't stay awake, and he was going through despicable, unbelievable agony! And they were not turned off by what they saw, what they smelled with Job and his sickness, and the trash dump. But then the fourth thing that friends do for friends, these three friends did okay for seven days and seven nights, and then they messed up! What's the fourth thing? Friends who comfort friends don't say very much! They say very little... And they did all right for seven days and seven nights, and then they just started talking! They took a good man, Job, and they tried to play God with him! And they tried to diagnose why he's sick, and what's going on in your life, and they just come one after another.
One speaks; Job answers, and Job answers them, and then he utters a prayer to God. Another one speaks, and Job answers, and he answers them, and he has a prayer to God. Another one speaks, and Job answers, and he answers them and has a prayer to God. This all goes on for three cycles, until finally; everybody is more or less exhausted! And then we come to this portion of Scripture as Job is answering, thoroughly, I think, these three guys. And look what he does here. Look at Chapter Number 13, Verse Number 13. By the way, this is a different Bible. My dog, Winston, got a hold of my Bible, and uh, this is true-had it open at Job, and he ate all of Chapter 13 and part of Chapter 14! It's true. A couple of weeks ago, he got, uh, Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, ate a whole page out of that! So I had to sort of prop up this new, red Bible.
Uh, anyway, I guess I have a holy dog! He's absorbed more Scripture than some of us are here at church today, so... Eehhh-don't want to get too personal! Chapter 13, Verse 13. Job responds and says: "Be silent before me so that I may speak"! In other words, he's saying to these three friends, "Would you guys just calm down? Be quiet for a minute"? "Then, let come on me what may. Why should I take my flesh in my teeth and put my life in my hands"? Other words, he's saying "I am sick; I am dying. I've lost everything". He said "I'm not just going to curl up in the fetal position and say 'Okay guys, thank you for being here and talking with you!'" He says "I have something to say"! And now we see Job making a great affirmation of faith in this setting. Look what he says. I read it to you. "Though He", that's God, "Slay me; I will trust in Him"!
God wins the contest with Satan, had you forgotten that? Remember how we got here? Satan and God got in a conversation beyond the pail of history. God mentions Job, what a good guy he is, and Satan responds and says "Man, if I could get a hold of him..." And he got a hold of him. The first train hit him; lost his kids, lost his possessions. Then Satan said, "Well, he didn't curse me that time. He blessed You; but let me get a hold of his skin. Let me touch his health. He'll take care of his own personal well-being. And the right-hand train got him, and Satan said "Now he'll curse You, because he's been serving You and being faithful to You because You have blessed him and given him a penthouse life! But now, Job has lost everything; and this Verse seals the debate between Satan and God, does it not? Because Job says "Though He kills me, I'm going to keep trusting Him"!
Game over! Game set-match! Victory for God, and for Job! Everything Satan wanted to do to bring down the life of Job; the very opposite took place! He blessed God, and now he puts his trust in Him, no matter what happens! That's over! It's done for! That's the end! But we got some mopping up to do with these three guys! And Job is not through! Look what he does next! It's sort of staggering. Job says, second part of Verse 15: "Nevertheless, I will argue my ways before Him, before God. This also shall be my salvation. For a godless man may not come before His Presence. Listen carefully to my speech and let my declaration fill your ears! Behold now, I have prepared my case, and I know I will be vindicated"! What is Job saying? Job is saying to God, "Look! Let's go into court of law"! Read the Book of Job, and you have every law term, almost you've ever heard of! You have a case; you have charges; you have a judge; you have a jury. You have witnesses; you have evidence; you have everything you look for!
You see, Job understood that God is the Supreme Judge, and he believed that God Almighty was a judge who was righteous, and a judge who administered justice! Upon that basis, he goes and says "I want to have my day in court with You, God". You see, he'd been dealing with the three monkeys. Now he wants to confront the organ grinder! He wants to confront God! He said "God, let's get on even ground! Get on the same ground together! Let's get on level ground"! And look what happens then. What does Job ask for in this trial that he is bringing before God? He's asking for God's Presence. By the way, folks, when suffering comes, that's what we need, just the Presence of God. If you know that God is present, and God is with you, and God is there; that's all we need. This is what Job asked for.
Look for it in Verse 20. He says: "Only two things do not do to me. Then I will not hide from Your face. Remove not Your hand from me, and let not the dread of You terrify me". Job is saying "In this trial, Lord, I want two things: Don't abandon me! I want You here with me. Don't abandon me! I know I'm making charges before You. Don't abandon me", and he said also "Don't terrify me. Don't intimidate me". Think about it! Going in court with God? He said "God, don't abandon me in this, and don't intimidate me"! You talking about intimidation! You talk about the boldness of Job, and I imagine his three friends now just cower back and say "He's lost his mind"! And then look what Job says-wonderful! Verse 22. He's talking to God now. He said "Then call and I will answer, or let me speak. Then reply to me".
What's Job saying in the courtroom? He's saying "God, You be the plaintiff, and I'll be the defendant". He said "You speak; I'll respond". He said "Or, reverse it"! He said "I'll be the plaintiff, God, and You can be the defendant"! He said "Whatever way you want to handle this trial, God, it's okay with me"! Then he goes on and says "I want you to number all of my sins! Just list all the things I've done that brought this suffering into my life". Now that's bold, isn't it? And one little phrase I read-don't miss! He said "No one goes before God", paraphrase, "When there's sin in your life"! If you go before God with a prayer and there's living sin in your life and my life; God can't hear; God can't listen! We have to be as we used to say when I was brought up, "confessed up; prayed up".
We have to get all the stuff in your life and my life right before we can go to God, or our prayers are meaningless! He can't get to us and hear us, because there's a blockade there of trash in a life! And Job is saying right here, oldest Book in the Bible; pre-Calvary, pre-Christ, pre-Israel; he's saying right up front "I understand. You can't just go to God any time, any way. You have to go and confess your sin before you can do business with Him; before He will speak with you, and you can genuinely speak with Him". So he says "God, I want Your Presence"! And look at the next thing that happens. This is what Job wanted, but look at the next part of this.
Look at Verse Number 7, Chapter 14. "For there is hope for a tree when it is cut down, that it may sprout again, and its shoots will not fail; though its roots grow old in the ground, and its stump dries in the dry soil. At the scent of water, it will flourish and put forth springs like a plant". He uses a positive illustration of nature in order to illustrate a negative truth. Very interesting here! What is God doing with Job? He's pruning him! That's what He's doing! Now I don't know anything about horticulture, or plants, or trees. I know next to nothing. After I pull up weeds and cut the grass; I've exhausted my understanding of flowers and nature! But I read about pruning.
Pruning is something! Many of you know this. You've got to prune the, at the right time. You've got to cut in the right way. You've got to cut the amount of, the right amount. You have to do it in the right season. You have to... It's a very complex thing! And you know why we prune, in order to get rid of some of the extraneous foliage, and, and we cut back so the flowers will be more beautiful where the, where the fruit will be delicious and be productive. You have to cut back! But how much, and when, and where? That's the reason you go to John, Chapter 15. We see a very clear word. Jesus says "I am the Vine" and He said "You believers, you're the branches". He said "The, the Father God is the husbandman", and He said "If a branch isn't productive, it, it's just cut away and thrown away" but He said "If a branch is productive, God the Father prunes that believer, that Christian in order that Christian will be more productive"!
By the way, someone outside of Christ, outside of the plan of God-is there any reason God could keep, should keep you alive? I can't think of one. Just breathing air, and taking away natural resources. I can't think of any reason for that! You see, but as believers, sometimes, God prunes us so we'll not continue to major on minors; so we'll get our priorities right. And that's what going through with Job. And Job, as he was being pruned; his friends were there with him! At least they were there. They didn't handle what they said very well; but at least they were there.
And that's something we have to understand. We see people who are suffering, and some pruning is going on in their life; we need to be there. That's what's important when pruning is going on in a life. And this is what's happening to Job, and he didn't understand it fully; but he was crying out that in the pruning of a tree, he says, we know they come back. But what about us? He said "I have no knowledge..." He's very pessimistic here, "That when I suffer and I die; what will happen to me"? And then he asked that big, big question in our Scripture. Look at it, there in Verse 14. He says "If a man dies, will he live again"? That's the question, isn't it? If a man or a woman dies, will you, will I, will we live again? And then Job says "All the days of my struggle, I will wait the pruning until my change comes".
In other words, he stops breathing. And then he has a surge of faith. He sees it. Verse 15, he says: "You will call, O' Lord, and I will answer You. You will long for the work of Your hands". He said "When I am dead", he said "I know God, You will speak, and I will answer because You long for that which You created because You love me"! That's it! "Because You love me"! And that's what Job needed; that's what we needed when we're going through pruning times. By the way, if you're a teenager, or 20, or 30 or 40 and you haven't suffered; you haven't been pruned; I say this reverently, you're a light-weight! Yeah. You're a light weight. Because pruning does something that nothing else can do. It cuts out all the extraneous things; it, it eliminates all the things that don't matter. It causes us to grow up.
In fact, there's a weight of glory, C. S. Lewis says, that follows suffering. You see, it's God's way to make you and to make me real. In all the other major religions of the world, you know how they handle suffering? They give advice! They give words... How does Christianity handle suffering? Christianity deals with suffering in that God became Man in Jesus Christ and suffered with us! God understands when we're disenfranchised! God understands when we're kicked out! God understands when we suffer that's unfair! God understands when people speak evil words against us! God understands! He even understands our sin, because in Christ, He took that on Him! He suffered like we suffer, and then He suffered that great suffering as a result of sin so that we will not have to suffer that great suffering!
That's how Christianity deals with suffering. So we know when the pruning comes that He will be present with us! And we know if a man or a woman dies; will that man or woman live again? Yes, because God longs for; God loves that which He has brought into being! In a university in Missouri; one professor was the toughest guy in the whole school! He specializes in flunking people. You ever had a teacher like that? And so, everybody was afraid of him! But he was a dynamic teacher, and a wonderful man. And you loved his classes. But when test time came, whewww! Fear and trembling; fear and trembling, even to the best of students. Final exam time.
This guy said "I was never more petrified". He said "Even as we sat in class, everybody was still looking at their books, and checking their notes before the test. The professor came in". He said "I want to have a brief review before we take the final exam". And said he went over some material they had talked about, and then he began to talk about material they'd never heard of! He said all the class said "Doctor, we have never heard any of this before"! And said he responded and said "It's in the book"! He said "Remember I told you, 'Be responsible for everything that's in the book!'" They said "Yeah, yeah, we remember that..."
Then they passed out all the exams. He said "Leave the exams face down until everyone has their paper". Then he said "Take the test"! He said "I turned over my test and, there were the questions on the first page, and they were all answered"! He said "I flipped over, and there were the questions on the second page. They were all answered. Third page; all answered. Fourth page; all answered. Fifth page; all answered. Sixth page; all answered! Seventh page, discussion questions; all of them answered beautifully"! And he said "Finally, the eighth page at the bottom, it said 'The creator of this test has answered every question for you, and every question is absolutely right! You get an A+ on this test as does everybody else in this room!'" And then he went on to say "I want you to know you did not do one thing in your reading, and your studying and preparation that deserves the 'A' that you're getting. It is all on the basis of grace"!
Life is a test. Fill in some of these, some of these answers and whew! Man, I mean, it's a tough test! We're going through some pruning here, and I don't know if I got it right, I responded right. I don't know if everything was cut out. I, uh, I don't know if I've become the person I.... You see, most of us don't understand grace, and we don't practice grace. But everybody who was in that classroom, the rest of their life; they'll understand grace! I read that story, and I said "Boy, I wish I'd had a professor like that"! Heh, heh, heh, heh! And maybe some of you are thinking, "Boy, in all the tests of life, oh, I wish I had a God like that"! You do! A God who is exactly like that!