Pastor Terry Tatum
To say the last couple of weeks have been challenging would be an understatement. At times it’s been down-right hard and discouraging.
Earlier this month we had our staff and their families tested for COVID-19 and three tested positive. Since then all three have tested negative and have shown no symptoms of the virus. But then earlier this week we found out that Pastor Craig and his household had been exposed to the virus and were experiencing mild symptoms. It was later confirmed that they did indeed have Covid-19 and are currently recovering in isolation according to the CDC guidelines.
Craig is not only my boss, but a close friend and mentor and I took this news pretty hard. In the midst of all this, we put plans to resume in-person worship on hold again. Logistically that wasn’t too difficult – we have been online-only for the better part of the past four months, after all – but it took an emotional toll on our staff and many in our congregation. I think I speak for everyone when I say, we just want all of this to be over so we can be together again.
Through all of this I have had a lot of questions for God, such as:
1) Why us, why now?
2) Don’t You remember what we have been through the last few years?
3) When will all of this be over?
4) Will things ever get back to normal? Is “normal” going to be a thing again?
The list goes on and on. But despite all my questions, I haven’t lost my faith in God. No matter how dark things have seemed at times, I just know everything is going to be okay, either in this world or the next.
The reason my faith is unshaken is that God gave me a peace years ago that has never left me. Some people tell me my glass is half full and some tell me my faith is overly simplistic. Well, maybe both are true, but I know the word of God is true and I know what happens at the end of the Bible: We win.
I say all that to say it still isn’t easy these days, but it wasn’t always easy for people in Scripture either. In fact, it was really hard sometimes. Today we’re going to walk through the story of a man who went through incredibly hard times but never lost faith in God. His name is Job. We can learn a lot from Job and his unwavering faith in God.
The story starts with Satan and God having a discussion about Job, who is said to be “blameless and upright.” At the start of the book of Job, we read that Job “feared God and shunned evil.” So the first thing we learn from Job and his unwavering faith in God is that even the righteous shall suffer.
The hard times Job went through were hard, really hard. It leads us to wonder, why did bad things happen to a righteous and blameless man like Job?
Well, it’s been my experience that bad things and good things happen to all people. That’s part of life. We will all go through highs and lows, good times and bad, triumphs and tragedy. It’s part of life, even for devoted followers of God.
You see, giving our lives to God’s only Son Jesus is the only way to receive salvation, but it isn’t a get-out-of-jail free card. All your troubles won’t vanish. Being as righteous as you can be means you understand that no matter how bad things are, God is still in control and he’s got this. That leads me to the second thing we can learn from Job and his unwavering faith in God: God is always in control.
Even when things seem to be at their worst, God is still God. He created us, the world and everything in it, good and bad.
Scripture tells us that Job “was the greatest man among all the people of the East.” He was well respected, very wealthy, had a great family, and loved God with everything he had. In Job Chapter 1, Satan brings up Job’s good fortune to God and says, “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face” (Job 1:10-11 NIV). God replies, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger” (Job 1:12).
In a very short period of time Job loses all his wealth and possessions, all his children die and life very quickly gets out of control. In response, Job shaves his head and tears his clothes (which signifies mourning) and says, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21 NRSV).
In the middle of an unbelievably horrific time, Job remembers God is always in control and praises his name.
Job did not sin during these horrific trials. Rather, he praised God. So then Satan says to God, “Skin for skin! A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face” (Job 2:4-5 NIV). And God replied: “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life” (Job 2:6).
This takes us to the third thing we can learn from Job and his unwavering faith in God: You need to accept the good and the bad. By all accounts Job was living a great life devoted to God. God had blessed him with wealth, a great family, and a great reputation, and it was all taken away suddenly. Then we read where Job is afflicted with “…. painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.” Now not only has he lost all everything, his health is now suffering.
Most of us would be thinking, “What else can wrong? Is this ever going to stop? Why me?” Job’s wife even says at one point, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9). But Job replies “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10a).
One thing I have learned is that good things and bad things just happen in life. How can we accept the good things without accepting the bad? Job understood this, and we read in Job 2:10b: “In all this Job did not sin.”
The next thing we can learn from Job and his unwavering faith in God is that God is not mad at you.
Job had three friends who came to console him after they learned about what happened to him. In Job 2:12 we read, “They could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud…”
These friends loved Job and were heartbroken for him. In conversation one of Job’s friends says, “Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it” (Job 4:7-8). He reminds Job that he has been faithful and hasn’t done anything wrong, and that God blesses people like him.
You see Scripture tells us that we will reap what we sow and Job sowed goodness and faithfulness. God isn’t punishing Job. God loves Job. And He loves you, too. No matter what you are going through.
Bad things happen, but what matters more than what happens is how we react. No matter what storm you are going through, the challenge is to remain faithful just like Job.
The next thing we can learn from Job and his unwavering faith in God is God’s plan of love for us. Later in the story, Job cries out to God in the midst of his sorrow and God replies, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone – while the morning stars sang together, and all the angels shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7).
Whenever you are struggling remember that God created everything just for us. He loves us even though we have done nothing to deserve that love. To be honest there are a lot of things about us for God not to love.
Everything you see, everything you love, everything you have or will ever have was created by God. Knowing full well we would disappoint Him he still gave us everything. If you don’t take anything else from this message, know that God loves you unconditionally. In the good times and the bad. He is your Heavenly Father and he gave you everything He had, including his Son. So as bad as things may seem, just know God is right there with you, every step of the way.
The final thing we can learn from Job and his unwavering faith in God is that God gives us a way out.
Through all of Job’s trials he never lost faith in God. Somehow, he knew his God would deliver him from his circumstances and give him joy again. In the final chapter of the book of Job, God rewards Job for his faithfulness: …the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before. … The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first (Job 42:10, 12).
This leads me to wonder, if God was just going to return everything to Job in the end why did He let all this happen? I found a great answer to that question from an unnamed Christian author this week. Here it is: “Every once in a while, [God] permits evil to wreak havoc for a season to remind us that this life is not the best life. Rather, the best life is waiting for us in Heaven.”
Job had a good life, but God wanted to remind him that the best is yet to come. In the end not only did God deliver Job, He doubled what he had. No matter what happens to us here on earth – hurricanes, pandemics, family conflicts, health issues, you name it – Scripture tells us that the best is yet to come. Where we are right now is just a brief stop on the way to paradise.
Do you remember the verse we read earlier where Job said “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21)? That is the challenge I want to leave you with today. No matter your circumstance, I challenge you to shout in your soul everywhere you go, “Blessed be the name of the LORD!”
If you are a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, then you know what I’m saying is true. No matter how bad things are, the best is yet to come. Because of that and all He has done for us, shout from the depths of your soul: Blessed be the name of the LORD!