Making Sense Of Life’s ‘Ups’ And ‘Downs’
(4) What To Do When You Run Out Of Answers
There are some very deep questions we often wrestle with.
Like, when cheese gets its picture taken, what does it say? You must have wrestled with that problem from time to time.
Or, how can you tell when sour cream goes bad? That could keep you awake at night!
And then there’s the question: what hair colour do they put on the driver’s licenses of bald men? Difficult isn’t it?
And one other I’m sure you must have struggled with for years is this: if buttered bread always lands on the butter-side down and a cat always lands on its feet, what happens if you strap buttered bread to a cat’s back?
Now, of course these kind of questions are not worth answering. It’s just a bit of fun. However, there are sincere questions we certainly wrestle with. We long to make sense of life’s ‘ups’ and ‘downs’.
You are listening to Word Alive. Thanks for joining us today. My name is Brenda Critchley and Dr Derek Stringer is our Bible Teacher.
The current series on Word Alive is based on Job. Derek has been looking at three key truths from this book which can help us in our struggles and problems.
And today we look at the fourth.
Because Job, kept asking God, “Lord, why am I suffering?”
We have are making this series of 4 messages available on CD. It’s fast becoming our most popular series. I’ll give you details at the end of the programme.
Today’s message is based on Job 40 to 42 and Derek gives this the title, ‘What To Do When You Run Out Of Answers.’
I’ll chip in with a scripture here and there. But, here’s Derek.
Thanks again Brenda.
Now, for most of the book God was silent.
Job’s wife wasn’t silent. “Why don’t you just give up on God. He hasn’t helped you any. Just curse him and die.”
Once Job’s three friends got round to talking they really couldn’t stomach that Job wouldn’t accept that they were right and that he was wrong. He must have done something really bad to be suffering as he was.
A young man listening to the debate is Elihu. He tries hard to say something wise about Job’s trauma.
All this time a storm has been brewing and the people take cover and leave Job all alone.
And then in chapter 38, God breaks into the story and speaks to Job out of the storm.
He didn’t give Job the answers he was seeking. Actually he gives him 187 questions. None of which can he answer. Then in chapter 40, God began Round 2 of questions.
It’s like a TV Contestant. The Quiz Master says: “Our categories are: earth, stars, light; and two new categories: Behemoth and Leviathan. Job scored zero in Round 1, let’s see how he does in this next round.”
Chapter 40 verse 6, “Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm: ‘Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself? Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like His?’”
At this point, God described two monstrous animals, the Behemoth and Leviathan. They are fascinating and mysterious.
Skip ahead to Job 42.
God has finished speaking and Job responded to God’s questioning.
“Then job replied to the Lord: ‘I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures My counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
Everything comes to a climax. God finished questioning Job and waited for his reply. If Job had argued with God and said, “This isn’t fair. I deserve a better explanation.” Then there would have been no book of Job.
Instead Job finally gets it and responds to God in the proper way. If you are suffering and hurting this is the way you need to react. Notice what Job said and did when he ran out of answers.
FIRST: HE ACKNOWLEDGE GOD’S UNLIMITED POWER.
God had convinced Job that his power was unlimited. God’s point was driven home by the Behemoth and Leviathan.
The New International Version footnote says that the Behemoth is a Hippopotamus and Leviathan is a Crocodile. This are poor guesses. What was Behemoth? I believe it was a Dinosaur we call the Brachiosaurus. The Hebrew word ‘Behemoth’ simply means “enormous creature.”
Notice the way God described Behemoth in Job 40:15,
“Look at the Behemoth, which I made along with you and which feeds on grass like an Ox. What strength he has in his loins, what power in the muscles of his belly! His tail sways like a cedar” –
That rules out a hippo or an elephant!
“The sinews of his thighs are close-knit. His bones are tubes of bronze, his limbs like rods of iron. He ranks first among the works of God” –
That could mean it was the largest land animal ever created.
“Yet his maker can approach him with his sword.”
That may be a reference to the fact that Brachiosaurus is now extinct.
A Brachiosaurus was one of the largest land animals to walk on earth. Three times the size of the Giraffe. 80 feet long weighing around 88 tons. The largest African Elephant on record is 10 tons.
What was Leviathan? I believe it is the sea creature we know as the Kronosaurus.
Look at chapter 41 and verse 1,
“Can you pull in the leviathan with a fishhook or tie down his tongue with a rope?”
Drop down to verse 7
“Can you fill his hide with harpoons or his head with fishing spears? If you lay a hand on him, you will remember the struggle and never do it again! Any hope of subduing him is false; the mere sight of him is overpowering. No one is fierce enough to rouse him. Who then is able to stand against me? Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me. I will not fail to speak of his limbs, his strength and his graceful form. Who can strip off his outer coat? Who would approach him with a bridle? Who dares open the doors of his mouth, ringed about with his fearsome teeth? His back has rows of shields tightly sealed together; each is so close to the next that no air can pass between.”
And verse 31 gives concluding description of Leviathan,
“He makes the depths churn like a boiling caldron and stirs up the sea like a pot of ointment. Behind him he leaves a glistening wake; one would think the deep had white hair. Nothing on earth is his equal—a creature without fear.”
Leviathan is mentioned in Isaiah 27:1 and Psalm 104 as being a mighty sea creature. Kronosaurus was a sea creature. Head 9′ long and razor-sharp teeth 10” long.
Sometimes people ask, “What about the dinosaurs? Why no mention of them in the Bible?” As if this invalidates Scripture. It doesn’t. The word “Dinosaur” was first coined in 1841 by Dr. Richard Owens. So, of course it’s not mentioned in the Bible.
The point of all this about these strange powerful creatures is that it’s not about Jurassic Park but Jehovah’s power. God brought up Behemoth and Leviathan to illustrate His unlimited power to make or do whatever He wants.
Verse 11, “Who then is able to stand against me? Everything under heaven belongs to me.” DS
Job got the point because he said, “I know you can do all things.” Have you come to that point in your life?
You may think your situation is impossible but God specialises in the humanly impossible. In the midst of your impossible circumstances remember 5 words: ‘Nothing is impossible with God!’
The second thing to do when you run out of answers is to ADMIT INABILITY UNDERSTANDING GOD.
As Job reviewed all his words he confessed in 42:3, “I spoke things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”
Sometimes we want people to think we’ve got it all together and nothing gets us down. That’s living in unreality and a good reason for never knowing God because He only moves in unreality. Starting moving in unreality and we will miss the real God.
There’s a Peanuts Cartoon where Lucy is dispensing her psychiatric advice. “Life is like a deck chair on a ship. Some people sit looking forward and some people sit looking back.” Charlie says, “It’s all I can do to get mine unfolded!”
Job was finally admitting to God that he didn’t have everything figured out. He had made the critical error of presuming and he was dead wrong.
TV Evangelists may tell you about health and wealth if you’ll just confess your faith, everything should work out fine for you. You know the kind of thing, “God loves you and has a wonderful Porsche for your life.”
Their theology doesn’t allow any room for righteous suffering. Those who have walked with God realise that there are things we will never understand.
Here’s a third thing to do when you haven’t got the answers.
SEEK GOD’S FACE NOT ANSWERS.
Job had run out of answers but has discovered something better. He found God. Verse 5. GNB
“My ears had heard of You, but now my eyes have seen you.” DS
An advert said: “You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.” Job said, “God, you’ve got questions, but I don’t have any answers.”
People are still seeking to find answers to the tough questions. Job discovered it is better to seek God’s face than to find answers.
In a TV sit-com a son-in-law asks: “If there is a God, why is this world messed up?” The father-in-law doesn’t know how to reply but won’t acknowledge that. So he says, “Why do I always have to give the answers?” Turning to his wife he says, “You tell him. “She says, “To make us appreciate heaven better when we get there.” Right on!
Life is full of pain and sorrow so we’ll enjoy heaven so much! Are you still seeking answers, or are you seeking God’s face?
Back in chapter 1 Job offered sacrifices on behalf of his children. He wasn’t sure what they were getting up to when they had parties. So, he did some religious things. It may well have been an empty ritual. Now everything is different.
And let me tell you a very important thing to do when you are looking for answers and they won’t come.
HUMBLE YOURSELF AND REPENT.
In chapter 42 and verse 6 Job says, “I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
Before seeking God’s face be willing to humble yourself and repent.
Job wasn’t degrading himself when he said, “I despise myself.” He was simply stating his condition as he stood before a perfect God. Humility is not thinking lowly of yourself. It’s not thinking of yourself at all. When Job saw God, he fell to his face to repent of his sins.
What sin had he committed? It wasn’t brazen but subtle. Job never cursed God but he was guilty of trying to justify himself. He was guilty of bitterness.
The best thing is to do when going through the mill is repent! You may say, “But I don’t know anything that I’ve done that I need to repent.” Just get on your knees before God and ask Him and see what happens.
The question about why good people suffer has been with us for generations.
Imagine a first century news item:
“Good evening I’m Josephus Jeremias and this is the Fox News sp0onsored by King Herod. We have some breaking news. Governor Pontius Pilate ordered a detachment of Roman soldiers into the Temple today to break up the protests of the Galilean rebels. The rebels refused to leave so swords were drawn, and we have reports that several of the rebels were killed by the sword. Not only were they killed, but their blood was splattered near the altar of sacrifice. More details at eleven. In another unrelated story, eighteen Jewish construction workers were killed when the stone tower they were building at Siloam collapsed. The names of the deceased are being withheld pending notification of family members.”
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And now to comment on these two breaking stories is Rabbi Ben Ezra. Rabbi, what’s your take on these two tragedies? One a man-made tragedy, and the other an unfortunate accident?” “Shalom Josephus. These were not accidents. The truth is simple: The Galilean rebels got what was coming to them. They were sinners and God was punishing them. The same can be said for the construction workers at the tower. Obviously, they were rotten sinners, too. That’s why God caused the tower to fall and kill them.”
And now to be fair and balanced, we have a remote hook-up with the roving Galilean teacher, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus, are you there? Josephus Jeremias here with Fox News, what do you have to say about these two terrible tragedies?
“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them-do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Jesus stressed that it is futile to try to figure out WHY bad things happen to people. He moved the issue beyond why and focused on WHAT every one of us must do: Repent! The word “repent” means “a change of mind that leads to a change of behaviour.”
In order to become a Christian you must repent of your sins; instead of thinking your sins are just minor flaws that everybody does, you must change your mind about them. You must repent and realise every sin is like spitting in the face of God; every sin is like pounding the nails into the flesh of Jesus. That’s what it means to repent-change your mind, then change your conduct.
Even after you become a Christian, you must keep on repenting. Whenever you find your thinking and God’s thinking don’t match, it’s time to change your mind again.
What did Job repent of?
He repented of the way he had been thinking about God. He had made the mistake of thinking God was mean, vicious, and cruel. He wanted to argue his case before God. But once Job heard God’s voice, and saw His face, Job realised his thinking was all wrong. He changed his mind about himself and about God.
So if you are suffering and struggling, do what Job did. Humble yourself and repent-even if you don’t think at this point there is anything in your life that needs repenting.
Job didn’t get the answers he was looking. He got something much more valuable.
Yes, he came to know God on a personal level. And so can we.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU RUN OUT OF ANSWERS?
You ADMIT there are questions in this life that will never get answered.
You can discover something much better than answers.
I love the words of this song:
“You have faced mountains of desperation.
You have climbed, you have fought, you have won.
But this valley that lies coldly before you,
Casts a shadow you cannot overcome.
Just when you thought you had it all together.
You knew every verse to get you through.
But this time all the sorrow broke more than just your heart.
And reciting all those verses just won’t do.
When answers aren’t enough, there is Jesus.
He is more than just an answer to your prayer.
And your heart will find a safe and peaceful refuge.
THEN NEXT, JOB DISCOVERED INTERCESSION.
God instructed his friends to go to him for prayer. This was Job’s final test. Would Job vent his hostility and resentment? “Pray for you after what you’ve said? No way!”
But his three friend did ask home to pray for them.
Yes, and Job prayed and the Lord accepted his prayer.
“After job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.”
To me, the most important word is that one, “After.”
When Job prayed for his friends, he was still in agony. It was only after he prayed that God released him from his suffering. You are enslaved until you can pray for those who have hurt you.
The moment I start hating a man, I become his slave. I can’t even do my work anymore because he even controls my thoughts. The man I hate hounds me. I cannot escape his tyrannical grasp on my mind. The person I resent may be miles from my bedroom, but more cruel than any slave driver, he whips my thoughts into such a frenzy that even my inner spring mattress becomes a rack of torture.
Someone has hurt you. Are you harbouring resentment? Are you let it make you bitter? Are you looking for revenge? Do yourself a favour: start praying for them. You will find it so releasing.
You’ll also find one more great discovery.
JOB DISCOVERS RESTORATION.
God gave Job back more than he ever had before.
Verse 11: “All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought upon him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring. The Lord blessed the later part of Job’s life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters. The first daughter he named Jemimah,
(her name means “dove.”)
The second keziah,
(which means “cinnamon”)
and the third keren-happuch
(which means “dark-eyes”)
nowhere in all the land were found women as beautiful as job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers. After this, job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. And so he died, old and full of years.”
God doubled Job’s wealth. He had exactly twice what he had before. Job’s brothers and sisters helped him with venture capital.
And God doubled Job’s ‘children’. He had 7 son and 3 daughters before his troubles and another 7 sons and 3 daughters after. But he hadn’t lost the first ten. They were safely home in heaven.
A man who buried a child said: “I have two teenagers on earth and one child in heaven. Frankly, I worry sometimes about the two kids on earth, but I never worry about the one in heaven.”
God added ‘life’ to Job’s years. People are looking for special diets, exercise, and medicine to extend their lives. Far better than adding years to your life is to add life to your years. Getting older we understand the great gift is relationships. You want to know how rich you are? Look at what friends you have. God always saves the best for last!
The last word about Job is in the letter of James.
“You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.”
The best thing about Job is he’s become a patient man. That quality can really help you to live with depth not just in length.
Do you know the first public miracle of Jesus? It’s when He turned water into wine at a wedding. A young couple were in trouble and he helped them out by bringing the best on last. That’s the difference between Christianity and other philosophies of life. For us the best is always yet to be.
Job is an object lesson for God bringing the best on last.
Are you living with some unanswered questions? Would you like to make some great discoveries? Did you notice that what Job did triggered his discoveries?
When he repented, God vindicated him. When he prayed for his tormentors God rewarded him. Is there something you need to repent of today? Are there people you need to pray for and forgive?
God is waiting to prove himself strong on your behalf.
Wouldn’t it have been sad if the book of Job ended with chapter 41? A man unable to answer the questions. Still in trauma, still battling with his pain. Job didn’t quit he persevered. And in chapter 42 he was rewarded for his faithfulness. Right now, you may be in Job 41. Don’t quit! Don’t give up on God! He always saves the best for last!
Derek Stringer has been teaching from the Book of Job. This is a series of 4 messages. You can have then on CD, just ask is for details. We will send free transcript to an email address.
Word Alive is produced by Good News Broadcasting Association.
You can email us through the web site on www.gnba.net
There’s a FREE PHONE number here in the UK.
We really do love to hear from you, it’s such an encouragement. Just pick up the phone and leave us a message if you are calling outside office hours.
That FREE PHONE number is 08,000 92 78 92.
That’s 08,000 92 78 92.
This is Word Alive produced by the Good News Broadcasting Association. I’m Brenda Critchley with our Bible Teacher Dr Derek Stringer.
We’re back with a brand new series next time. I hope that you will plan to join us then. Meanwhile do contact us.
08,000 92 78 92 or email us through the web on www.gnba.net
Good-bye for now and God bless and keep you.
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