...be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.” – Ecc. 7:14
In the ancient (biblical) world, people believed that prosperity and well-being were proofs of godliness. Poverty and suffering, on the other hand, were proofs of ungodliness. They were thought of as rewards or punishments according to whether a person’s life was good or bad. The book of Job contradicts this belief.
Today, this wrong ancient belief is, I believe, making a comeback in a different guise. I believe the prosperity gospel may have grown out of this false seed.
But when we look into the person and life of Job, we are confronted with a dilemma. Job was a godly man, prosperous and contented. God refers to him as “my servant” and acknowledges him to be “blameless”, and “upright”. Why then was he allowed to suffer? His sufferings were extraordinarily horrendous. Why?
Suffering in itself is not virtuous. It is also not a sign of holiness. It is by no means a way to gain points with God. When it is possible, suffering is to be avoided. Christ did—unless it meant acting in disobedience to the Father’s will.
The wise Solomon in Ecclesiastes counsels us, “in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other” (emphasis added).
I offer the following questions to help us “consider” the day of adversity.
- How do I respond to it?
- How should I respond to it?
- What can I learn from it?
- Does my response demonstrate faith, love for God and for others, Christ-like character, values, commitment, priorities, etc.?
- How can God use my adversity for his glory?
I don’t pretend to have the answers to these questions. But when I look into Job’s story I find four wonderful things.
Job acknowledges that he is a sinner—he went and “sat in the ashes”. He acknowledges that “the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord”. He did not deserve anything more from God. Second, in his suffering, he showed extraordinary patience. Thirdly, Job does not blame others for what has happened to him. And fourthly, Job makes a beautiful statement concerning the sovereignty of God: “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?"
Throughout his ordeal Job did not sin with his lips. We have much to learn from him.
Pastor Robert Chew