How Long?

This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series Troubles

We all get frustrated that – in our view – justice is perverted and things just aren’t “right.” Wicked people seem to thrive & “have it all” & the more wicked, the greater their “benefits.” While godly people suffer & it seems to never end. Habakkuk challenged God, “How long is this going to continue?” (Habakkuk 1:2-4)

The Psalmist asked the same question over a dozen times (along with other Bible writers). Job also asked the question in Job 7:19; 19:2 & in Job 24:1 he asked, “Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment?” Job wanted to know WHEN it was going to stop! He wondered if God has set any limits on the pain that we endure.

Common wisdom seems to have the answer. Job’s “friends” said, “It will continue until you stop sinning against God” (Job 5:22,24,25; 8:6,20; 12:5). But Job said, “My integrity is at stake.” Notice that it was not his reputation but his integrity that was at stake.

Eliphaz (one of Job’s “friends”) said that godly people will “laugh at destruction & famine” (Job 5:22) and “your tent is secure” (Job 5:24) “your children will be many” (Job 5:25). Another of his friends (Bildad) said, “If you are pure & upright, even now [God] will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your rightful place.” (Job 8:6) Then he continued, “Surely God does not reject a blameless man or strengthen the hands of evildoers.” (Job 8:20)

All of this was a direct assault on Job’s integrity & godliness. Job was right: Men at ease have contempt for misfortune” (Job 12:5). When they are not suffering pain, it is easy to put the blame on those who are suffering. Today, the common wisdom looks at those who are desperate and asks, “I wonder what they did that brought such hardships into their lives?”

Job’s “friends” preached the same “prosperity doctrine” that TV preachers copy today. Their message plays to the rich & comfortable – “You DESERVE to be prosperous & comfortable because you love God.” Of course, the rich are the group that they WANT to reach – more money coming to their “ministry.” Unfortunately, some poor people are also drawn in – initially – in hope of FINANCIAL blessings and relief. But in the end, there is discouragement when the dollars do not come.

The prosperity doctrine was clearly a lie in the days of Job – and it still is! (Lu 16:22) Common wisdom & the prosperity doctrine assume that justice will always come in this life. But there are too many godly people who die destitute (compare Lazarus in Lu 16:22) for that to be true. The TRUTH is: Justice will happen – but at the Great White Throne judgment!

Satan says that he has the answer to the question of “how long?” He convinced Job that GOD was at fault. (Rev 12:10) He would NEVER admit that it was HE who was responsible for Job’s pain! Satan is the “accuser of the brethren.” (Rev 12:10) When talking to God, Satan accused Job of being a mercenary (motivated only by personal gain). Then when he was talking to Job, Satan accused GOD of treating Job unfairly.

It was the Satan’s first task to convince Job that GOD was responsible for the troubles in Job’s life. But the only fault that God brought against Job was that he played God’s “victim.” (Job 7:7,14; 19:13) The devil convinced Job to say, “my eyes will never see happiness again.” (7:7) And, “You [God] frighten me with dreams and terrify my with visions.” (Job 7:14) Satan even convinced Job that “God has wronged [him].” (Job 19:6) Job believed that “He [God] has alienated my brothers from me.” (Job 19:13)

The reality was (and is) that SATAN is guilty of stealing, killing & destroying (John 10:10) Check out Job 1:11,12,8; 2:3 to see the devil in action. Satan ASKED God to do the dirty work – “stretch out your hand and strike everything [Job] has” (1:11) but God REFUSED to strike Job – instead He ALLOWED Satan to do so. (1:12) That is a significant precedent that I believe is still in effect today.

NOTICE: God will only ALLOW such trials because He has faith in you & trusts you. (1:8; 2:3)

Job learned the answer from God. God has a plan, a destiny (destination) that He desires us to reach! (Job 42:2; Mt 26:11) If the prosperity doctrine worked, all of God’s children would be wealthy but Jesus said, (Matthew 26:11) “The poor you will always have with you.” If the prosperity doctrine was true, just one Christian dying poor would bring discouragement & despair to all living Christians. Neither Job nor we understand that to be true. (42:3; Gal 5:22; Ja 1:3)

God’s plan is too wonderful: His plan is that we become rich in heavenly things. Gal 5:22 says “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness…”

Growth in such fruit comes through trials, “The testing of your faith develops perseverance [patience].” (Ja 1:3) Job was tested so that Job would understand. (Job 42:5; Ja 1:4; 1Co 10:13) Afterwards, Job could say, “I had HEARD about you, but now, I have SEEN you [& your plan for me].” (Job 42:5)

God’s plan is that we “will be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (Ja 1:4) Just look at 1Cor 10:13, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

Therefore, Job said,  “I repent” (Job 42:6,10; 21:34; 13:12). Job called all of his friends’ “answers” nothing but FALSEHOOD. (21:34) He told them, “Your maxims are proverbs of ashes.” (Job 13:12) And, AFTER Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again” (42:10)

Conclusion: There is a PLAN & reason for our hardships
• There IS a time limit set upon them (1Cor 10:13)
• The REASON is for us to become mature & complete (Ja 1:3,4)
How we treat others bears upon God’s treatment of us (Job 42:10)

Ray Waldo shared this message with the congregation at Agape’ Fellowship on the 1st of June 2008. The MS Word outline is available here:

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About Ray

Ray Waldo is a retired pastor with a passion for sharing knowledge, understanding and (if possible), wisdom with everyone he meets. Prior to his retirement, Ray served as a local pastor and teacher to five different churches in two states. He also served as a short-term missionary, teacher, and crusade speaker to groups in Mexico, Kenya, Uganda & the Democratic Republic of Congo (while Congo was still in conflict). Ray is also a widely recognized teacher, writer and public speaker. He was the top-billed speaker to groups of over 10,000 people when he visited Africa. He is currently writing two books (online) that he expects to be published within the next two years.

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