Suffering is universal. But why do GOOD PEOPLE suffer? Why trials? And how can we overcome discouragement in them?
WE SEE a world of suffering around us today. Millions are starving. Countless millions live in squalor, poverty, and disease. Most of God's people know the answer to world suffering. It is the natural result of breaking God's commandments. We see the world has gone contrary to God's laws. By so doing it has brought on itself all the misery that is in the world today.
But Why Good People?
The answer to world suffering is relatively easy to understand. The difficulty comes when suffering happens to you. Especially if you have been trying to overcome, live righteously, be wholehearted with God. It is hard to explain why good people — those sincerely trying to obey God — have to suffer. Consider this paradox. Why do the unrighteous prosper? Why do people prosper who do not pay tithes? Why do some of them live in abundance, luxury, ease. They pay no tithes. Yet they are able to send their children to fine private schools. They become "successful" in the world. Why? Why do some of God's people — who pay tithes — have to struggle to make ends meet? Is there any purpose for this suffering? What is it? What must we prove by it? Will we gain anything if we endure it? And what are the answers to these enigmas?
Reasons for Suffering
There are three basic reasons why people suffer. The first and most prevalent reason is our own mistakes. Chances are you have missed a nail and hit your thumb with a hammer. This suffering was brought on by yourself. In like manner, suffering is brought on by our own actions. The second reason for suffering is the action of others. People we love can cause us to suffer. You may feel fine. But if your children and loved ones are sick it brings a mental suffering to you. Thus others' sins can bring suffering to us. The third reason we suffer is little understood by most. It is the least prevalent reason. It is the reason for Job's suffering. In order to understand this reason we must look into the Holy Scriptures. This is one of the biggest reasons why good, sincere people run into serious trials. You need to understand it. In understanding it you will receive encouragement and strength to meet the trials you face in the future. And you will face them!
Turn to the book of Job and let us examine the account. In chapter one we find that Job was a man "perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil" (Job 1:1). The words "perfect and upright" should be translated "upright and righteous." Notice here that by God's own account Job was a man who was sincerely trying to overcome. He "feared God." And he "eschewed [shunned] evil." In other words, although he was not a perfect man as Jesus was, he was a man sincerely trying to serve God. We find that he had seven sons and three daughters. He was a rich man. His assets totaled seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses. "So that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east." (Job 1:3.) Job was so zealous that he made burnt offerings for his children lest they had sinned. Thus the Bible gives us adequate background to know what type of man Job was. He was a man like many of God's people today. He wanted to serve God. He tried hard every day to please God. In Job 1:6-12 we find an account hidden from Job at the time. You and I are privileged to view this account. But Job had no knowledge of it at the time, The Bible says, "Now there was a day when the sons of God [angels] came to present themselves before the Eternal, and Satan [Adversary] came also among them. And the Eternal said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Eternal, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the Eternal said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth [shuns] evil?" (verses 6-8.) But Job was an outstanding man. Most of the world was under the sway of Satan the devil. Most went Satan's way. Job — a man of God — stood out among them like a sore thumb. God wanted Satan to know that here was one man who was not under Satan's sway. But Job was not sinless. He tried hard to obey God. But he did it by his own righteouness. He had a great lesson yet to learn.
But Satan had a comeback. Notice it in verse 9. "Then Satan answered the Eternal, and said, DOTH JOB FEAR GOD FOR NOUGHT? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land" (verses 9-10). Did you get that? Do you see the accusation? Here is the crux of why good people suffer. Let's understand! Satan was saying that God bought Job off. Satan said in effect, "Why shouldn't Job serve you? Does he do it for nothing? Have you not given him 'everything, protected him on every side, blessed the work of his hands and made him rich and prosperous? Why shouldn't he fear you and serve you? But the ONLY reason he does serve you is because it pays him to do so." And Satan went on to say, "But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face" (verse 11). Notice the challenge! Satan challenged God to take away Job's riches. He said Job would not stay on God's side. He said that Job only kept God's commandments because it paid him to do so.
If You Were God
Here was a challenge to God. Satan was saying that God's people will not serve God unless it pays them to do so. God loves His people. God wants to bless those who serve Him diligently. We see from the Scriptures that almost all men who served God faithfully and well over a period of years were blessed mightily by God. He wants His people to have good things and to enjoy them. But what about this accusation? God had first asked Satan if he (Satan) had considered Job. Now Satan said Job was a man who would quit serving God if he were not blessed. If you were God what would you do? God met Satan's challenge! But notice how God did it. "And the Eternal said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Eternal" (verse 12). Notice here that God Himself gave the orders! God told Satan just how far to go and Satan could go no farther.
Just Another Day
Job had no knowledge of the conversation between God and Satan. He was going about his duties as he would any other day. He arose in the morning, prayed, offered sacrifices. On this particular day Job's children were eating and drinking in their elder brother's house. Suddenly, as if from nowhere, a messenger came running to Job. He brought news that the Sabeans ambushed Job's servants and stole his oxen and asses. The only one escaped was the messenger who told the account. Naturally this would be shocking news. It would be an unexpected occurrence in an average week. But before this servant finished, another came with more news. He said, "The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee." And before he finished speaking another servant came with news that the Chaldeans had stolen Job's camels and slain the servants watching them. And while he was speaking other news came of the death of Job's sons and daughters from a great whirlwind that had smashed the house where they were. Remember this was just another day to Job. He had no knowledge that Satan was permitted by God to take all this away. "Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, and said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Eternal gave, and the Eternal hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Eternal. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly" (verses 20-22). Job knew the ultimate responsibility was God's. But he did not know the reason for this calamity. He did not know he had been accused by Satan the devil of obeying God only for the riches and blessings God would give him. And he did not know that God was purposely allowing this trial so that Job would see his own self-righteousness!
Again Satan Accuses
In Job 2 we see that Satan again appears before the Eternal with God's angels. "And the Eternal said unto Satan From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the Eternal, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the Eternal said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and upright [upright and righteous] man, one that feareth God, and escheweth [shuns] evil? And still he holdeth fast his integrity, ALTHOUGH THOU MOVEDST ME AGAINST HIM, TO DESTROY HIM WITHOUT CAUSE" (verses 2-3). Notice! Satan's accusation wasn't true. God wouldn't take Job's possessions away because of Satan's false accusations. God does reveal the real reason. God said of Job, "And still he holdeth fast HIS integrity." Job stood up underneath the trial. He continued to serve God but in his own righteouness! But again Satan accuses. "And Satan answered the Eternal, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life." He implied that Job would turn away from God if he had to suffer physically himself. In effect Satan said, "Sure Job stood up underneath this trial. He knows he will receive all of his possessions back in time. And it did not hurt him physically. Although his children died his life was never threatened." So Satan said to God, "But put forth thy hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face" (verse 5). Again God met the challenge. "And the Eternal said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; bat save his life." God was in command! But the accuser of the brethren — Satan the devil — put a challenge before God. He implied that God's people would not serve God unless they were prospered in doing so. And that at the first sign of physical punishment they would leave God's way and turn back to Satan's.
Again God himself would not afflict Job. He put it into Satan's hands to hurt Job. But Satan was under strict orders from God to save Job's life. Again it was just another day to Job. He knew nothing of the conversation between God and Satan. All he knew was that once he was prosperous, now he had nothing. Being an industrious man he probably started to rebuild what he lost. Suddenly one day boils began to appear on Job's skin. His skin began to crack open with running sores. Little by little his whole body was covered with an infectious, terribly painful skin disease. Why? Job couldn't understand. He probably asked himself what he had eaten wrong. He probably looked into his diet, checked his observance of the laws of health. But this did no good. He could not find a reason for this suffering. Satan had smitten Job with boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. The discouragement of this trial began to weigh heavily upon Job and his wife. Job sat down among the ashes and scraped himself with a potsherd. Now more than she could bear, his wife said to Job, "Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God, and die." But Job knew better. He said, "What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips" (verses 9-10). Still Job did not know why. He knew God was the Supreme Ruler. He knew he put his life in God's hands. He knew God was in control of his life and therefore responsible for the things that happened to him. But what he did not know was that he had been accused by Satan the devil of obeying God only when it paid him to do so. And he did not know that God was allowing this trial to come on him for his good to teach him a great lesson in true character development.
Accuser of the Brethren
In Revelation 12:10 Satan is called "The accuser of the brethren... which accused them before our God day and night." Satan not only accused Job — he accuses you! What does he say of God's people? What apparently has he said of you? Here are some very likely accusations. He probably said the only reason you tithe is to be blessed. The only reason you obey God is to have prosperity and protection. He probably said to God, "Let him lose his job, or have heavy financial problems, and you'll see — he will turn away from your commandments and be worldly again. Afflict his body. You'll see him run to human beings for healing. The only reason he trusts God is because it pays him to do it. He does not really believe your ways. When suffering comes you'll see him give up your ways." Is it true what Satan says? Would you tithe even if you had financial troubles? Would you trust God for healing even when suffering was terrible? Would you continue to obey God's laws of health even though you did run into some sickness? In other words, brethren, DO WE REALLY KNOW THAT GOD'S WAY IS RIGHT AND LOVE IT WITH ALL OUR HEARTS?
From chapter 3 through chapter 38 is an account of the discussion between Job and his three friends. His friends assumed, as many do today, that when one runs into suffering and trials it is because he has done something wrong. As previously pointed out, most of our suffering comes from our own sins and mistakes. Other suffering comes from the sins and mistakes of others around us. Job's friends knew only one reason for suffering — your own mistakes. They could not see that character lessons can be learned through suffering and trials. They accused Job of doing something wrong. They urged Job to repent. The more they accused the more Job defended himself. Job told them he did not do something so sinful as to bring on this terrible punishment. He tried to convince his three friends that he had not sinned terribly. He upheld his own righteousness. God had to correct him severely for this. But after that Job saw his sin clearly and repented bitterly of it and he was physically blessed again.
Why Not Millionaires?
Job asked an age old question. "Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power?" Jeremiah asked the same question when he said, "Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? Wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously?" (Jeremiah 12:1.) Even the Psalmist was inspired to write, "For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment. Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish. And they say, How doth God know? And is there knowledge in the most High? Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; THEY INCREASE IN RICHES" (Psalms 73:3-7, 11-12). Many assume today, as did Job's three friends, that the righteous are always blessed and never suffer. They believe the wicked always suffer and never receive good things. But is this true? Eliphaz the Temanite said to Job, "The wicked man travaileth with pain all his days, and the number of years is hidden to the oppressor. A dreadful sound is in his ears: in prosperity the destroyer shall come upon him" (Job 15-20-21). Why shouldn't all of God's people be millionaires? They pay tithes They give the first of their increase to God. So why shouldn't they be millionaires with more than people could want? Why are not all the others — the wicked — who withhold God's tithes cursed beyond belief? Why aren't the other people of the world living in squalor, poverty, filth? But instead, we see many millions of people in the United States and Great Britain — and in other countries — who have prospered and are well off financially. They live in mansions, castles, luxurious surroundings. Why? The answer is explained in Ecclesiastes 8:12. "Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him." Notice here that people can do evil many times and still have their days, prosperity, good times prolonged. That is, they do not always suffer a drastic penalty immediately.
What Would Happen?
What would happen if God blessed all of His people fantastically? If He cursed those who did not tithe until they were living in squalor, poverty, filth? Let's suppose this happened and see what the result would be. You drive your brand new Cadillac to your spacious, luxurious home. Your sink faucets are overlaid with gold. The finest Persian rugs cover the strongly supported floors throughout your home. Your decorations are fabulous. Chandeliers dazzling. You live on a large lot with beautiful trees, and green grass dotted with fragrant flowers. At one end you have a garden. Your garden is loaded with produce. Tomatoes hang on the plants. Big tomatoes. You go outside, look over your garden, smile pleasantly and go back in. You notice your neighbor's garden is not doing well. His house is run down, shabby. His children live in squalor and filth. His garden is wilted, shriveled up. Weeds are growing all over his lawn. You look across the fence and hardly believe your eyes. You have God's blessings and he the curses. One day over the fence he asks you why you enjoy all these wonderful financial blessings. He asks why he and his family have to live in such squalor. He wants to know your secret. You tell him there is no secret. You explain God's financial law of tithing. You tell him to send ten percent of his earnings into God's Headquarters for the Work of God. He is skeptical at first. But you urge him. Finally he gives in and reluctantly agrees to try tithing. A month later you notice a fantastic difference. His crops grow and bear fruit. You see him purchase new appliances and repair his house. His children are dressed better. Soon he remodels the entire house and builds on extra rooms. You realize that he has also received God's great blessings. Now the two of you stand as a stark contrast to all the other neighbors. Well, brethren, you can see what would happen. All others in the neighborhood would inquire, Soon everyone would want to tithe. Why? Because they believe God's Law? No! BECAUSE THEY WANT FINANCIAL PROSPERITY! They would do it for selfishness. If this incident were true the entire world would tithe. But God wants people who really believe. God wants us to come to know His way is right! We must want God's way more than anything else. And we must stick with it regardless of the physical circumstances around us. Now notice Eccl. 8:14. "There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous: I said that this also is vanity." Notice that not everyone is IMMEDIATELY rewarded for righteousness. God first wants to know that we really believe His way. That we will remain righteous regardless of calamities, trials, hardships.
The Meaning of Trial
What is a trial? What is the definition? Webster's dictionary defines "trial" as "the action or process of trying or putting to the proof; test." A further definition is "the formal examination of the matter in issue in a case before a competent tribunal for the purpose of determining such issue." Do you see? A trial is to find out something yet untested, undetermined. Christians face trials to test their character — to add to their character. Are trials uncommon? Not at all! "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial WHICH IS TO TRY YOU, as though some strange thing happened unto you" (I Peter 4:12). Notice further that God wants to bestow upon us His grace, mercy, strength. "But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His Eternal glory by Christ Jesus, AFTER THAT YE HAVE SUFFERED A WHILE, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you" (I Peter 5:10). Thus it is revealed that Christians must go through a trial of suffering. This trial is not a punishment. It is a test — and a lesson. Satan the devil has accused God's people. He is the accuser of the brethren. We must disprove Satan's accusations.
Even Jesus Was Tried
Even Jesus Christ — the very Son of God — was tried. He was allowed to be tempted by Satan the devil after He had fasted 40 days and 40 nights. He was tested to see whether He would obey God in all circumstances. Jesus Christ qualified to be the ruler in place of Satan the devil because He did obey God completely. He faced the trial recorded in Matthew 4 and passed the test! The Bible plainly says that Jesus learned through this suffering. "Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared; though He were a Son, YET LEARNED HE OBEDIENCE BY THE THINGS WHICH HE SUFFERED" (Hebrews 5:7-8). If Jesus was tried, we must be too. We are told to follow His steps in I Peter 2:21. We are given this admonition in II Timothy 2:12, "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him: if we deny Him, He also will deny us." Thus we see that suffering and trials are inevitable to God's people. The Bible says, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous but the Eternal will deliver him out of them all." We read that it is "through much tribulation that we enter the Kingdom of God." Why? Again because we must disprove Satan's accusations! We must stand firm in the face of persecution. We must prove that we are faithful to God's commandments — that we believe God's ways with all our hearts! We must believe His way in spite of trials, sufferings, hardships. We must love His ways and continue in it. No wonder Jesus warned those who would be His disciples: "And whosover doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:27). What was Jesus saying? A cross is the symbol of suffering, torture, death. If we are to be Christ's disciples we must be willing to follow Him — to go through suffering if necessary to do it.
Don't Be Discouraged
We all go through trials. Sometimes the trials seem long and drawn out. BUT DON'T BE DISCOURAGED!! Keep your mind fixed on what is right. Go to God's throne of grace to receive help and mercy in time of need (Heb. 4:16). Think only of God's commandments. Do what He commands. And rest assured in absolute faith and confidence that God will see you through! God is the greatest Father! He tenderly watches over us even in our trials. God wants us to learn, grow and mature spiritually through these trials! He — through His Holy Spirit — is there comforting us — strengthing us. He will not allow us to be tempted or tried beyond our capacity to endure (I Cor. 10:13). Many brethren report that once through a trial they are blessed. Blessings flow to them by the numbers once they have proved their fidelity toward God and His ways. But before you enter the Kingdom of God you will have to prove your faithfulness to God. Be prepared! Keep close to God through Bible study and prayer. Call upon God through His Son and our High Priest Jesus Christ. And when a trial comes don't be discouraged — don't let down. When Satan ACCUSES you PROVE HIM FALSE!