Perseverance in Suffering
Dr. K. G. Jose
What is the Scriptural view of suffering? Suffering is the instrument of God to train, to equip, to test, to weigh, to value, to upgrade, and to promote a child of God so that the Divine personality may be established in him/her. It is compared to the metal refiner who carefully refines the material to remove the dross and get the desired standard (Mal 3:3). There is a specific Divine goal behind every suffering. Unfortunately, many do not understand the great work of God and blessing behind suffering. When God begins to act through suffering, the child of God must yield to the formation of God. When God begins the work of trial in us we ought to be patient and obedient. Anyone begins to act when God is forming, such become deformed personalities, where it is not the image of Jesus that is formed. Therefore perseverance in suffering is the surrender to Divine formation. There are times when we must be active and zealous. There are times when we must keep silence and wait upon the Lord. Our progress comes only by a divine formation is us. Suffering is not a time to judge God but judge ourselves before God’s presence. Humanity has no right to judge God on the basis of what a person thinks as right or wrong.
I. Job and Perseverance
Perseverance is the Badge of the Saint. It is the Scriptural mark of those who pass the lesson of suffering. Those who merely begin and will not hold out, will not be saved. Perseverance is the target of all our spiritual enemies-the world, flesh and Satan. Only those who reach the goal may be accounted a Christian. Napoleon’s words are meaningful here, “conquest has made me what I am, and conquest must maintain me”. Thus conquest must sustain our faith and commitment. Having confessed faith, one has to be exposed to multitudes of storms. Perseverance is attained by a sense of constant dependence on God. Eph 6:18 teaches it as a weapon to, “Pray always…watching thereunto with all perseverance”. Keep the mind fixed, as much as possible, on the end of life, and on that which follows it.
Perseverance is remaining in the power of God; it is not the fiery, headlong running in the course, nor the rapid, hurried stroke in the boat, which means victory; the person who stands on what is called staying power, who endures to the end wins. Perseverance is the only triumphing grace.
It is the strength of the conviction, the power of vision and perseverance. The Lord builds character in us through integrity checks. Vision, mission and ministry flows from character. Our character matures in the Lord depending on how we respond to these checks. Integrity checks are there throughout life. God is doing his job of character processing in us. It may be a direct call to obey the Word, handling a relationship problem, submission to authority, financial integrity, sexual fidelity and so on. Character is the person in his inner life.
The whole turns of the book of Job is not as is usually assumed, upon his patience, nor on innocence, but upon his religious sincerity and moral uprightness. Job is presented in the characteristics of his conduct, his attractions, and his repulsions. Perfect and upright, fearing God, eschewing evil. We ought to be willing to lay our life open before our fellow-men, and say, ‘judge me according to my integrity’. They that stand go from strength according to strength, from faith to faith.
II. Job and Satan
Satan does not have any major role in the book of Job. Satan is a passive figure or Job has made Satan a passive figure. When we give opportunity for Satan he takes an active role. Satan disappears after the first two chapters as he has no way into a stable personality like Job. Satan has easy ways with unstable people. It happens in the life of many that they close one door against Satan but open six other doors for him. It happens so in the life of a stable personality that in the end it is God and Job alone, having the highest conversation. The attacks of Satan, wife, and friends come to an end.
There is the attack of Satan on Job that his piety is not deep. A fatal day it was that Satan observes time to fasten his temptation most strongly upon the soul. A day of trouble, a day of humiliation, Satan waits upon to try his weapons. What season will make a person most bitter. Afflict the father when the children are feasting, to mingle tears with wine. It is to take a person from one extremity to another. A sudden stroke of fortune on earth makes the poor rich, and contrary the rich to beggary. Before we are aware, friends are alienated, plans defeated. Dangers may gather around us, disgrace may settle around. Dearest objects are snatched away that we become alone. It is the challenge to fix our eyes to the Unchanging One in the world that pass away.
We are ahead of the state of Job. Jesus came down, bound Satan, but still this world is not His kingdom, but we are in His kingdom. He bound Satan, took his weapons. When you are more generous, more useful, more sincere than other saints Satan will be busy at you. Who cares for land with barren rocks? He wants to pluck God’s jewels from His crown. Where he cannot destroy, he injures, to worry. He does not like to see God’s people happy. If he cannot destroy, he tries to make less useful. There is no temptation in the world which is so bad as not being tempted at all. For to be tempted is to keep us awake. Without temptation flesh and blood are weak, slumber.
If the devil would attack us when our minds are in certain moods, we should be more than a match for him. Some are ready for temptation in distress, others when jubilant. Each metal needs blow at a particular heat to remove its dross. Small pots boil directly when put on fire. Little men of quick temper are soon in a passion. Larger vessels require more time and heat. Some are easily tempted when they are alone, others in company. Satan notices all objects of our affection. Devil made the inventory of Job’s house. If you idolize your child, Satan see that a place to wound you. There is a higher consideration above Satan’s. God blows Satan’s mine before it blows. Job was much better man at the end of the story; foolish devil. Job’s afflictions and patience have been a lasting blessing to church, and they have inflicted incredible disgrace upon Satan.
Every strong impulse of evil is a direct assault, and indicates a personal appearance of Satan. In our bodily being we cannot understand the personality of Satan. The more real we make our struggle with evil, the better. In our bodily condition it is easier to resist a person than an abstraction. No sanctuary on earth is free from Satan’s assaults. Satan is the tempter, enemy and devour. He destroys the bodies of men and women. We have a doctrine of God, world and Satan. Those who do not have a clear doctrine of Satan may fall into superstition. When creeds disappear charms take their place. As faith vanishes superstitions run wild. Thus our question should not be, ‘why is evil permitted’, but ‘how is evil overcome’?
III. Job and family
Scriptures elevate the importance of family. Job was a model of home piety (1 Tm 5:4). His house is a church and himself the ministering priest at its altars. One by one, each child’s infirmities and temptations shall have its prayers. One may be proud, one lustful, and another worldly. Yahweh speaks of Abraham, “For I know him that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord”(Gen 18:19). Job undertook the responsibility of nurturing children in the fear of God even when they are adults. Job did not exclude one class of duties to another, but all goodness grew simultaneously. The loss of children is the trial while the living wife is a stronger attack than dead children.
IV. Job and friends
There is the attack of arguments, the philosophies of the time, cultural influences and changes. But they do not change a man of God. In the end Yahweh condemns friends and their arguments. God is an auditor to all discussions of mankind. Finally God answers, “therefore go to my servant Job that he may intercede for them”. The life of a good person is a blessing to the community. Majority of religious professors are wrong.
Twofold perfection to the saints here; a perfection of justification, a perfection of sanctification. The first is a complete perfection by God, nothing left unwashed in the blood of Christ. His garment is large enough to cover all our nakedness and defect. Secondly, we have a perfect beginning of holiness here (1 Thess 5:23). When the work of sanctification is begun in all parts, it is a perfect work beginning. Perfect holiness is the aim of saints here, and reward in heaven. Perfection here is sincerity to the Divine call.
Gracious habits and spiritual blessings are the choicest of all blessings. If God has given a person grace, such has the best God can give. God has not assigned one grace to one person and another grace to another person; but every person has every grace. Sincerity is that which makes us so acceptable and pleasing to God. God delights in nothing we do unless we do it in His fear. The fear of the Lord is clean, and keeps clean the heart and life. Fear is an armed man at the gate, which examines all, and stops everyone that enter unfit. Avoids all evil and occasions.
V. Job and Wealth
Job had wealth here and up there; he lost the riches of the world in a minute but had a great reserve in a land where moth and rust do not corrupt (Mt 6:19). Therefore he survived, and went forward on the basis of the heavenly reserve. Satan accuses that the piety of Job is based on the material blessings and prosperity God gave him. Satan’s truth has a cynical lie. Piety is not because of riches, as rich in the world are more corrupt. When he lost riches here he held on to the riches there. Unfortunately many who get riches here has a simultaneous loss of heavenly riches. The saints accumulated riches in heaven while remained poor here. Riches here can be a threat. Loss of every kind are there on earth, but what loss is heaven concerned of? What is really loss that can never be compensated? All the forces on earth joined together, Satan, nature, Sabeans, Chaldeans, sickness, friends and so on. Satan can touch wealth, health, relations, and friends. There are areas within our control and beyond our control, and we are responsible to God only those areas that are in our control. His wealth is not camel or sheep but his character and stability which is ever with him, when he lost all the rest. Thus Job become the richest amidst of loss.
He worshipped at the loss of everything, a grand victory (1:20). This is the grandest scene human nature has ever presented. The triumph of mind over matter. His soul soars above what is material. Dying Stephen saw Jesus (Ac 7). Thus heaven is a reality right here. The triumph of principle over selfishness. There is constant warfare of principle over selfishness and often the latter gain. He rose up and worshipped, before saying the response. It is victory when we open our mouth after worship. Others would curse his luck. There is a time when contest ceases. It is true religion to cast out all else from but God.
Those nearest God’s heart may smart most under His rod. The Lord gave, not ‘what I earned’ or ‘all my hard earnings are gone’. The entrance and exit of life is naked. In between there is a God who clothes with all that we need. I am not poorer now than I was when I was born. The two ends of our life are nakedness; if the middle of it should not always be a scarlet and fine linen. God never takes away any favors from us but what He meant to take away when He gave them. As He always has some purpose to answer by every good gift, after its goal, He takes it away. Bless God because the favors He give are more than He takes away.
It is the victory that at the end of trials God calls him ‘My servant Job’ (42:7). My servant Job, many are their own servants, they serve own lusts and pleasures, many are Satan’s servants, many are men’s servants. My servant by right and property. My servant, not because of rights and duties, but devout, blameless, God fearing.
If the present be all, life must be most unsatisfactory, for we can see no good. Our days carry with them the treasures of our hearts. What treasures the swift ship carry from one land to the other. Man has to quit this life just as some of his powers are beginning to bud, others undeveloped. We quit this life with unfulfilled plans. History of man is born, suffered, died. We are beggars, not for food, but for thee. Will anyone serve God for nothing, yes indeed, ‘though he slay me, yet will I serve him’. Satan’s creed can be rewritten:”
Unlike the friends God did not make short-sighted charges against Job’s sin. It seemed to ignore altogether the questions at issue. It appealed not to the intellect but to heart. He grew wiser the more he suffered; and the storm that purified his soul gave him a deeper insight into the mysteries. Fire of pain illumined the truth of God to him. God didn’t reveal the purpose of trial. No! God reveals to him His glory, makes him feel where he had gone wrong. Suffering does its perfect work when it purifies and elevates the human soul, and draws it nearer to the God who sends or permits it. One thought is brought out-the world is full of mysteries that you cannot read. Trust in the power and wisdom, goodness of Him.
Job acknowledge God’s greatness. Behold, we know not, is man’s truest wisdom. To acknowledge the mistake is a sign of progress. He says that dust and ashes are the best exponent of his state of mind. He was in dust and ashes for the past many days, but now in dust and ashes to repent of those days.
The difference of knowledge of hearing and experience. Former hearing of the ear, now direct spiritual intuition of His presence. Man has spiritual power to apprehend God. How many know Him through books, creed. But how few comparatively walk with Him. That is a never to be forgotten moment in life. This is the effect of sanctified affliction. At real affliction man cannot live by heresies or hypothesis.
In the end God turned captivity of Job, not poverty (42:10). Captivity is bondage of mind, the iron chain entering into the soul. Job prayed for his offending friends. Carry your offending ones to the throne of God. The climax in the life of Job was, in his desolation and sorrow, he ceased to think of himself, and began to pray for his friends. Even his oxen and asses came back to him. He was seeking spiritual riches for others. Some men are human sponges that absorb all good things of life they touch, but never give up anything unless they are squeezed so tight that they can’t help doing it. Job can think of mortgage, bankruptcy, poor marriage partner. Enough dwelling on my bodily ailments, wife’s temper. It is time to think about others, and do something for others, and I will start now by praying for three friends. As he knelt, the last shackle of his captivity fell off.