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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Title:When it's God's work, cynicism is senseless
Text:Job 1:8-12 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Struggling with doubts

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 108:1,2

Psalm 6:1-3 (after the law)

Psalm 97:1,2

Psalm 138:1,4

Hymn 66

Scripture readings: 1 Peter 1, Job 1:1-12

Text: Job 1:8-12

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of Christ,

If I were to ask you what the book of Job is about, I imagine many of you would immediately say “suffering.”  When we think of the man Job, we think of the horrible suffering he experienced.  We think of the questions he asked, the despair he experienced, the miserable friends who gave him no comfort.  All of that certainly is in the book of Job.  The book of Job is about suffering.  It definitely talks about suffering and teaches us to think properly about suffering.  So it speaks into our lives when we’re experiencing trials and difficulties too, whether that’s with our health or our finances, or family troubles, or whatever.

However, the main message of the book of Job isn’t about suffering.  It’s about God.  It’s about God’s reputation, God’s glory, God’s sovereign rule, God’s purposes, God’s wisdom.  You see, our tendency as human beings is to right away focus on the horizontal.  That happens even when we’re reading and studying the Bible.  We right away go to us.  What does it say about me?  But we forget that the whole Bible is a revelation of who God is.  God is showing us first of all who he is.  That ultimately brings us to Jesus Christ.  All of Scripture ultimately brings us to him.  This is true of Job as well.  In Job, God speaks to us about us, yes, but in the first place we need to see how he reveals himself to us.

The book begins with a description of Job.  We don’t know exactly when he lived, but it was mostly likely during or maybe before Abraham’s time.  So Job wasn’t Jewish.  Job wasn’t an Israelite.  He was like Melchizedek in the book of Genesis.  He was a godly believer, but not connected biologically with Abraham’s family. 

After the initial description of Job, the scene shifts to heaven.  There’s a meeting, a heavenly council.  The “sons of God” are called to meet with God.  Here in Job, the “sons of God” refers to the angels.  They’re all called to give an account of their activities.  That includes Satan.  Satan is the leader of the evil angels.  He is real and the account of him here is historical.  This isn’t an allegory or parable.  This isn’t pious fiction but the true story of what happened behind the scenes.  This wicked angel Satan was also called to account for what he’d been doing.  Even though he’s a rebel against God, he’s still accountable to God.  Satan tells God in verse 7 that he’d been roaming throughout the earth.  And that comment then leads us into our text.  Our text is about God.  It’s about Satan’s opposition to God.  It’s about his cynicism towards God and his work.  The theme of the sermon is this:  When it’s God’s work, cynicism is senseless.

We’ll see how:

  1. God had worked in Job’s life
  2. Satan was senselessly cynical
  3. God remained confident in his work

Please look with me at verse 8.  God speaks to Satan.  Satan has been prowling around the earth.  God asks him whether he’s noticed Job:  “Have you considered my servant Job?”  When God calls someone his servant in the Old Testament, that’s remarkable.  Not just anybody gets called God’s servant.  It’s what God calls believers like Moses, David, and Isaiah. 

God doesn’t stop there in verse 8.  He goes on to note how there’s no one else like Job on the earth.  That suggests Job lived before men like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Job really stands out in his day.

The reason he stands out is because he is “a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil.”  Let me first tell you what that doesn’t mean.  It doesn’t mean Job was morally perfect.  It doesn’t mean Job was sinless and completely holy.  How do we know that?  Well, for one thing, the Bible is clear in other places that every human being has a sinful heart.  Romans 3 quotes Psalm 14, “None is righteous, no, not one.”  That includes Job.  The only exception was Jesus Christ – Jesus is the only sinless human being.    For another thing, if you keep reading in the book of Job, you’ll find that at the end of the book, Job repents.  Sinners repent.  Job repented.  Therefore Job was a sinner.  He’s not a perfect super-saint.

So what does God mean when he describes Job as a “blameless and upright man”?  That’s referring to Job’s overall way of life.  He was a pious man, a man whose life showed he believed in God.  He made it his habit to follow God’s ways.  That doesn’t mean he never sinned.  But when he did sin, he hated it and asked for God’s forgiveness and renewal.  He was never happy about his sin, but wanted to fight against it.  He made it his aim to turn away from evil, from what God would consider wicked and sinful.  Job was living like a believer, showing the fruits of faith in his life. 

God also says Job was one who feared him.  When applied to a believer, “the fear of God” is not dread.  It’s not terror.  When applied to a believer, “the fear of God” is more like an awe and reverence for God.  Incredible respect.  Rather than being afraid of God hurting you, you’re afraid of doing anything God would regard as sinful.  Job had that fear of God.  In his heart was the desire to please God and walk in his ways.

Now an important question to ask here is:  how did Job get the fear of God in his heart?  How did Job get this desire to please God and walk in his ways?  How did Job end up being a pious believing man who made it his habit to follow God’s will?  It’s exactly the same way anyone ends up being a God-fearing believer today.  It’s because of God’s work.  It’s because God has worked in that heart with his Holy Spirit.  First Corinthians 2 says the natural person doesn’t accept the things of the Spirit of God.  That can only change when God changes the heart with his Holy Spirit.  It can only change when there’s regeneration, when someone is born again through the Holy Spirit.

That tells us something about God.  Jeremiah 13:23 says, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?  Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.”  For human beings regeneration is impossible.  Faith is impossible.  The fruits of faith are impossible.  We can’t change our hearts.  We can’t change our lives.  But God can.  God has the power to do what for us is impossible.  God alone has the power to turn a heart of stone into a heart of flesh.  First Peter 1 speaks about that reality.  It speaks of God who caused us to be born again by his mercy.  Later in the chapter, the Holy Spirit describes those who have been born again, not from themselves, but through God, through the living and abiding word of God.      

That’s what happened with Job.  Job was a blameless and upright man because of God’s work in his life.  God had worked in his heart with his Holy Spirit.  Job believed because God gave him the gift of faith.  Job experienced God’s forgiveness because God was gracious.  Job lived the life of a believer because God gave him sanctification through the Holy Spirit.  He gave him sanctification, that process of growing in holiness.  Job was God’s star believer.  Job was a powerful living example of what God can do in a sinful human being.  In this way, Job was bringing glory and honour to God.  His life was moving in the direction God had designed human life to move.

Have you experienced this work of God’s grace in your life?  Would God consider you blameless and upright, someone who fears him and turns away from evil?  Let me tell you how I’d answer that question.  God has been at work in my life.  I know this because I have faith in Jesus Christ.  I trust him as my Saviour.  So I know I’ve been born again.  And I praise God for that.  It’s his work in me.  But am I blameless and upright?  I want to be.  But I feel like I’m far from it.  Do I fear God?  I want to.  I do sometimes.  But I don’t always do so as consistently as I want.  Do I turn away from evil?  My desire is to do that.  But again, there are times when I turn to evil and not away from it.  Can you relate? 

Listen loved ones, despite our inconsistencies, God has been at work, and he continues to be at work in our lives.  When we have Jesus as our Saviour, God is gracious and compassionate towards us.  Through Jesus and what he did on the cross, God forgives our sins and weaknesses.  He is patient with us.  And we can pray to our Father and ask him to continue his work of grace in our lives with his Holy Spirit – and because that’s a prayer that pleases him, he’ll hear and answer.  When we pray for growth in being blameless and upright, God will hear and answer.  When we pray for help in fearing him more, God will respond.  When we pray for God’s help to turn away from evil, that pleases him and he’ll do it.  He’ll give us the help.  Because we have our Saviour in heaven, Jesus intercedes for us, he pleads our case, and God will work.  He’ll do it for his glory and also for our welfare, so that we flourish.  The gospel promises us this blessing.

Sadly, there are those who are cynical about God’s work.  What does it mean to be cynical?  It means to be negative and doubtful, deeply mistrusting.  When you’re cynical, you question the sincerity of what you’re hearing or seeing.  If you’re known as a cynic, people probably don’t have a positive view of you.  If you’re known as a cynic, people probably don’t view you as a positive person.  And the greatest cynic in the universe is a fallen angel named Satan.  What he’s most cynical about is God. 

You see it in our passage.  Please look with me at verse 9.  You can almost imagine Satan saying this with a sneer, “Does Job fear God for no reason?”  He’s scoffing at God and what he claims about Job.  Really, Satan is mocking what God claims about his work in Job’s life.

Satan goes further with his cynicism.  He says God has put a hedge around Job, protected his house and his belongings.  Everything Job does is blessed.  He has everything going for him.  He has all these animals in his possession.  Job is prosperous.  The only reason Job serves God is because of God’s blessings.  It’s a quid pro quo, a tit for tat.  You do this for me, I do that for you.  Basically, Satan is saying that Job follows what we call the prosperity gospel.  When you believe in God, he gives you prosperity.  When you obey God, he makes it worth your while.  But that’s a lie.  It’s a lie that’s around us today.  Sadly, there are many churches here and around the world preaching this lie, this lie of the prosperity gospel.  They’re preaching that God is just a means to an end, and that end is what you want.  You want to be healthy, you want to be wealthy, go to God.  But as someone once said, if you’re coming to God for money, then he isn’t your God, money is. 

But here in Job 1, that’s what Satan is claiming is the case with Job and God.  Their relationship is just based on this mutually beneficial arrangement.  God gets Job’s belief, devotion, obedience.  Job gets God’s blessings.  Satan is being completely cynical about what God has said regarding his servant Job.  He’s saying God is naïve and unrealistic about what’s really going on with Job.  It’s not God’s work in Job, but pure self-interest.  Job just does what he has to do to get what he wants from God.

And Satan thinks he has a way to prove that his cynicism is justified.  Let’s have a test.  If God stretches out his hand and destroys everything in Job’s possession, Job will surely curse God to his face.  Take away the blessing and what’ll you be left with is curse.  Then it’ll be obvious that Job was just a sinful unbeliever like everyone else and his piety was just a sham.  Then it’ll be obvious that Job didn’t belong to God at all, but that he was actually serving the enemy.  Job was serving the father of lies.  That’s what Satan was trying to say.

Satan’s cynicism here is so typical of this evil fallen angel.  You see him being cynical like this already in the Garden of Eden: “Did God really say?  No, God just doesn’t want you to be like him.”  That was Satan being cynical about God’s Word.  You see Satan being cynical like this later too, in the temptations Jesus experiences in the wilderness.  Satan tells Jesus to throw himself off the temple, because didn’t God say that he would catch him with his angels?  That was Satan again being cynical about God’s Word.  Cynicism is deeply embedded in his character and it’s directed mainly against God.

But what I want you to see most is that Satan’s cynicism is senseless.  It makes no sense.  It’s irrational.  Why do I say that?  Because the one who spoke about Job in verse 8 is God.  God is the source of all truth and rationality.  Everything God does and says ultimately makes sense.  Satan can only speak words with meanings because there is a God behind the use of language which makes sense.  Satan can only speak his cynical words because God is the one who created communication, language, and even angels.  This God is always truthful.  For Satan to say otherwise, for Satan to be cynical about God, is just stupid.  It makes no sense.  But that’s Satan for you.  It’s what he does.  The evil he does is just irrational. 

All sin is irrational, whether it’s committed by Satan or by us.  And being cynical about what God has declared is senseless, whether it’s done by Satan or by human beings.  It is objectively senseless.  Again, that’s directly because of who God is, objectively speaking.  It doesn’t matter how you feel about God.  What matters is how God really is, in himself.  And he’s revealed that in the Bible.  He’s revealed himself to be the God of truth.  He’s the source of truth.  God is the foundation of truth.  He’s revealed himself to be the God who always sees things exactly the way they really are.  With his Holy Spirit in our hearts, we can see this.  When we have Christ as our Saviour, we’ve been saved from this senseless cynicism.  We’ve been saved from its consequences – an eternity in hell, but Christ also saves us from the power of cynicism in our lives.  Instead of being cynical about what God says in the Bible, we can hear the words of our Father who loves us.  Instead of sneering at Scripture, we can hear our Father speaking, the one who loved us so much that he gave his Son for us.

As we look now at verse 12, you might think it remarkable or odd that God allows Satan’s challenge to stand.  He could have rebuked Satan.  He could have sent him away.  He could have destroyed him then and there.  Remember:  Satan is not God’s evil equal.  God has authority over him.  God can do with Satan whatever he wants.  But God doesn’t rebuke him or destroy him.  Instead, he says, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand.  Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” 

Note that in verse 11, Satan said God should stretch out his hand and smite Job.  But here in verse 12, God gives permission to Satan to do that.  Satan thinks he’s right in being cynical.  Well, then he can try and prove it.  He can try and justify his cynicism.

Why does God allow Satan to do this?  Job doesn’t get the answer to the question of why he suffers.  God never tells him.  In the following chapters, Job will repeatedly ask “Why?”  But even as you get to the end of the book, the question isn’t answered for Job.  God doesn’t tell him.  That can happen with us too.  Sometimes we suffer and eventually God shows us how there was some good reason for it.  But many other times, we suffer and God hides the answers from us.  I’ve experienced that and many of you have too. 

But here with Job, even though he doesn’t get the answer, he doesn’t know what’s going behind the scenes, we do.  God reveals it to us.  God is going to prove he is right and Satan is wrong.  God is confident about the work of his Holy Spirit in Job’s life.  He’s sure that no amount of suffering will be able to overthrow what the Holy Spirit has done and is doing in Job’s heart.  And ultimately, this is going to bring glory to God.  It will help people to be impressed with God.  That’s ultimately what God is doing here in verse 12.

Someone might raise a question here though.  Someone might say, “Isn’t it selfish for God to seek his own glory through anything, let alone through this?”  Think about it like this:  I’m not an athlete.  I’ve never played professional sports.  But despite that, imagine if I would be awarded a medal for the best player in some professional sport.  Everyone would realize that’s totally crazy, totally inappropriate.  But what if it’s awarded to an actual player who’s really good?  You’d agree it’s quite a bit more appropriate for him to get it than me.  He’s a talented athlete.  That player deserves the recognition and praise.  Now that’s just a pale comparison with God, the God of infinite majesty.  What’s appropriate for the infinitely exalted God to receive?  Doesn’t he deserve all the glory and honour?  And if he’s infinitely wise as well, can’t he be trusted to get glory for himself in the best possible way?

As it happens, the way God brings glory to himself also serves for the benefit of believers.  Even if that’s through suffering.  First Peter 1 speaks of believers being grieved by various trials.  But the Holy Spirit says it’s necessary.  And believers can even rejoice because of what these trials do to our faith.  They show our faith to be the real deal and that “results in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  When Christ returns, our trial-tested faith brings praise, glory, and honour for our Saviour.

At the end of verse 12, Satan goes out from God’s presence.  He goes out to afflict Job.  As we read Job’s story, we can feel for him as he suffers.  We can empathize with his many questions.  But ultimately, we have to look beyond Job.  God was at work.  God preserved Job’s faith.  He knew Job would never fall to Satan, because he knew who was living in Job’s heart.  God knew the Holy Spirit was there.  And this is true for all God’s children in Jesus Christ.  When we have faith in Jesus Christ, we can be confident that God is confident about his work in us.  Because it’s his Spirit who gives us regeneration and faith.  No matter what trial we face, we can have the confidence and comfort the apostle Paul expressed in 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, and I’ll end with this:  “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”  AMEN.


Heavenly Father,

We worship you as the God of our salvation.  We praise you for your work of regeneration in our hearts.  When we have faith in Christ, it’s because of you, not because of us.  When we desire to live a holy life, it’s because of you, because of your Spirit in us.  You worked in Job’s life and we thank you that you work in our lives too.  Please continue your work.  Please give us all faith in Christ.  Make us more and more blameless and upright.  Teach us to fear you more and to turn away from evil more consistently.  Father, please help us also to see the senselessness of cynicism about what you’ve said in your Word.  Teach us to see the irrationality of questioning or doubting you.  And we also pray that you would help us to be confident about your work in our lives, especially when we face trials and suffer.  For those among us who are suffering right now, we pray that you would give them assurance and confidence about your purposes and your plan for them.  Give them comfort and strength with your Holy Spirit and help them not to despair of your goodness and how you’ll work out everything for your glory and our good.  Please show your mercy and favour.                                                                                                                                            


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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