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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Title:Trust God's victorious power to help you grieve in faith
Text:Job 1:20-22 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Comfort in a World of Pain

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 29

Psalm 38:1,2,7,8 (after the law)

Psalm 42:1-3

Psalm 34:1,2

Hymn 44

Scripture readings:  Philippians 1, Job 1:1-22

Text: Job 1:20-22

* 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,

Some days get fixed in your mind and you can never forget them.  For me one of those days is May 27, 2002.  My wife Rose and I were staying with her parents.  At about 2:30 in the morning, Rose’s dad knocked on the door.  “Wes, your dad is on the phone.”  I got out of bed and I knew it couldn’t be anything good.  My dad just told me, “Wes, your mom is gone.”  Suddenly, just like that.  The news knocked the wind out of me.  I couldn’t stand.  After getting off the phone, Rose’s mom and dad and Rose were all sitting in the living room.  They knew what I’d just heard.  I grabbed a Bible and without even thinking about it I turned to Job 1:21 and read it with them.  We prayed together and then I drove away in the darkness to go be with my dad.

Our text was written in the context of a sudden, tragic loss.  It makes sense to go to a passage like this when we experience the same in our lives.  God is teaching us here how to deal with our grief in a way that honours him.

That’s really what this passage in Job all about.  It’s about God and his glory.  It’s about God and how he enables believers to deal with sudden loss.  Satan expected Job to deal with his sudden loss by cursing God to his face.  That’s what Satan wanted.  Earlier in chapter 1 of Job, Satan was cynical about God and about what he’d done in Job’s life.  Satan thought Job just believed in God because of what he could get out of it.  But take everything away and Job would show a different face.  In our passage, God proves Satan wrong.  The Almighty God has the power to help a believer grieve sudden loss in faith.  So I preach to you God’s Word:  Trust God’s victorious power to help you grieve in faith

We’ll consider Job’s:

  1. Deep grief
  2. Deeper faith

The way we think about emotions is shaped by different factors.  Those factors include our culture, our gender, our upbringing, and our personality.  But there is someone who shows us what it means to be truly human also in terms of our emotions.  There is someone who validates the expression of our emotions.  That someone is our Lord Jesus.  Jesus was and is a true human being and as such he experienced the full range of human emotions.  That includes grief.  Think of Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus, how he wept.  When Christ weeps, we see his true humanity.  But we also see God.  We see how God understands true human grief.  In Christ, he validates our experience of grief in this broken world.  God is not indifferent to our grief.  He certainly doesn’t condemn our grief or tell us just to get over it.

We see that in our passage as well.  We can begin with God’s evaluation of Job’s response in verse 22:  “In all this Job did not sin…”  So what we read in verse 20 has to be seen in the light of that.  God says that Job’s grief in verse 20 is not sinful.  That doesn’t mean that it’s then neutral or morally indifferent.  When God says Job didn’t sin in his grief, he means that Job acted rightly.  God validates Job’s grief.  He validates the grief of this believer, and in Christ he validates the grief of all believers. 

But let’s back up and look for a moment at what led to Job’s grief.  It was a horrible day of loss.  There are several things to note about what led to Job’s profound grief.

First, notice how comprehensive his loss was.  He lost his oxen, donkeys, and servants.  He lost his sheep and camels.  Then his seven sons and three daughters were all killed in a house collapse.  He was left with his own health and with his wife.  But now he was bankrupt and childless.  Job had nothing left to his name.  This was a far-reaching loss. 

Second, you ought to notice how sudden the loss happened.  When you read verses 13-19, it’s just like a rapid-fire succession of tragedies, all on the same day, brought to Job all at about the same time, one after another.  It’s like not just one punch in the gut, but several in a row.  Job doesn’t even have time to respond to one tragedy when another gets laid on him.

Finally, let’s notice how Job has no idea why this is happening to him.  We know because we’ve read the backstory at the beginning of chapter 1.  We know there’s been an argument between God and Satan.  God is allowing this to prove his power in Job’s life.  God is showing how Satan’s cynicism is misplaced, irrational, and evil.  But Job knows none of that.  He has no idea.  As a result, in the following chapters, he’s going to ask “why?” repeatedly.

So Job’s loss was nearly comprehensive, sudden, and bewildering.  That gives us the background to his deep grief. 

At the beginning, he outwardly grieves much the same as anyone else in his day and age.  He’d been sitting down as he heard all the reports of his losses.  But now he stands.  He tears his robe.  This robe was worn by the wealthy – it’s not appropriate for Job anymore.  He’s lost everything.  Then he shaves his head, again symbolic of loss.  His hair loss reflects his loss of everything. 

These are understandable reactions.  Job is grieving deeply according to the customs of his day.  We might grieve quite differently today – even if it was a sudden tragic loss, you wouldn’t tear your clothes and shave your head.  But the point isn’t the exact way we grieve, it’s the fact that we do grieve when we experience loss.  Job didn’t deal with his comprehensive, sudden and bewildering loss stoically, as if he thought it’d be sinful for him as a believer to mourn.  No, he mourned, he grieved deeply.  In that God reveals how grief at loss isn’t sinful.  God affirms our tears and our broken hearts.  In his Word here he shows us how he understands what we’re experiencing, he says it’s all right.  In our Saviour Jesus, he shows us how he’s actually experienced what we’re experiencing.  Our sinless Saviour grieved.  Loved ones, all that gives us comfort and assurance.  It tells us we have a sympathetic and compassionate Father in heaven.

At the end of verse 20 we see Job doing something quite unexpected.  It’s certainly not what Satan expected to see Job doing.  Satan expected Job to shake his fist at heaven and let loose with a string of curses directed at God.  Instead, he falls to the ground and worships.  You have to picture this.  You have to picture Job lying face down on the ground, his whole body prostrate.  This outward posture reflects his inner attitude of godly submission to what God has done.  He worships God even in his pain and grief.  His heart honours God even though it’s broken.  It’s a remarkable picture of a godly man who’s experienced some of the worst tragedies imaginable.  The question we ought to be asking is:  how is this possible?  Is Job even a normal human being?  I mean, he’s worshipping God after hearing that all his children have been killed.  All his hopes and dreams of grandchildren have been dashed.  And he worships God?   How is this possible?  How would it be possible for us to react in a similar way if we were to experience sudden, tragic loss?

Before answering that, let’s look closer at what happens next with Job.  Not only does he have an outward posture of submission and worship before God, his words show the same.  This is verse 21, some of the most famous words of the Old Testament.  Here we see clearly how Job’s faith runs deeper than his grief. 

He says that he came naked from his mother’s womb, just like we all do.  We come into the world with absolutely nothing.  And when we leave this world, it’s the same way.  It’s like what God says in 1 Timothy 6:7, “…for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.”  Our earthly possessions are ours only for the time we’re living and breathing.  Once we die, all of that matters for nothing.  And, unless Christ returns first, that’s something all of us can count on.  One hundred percent of us sitting here this morning are going to die.  And all your earthly wealth, your money, and your possessions, you’ll leave it all behind.  That’s the reality of being human. 

Job goes on.  All that Job has is a gift from God.  It’s the LORD who gives.  He entrusted Job with his oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, and servants.  God gave Job his children, he entrusted Job with them.  Job was a steward of these good gifts from God.  Similarly, everything good we have in our lives is a gift from God.  God entrusts us with blessings from his hand.  Even in his deep grief, Job acknowledges God as the fountain of all good.  God is the good giver.

If you’re a Christian, there’s not too much trouble in confessing that God gives.  Because it obviously benefits us, it’s not hard to look at God’s giving as a positive thing.  But what about when God takes?  That can be hard.  It can be tough to look at God’s taking as a positive thing. 

One of the saddest songs I know is called Casimir Pulaski Day, by the American singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens.  The song is about his friend who’s dying from bone cancer.  Stevens writes about going to a Bible study and praying for healing for his friend, “but nothing ever happens.”  At the end of the song he hears about his friend’s death as a bird flies into a window.  The last verse of the song is quite moving:

All the glory when he took our place
But he took my shoulders and he shook my face
And he takes and he takes and he takes

That song expresses a real struggle with God taking away.  And it’s not uncommon. 

Now to say that God takes away can be hard enough on its own.  Yet the Bible teaches it.  The Bible teaches that God sends both prosperity and adversity.  He gives and takes.  It’s in many places.  I’ll just mention Deuteronomy 32:39.  God says, “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.”  So yes, God gives and God takes away.  Even though in this case, God worked through Satan’s activity, Job is still right.  God was still sovereign over what happened to him. God took away Job’s animals, his servants, and his children.

The surprising thing here is that Job doesn’t look at this as a reason to blame God.  When he acknowledges that God has taken away, he doesn’t look at it as a reason to curse God – which is what Satan thought he’d for sure do.  Verse 22 tells us that Job did not “charge God with wrong.”  Job didn’t express any contempt for God.  He didn’t speak irreverently about God.  And he didn’t say that God’s ways were anything less than perfectly wise and good.  And all of that despite his deep grief. 

Despite his deep grief, Job could say, “Blessed be the name of the LORD.”  Job praises God because he knows what he is doing in giving and taking away.  Job says that everyone else should praise God too, because he is good and wise in how he ordains everything.  Job is making a confession of trust in God in which he invites others to share.  He calls us to share the same confession of trust in the good and wise God.

If you know Job’s story, you know how his suffering is about to get worse in chapter 2.  When we think about suffering in the Bible, we may be tempted to think that Job copped it worse than anyone else.  But hold on, that’s not really true, is it?  Our Saviour Jesus experienced physical suffering that may have been similar to what Job experienced.  Dying on a cross was physical torture and pain.  But our Lord Jesus also experienced spiritual suffering.  God’s wrath against our sin was poured out on him.  There were three hours of darkness while Jesus hung on the cross at Golgotha.  During those three hours Jesus experienced hell.  Our sins were laid on him and he felt the full weight of God’s infinite wrath against those sins.  That was a suffering no other human being on earth has ever experienced.  Take the worst suffering you’ve ever experienced and multiply it by a million.  Take the worst of Job’s suffering and multiply it by a billion.  And you still wouldn’t come close to what Jesus experienced on the cross.  It’s literally unimaginable suffering.

But then hear our Saviour’s words when the darkness lifts.  He says, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Now many times we jump to the “forsaken” part of those words.  But we also ought to note that he says, “My God.”  God may have forsaken him by pouring out his wrath against our sins on him, but Jesus has not forsaken God.  God is still his God.  Even though the LORD took away the light.  Even though the LORD took away his clothes and he’s about to leave the world literally naked.  Even though the LORD gave his wrath, his hell upon Jesus in our place.  Jesus still says, “My God.” 

Loved ones, if we are in Christ, if we are united to him through faith, God can help us make the same confession when we suffer and grieve. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God can help us grieve in faith too.  We too can say, “My God.”  We too can say, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” 

Look at the example of the Apostle Paul.  As he wrote his letter to the Philippians, he was in prison.  Prison wasn’t pleasant – prison involved a measure of suffering.  Yet, what’s the theme that comes out again and again in this letter?  It’s rejoicing.  We read from chapter 1 and Paul speaks about how he rejoices that Christ is being proclaimed.  He rejoices because he knows his imprisonment is going to somehow work for good.  Later in chapter 4, he tells the Philippian believers, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”  Believers are to always rejoice in the Lord, no matter their circumstances.  And it’s to be rejoicing in the Lord – that’s to say, in union with our Lord Jesus.  Because you’re in him, you can rejoice no matter what your circumstances.  Because you’re united to Christ, you can say no matter what, “Blessed be the name of the LORD.”  The rejoicing here isn’t merely some sentimental feel-good thing, like just slapping a smile on your face.  No, it’s rejoicing that’s directed outwards towards God.  It’s about praise for God, no matter what your circumstances are.  Job probably didn’t have a smile on his face in our passage.  Yet he was rejoicing in the LORD because he was praising him and saying others should praise him too. 

That represented God’s victory over Satan.  Remember: Satan said the opposite would happen.  God proved him wrong.  God won the argument.  God had the power to help Job grieve in faith, in a way that honoured him and brought glory to his name.  Even though Job was suffering, he could still praise God as being good and wise, even though he didn’t understand his circumstances.  Loved ones, you can trust God to do the same for you.

Right now perhaps none of us are experiencing the grief associated with a tragic and sudden loss.  But some day you may be.  Some day in God’s wise ordaining, you may find yourself in the kind of situation I was in on May 27, 2002.  That phone call that knocks you over.  That can be hard.  It is hard.  But right now, while we’re sitting here, we can prepare ourselves for those kinds of moments where God sends trials to test and purify our faith.  We can ask God now to work in our hearts with his Holy Spirit so our union with Christ bears fruit.  We can pray now and ask God to help us with his Spirit so we always trust in his power.  We can plead with God now to prepare us so that when grief comes, whether it’s sudden or expected, we can deal with it in faith and in a way that honours God.  It pleases God to hear such prayers and he answers them.

Really what our text is about is what Scripture says in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  Job acknowledged God in all his ways.  Job acknowledged God in prosperity.  He acknowledged God in adversity.  Let’s trust that God can do the same for us. 

When I acknowledged God early on that morning of May 27, 2002, I know I didn’t do that on my own.  That was God working in me with his Holy Spirit to acknowledge him in adversity.  Exactly one year later, we could acknowledge God in prosperity too.  On the exact day my mother died, one year later, our middle daughter was born.  On that day in the hospital we read Job 1:21 again, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.  The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”  I pray that for each one of you too, whether in prosperity or adversity, that you too will be able to say that God should be praised for his goodness and wisdom.  AMEN.


O LORD God in heaven,

Our life here is so often a vale of tears.  We all have to deal with grief at some time or other.  Thank you for how you validate our grief in Jesus Christ.  Thank you for the tears he wept.  Father, thank you that you understand the sorrows we have in our hearts at times.  But thank you even more that you give us grace to bear those sorrows in faith.  Please help us to trust you, to trust that you can help us with the Holy Spirit to still bless your Name even we’re grieving.  In the future, when we grieve, please help us with your Holy Spirit to be able to praise your name like Job did.  When we grieve, please help us to say, “My God,” like our Lord Jesus did.  When we suffer or grieve, help us to rejoice in our Lord Jesus always, like the apostle Paul did.  Help us with your Holy Spirit in all our ways to acknowledge you.  

* 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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