Week of June 8
Upsetting the Applecart
By Skip Heitzig
Suffering comes to everyone. It’s not a respecter of persons. It comes to young, old, spiritual and unspiritual alike. Sometimes suffering comes from something we know nothing about, as in the case of Job. But even if the source is the enemy, his power is kept in check by God’s sovereignty.
God still operates by this principle: He rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. But this is something we will see ultimately. We don’t always see it immediately. And that creates problems for us.
Job’s friends illustrate this. All of them had a cut-and-dried philosophy about suffering. They believed that only the wicked suffer, and the righteous are vindicated. One of them said, “Even as I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of His anger they are consumed” (Job 4:8-9). In other words, since Job was suffering so badly, he must be a great sinner!
Is it true that people who are righteous don’t suffer? No, of course not! Asaph struggled with this in Psalm 73, as he saw wicked people prospering. Solomon noticed it too: “I have seen everything in my days of vanity: There is a just man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs life in his wickedness” (Ecclesiastes 7:15).
The Christian Research Institute once received a letter from a woman who had been blind all her life. When she became Christian, she attended a church that believed the same thing as Job’s friends: The reason you’re blind is there’s some sin in your life that you must deal with. Or you’re not healed because you don’t have enough faith.
This attitude troubled her deeply and she lost her joy. Eventually she came to realize that Jesus saw her as whole as she was. She wrote, “I have discovered that many people want to see me healed…because my blindness upsets their theological applecart. It’s hard to believe in their beliefs when a disabled person who thanks God for her disability comes along. It’s as if their faith won’t stand if I don’t go along with their agenda. I believe they want my healing for their own sake, and not for mine.”
How do you respond to pain, whether it comes to you or to other people? Job’s wife told him, “Curse God and die!” Job’s friends said, “This happened because there’s sin in your life.” Job’s own attitude was that God is sovereign: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
Don’t get me wrong. It’s great to pray for those who are suffering or ill. I do it, and I have seen people healed…but not always. God decides, in His sovereignty.
So leave room in your theology for the sovereignty of God. God can and does heal. But he also works through people who are yielded to His will, even if they are not healed. Just look at the ministry of Joni Eareckson Tada.
God is sovereign in all things. His will is best. And He is good all the time.
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