Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Not By Chance, Chapter 9: Problems of Providence

This chapter of Layton Talbert's excellent book Not By Chance deals with lessons we learn from the book of Job. Job, a righteous man who feared God, was allowed to suffer a brutal series of trials; naturally, he was confused about why God could permit this to happen. He debates these subjects with four of his "friends" before God intervenes in the conversation and clarifies matters.

There are five major lessons shared from the book of Job, in Chapter 9 of Not By Chance.

  1. Who is in charge? God is in charge. God is ultimately responsible. Who allowed Job to suffer (2:3, 42:11)? Who both allows evil, and restrains it, when He sees fit? Although Satan may "persuade" God to allow destruction to come to His children undeservedly, we must remember that God is in charge, and is ultimately responsible for what happens to me. He may sometimes allow me to suffer due to the sinful choices of others. Consider Christ—the perfect illustration of this!
  2. God is not responsible for anyone's wrong actions or choices.
  3. God is the ultimate cause of every moral right and of no moral wrong. Nevertheless, He can manipulate and orchestrate both to accomplish His purposes. A quote from p. 147: "It is as if God opens the lid on this bottomless pit of potential depravity just so far, filtering what escapes, so that only what will further our ultimate good and serve His purposes is providentially allowed to come out. The rest is just as providentially restrained."
  4. Why does God allow "bad things" to happen to us? In general, we are not given the specific reasons for what happens in our lives. We do know, however, that God is showing the angels, as well as fallen beings, His perfections, for their benefit and His glory. Our trials may well be an instruction for someone else.
  5. We are not the center of the universe. God is! It is easy to be small-minded and self-focused, thinking God acts strictly for our benefit...but all creation exists to glorify God. Let us not focus on the thought that we are greatly loved in the eyes of God—although we certainly are—but let us focus on how great God is and how we can glorify Him.
A quote from pp. 150-151:
"Every difficulty we or someone we love faces, every trial we endure, every loss we bear, every experience of the severest pain and suffering....is a fresh opportunity to stand in the company of Job and to affirm that our faith in and our worship of and our devotion to God is rooted in soil far deeper than personal advantage or material blessing or physical well-being."
This discussion generates three significant questions:

1. (p. 151) Is it correct to view God as doing "bad" things to us (i.e., not moral evil, but undesirable experiences)? And do such experiences indicate a lapse in God's love or favor?

Let's turn the question around: Are we viewing the circumstances in the same way God sees them? In the case of Job, God entrusted the experience to Job. God did a similar thing with Joseph, and with other men and women throughout Scripture and history. Their stories should encourage us and remind us of this truth: God's love or favor has not lapsed when negative experiences meet us.

2. (p. 153) Was it "right" or "bad" that God took away everything that job had "without cause"?

Remember that God is incapable of evil or unjust actions. Although Satan had evil purposes concerning Job, God's purposes in allowing them were "positive and good." We must never forget all the blessings that God has already bestowed on every one of us! They were never deserved; if anything, humility should be the result, along with our gratitude.

Consider the inverse: Just as times of "bad things" do not necessarily indicate God is punishing you for sin, times of "blessings" do not necessarily indicate God is pleased with everything in your life. Never be presumptuous about God's blessings (Ps. 103:2).

3. (p. 155) What is the biblical measure/standard of suffering that helps us put all our difficulties, no matter how severe, into perspective?

The sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 2:21, 4:1-2, 5:10-11)

For Previous Chapters:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8

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