Having recently finished a fairly extensive study of the book of Job, I thought it might be profitable if we summarized some of the major lessons we have learned from the book. These fifteen lessons are timeless and are worthy of being put to memory.
Many of these lessons focus on things we need to remember when we are in the midst of suffering. They are truths which will help us remain faithful to God when we reflect upon them. No doubt we cognitively understand these points, yet there is a human tendency to forget them as suffering sets in.
1. God is interested in every individual.
Humans often forget this or refuse to believe it when they're suffering. Nevertheless, it is true. How else could God have made the comparison between Job and all of his contemporaries (cf. Job 1:8)? God knew there was no one else like Job because God intimately knew (and still knows) all mortals. II Peter 3:9 also conveys God's benevolent interest in every soul - "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." God desires all humans to be saved (cf. I Tim. 2:4). He is interested in you, even when it seems your world is crumbling around you.
2. God is deserving of our praise simply on the basis of who He is, apart from the blessings He bestows.
This was a lesson that Satan needed to learn. "So Satan answered the LORD and said, 'Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!'" (Job 1:9-11). That's what Satan thought, but he was mistaken. After Job lost his wealth and family, he "arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD'" (1:20,21). The great patriarch had to remind his wife of this truth also in Job 2:10 after she encouraged him to curse God and die - "But he said to her, 'You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?' In all this Job did not sin with his lips." Philippians 4:4 commands - "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice." The book of Psalms contains and encourages much praise to the Almighty. He is worthy of our adoration, even in the midst of difficult days when blessings are seemingly few!
3. The things of this world (e.g., money, possessions, food, clothing, houses, health, etc.) do not really matter.
This is logically connected to the previous truth. Do we praise God for who He is or only for what He has done for us physically (and perhaps recently)? Job started his life naked and without anything, and he knew that is how his life would end. An understanding of this will help prevent or minimize "attachment" to this world and the sorrow that is a consequence of it. Job's wife wasn't thinking about this truth when she entreated her husband to sin against God with his lips. The New Testament has much to say about the overall worthlessness of worldly possessions. Jesus encouraged his followers not to store up earthly treasures but heavenly ones (cf. Matt. 6:19-24). The apostle John wrote in I John 2:15 - "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." Paul underscored these thoughts in I Timothy 6:7,17 - "For we brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out...Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy." II Peter 3:10-13 teaches that every physical thing will be destroyed on the Day of Judgment. When one loses everything but God (as Job did), he realizes that having God is enough. Temporal things of this life don't really matter in the big picture.
4. God is to be trusted always, even when man's understanding is incomplete.
Though we yearn for them, we don't need to have all the answers or reasons why. Job understood that the LORD could give and take away (cf. Job 1:21), and Job worshiped God even when his heart ached and his comprehension was lacking. His words in 13:15 are amazing - "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." Additionally, we are instructed from Proverbs 3:5-7 - "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil." Also, Isaiah 55:8,9 declares God's thoughts and ways to be far above man's. Thus, we must trust Him and His word regardless of how circumstances are unfolding before us.
5. Suffering is not always the result of personal sin.
Though such was the common theology of Job's day (and even in the first century; e.g., John 9:1-3), it is simply not the case that suffering is always a consequence of personal sin. Many incorrectly affirmed that: (1) Suffering is always the direct result of personal sins and in proportion thereto, (2) Job is suffering greatly, and (3) Therefore, Job has committed some great sin(s). It is true that often suffering does result from personal sin, but not always. There are additional purposes that God has for human suffering (e.g., James 1:2-4). Without even considering these, however, we can know that suffering is not always the result of personal sin by considering the life of Christ. Jesus was sinless, yet He suffered greatly (cf. I Pet. 2:21-24).
6. Suffering is not an excuse to commit sin since Job endured unparalleled calamities and he did so without sinning.
Although he spoke inappropriately at times, I believe Job avoided sin and maintained his integrity throughout his period of agony (cf. Job 1:22; 2:10; 42:7-9; James 5:11). The wise will remember the promises of I Corinthians 10:13, namely that God is faithful and that He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able to endure. To excuse sinful behavior because of circumstances is unacceptable to genuine disciples. Suffering is indeed one of Satan's favorite tools to use to attempt to pull the faithful from the way of truth. Satan is persistent and will try and try and try to lead you away. But, don't be deceived. When one falls into sin, it is his own fault (cf. James 1:13-15)--calamities notwithstanding.
7. Dependent upon one's reaction to it, suffering will either be a stumbling block or a stepping stone to spiritual growth.
Job's wife stumbled spiritually when their wealth and children were destroyed, but Job (who lost even more than his wife ultimately) responded to the tragedy differently. He stepped up and grew spiritually. Our faith will be tested by fire (cf. I Pet. 1:6-9), but will we pass the test or behave more like Job's wife? We must approach problems with a positive state of mind, knowing that great things will result if we are focused on maturing and pleasing God. This is true no matter how bad the situation is. The apostles set a wonderful example for all Christians when they used suffering as a spiritual stepping stone (e.g., Acts 5:40-42). They refused to let it become a stumbling block to them.
8. It is foolish to believe that one can live faithfully to God and not experience suffering.
We shouldn't be surprised when suffering comes our way (cf. Job 2:10). II Timothy 3:12 records - "All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." Romans 8:18 reminds us that the sufferings of the present world and not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. We will suffer; it's just a matter of how much, when, and why (cf. I Pet. 2:20). Christ suffered, the apostles suffered, Job suffered, etc. Who are we to think that we will avoid suffering (cf. John 15:18-20)? While we remain on Earth, we must live faithfully in the midst of adversity and pain.
9. Satan uses suffering to tempt man to sin, but his power is limited by God and by man.
The fact that the devil had to get permission to afflict Job is very comforting. It implies that Satan is not all-powerful. He can only do what God permits him to do. In other words, God is in control (Job 1:12; 2:6)! James 4:7 states - "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." The devil is very crafty, but when we employ the whole armor of God, we will stand victoriously against him (cf. Eph. 6:11).
10. Silence is often better than words.
Job's wife, Job, and his friends all needed to learn this. They all would have done better to say less. And how often are we guilty of saying too much? Let us learn to cherish silence and measure our words more carefully when we do speak. Ecclesiastes 5:2 warns - "Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore, let your words be few." In Matthew 12:36,37, Jesus taught that we will either be justified or condemned by our words; we will give an account of the idle words we speak. As a corollary to this truth, we need to develop good listening skills also.
11. Man alone is insufficient; he needs God.
Job acknowledged this in 10:12 - "You have granted me life and favor, and Your care has preserved my spirit." Paul stated that "our sufficiency is from God" (II Cor. 3:5) and that we are what we are through the grace of God (cf. I Cor. 15:10). If we can remember our own weaknesses, ignorance, and imperfections, it will be much easier to rely on God and humbly submit to His revealed will.
12. Man's friends may disappoint him, but God will never forsake him.
Job called his friends "miserable comforters" (Job 16:2). They had let him down and were actually doing more harm than good for him. But, such is never the case with God. He will never leave us or forsake us (cf. Heb. 13:5,6). He is faithful--and that means a lot!
13. Prosperity in this life is no indication of spiritual standing.
Job addressed this in chapter 21 as he noted it was often the case that the wicked prospered. Jesus noted, however, that "it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 19:23), thus implying that earthly riches are not an accurate barometer of acceptance before God. Pray hard, work hard, and trust God--no matter how much or little you are blessed with materially.
14. Man needs to always be concerned for the well-being of others.
Job prayed for his friends in 42:10, the same friends who were so cruel to him! The apostle Paul commanded us in Philippians 2:3,4 - "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others." Job was an amazing man and showed great care even for those who abused him with their words (cf. Gal. 6:10; Matt. 7:12).
15. Ultimately, all things work together for good for those who maintain their fidelity to God and develop patience in the midst of trials.
The epilogue to the book of Job demonstrates this clearly in the great patriarch's life (cf. 42:10-17). Job is blessed again physically and lives to a ripe old age. This reminds us of Romans 8:28 - "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to God's purpose." Every day may not be filled with sunshine or free of adversity for children of God, but the Lord will bless the lives of those who love Him--even when we cannot perceive the blessings. The life of Joseph, son of Jacob, is another excellent example of this (cf. Gen. 50:19,20).
It is my prayer that these fifteen lessons have been helpful to you. The wise will frequently ponder these truths, especially during suffering. Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.