THE LAST DAYS
Pastor Anita Clark
"There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God and eschewed [or turned away from evil]" Job 1:1.
Apostle James wrote of Job in his epistle chapter 5:11, "Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy." Most of the time when we think of someone enduring suffering and pain, we think of poor old Job. His trials were unique, and very difficult. As I thought upon his life and his overcoming adversity, I thought also of Apostle Paul and his sufferings. The Lord led me to contrast these two men and their sufferings. That’s what this message is about.
WHAT JOB SUFFERED - CONTRASTED WITH PAUL’S SUFFERING
Job lived in Old Testament times. Commentators don’t really know where he came from, or how he fits in with other Bible characters. Although, little is known about him, he is lauded for his patience as the saying goes, "the patience of Job," being ascribed to anyone who endures trouble for a period of time. Job lost his children to death, all his natural wealth, his wife’s respect for him, and so called friends came to supposedly comfort him, but instead berated and condemned him. On top of that he was afflicted with boils all over his body, with terrible pain. Finally, deliverance came from the Lord.
Acts 9:16, God spoke to Ananias and told him, "For I will show him [Paul] how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake." Immediately upon his conversion to Christ the sufferings began. Read the account in the book of Acts. Then note the account in II Corinthians 11:23-33. Although he suffered terrible beatings and stoning and ship wreck while trying to spread the Gospel, he was victorious.
In II Corinthians 4:8-12, Apostle Paul mentions some of his trials. "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair. Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed. Always bearing about in his body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you." In II Corinthians 12, He tells about a great trial, which God had allowed in his life. This trial was to keep him humble before God because of the great revelations he had received. He calls it "a thorn in the flesh." (VS. 7). Just as Satan attacked Job bodily, only by God’s permission, Apostle Paul was given an infirmity, [Gk. meaning - "malady, disease, weakness, sickness.]. He prayed to be delivered three times and God did not take the problem away. It seems this thing continued the rest of his mortal life, until his death as a martyr.
THE DURATION OF THEIR TRIALS CONTRASTED
According to Usher, Job’s trials began in 1520 B.C. and ended in 1521 B.C. - a period of one year. Contrasting the sufferings of the life of Apostle Paul with Job’s, starting with Paul’s conversion in Acts 9. until his statements in II Timothy 4 concerning, "I am now ready to be offered" was about 31 years. So Paul’s suffering was of much longer duration than Job’s, but you never hear anyone say, "O the patience of Apostle Paul." Yet, Paul spoke so often of being patient in our trials and having confidence that the trials are working in us eternal benefits.
CONTRAST OF WHY THEY EACH SUFFERED
Job suffered to because God was working many things in his life. He was a victor with the Lord. The account of Job was written for our learning and admonition. The book let’s us in on many secrets we would not know otherwise. For example, Satan can at this time go into the presence of God and accuse us to God, even though we know by other Scripture that he has been cast out of the heavens and is now the God of this world (II Cor. 4:4). One day he will be cast out completely from the presence of God down to the earth, (Rev. 12) and will never be allowed up there anymore, and finally thrown into the "bottomless pit" for one thousand years. After that he will be put into the Lake of Fire forever.
We learn from Job that God can and will give us strength to endure. And, we also learn to praise God in everything as he did. What a blessing and comfort Job’s life is to us.
In contrast, Apostle Paul through his epistles teaches us that what he suffered, and also what we suffer in life has a reason. In II Timothy 2:12, he says "If we suffer with Him, we shall reign with Him." As we suffer and take victory over it all, by trusting in God, and like Job and Paul (never accusing God falsely), we will be rewarded - the greatest reward being to rule with the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what Paul learned and taught. There is a race to run and a crown to win.
Job was a victor and is an Old Testament Worthy of Faith. He will have a wonderful place in heaven, but Paul was God’s chosen vessel to preach to the Gentiles and whosoever will, a message of overcoming and gaining a glorious place of ruling and reigning with Christ. Paul’s suffering to bring the Gospel that will prepare us for the glory is a far greater message than that of Job’s.
Paul’s message in Philippians 3:7-8 proclaims the essence of his teaching to us, "But what things were gain to me; those I count loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them as dung, that I may win Christ." Paul desired that glorious place of ruling and reigning with the Lord Jesus Christ above anything he might have had in this natural life. He gave up everything in the natural to gain everything the Lord has prepared for those who desire to please Him completely.
What is your goal in your Christian life? Is it to barely, to get to heaven? There is so much more to gain for the one who pursues the Prize of the high calling in Christ. (I Cor. 9:24-27; Phil. 3:10-15.) Salvation is the gift of God and is not merited, but by grace alone, but here is a prise of our high calling and that is gained if we endure the sufferings of this present life with victory, in order to rule and reign with Christ for eternity.