The Sovereignty of God in the Suffering of His People part 17 – Sometimes it’s better to suffer than die and go to Heaven

By Mike Ratliff

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. (Philippians 1:21-26)

There are times when I see no logical reason for God to keep me alive. It is during these periods when I long to be in Heaven with Him. This existence in this evil place seems pointless at times. I see myself as so small and insignificant that it should not matter if I go missing one day. “Come on Lord, take me home!“, is my cry. Of course, I have a family which I love. My wife is not well most of the time and she needs me. So, it is after these things come to the fore of my mind that I am ashamed. I see then that my wish to depart is self-centered and selfish.

We are not quite halfway through Job. We have arrived at chapter 17 which is the place where Job has reached his death wish stage. He sees no reason to continue to breathe. All he is doing is suffering. What possible good could come of that?

My spirit is broken; my days are extinct; the graveyard is ready for me. Surely there are mockers about me, and my eye dwells on their provocation. “Lay down a pledge for me with yourself; who is there who will put up security for me? Since you have closed their hearts to understanding, therefore you will not let them triumph. He who informs against his friends to get a share of their property– the eyes of his children will fail. “He has made me a byword of the peoples, and I am one before whom men spit. My eye has grown dim from vexation, and all my members are like a shadow. The upright are appalled at this, and the innocent stirs himself up against the godless. Yet the righteous holds to his way, and he who has clean hands grows stronger and stronger. But you, come on again, all of you, and I shall not find a wise man among you. My days are past; my plans are broken off, the desires of my heart. They make night into day; ‘The light,’ they say, ‘is near to the darkness.’ If I hope for Sheol as my house, if I make my bed in darkness, if I say to the pit, ‘You are my father,’ and to the worm, ‘My mother,’ or ‘My sister,’ where then is my hope? Who will see my hope? Will it go down to the bars of Sheol? Shall we descend together into the dust?” (Job 17:1-16)

In this passage, Job is speaking to God. As we can see He tells God that his spirit is broken. As we know, God is not through with this test yet so even though Job feels that he is done, God is not done. Job tells God that since he is walking death let’s go ahead and finish it and kill him. Then Job speaks of his three friends who have revealed that they have been no help to him at all. In fact, they are no better than mockers. Then Job says something incredibe in v4. Job recognized that the spiritual blindness that his three friends have came from God. He tells God that he knows that since these men are spiritually blind and that blindness came from God then He will not exalt them either. What is this saying? Where does spiritual blindness come from? God does it. Why? He does it to accomplish His purpose according to His will. However, there are some things we can do that will cause us to be just a blind. If we persist in disobedience of our Lord’s commands then we will cause our Hearts to harden which blinds us. Also, Idolatry is the number one reason that spiritual blindness comes upon people.

What sort of idolatry could these ol‘ boys been involved in that made them such blind, pliable puppets in the hands of Satan? As we have seen in our earlier lessons, they had a false view of God. They worshipped a straw God of their own making. Their God existed in a box and could only move in a very narrow range of actions according to their wills. Now is this the Living God, God Almighty, the creator of the Universe? Anytime we don’t humbly follow the God revealed to us in scripture, but instead follow our straw God which we have made up in our own minds according to our own fleshly understanding then we are just a guilty as these three friends of Job.

Job then tells his three friends that they are welcome to counsel him further, but not about his supposed sin which they still insisted that he was guilty of. He is still teachable, but he is not going to admit to something that He has not done. I find Job’s integrity through this horrible trial as truly amazing. The only answer for that is that God is sustaining Him in the midst of the fire.

A friend of my wife told her that she had done a study on how Silver is purified. She had made that study after reading Malachi 3:1-3.

“Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. (Malachi 3:1-3)

My wife’s friend wanted to know what that meant that the refiner would sit and purify the silver. She shared that the refiner would put the silver in a crucible then hold it over fire until it was pure. He would skim off dross during the pruification process, but he would never take his eyes off the silver nor would he let go of the crucible nor would he remove it from the fire until the silver was pure. He would know when it was pure when he could see his reflection in it.

This analogy is a good one. I believe it shows us that our suffering as believers is meant to purify us unto Christl-likeness. We may be crying out to God to kill us or whatever, but He is doing what is best for us. I deeply desire to be Christ-like. I know, however, that I am not. I want to be humble, but I know I’m not. I want to go to Heaven, but I know that God is not done with me yet. Wouldn’t it be better to arrive in Heaven as complete as possible rather than still resembling this lost an dying world?

 

 

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14 thoughts on “The Sovereignty of God in the Suffering of His People part 17 – Sometimes it’s better to suffer than die and go to Heaven

  1. Mike, I have suffered so much when I was a child. I was so angry all the time for always being left out, never feeling loved, picked on, criticized, never really had alot of friends. UNTIL, my heart attack almost 3 yrs ago. That changed everything. I don’t feel that way anymore. I’m happy and content with the things I have and if he wants me to have more, he will give it. I don’t ask for any material things. I see all those sufferings as tests now. I’ve read the book of Job, he was upset because he had pride, wealth, friends, integrity and God made him humble again by taking it all away to teach him a lesson about who was really in authority.

    Just take a look at Jimmy Swaggert and PTL’s Jim Baker and all those Priests/Pastors who disobey God.

    I’m not the wise person of this world, but that is how I see it.

    In Christ,
    Sherry

  2. Sherry,

    Yes, Job needed work, but don’t we all? I don’t care how mature we think we are, we are not as Christ-like as God wants us to be. As we have seen in the 16 previous lessons, we can learn much from Job such as God’s sustaining him during the trials. Also, his “friends” are spiritually blind and have a completly false view of God. Also, Job’s faith is tested during this, but it is purified by the trials. Job is a very rich book and that is why we are traveling through it at such a slow pace. :-)

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  3. Hi Mike,
    We are but the clay and He is the Potter. His hands are apon us molding us into His image. As you said He is purifying us. He will do what ever he has to do to form us. I know I need to let Him do what is needed to perfect me into His image instead of thinking I can do it myself sometimes. He’s still working on me and will continue to do so, that’s the comforting part about it, He will never leave me or forsake me. I also long for Heaven and to be in the presence of our Savior, I think we all do Mike…but it is not in God’s plan yet. This world is getting worse and worse and harder and harder to live in.
    So i will wait upon the Lord. He is telling me there is much work to be done, yet.

    Cristina

  4. Refusing to bow to the king’s 90 foot image of gold…Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego may have anticipated a fiery death as they fell bound into the stoked furnace. But instead, they found themselves face to face with the Son of God.

    Each day, we must choose between the two… Bow before the gods of this world…or face the fiery furnace of adversity. Isn’t it amazing that when we refuse to bow and find ourselves thrust into the flames…it is then that we can see our Savior’s face most clearly. He becomes tangible to the touch…and we experience the joy of dancing in the flames with our Lord…unscathed and unfettered by the fear that once enslaved us. May we never flinch back from the flames in fear…but leap forward with complete assurance that we will be caught up into the arms of our faithful, sovereign Lord.

  5. Cristina and Jessica,

    I am so blessed by the deep understanding both of you have of the role of suffering in our lives. Isn’t it a tremendous blessing to know that God knows what He is doing and it is always for our best. We may think the flames will consume us, but He uses them to perfect us. What a blessing to know, but hard to discern when in the flames. :-) Where would we be without the Holy Spirit, Prayer and the Word of God?

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  6. You know, it’s pretty sad that it took a heart attack to wake me up. I don’t want to see anyone else go through that. That is why people like us, through all our sufferings, should spread the message. Telling people to believe in Christ and turning their lives over to him, and not wait for a near tragedy to do this. Does that make any sense? We all learn from our sufferings through Christ. I just read something on another website about those who practice Islam are CONVERTING to Christianity. It is said that approximately 600 people are converting every hour. Isn’t that wonderful news!!!! I just did a piece on the 7 seals on my blog.

  7. Sherry,

    I would call that a wake up call. :-)

    That blesses my soul that so many are surrendering to the Lordship of Christ. Praise the Lord!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  8. O Mike,

    I, too, desire to be Christ like and I am not. I long to be humble, and I am not. I long to walk in continual obedience because HE is worthy, so worthy, and I do not. Praise be to God for HIS refining love and HIS eternality and constancy in the lives of HIS redeemed children.

    …”the refiner would put the silver in a crucible then hold it over fire until it was pure. He would skim off dross during the pruification process, but he would never take his eyes off the silver nor would he let go of the crucible nor would he remove it from the fire until the silver was pure. He would know when it was pure when he could see his reflection in it.”….

    Praise HIM that HE faithfully holds us over the fire until we are pure, never removing us from the refining process, never taking HIS eyes off of us, never letting us go. We are safe forever in HIM. And we will be made pure. HE will see to it. And when that glorious day happens HE will see HIS reflection in us. We will have taken on the Family resemblance. It is almost too awesome to write about or even think about.

    I am so glad for this posting and the great encouragement you have given to your brothers and sisters in Christ of all that God has promised to do and is doing in our lives. Glory be given to our loving, faithful, Father.

  9. Kim,

    My dear sister in Christ! I had such a hard time reading your comment because of the tears that the Holy Spirit was causing to course down my face. This is joyous isn’t it? When I contemplate the true wonder of being part of the Family of God I totally awed and amazed. When I witness one of my sisters or brothers in Christ rejoice over this as well then I can’t help but rejoice with them. The world will never understand this, but I wouldn’t trade anything the world has to offer for my salvation. Amen!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  10. I meant to add a quote from the Sunday evening sermon where I worship. The pastor was speaking on 2 Chr 16, and specifically, commenting on Asa taking matters into his own hands and not relying on/ trusting God as he once had.

    “We can NEVER come up with a better or greater response to a situation, crisis, trial, or difficulty that God. It is ludicrous to think we can.”

    My prayer for myself and all the saints is that, by the power of HIS SPIRIT in us, we will remember this more and more as we are being refined in the fire. When we do, we will increasingly walk by faith. And the more we walk by faith the more we give HIM the glory HE is due. The more we speak of HIS WORTH.

  11. OOPSY the quote should say:

    “We can NEVER come up with a better or greater response to a situation, crisis, trial, or difficulty than God. It is ludicrous to think we can.”

    thank you Mike

  12. Mike, Sherry, Cristina, Jessica & Kim:
    Please allow me to thank you all for the blessing I elicited from your testimonies. All your statements touched me in different ways. I even stayed late to read, understand and meditate over your discussions.

    You see, I accepted the Lord as my personal savior towards the end of my high school. Just before I graduated from college, I fell into the trap of telling the Lord, “Lord, let me take my life from here onwards; I can handle it by myself.” In so doing, I blew all the blessings of the five best years of my life and wondered in the wilderness of the world w/o the Lord Jesus. My Christian brothers and sisters could not understand what got hold of me. A muslim friend I testified to in college and who ended up ordained as a pastor lately, came and asked me, “You brought me to the Lord, how can you stray away leaving me behind?” That, and the suffering I’m going through right now brought me back to my senses. I got down on my knees and pleaded with the Lord to reconnect with Him again. I am back on track and taking an intensive course on discipleship. Every day, I thank the Lord for taking me back.

    The reason the scope of your discussion resonated with me is because a guest speaker in our church talked about the 4th dimension of the apostolic journey. He said, “In order to tap into the power of God, you must fully subscribe into the plan of God; you have to understand the mindset of God (what Kim called Christ-like). Humility is a precondition to learning. You have to tame your “I am,” and subscribe to the greater ‘I AM.’ ” Every Christian is a minister of the Lord. He added, “The Almighty wants us to minister from from experience, not from theory. That is why suffering and shame helps us to minister from experience. I may have sinned, but I also know how to come back to the Almighty for forgiveness. We need to be real!” His message resonated with my situation.

    The following statements from your discussions also resonated with me. Thank you.
    Mike’s,
    “…..the refiner would put the silver in a crucible then hold it over fire until it was pure….. he would never take his eyes off the silver nor would he let go of the crucible nor would he remove it from the fire until the silver was pure. He would know when it was pure when he could see his reflection in it.”

    Sherry’s information: That about 600 Muslims are converting to Christianity every hour.

    Cristina’s:
    “His hands are upon us molding us into His image.”

    Jessica’s:
    “Isn’t it amazing that when we refuse to bow and find ourselves thrust into the flames…it is then that we can see our Savior’s face most clearly.”

    Kim’s:
    “I, too, desire to be Christ-like and I am not. I long to be humble, and I am not. I long to walk in continual obedience…”

    Kim, what can I say, you sound like me talking to myself. Ths is the ultimate resonance for me!

  13. Teddy,

    What can I say execept that I am very joyous with your repentance. I praise God that He has drawn you back to Himself. I pray that you will continue on this path of repentance as you surrender everything to the Lordship of Christ.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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