Faithfulness in the Fires of Tribulation

by Mike Ratliff

33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will affliction, or turmoil, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,
37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:33-39 (LSB) 

Many years ago, probably over 30 years ago, I was serving as a deacon in our church and my wife and I were hosting a small group in our home on Sunday evenings. I have fond memories of that time. One of the couples in that group was a husband and wife who were probably about 10 to 15 years older than my wife and I. Both were very mature Christians and I loved them both. During this period I was also a Precept leader at Church and the wife of that couple was one of my students.

After several weeks of meetings I received a call at work one day from my wife. I could tell something was wrong. The husband of that couple had been found dead in his garage. He had a bad heart condition and it appeared that he had had a heart attack. I was devastated. I called the other couples in the group so we could minister to the family. The other couples in our group got some food together to take to them. I and a close friend in our small group volunteered to take the food to the house and minister to the family.

I dreaded it. I don’t think I’m very good at this sort of thing. We made the trip to the house. It seemed that the whole block was packed with cars. I rang the door bell while my friend started unloading the car. I was expecting a son or a relative to open the door, but it was the wife. She helped us get the food into the house. After we set that up in the kitchen she took us to a private area in the house since there were so many people there. She gave us both a deep hug and we sat with her and talked for about an hour.

It was amazing. We went there to minister to her and her family and she ministered to us. The joy of the Lord was all over her. She was hurting, but she was also in deep worship mode. She told us that her husband was with His Lord so how could she be upset about that? When we left I was encouraged and had a new appreciation for the power of the Joy of Lord.

1 Again it was the day that the sons of God came to stand before Yahweh, and Satan also came among them to stand himself before Yahweh. 2 And Yahweh said to Satan, “Where do you come from?” Then Satan answered Yahweh and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” 3 And Yahweh said to Satan, “Have you set your heart upon My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity. So you incited Me against him to swallow him up in vain.” 4 Satan answered Yahweh and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life.Job 2:1-4 (LSB) 

This encounter between God and Satan is nearly identical to the first one in Chapter 1, however, we know that this is after Satan has struck Job taking away all of his property and killing his children. This is a gathering of saints worshiping God and Job is probably still the priest leading it. God gestures towards his faithful servant Job and tells Satan that even though you have done evil to him he remains faithful.

Notice two things. Satan may have hurt Job greiviously, but God has not restored anything to him. Also, God tells Satan plainly that even though he is constantly accusing Job there is not one thing he has done to deserve being treated like this. Job is still suffering, but he remains faithful.

4 Satan answered Yahweh and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. 5 However, send forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse You in Your face.” 6 So Yahweh said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, only spare his life.”Job 2:4-6 (LSB) 

Satan still cannot touch Job without permission from God. He is such a vile creature. He has no understanding of faithfulness. He has not one iota of understanding of a regenerated heart. The genuine believer is a new creation. He or she has the ability to obey God. They have the indwelling Holy Spirit, a regenerated heart and are doing good works within the grace of God. He claims that none of that matters. If sickness or travail comes upon the undeserving believer they will abandon their faith then curse God to His face. Satan is allowed permission to strike Job, but not kill him.

7 Then Satan went out from the presence of Yahweh and struck Job with terrible boils from the sole of his foot to the top of his head. 8 And he took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes.Job 2:7-8 (LSB) 

How horrible! Satan knows how to hurt us doesn’t he? I can only think of one word to describe Job’s condition–misery. Once again we see that Satan’s goal is to cause such shock to the heart of Job that he will abandon his faith. Job is in such misery that he removes himself to the ash heap in mourning and scrapes his skin with a pottery shard. This was once the wealthiest and greatest man in the East. He had a large wonderful family. He was the priest for his family and was faithful to God in all he did. Did he deserve this? He is a believer so in God’s eyes he is righteous and blameless, just as all believers are. However, he is also the son of Adam of who was born into sin as all people are. In that sense he did deserve nothing but to be cast from God’s presence, but in his redeemed state, God sees him as blameless and righteous. If you are in Christ then God sees you the same way.

9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the wickedly foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept calamity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.Job 2:9-10 (LSB) 

We must admire Job. His integrity is wrapped up tightly in his faithfulness to God. His wife wants him to give that up and end his misery. However, Job tells her that God has the right to give and take as He sees fit. In other words, God is the end of all things. He is sovereign and Job knows that it isn’t about himself, but it is all about God and His glory. Also, once again Job says that it is God who has done this to him, but it was not a sin for him to say this. So, when people say things opposed to this, by claiming that God is love and would never cause this sort of thing, we will not fall for that lie.

However, more importantly, we must grow in grace so that we can apprehend the mind of Christ. When God blesses us with discernment, wisdom and grants us repentance we will take on Christ’s character. We will have the joy of the Lord. We will be strong and faithful in the midst of the fires of tribulation.

Soli Deo Gloria!