Tag Archives: Bible study

The Innocent Suffering of Job

Since last August, I’ve been leading our Sunday School class in a discussion of Job. I didn’t think we’d take it chapter by chapter, almost verse by verse, but we have. My expectations were set by my casual reading of a difficult book. Reading this ancient poem on my own is almost fruitless and fairly boring. It’s much more rewarding to go through it with a reliable guide. Everything I’ve learned has been through Christopher Ash’s commentary, which is just as readable as I had heard (recommending with two links).

Perhaps the difficulty of reading through this long, dialogic poem is the reason so many of us don’t get its central message. We bog down in the long-winded complaints and accusations, coming away only with the idea that God can run over anyone he wants and make it all right again in the end. But the tension point of Job’s argument is one we still miss when trying to apply God’s Word to our own or other people’s lives—that Job is completely innocent.

The first couple chapters present to us a man who is “blameless and upright, who fear[s] God and turn[s] away from evil.” That’s how his character is summarized for us upfront, and God repeats that description (2:3). Job is brought to the point of death “without reason.”

No matter what other questions we have about that, we have one truth to apply to our lives—innocent suffering exists.

Many people naturally believe that just about all suffering has a reason that can be avoided. The pain in our lives can be avoided by the proper regimen of diet, respectable living, and sound thinking. If you find yourself in pain or hardship, you’ve either caused it yourself or God is judging you for something. Seek the Lord, these people will say, so that you can learn what you need to learn in order to get out of this trial. Because the trial is unnatural. The trial is not how God intends your normal life. Suffering doesn’t just happen.

But Job tells us it does.  Continue reading The Innocent Suffering of Job

Joy Beyond Agony by Jane Roach

Jane Roach has written a strong, deeply moving study of Christ Jesus and the cross that I hope becomes the talk of many congregations. Joy Beyond Agony: Embracing the Cross of Christ, new this year from P&R Publishing, takes twelve lessons to dig into the immeasurable wealth of Christ Jesus’ character and his work on the cross.

For readers who don’t skip the introduction, Roach encourages us to set goals for our Bible study in order to clarify our intentions and pray that the Lord will help us meet them. “Lurking behind our goals and best efforts are our past failures in keeping up with them,” she explains. Part of that failure may be simply leaving our goals undefined and consequently unfulfilled. “We find ourselves captive to empty pursuits that gobble up precious time,” she says. If we identify those pursuits or the time slots they fill, we will be better able to replace them, and then we’ll see the spiritual growth we’ve been hoping to see.

In the study itself, she leads readers through a full 360 review of the cross and its implications for us. In one lesson: “How can God’s gracious promises come true for guilty people? How can the Holy One of Israel bless sinful people?” In another lesson, she walks through Jesus’ seven “I am” statements, such as “I am the bread of life,” to reveal the character of one who hung on that cross.

With prayers, faith stories, insightful questions, and personal instruction, Roach has written a beautiful study on the joy that was set before our Lord.

In one story, a woman with cancer describes how her church communities poured out their love for her. “The more kindness I was shown, the more frustrated I became, and the more frustrated I grew with myself for being so ungrateful. When I finally put words to my frustration, I realized I was angry that I was utterly undeserving. . . . I must–there is no other way–I must abandon my pride and self-reliance and cling to his cross and his mercy.”

I hope Joy Beyond Agony will be able to drive home that one glorious idea to thousands of American Evangelical families this year and next, so that we will know the joy of Christ far more intimately than anything in this world.

Wilson Interview on New Book, Abide

Jared Wilson has a Bible study called Abide: Practicing Kingdom Rhythms in a Consumer Culture and answers a few questions about it here. Here’s a bit from the first part of the interview:

Your book has much to say about the influence that our consumer culture has upon us as Christians. How would you describe its impact upon the being and doing of today’s evangelical church? In other words, is the influence of consumer culture hindering us from being the church, and, if so, how?

Yes, consumer culture has enormous impact on the evangelical church, and the “root” way it hinders us from being the church is how it appeals to and feeds our innate self-centeredness. Consumer culture urges us to see ourselves at the center of the universe. From self-service to self-help, everything about consumer culture makes convenience, quickness, and comfort idols that are difficult not to worship. And of course the more self-centered we are, the less inclined we’ll be to see the great need of experiencing the gospel community of the church. And consumer culture affects the “doing” of the church, as well, which is fairly evident in the way many churches not only don’t subvert consumerism but actually orient around it and cater to it. From some of the more egregious forms of marketing to the way church services are designed to the way many preachers prepare the messages, the chief concern appears to be to keep the customers satisfied.