Life Stinks, Then You Die

Out of all the classes that I took during my undergrad time at Oklahoma Baptist University, one of the most impactful was Basic Counseling Skills. I use what I learned in that class more than most of the others in my day to day life in vocational ministry.

One thing that was repeated over and over in that class was the fact that the counselor is supposed to listen intently and ask gentle questions that get deeper into the issue at hand. What you were not supposed to do was start projecting your beliefs onto the person you were counseling, much less berate them.

That seems like some pretty common sense in my opinion.

In the case of Job and his friends, Eliphaz did not have any common sense. Sure, he started well, by simply sitting with Job in his suffering. But then he had to go and open his mouth.

Today we’re talking about Job 4. If you want a crash course in how not to counsel someone in suffering, just read it. In the previous chapter, Job has poured out his heart to the Lord and within earshot of his friends. He bemoans his suffering and despairs of life itself. Then comes Eliphaz.

Eliphaz starts strong. He reminds Job of the ways that Job himself has been an encouragement and counselor to many, how he has strengthened the weak with his guidance (vv. 3-4).

Let’s jump down to verse seven. It’s Eliphaz’s crucial mistake in my opinion.

“Remember: who that was innocent ever perished?
    Or where were the upright cut off? – Job 4:7

This is the central tenant of Eliphaz’s argument (condemnation against Job really).

In his mind, the innocent never perish. The upright, morally upstanding men and women of the world never get cut off from the blessings and prosperity of the Lord.

Eliphaz’s world is black and white. Do good, get good. Do bad, get bad.

If we are brutally honest with ourselves, many of us basically adhere to such a version of Christianity in our own lives. We convince ourselves that God is ready to bless us when we’re in his Word and when we’re actively seeking His face in prayer. It gets messy though when we believe the opposite as well. That if we snooze six times and barely make it to work, skipping personal time with Him altogether, then we are going to face curses from the Lord.

This is the world of Eliphaz.

He looks at the immense suffering of his friend Job and jumps to the immediate conclusion that Job is at fault. Some secret sin in Job’s life has led to his entire world imploding.

If I was Job,

I’d have punched Eliphaz in the face.

Eliphaz had a high view of God, this can be seen through much of what he says in this first speech. Consider these verses with me.

By the breath of God they perish,
    and by the blast of his anger they are consumed. – Job 4:9

‘Can mortal man be in the right before God?
    Can a man be pure before his Maker? – Job 4:17 

Eliphaz believed that God was powerful, that His anger consumed the wicked, that His purity and holiness was such that no one could stand before Him. I would agree with all of these assertions.

But Eliphaz got it wrong when He jumped to the conclusion that only the wicked suffer.

That’s where Eliphaz’s argument begins to break down for me. He simultaneously says that all are unable to stand before God in purity and that all who are not pure before God are punished accordingly on earth.

His view is quite depressing actually.

When I was a kid, one of my friends would say basically all the time: “Life sucks, then you die.” I think he was mostly joking, but there’s some who deep down believe that version of viewing the world.

Bad things happen perpetually and consistently, and then you die.

I feel like this was the belief system of Eliphaz.

Look at how he concludes his first counseling session with Job.

Even in his servants he puts no trust,
    and his angels he charges with error;
how much more those who dwell in houses of clay,
    whose foundation is in the dust,
    who are crushed like the moth.
Between morning and evening they are beaten to pieces;
    they perish forever without anyone regarding it.
Is not their tent-cord plucked up within them,
    do they not die, and that without wisdom?’ – Job 4:18-21

That’s one of the more depressing things I’ve ever seen.

Eliphaz says God trusts no one. We are crushed like moths. We are beaten to pieces. We perish and die without anyone caring. We die without wisdom.

No hope.

No grace.

If you believe in a black and white world, you are forgetting the cross.

You see, we get to view the world from the other side of the cross.

We don’t get what we deserve.

Yes, the wicked seem to thrive while the righteous suffer.

But at the end of the day, Eliphaz was right. We’re not pure. We can’t stand before our Maker. We deserve punishment.

But we don’t get it.

Not in the way that we deserve.

Truly.

Now, again, this is not the words you say in direct response to someone’s first venting against God in the midst of suffering. If someone came to me in the hospital bed that I was laying in after my surgery and told me “I know you’re hurting, but at least you’re not in hell”, I would have not been very happy.

But this is what you can do if you have a family member or friend in the midst of suffering.

Listen and pray.

Listen.

And pray.

Don’t give a speech.

I know that the Lord works in the midst of suffering. He did so in my life (Why The Long Face?). Let Him do it in his own timing.

The world isn’t black and white for the Christian.

For the Christian, there is the cross.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

I Deserve Death

This phrase was not a part of my regular vernacular before I moved to Vernon. Sure, I knew that it was true according to Scripture, but it wasn’t something I spoke about often. But then a couple of my close friends started saying this pretty regularly. Sometimes in jest, but most often with a heart for being real about what the Bible says about us, which leads them to live with a sense of profound gratitude even in the midst of difficult circumstances.

As I have been moving through the book of Romans in my personal study time, I finally have come to the end of chapter one. And this final verse is a doozy.

and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. – Romans 1:32

This verse, which I’m focusing on today, immediately follows a list of sins (not an exhaustive list) that characterize those who have chosen to abandon their Creator and worship created things instead. You can go back and read Murder & Envy if you would like to hear my thoughts on that passage.

Anyway, here’s the indictment. Here’s what we deserve if we have committed any sin, for the preceding list covers a wide range of our sin struggles, great and small.

According to the truth of Scripture, we deserve death.

I, Nathan Roach, am a sinner. Daily I struggle with sin. God has said that apart from Christ I deserve death.

Here’s the fact of the matter. Not only do we as human beings sin against the righteous and just Lordship of Jesus, we know better. Earlier in Romans we see that all of mankind inherently knows that there is a God, and thus inherently knows what is good and what is bad (Romans 1:18, 21).

When you boil it down, our sin is cosmic treason.

God sits upon the throne in heaven. Right now I’m reading Revelation in my quiet time (don’t worry, I’m not charting or diagramming the end times) and although there is a bajillion different things in that book that I know absolutely nothing about, I have been encouraged and in awe of the way it proclaims the glory of God (Revelation 5 stunned me), the Lamb who was slain is worthy of power, riches, wisdom, might, honor, glory, and blessing (Revelation 5:12). It is against this God, this King, that we are committing treason every time we sin.

Every time.

You see, too often I view my sin as first and foremost transgressions against whomever I sinned against. So if I say something out of anger towards Jamie, I feel as if I’ve sinned against her, and so on.

But the reality is, our sin is cosmic treason in the face of the Creator of all things.

Every time we sin, we challenge and defy God’s right to reign over his creation and to impose obligations on us as creatures made in his image. – R.C. Sproul 

Our sin is a big deal.

Our sin results in us deserving death.

You know, that’s what makes the second part of this verse even more painful to read. Not only do wicked men know that death is what they deserve for celebrating and walking in lifestyles of sin, they also celebrate and approve those who do the same.

Isn’t that such a clear picture of much of what’s wrong in the world (it shouldn’t be surprising that God’s Word portrays the reality of the world we live in)? We rebel against God, and instead of repenting, we accept and celebrate and condone and praise those who walk in sin as well.

I’m plenty guilty of this.

Let’s take the sin of gossip and slander, of speaking about those who aren’t in the room. I hate this sin. I hate that it seeps into my life from time to time. I do my best to fight against it, but in my weakness I fall into it. Here’s the mental gymnastics I do. Instead of acknowledging that I have sinned against God by speaking about one of His image-bearers in an ungodly manner, I choose to say to myself ‘everybody does it, it’s okay if I fall into it too from time to time. Besides, it’s a small town, it’s just part of it.’

Gossip and slander may not seem like damnable offenses, but before a perfectly holy and just God, they are.

So not only do I know that death is the price for sin, I accept and celebrate those who sin as well.

Shame on me for the times I twist my own version of morality because I don’t want to be allegiant to the commands of the God who made all of this.

That’s why our culture condones sin. It eases the conscience and cosmic treason becomes communal. It’s easy to not feel guilty for something that is culturally acceptable.

This is where the chapter ends.

But thankfully it’s not where the book ends, nor is it where the story ends.

This bleak picture of our sin is where the gospel shines the brightest. We deserve death, but we have been purchased through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. We fail daily, but Christ lived a perfect life that we could not, and DIED THE DEATH WE DESERVE.

So as a follower of Jesus, I don’t have to worry about the eternal punishment of my sin. I am set free in Christ.

I have been saved by God in Christ. I daily seek to become more like Christ. I want to learn to love what he loves and hate what he hates.

I deserve death, but because of Christ, I don’t get it.

This is the message every person in our community needs to hear. Wherever you may be reading this, it is the message every person in your community needs to hear.

People are dying without the hope of Christ. They are receiving eternal death in hell. We must not be complacent. We must speak.