Paul vs Job Part 3: Lessons From Paul

So last week we looked at the lessons we can learn from Job about being in trial. This week, I’m sharing the lessons I feel we can learn from Paul.

1.  Bad things happen even when you’re doing God’s will:
I heard some say that bad things happen to those who are doing evil, but this is a fallen world, so bad things can happen to anyone.  The Bible talks about how the you can be persecuted for your faith.  Paul was one who was.  He was put in jail at least twice.  But Paul also talked of having some kind of medical problem he called a thorn in his side that he prayed would be removed.  God didn’t heal Paul, but instead said, “My grace is sufficient for you.”   Bad things happen even when we are doing God’s will for our lives.  Bad things also happen in the secular world even when we follow the rules.  Once my dh was fired even though he was doing a fabulous job for the owner of the company.  The owner just didn’t like that my dh was Mexican.  It caused our family severe financial hardship for a few years and we are not totally out of the woods yet, though God has always made a way for us and things are looking up financially.

2. There is always purpose to your life:
Paul had a purpose to (a calling on) his life that kept him busy even though he struggled with various trials.  I believe each one of us also has a purpose to or a calling on our lives.  And that purpose can get us through the struggles if our focus is on that purpose more than it is on our struggles.   Hard to do at times, but well worth it.

3. God sets NO limits on some of our trials:
Job’s trails were allowed to continue for a limited time.  Some of our trials may be more like Paul’s that last until the Lord calls us home.  I’ve had some of my chronic illnesses since I was a teen.  Others have been added unto me in my 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s and I don’t expect they will leave me this side of heaven.  Like Paul, I’ve had to deal with them for decades.  You may have had to deal with your trial(s) for a lifetime.  God does’t promise He will always heal, but He does promise to be there with us to see us through.

4. Paul shows us three qualities that are good to develop in life:
Paul was patient, persistent,  and courageous.  Those are three things that we would do well to develop because they are the three qualities I have found that help you get through a trial.  Struggles are so much more difficult when we are not patient to wait on the Lord’s timing.

We can often feel as if we should be healed or this crisis should have been over sooner, but the Lord may want to use the struggle we are in for a greater good.  If we are patient, we don’t fight against what is happening, but rather go with the flow and thus have less inner struggle to deal with while in trial.

Trials can often overwhelm us to the point where want to give up, but Paul shows us that persistence pays off in the end. We can do so much more if we keep going, keep doing what we can and know to be right.  Not that we won’t have thoughts of giving up, but that they will be momentary and allow us to keep moving forward.

Courage is what it takes to get through trials and struggles and Paul is a great example for us to follow-especially if those trials are long lived.

5. Paul was focused on God’s calling in his life.
Paul spent most of his time and energy on his calling.  He was laser focused on evangelism and ministry.  I believe this is THE most important thing we can learn from Paul about trials.  The more you struggle, the easier it is to be distracted from our purpose or calling.  That’s how Satan works.  He distracts us from doing God’s will by throwing a monkey wrench into our plans. One of those wrenches might have chronic illness on it and another might have financial troubles or neighbor problems…  The more laser focused we can be on our mission, the less focused we are on our problems and the smaller they will seem.

6. How to be content in any situation
In Philippians 4:11-13, Paul writes, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in an and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through him who gives me strength.

Paul’s contentment seems to come from strength he found in God. His patience, persistence, and courage came from having faith and relying on the Lord for everything.  He had faith that God knew what was best and that His timing was perfect.  That acceptance, I believe, allowed Paul not to fight against his circumstances and just plow through the tasks he was charged with.

7. Paul was eternity focused  not self focused
Finally, I believe that Paul’s contentment and joy in the Lord despite trials was easier because he was focused on the bigger picture.  If you’ve ever had a baby, especially without benefit of pain meds, you know that probably the only reason you were able to get through that as well as you did was because you were focused on the precious child you were about to be blessed with.  Pain of that caliber is too great to endure without meds without some goal in mind.

Paul was focused on eternity with Jesus much more than on the issues he faced day to day.  In my own experience, I find that I can get through the irritating, frustrating, painful, and tiring overwhelm much better if I keep my eye on the prize: the mission He gave me, eternity in heaven.

 

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Paul vs Job Part 2: Lessons of Job

You might be asking yourself why I’m starting with Job when the title says Paul vs Job.  The answer is simple.  Much more is written about Job and suffering than is written about Paul so it’s going to take me more time to gain a bit of insight into the lessons Paul has for those who struggle and, since it’s my blog…[sticks tongue out]

So, Job…

There are many lessons we can discern from the book of Job. I think there are several that relate to trials.

1.  Bad things happen to good people:
Though many well-meaning Christians will tell you that your trial and all struggles are due to unrepentant sin, this is simply not biblical.  Job is a prime example of that.  He was a man after God’s own heart whom God allowed to be tested.  Like Job, many of us haven’t done anything that deserves a lifetime of health issues.  Some of us were born with them. Would you say that an unborn baby sinned in the womb?  Probably not.  Sometimes bad things just happen to good people. After all, it’s a fallen world.  Bad things can happen because there is disease in a fallen world or because people who choose to do evil have the freedom to act on it: a drunk driver hits a child causing life-long disabilities. As they say, Stuff Happens.

2. God is always with us:
When in trial, especially when that trial lingers on and becomes chronic, we can feel so very alone.  However, just because we struggle doesn’t meant God has abandoned us.  He is always there to hear our prayers and support us even if our well-meaning, Christian friends can’t.  When a friend tells us we are in pain because we sinned, God tells us we are His child.

3. There is always hope:
Job teaches us that there is always hope.  God may do a miracle in your life and turn around even a long-lived struggle.  After many years of financial struggle, you may start a business that supports your family quite well! In fact, hope may come in the form of making you better off than you were before the trial!  Job was given much more than he was aloud to lose.  I know from personal experience that God has always put my family in a better situation than the one we found ourselves in prior to a financial struggle.  We aren’t millionaires by any stretch of the imagination, but we are in a better financial position than we were a few years ago when my husband was working at the church for minimum wage.  We now have an opportunity to build our business to a point where it supports our family even if he never finds another employer.

4. God Limits Some of Our Trials:
Job’s trails were alowed to continue for a limited time.  Some of our trials, though they may be several months or even several years, may have an expiration date as was the case with Job.

5. We are to be humble:
Job was willing to accept the trials even though he didn’t understand why God had allowed them into his life.  In being humbled enough to accept trials, I think that made God happy.  When one of our children isn’t allowed to do something they want to do, we are blessed when they simply accept that it is ultimately for their own good somehow–even when they can’t see why.

6. God understands when we sin in the midst of struggles:
Job got frustrated with his trials and his friends gave him poor support and advice that wasn’t biblical.  Whether we are in the trial or are trying to help someone in trial, we can sin.  God understands this and is willing to forgive us when we ask for forgiveness because we are sinners.  God knows this and is a kind and understanding Father as we would be with our children if they did wrong and came to us asking forgiveness.

7. We may never know why:
Job never understood why God allowed all the struggles in his life.  Sometimes we may have a glimpse into why He allows us to go through trials, but other times we may never know.  I think I know why God allowed me to go through a few of the health issues I had to endure.

Because of a series of health issues, procedures were done and surgeries were necessary. After one surgery, they found a very aggressive and rare cancer in its infancy.  I wouldn’t be alive today if I hadn’t undergone all of that.  I also wouldn’t have an amazing testimony that may reach others.

However, I’ve gone through many other struggles for which I have no reasons.  I just need to trust that God is working all for my good because that’s who He is.

8. Acceptance leads to trust and faith:
Job accepted what God had allowed in his life.  He trusted God to do what He wanted in his life, and he had a faith in the Lord.  I’m not sure how Job came to this faith, but I know how I did.  It’s not easy to accept a trial, especially when it has gone on for what seems like forever. However, once you get to the point where you can accept, you will find it much easier to trust that God is with you.  This leads to a stronger faith, I find, in future trials.

Can you think of any other lessons from Job that help us in trials? Please comment.

 

 

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Paul vs Job Series Part 1: Differences

I’ve always been frustrated by well-meaning Christians who quote Job when someone is struggling in trial.  It frustrates me mostly because I remember being deep in trial, overwhelmed, and frustrated at something that had been going on for years and would continue for the foreseeable future. My chronic health issues are incurable.  They can be managed (and at present, they are managed fairly well), but they are not something I expect will go away.  In fact, the older I get, the more difficult they become.

So, when someone quoted Job to me, I felt even more frustrated because my struggles weren’t comparable to Job’s because God restored Job.  It doesn’t appear He will restore me.  Job’s struggles had an expiration date.  Mine don’t.  Most of you reading this will relate to that.  There is a difference between going through a trial (or even many trials) for a short time and ones that last so long your only relief is the other side of heaven.

In thinking about the differences between temporary trails and permanent ones, I began to realize that there is a huge difference between Paul and Job.  That prompted me to look deeper and what I found is that there are different comforts and lessons in each.  I’ll be sharing about that in later weeks, but for now, I’d like to share the stark contrast between Paul and Job.

Job: Old Testament                                                   Paul: New Testament

Job: Didn’t really know God                                 Paul: Knew God and Jesus well

Job: Before the Trial: Righteous                        Paul: Persecuted/Self-Righteous

Job: Questioned God and Complained         Paul: Never complained

Job: Got all back and more                                  Paul: Never healed

Job: Honored by others                                        Paul: Mistreated/Jailed

Job: Family oriented                                               Paul: Ministry oriented

Job: Blamed God for his troubles                   Paul: Praised God for trials

Job: Example of Trusting God                          Paul: Example of a Leader

Job: Man after God’s own heart                      Paul: My Grace is Sufficient for you

Job: Friend’s mocked him                                  Paul: Friends comforted him

Job: Lost children, wife mocked him            Paul: We don’t know

Job: Had lots of issues but short-lived         Paul: Fewer issues, but long-lived

Job: After had honor and wealth                   Paul: Poor/Jailed

Job: Surrounded by “friends”                         Paul: Alone, but supportive letters

I had never considered this idea before but found it fascinating how drastically different these two men were. It’s interesting how different their lives were and how different their faith was.  What other differences can you find between the two men?

 

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Paul vs Job Series Begins

Introduction: Paul vs Job

You’ve probably had someone reply to your plea for support with a platitude or a quote from Job that went something like, “This too shall pass.”  When you’re trial has lasted over seven years or you’ve been living with an incurable illness for over 30 or 40 years, it doesn’t help to hear that Job was blessed with even more than he had before Satan was allowed to take his wealth, health, and loved ones away.  How long was Job’s suffering?  It wasn’t a lifetime, but yours might be.  I know mine has been.

It never gave me peace to hear about how Job’s health and wealth and family were restored to him.  I mean, I was happy for him. I’m happy for all who have suffered and been blessed, but it never helped me to know that OTHERS’ trials had ended or that they were short-lived. Just like it never satisfied me financially to know that someone else had built a million dollar business while I was struggling to pay rent or find quarters in the First National Couch with which to go food shopping.  I was happy for them, but it didn’t help me.

Then one day I realized that it was because I wasn’t a Job. I was a Paul.  Many of us are Pauls.  Many of us struggle with things for a lifetime or at least a long time.  Some of us had learned to find joy despite the trials, but others hadn’t.  I wondered what it was about Paul that allowed him to find joy in the words, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

I decided to look for a study of just how Paul found the joy he spoke of in the midst of so much turmoil.  I searched for a devotional about the difference between Job’s trials and Paul’s.  I couldn’t find one.  Several of my friends suggested that I write one.  Well, I didn’t feel qualified to do such a thing.  So for years I just kept looking.

Then one day, two church friends found me at a book sale looking for just such a book.  When I explained what I was looking for, they both suggested that I write one.  Again, I told them I didn’t feel qualified to undertake such a task, but they both replied that many people didn’t feel qualified and that God qualifies those whom he calls.   Well, I still don’t feel I have enough biblical knowledge to undertake such a monumental assignment, but I do feel God calling me to write about it.

So I will be writing a blog article series on the differences between Paul and Job. I will be sharing my research, my findings, and my own experiences finding joy in the dark places.  I really have no idea where this is going, but I do feel the Lord leading me to follow this path to wherever it takes me.

I invite you to share your comments and experiences along the way and I hope it blesses each of my readers.

 

 

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