encouraging the sick January 9 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading: Job 15, 16, 17, 18

Encourage, Don't Discourage

People may mean well, but when we are in trouble or are suffering great pain, we don't want them to come and cheer us up by having all the answers, accusing us of wrong, or criticizing us. We want our burdens to be lifted. We want to be encouraged. We want the benefit of the doubt. If we have done wrong, we know we have done wrong. In the times of our sickness we don't need someone to righteously point that out with an accusing finger. Hospital staff and doctors do not want relatives or friends to come in and hinder a patient's health by causing emotional distress. However, whether there are hospital staff members present or not, we know we should be a help and not a hindrance to someone's healing and recovery.

Job was a patriarch of faith, living approximately at the time of Abraham (more...). God was proud of Job's righteousness. In order to embarrass God, Satan sought permission to tempt Job into cursing Him. God allowed it. Suddenly, in just one day, Job lost his family (except his wife), his business, his wealth, and even his respect. Finally, on another day shortly thereafter, Job lost his health, suffering from painful boils. Job's friends came to him with a good motive - to encourage their friend. Job received them, but to Job's dismay his friends quickly became his worst critics. Job was suffering physically, and was depressed and dismayed, but because Job lamented his circumstances to God and asked him to stop torturing him, his friends tried to defend God and condemn Job. All of his “counselors” told Job that sin was the cause of his calamity. They accused Job of pride, self-deceit, and even hinted that he was somehow evil.

Eliphaz the Temanite, like the others, argues that Job's fine speeches are just hot air. He says, “You even undermine piety and hinder devotion to God. Your sin prompts your mouth; you adopt the tongue of the crafty,” (Job 15:4-5, NIV).

Eliphaz takes offense at Job for not accepting their wisdom. Though Job is their elder, he claims they are also wise. His friends argue on and on that Job has done evil, and that is why God has abandoned him. After all, they reason, isn't that the way God has always worked? Both Eliphaz and Bildad gang up on Job and even hint that he is an unbeliever, a godless and wicked person. They say,

For the company of the godless will be barren, and fire will consume the tents of those who love bribes. They conceive trouble and give birth to evil; their womb fashions deceit, (Job 15:34-35, NIV).

Men of the west are appalled at his fate; men of the east are seized with horror. Surely such is the dwelling of an evil man; such is the place of one who knows not God, (Job 18:20-21, NIV).

What is the proper response to suffering? Job gives us his answer:

Then Job replied: “I have heard many things like these; miserable comforters are you all! Will your long-winded speeches never end? What ails you that you keep on arguing? I also could speak like you, if you were in my place; I could make fine speeches against you and shake my head at you. But my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief.” (Job 16:1-5, NIV)

Do we bring relief to those who are suffering or add to their burden and distress?

Job's response to his personal suffering is not to deny his sufferings but to retain righteousness and hope. Job says in chapter 16:15-17,

I have sewed sackcloth over my skin and buried my brow in the dust. My face is red with weeping, deep shadows ring my eyes; yet my hands have been free of violence and my prayer is pure, (NIV).

In an intuitive way, Job knows that he has an intercessor in heaven with God that will plea his case, even though Jesus Christ, God's Son, had not yet been revealed to the world. Job expresses his hope:

Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend, (Job 16:19-21, NIV).

Today we know that Jesus Christ is our intercessor before God. Hebrews 7:25-26 says,

Therefore he [Jesus Christ] is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest [Jesus Christ] meets our need-- one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens, (NIV).

Do you know God? Jesus can give you forgiveness, peace, spiritual life, and be your intercessor before God (more...).

Job does not know if God will deliver him from suffering but supposes that he will not. Nevertheless, Job shows us another response to suffering that is most helpful. He says,

My eyes have grown dim with grief; my whole frame is but a shadow. Upright men are appalled at this; the innocent are aroused against the ungodly. Nevertheless, the righteous will hold to their ways, and those with clean hands will grow stronger,” (Job 17:7-9, NIV).

Those who are oppressed but live a life of righteousness, putting their trust in the Lord, are stronger than those who do not. Indeed Job's resolve is stronger than his friends, for he invites his friends to try again to break him, since they are so wise.

Lessons to live by:

•  Be a help and not a hindrance to someone's healing and recovery.

•  Use your mouth to encourage those who are sick or in trouble. May the comfort from your lips bring relief and not distress to the afflicted.

•  If you are suffering, do not deny it, but retain your righteousness and hope in God.

•  Do you know God? (more...). If you do, Jesus Christ is not only the Son of God, he is your friend and intercessor. He understands all about your suffering and pain. People sometimes disappoint us. Look to God for strength and help in your time of need.

Today's Bible Memory Verses:

Job 16:19-21

Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend, (NIV).

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