LESSONS ON COMFORTING FROM JOB’S FRIEND

“When Job’s three friends…heard about all the troubles that had come upon Job, they set out from their homes…to go and sympathize with him…When they saw him from a distance…they began to weep aloud…Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was” (Job 2:11-13). His friends gave four comforting gifts:

  1. “Then they sat…for seven days and seven nights.” What kindness. When the scenery switched from green pastures to the shadow of death, the psalmist said, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” God does not usually answer the “why” questions, but He comes with His presence.

Suffering often makes God feel distance. In truth He is never closer, showing His bias for the broken. Presence trumps preaching. Be there.

  1. They employed their eyes, not their mouths. “Whey they saw him…, they saw how great his suffering was.” They had nothing to say, so they didn’t.

 

Their silence gave Job courage to share his dark soul. He spoke only after seven days of quiet, which says something about the reluctance of hurting people to share honestly.

  1. “They began to weep aloud…” We won’t need them in the new earth, so don’t save them up. When Karen was grieving the loss of our child shortly before birth and in labor, I heard her on the phone saying to her brother, “Thank you for crying with me.”
  1. A week of silence is an incredibly generous gift. Grieving people need time—patient friends grant it. Time with tears speaks love.

What threw them off? For openers, Job cursed his birth day (3:1). Then he accused God of hedging him in. The reactions were not close to kind. They corrected Job’s faulty theology.  Warning: suffering people ask basic questions. Grief, accompanied by anger and fear, throws us off equilibrium.

If you need to defend God’s reputation, plan to ruin yours. Trust me: it was not time to get Job back on sound doctrine. And prophecies of hope do not lift those experiencing the dark night of the soul. Take comfort in the words from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

SUFFERING AND GLORY

It’s not the happy times that mess with us. It’s the suffering that threatens to derail us. Nowhere in Paul’s writings does he rise to the heights of Romans 8. And in this very context he teaches on suffering. For Paul, pain-free Christianity is an oxymoron.

He is telling us what it means to be a son rather than a slave. It includes freedom from condemnation (v. 1), victory (12), guidance (14), adoption (15), and an inheritance (17). Then whammo! The massive word “if.” Bummer:  “…if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (17b).

We usually don’t put suffering and glory in the same sentence. Paul does—twice. If you want to understand what he learned, look at Romans 8. Go through pain not with resignation but with the sound of victory. It is not seeker-sensitive; it is Christ-sensitive. Here goes:

Our suffering is His suffering. We over-personalize suffering. The next step–make ourselves victims. Though Paul suffered greatly, we hear nothing resembling a victim mentality. He even speaks of “the fellowship of his sufferings.”  If you are fastened too much on your cross, you’re not focused enough on His.

 

Present suffering enhances future glory. Paul put all his marbles in the age to come. He said, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (18). No “poor me” attitude. He contrasted trials to the coming glory and called them “light and momentary troubles” (2 Cor. 4:17). See your sorrows in the shadow of forever and they diminish!

Our groans for redemption matches the cry of creation. We share a common bondage, the hope of reversing decay. Paul told the Corinthians that “we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling” (2 Cor. 5:2).  The kingdom is now—and not yet.  Good news—the Spirit understands and prays for us (26). And get this—so does Jesus. Could we build a more impressive prayer team?!

Nothing is wasted, and certainly not pain. Meaningless misery prolongs agony. Purposeful pain enhances steadfastness. Paul says, “We know…” That knowledge gives us hope: “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (28). Upgrade your confidence in God’s sovereign work, right in the thick of your pain. And that “good” is making us look more like the Beloved Son.

Pain does not separate us from God’s love. We sometimes interpret pain as the God’s absence. In truth, it makes God’s love stronger. Paul references disasters like persecution or the sword and concludes, “That cannot separate us.” Then he lists the greatest enemies, including demons and death, concluding with the same triumphant spirit, that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (39).

A victim says, “I’d be happy if it weren’t for these trials .” A victor says, “Those are the things that made me who I am.” Everything counts! Do I hear a halleluia?!

TAKE YOUR PICK:  A HARVEST OR A HAMBURGER

Jesus had a great day in Sychar.  An encounter turned into an intervention. Linking up with God and touching people with His love is deeply satisfying. Jesus compared it to eating.  He said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4:34). He concentrated on one thing—hearing and heeding. Obeying God was like the satisfaction of eating a good meal.

What is your food?  The disciples were hungry.  When they returned, they found that Jesus had already eaten.  His food was obedience to the Father.  Genuine needs can distract us from higher pleasures. Their hamburgers satisfied them for a few hours.  Jesus’ food lasted for days as the harvesting continued. The woman was thirsty for love, and she was drinking from the wrong well. Once she tasted what Jesus had to offer, she was hooked.  But the disciples couldn’t help her, because they had food on their mind. She had husbands on hers. Jesus had harvest on his.
When we are driven by needs, we may not see the potential God is setting before us. Here is a woman starving for love. And here are twelve disciples starving for a lunch.  And here is Jesus, hungry to please God.  He makes the connection to the love-starved woman, surprising the disciples who had hunger pangs satisfied but missed a bigger meal.

What is your focus?  Where are you looking?  Are you hunting for some fast food?  Does the need of sleep or solace or a sandwich so occupy your attention that you don’t see the Samaritan? Do you want to meet your needs or the needs of others?  Nothing wrong with needs—we all have them. But who is more in need, you or they?  What has captured your attention?

When you go to the grocery store, whom do you see?  Are your neighbors next door invisible, or can you see them?  Sometimes special people groups are particularly invisible—like the elderly or children?  In that culture, the Jews could not see the Samaritans, especially women, and especially an immoral one. The Samaritan woman was invisible to the disciples. Not to Jesus.

Are you expecting God to use you for a divine appointment at work?  Jesus was always ready for an encounter—and He had plenty of them.  He could see a single lamb in a flock of them.  He could see a lonely face in a crowd.  Would you like to have some divine appointments?  Learn to listen to the Father like Jesus did.

About the harvest, Jesus said, “Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’?  I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields!  They are ripe for harvest” (John 4:35).

Some pray for revival but don’t expect it. Others are a revival and see it. Some say, “Four months…” Jesus says, “Open your eyes. It’s happening.”

We may have reasons for missing the revival: I have too many things going on. I am not experienced in revivals. I have a meeting to go to. I am booked. I have a plane to catch. For the disciples, it was simply time to eat. For the priest and Levite who missed another Samaritan, it may have been important religious duties.

The issue is not food. It is the will and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote, “We are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do” (I Cor. 8:8). It is wrong to fast when it is time to feast.

Jesus did not put down the disciples for getting food. I wonder if one of them wanted to say, “I would rather stay here with Jesus.” He would have had a great meal!

TIME TO CHANGE THE WEDDING

If they had a wedding song in Bible days, it would be, “Here Comes the Bridegroom.” The bride was sequestered in her home, waiting for the big day. The bridegroom came at midnight with his happy band as she waited in anticipation with virgin maidens.

When the shout went out, it signaled his advance. She was kidnapped, taken to the home he had been preparing, and the celebration began. Talk about romance! Let’s give the groom more prominence. It’s been all about the bride.

A wedding recently took a step in that direction. He walked down to some well-chosen triumphant music that gave the impression a warrior prince was on the way. Then she came with her father to another well-selected piece of music. It would even be more charged with exalted emotion if the groom met her halfway and waited while the father gave a five-minute message on the virtues of his daughter before turning her over to the groom, who would walk her the rest of the way.

Then the pastor for the message would also highlight the character of the groom and bride. We trust that they have already studied the passages on marriage and read the good books. They do not need another teaching, and they probably can hardly listen anyway! Speaking to their character encourages character, not only in the couple but in all who are attending. It also strengthens a culture of honor. This is a special time to affirm the couple for the good choices they have made and the fruit of the Spirit they demonstrate.

I have been watching brides go crazy for years, spending big bucks, using the latest best idea for decorations, then acknowledging afterward, “It went so fast.” I’ve told couples, “If you can handle the horrendous wedding preparations, you deserve to be married.” Some brides have said, “I would definitely simplify if I had it to do again.” Now you’re talking, Sister!

Couples are being invited into a wedding tradition several thousand years old. Too over-spend distracts from the solemnity of the occasion. And it does not set a good precedent for the bride or her father to go into debt as Act One of their new life together.

Spend what you have, not what you think you want. Brides, you are not competing for the BWY (Bedding Wedding Yet). Reduce the number of attendants. Only one signs the marriage certificate. Borrow a wedding dress. You’ll only wear it once. Or buy a nice one and sell it afterwards on E-bay. Finger-food potlucks ease the budget. Relatives and friends would be happy to contribute. Or invite people to bring a big dish in lieu of a gift. It’s been done.

Forget the “save the date” postcard. Use email. Drop the expensive party favors and gifts to the wedding party. Too many details to take care of. Let’s change the culture and keep people out of debt and insanity. Let the groom’s side of the family pay half. At the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, the Father of the Bridegroom is paying the bill. And that one will be extravagant! (So yours doesn’t need to be).

One other matter: couples think that when they get engaged, they should be able to spend more time together. Not true. The purpose of the engagement is to guarantee you’re showing up on the wedding day. Now it’s time to get ready for the life together. That might mean working two jobs in order to buy and fix up a home. The more time an engaged couple spends together, the greater the temptation to step over the line. “Don’t arouse love before its time.” If you are spending four evenings a week together, you are asking for trouble. Pace yourself. Love can wait; lust cannot.

Think Jesus. He went to prepare a place for us. The next great event is His return and the Wedding Supper. Betrothed couples in Bible days made preparations for a good marriage rather than spending every waking moment together. That can reduce the chance of a successful marriage. They were planning a life, not a one-night celebration.

Typically, the father would tell the son when he had done sufficient preparation of the home to bring the new bride to. In like manner, no one knows the day when Jesus will return, not even the Son. When the Father says, “Behold, all things are now ready,” the Son will come on a white horse, dressed in His white robe, golden sash, eyes blazing with fire and face shining like the sun, with His army of glorious attendants (Rev. 1:13,14). He’s coming for His Bride. What a wedding!

DEALING WITH THE RATS – PART III

I put some garbage in the trash. Then we left on vacation. It was not emptied, and when we returned it had sprung to life—with maggots.

The underworld is more putrid than the foulest pile of manure. Demons are sometimes called unclean spirits.The Greek word for “unclean” is “akathartos,” the opposite of “katharos”—clean, pure.  A katharsis is a cleansing experience. In medical terminology, it is a purging, especially of the bowels.

Sin is garbage. The more sin the more garbage. Isaiah described the children of Israel in his day as “a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers.” He wrote, “From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness—only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil” (Is. 1:4,6).

Garbage attracts rats. Some of us invite demons, who feed on garbage like rats, the garbage of unconfessed sin or negative emotions (fear, unforgiveness, anger, depression). We shouldn’t leave garbage around, because it attracts the very varmints we want to stay clear from. Persistent sin creates a pile of garbage.

One of the names for the chief of the demons at the time of Christ was Baalzebub, which means lord of flies. Interesting, since garbage attracts flies even before the rats start coming. Jesus applied the name Beelzebub to Satan.

Sin is both choice and bondage. There comes a point where we cannot choose the right way even if we want to. We become slaves of the one we obey (Rom. 6:16). Paul urged the Roman believers to “make no provision for the flesh,” with the assumption that to do so weakened their ability to overcome the enemy. Jesus’ strong response to Satan after Peter recommended an alternative to the cross showed how close the work of the flesh is to the activity of the devil.

Some have garbage that was dumped on them by others, victims of abuse. It is sad but true that the sins of parents are visited upon the children. Rats often work in gangs. Misery does love company. Once a door has been opened, entrance is more possible by other intruders.

When we picture garbage, we may think of sins like adultery or fornication. But more inward sins like resentment invite demons too. One of the common sins that opens the door is unforgiveness.

When we realize that we have garbage, we want to remove it quickly. We don’t want it left even one night. Paul wrote, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,” and he followed it, “And do not give the devil a foothold” (Eph. 4:26,27). Allowing garbage to remain on the premises is like issuing an invitation to rats.

Anger like manna if left overnight turns rancid. Some of the Israelites disobeyed the instructions from Moses. They “kept part of it [manna] until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell” (Ex. 16:20).

Gehenna (“ge”—valley; Hinnom), the Hinnom Valley to the immediate south of Jerusalem served as the city garbage dump. Jesus saw it as a fitting picture of hell, and prophets in the Old Testament drew this parallel (Jer. 7:32). When the NIV uses the word hell in the gospels, it is actually the word “Gehenna“ or garbage dump. Jesus, quoting from Isaiah, describes Gehenna as a place where “their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mk. 9:48). The word “worm” here is the word for “maggot.” The fire is not quenched because fires were always smoldering in the dump. Hell is the ultimate garbage dump. No one in hell will want to be there.

 

Jesus came to deal with garbage and with rats. John wrote that “the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (I Jn. 3:8). He accomplished this by dying on the cross. When we apply the blood, He will “purify us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn. 1:9).  By the blood we overcome Satan (Rev. 12:11). Confession serves as a act of aggression against the enemy, who is helpless against the blood.

Deliverance chases out the rats. Demons have permission to stay, either when they have been passively invited by non-resistance, when armor has been left off, or when involvement with gods or the occult gave them access. The purpose of deliverance is to take away their rights or what they feed on. When this is done, they often go without a fight.

Deliverance includes helping people get rid of garbage through receiving and extending forgiveness. Those who need deliverance must take an active role, because deliverance means going on the offensive. When Jesus came, He immediately went on the offensive. Passive people were rebuked for lack of faith. Clearing out the garbage also means evicting the rats in the name of the One before whom rats tremble—Jesus!

DELIVERANCE (A CASE STUDY) – PART II

A CASE STUDY

(I have included a deliverance experience to give an example of how it might happen.)

Preparation:  It was important to set a proper stage for our meeting.  I asked the young lady if she was comfortable with having a friend present along with her pastor, which she was. Working in tandem enables one to be interceding while the other is at work. The pastor wanted to grow in deliverance ministry.

I asked her if she was comfortable with where people were situated.  I also asked her if she felt safe if at any time we prayed for her with hands on her head or shoulders.  She was. Some are not. I instructed her that I may at times be speaking not to her but to demon powers, commanding them to leave, and that if my voice grew slightly louder, it was not because I was angry at her but at the demons.

I opened with a prayer of cleansing and protection.  I declared that we were under the protection of the Lord of glory, that we believed in the blood of Christ, that we stood in our authority in Him, and that we would allow no interference of any kind from the enemy.

Diagnosis:  We listened to her story and observed her as she spoke.  It was a case of physical abuse over an extended period of time.  It was difficult for her to look at me.  She was filled with shame and her eyes were glazed. I periodically asked questions for clarification.  This took perhaps twenty minutes.

Garbage collecting:  I asked her how she felt about the people who abused her.  She said, “Full of anger.”  She was so angry that she could hardly talk about it. I was looking for overwhelming emotions that might indicate demonic assault.  I did not assume demonic involvement even after hearing her story and seeing her depression.

I told her that I understood if it would be hard for her to forgive those who had violated her, but I shared with her from Matthew 18 why it was essential for her healing and deliverance.  She said, “I can’t.”  We took twenty minutes or more talking about forgiveness, pleading with her to let go of her rage.

When she finally agreed to take the step, I explained that forgiveness did not mean that we felt forgiveness or that we were releasing people from responsibility.  We were simply releasing them into the hands of a just and merciful God, so that we could be freed from the bondage to our painful past. She could not physically speak out, “I forgive them.”  It took a long time before the words could be articulated.

As soon as they were, freedom began to come.  Then she was able to confess her own rage, self-pity, hostility toward others, withdrawal from life, and desire to end it all.  It certainly appeared that her unforgiveness had turned her over to the tormenters (Matthew 18:34). Derek Prince, author of several books on deliverance, says that unforgiveness is the single greatest cause of demonic assault.

I spoke out her confession of forgiveness:  “We release those who have hurt her to the hands of God.  We release her from emotional bondage to them.  We cut her off from the impact of unforgiveness.  And we invite the blood of Jesus to forgive her for her negative reaction to these tragic events.  We speak cleansing from guilt and shame.”  I also prayed an extended prayer of inner healing.

By now (perhaps ninety minutes into our meeting), her eyes and her speech were clearer.  There was no overt physical manifestation of demon expulsion, but it appeared that she had been delivered in the process of forgiveness. I then spoke a deliverance prayer to make sure:  “I command any demons that have invaded this body to leave now and not to return.  Demons of anger and depression—out, right now!” (We attempt to discern what demons have invaded and evict them).  I led her in the baptismal affirmation:  “I renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways.”  And I led her to confess her faith in Jesus Christ and His blood.

Closing:  I spoke with her and with the pastor about the need and method of building up the broken down fence so she could stay free.  I suggested some daily spiritual exercises that would help her walk in freedom.

A CASE STUDY

(I have included a deliverance experience to give an example of how it might happen.)

Preparation:  It was important to set a proper stage for our meeting.  I asked the young lady if she was comfortable with having a friend present along with her pastor, which she was. Working in tandem enables one to be interceding while the other is at work. The pastor wanted to grow in deliverance ministry.

I asked her if she was comfortable with where people were situated.  I also asked her if she felt safe if at any time we prayed for her with hands on her head or shoulders.  She was. Some are not. I instructed her that I may at times be speaking not to her but to demon powers, commanding them to leave, and that if my voice grew slightly louder, it was not because I was angry at her but at the demons.

I opened with a prayer of cleansing and protection.  I declared that we were under the protection of the Lord of glory, that we believed in the blood of Christ, that we stood in our authority in Him, and that we would allow no interference of any kind from the enemy.

Diagnosis:  We listened to her story and observed her as she spoke.  It was a case of physical abuse over an extended period of time.  It was difficult for her to look at me.  She was filled with shame and her eyes were glazed. I periodically asked questions for clarification.  This took perhaps twenty minutes.

Garbage collecting:  I asked her how she felt about the people who abused her.  She said, “Full of anger.”  She was so angry that she could hardly talk about it. I was looking for overwhelming emotions that might indicate demonic assault.  I did not assume demonic involvement even after hearing her story and seeing her depression.

I told her that I understood if it would be hard for her to forgive those who had violated her, but I shared with her from Matthew 18 why it was essential for her healing and deliverance.  She said, “I can’t.”  We took twenty minutes or more talking about forgiveness, pleading with her to let go of her rage.

When she finally agreed to take the step, I explained that forgiveness did not mean that we felt forgiveness or that we were releasing people from responsibility.  We were simply releasing them into the hands of a just and merciful God, so that we could be freed from the bondage to our painful past. She could not physically speak out, “I forgive them.”  It took a long time before the words could be articulated.

As soon as they were, freedom began to come.  Then she was able to confess her own rage, self-pity, hostility toward others, withdrawal from life, and desire to end it all.  It certainly appeared that her unforgiveness had turned her over to the tormenters (Matthew 18:34). Derek Prince, author of several books on deliverance, says that unforgiveness is the single greatest cause of demonic assault.

I spoke out her confession of forgiveness:  “We release those who have hurt her to the hands of God.  We release her from emotional bondage to them.  We cut her off from the impact of unforgiveness.  And we invite the blood of Jesus to forgive her for her negative reaction to these tragic events.  We speak cleansing from guilt and shame.”  I also prayed an extended prayer of inner healing.

By now (perhaps ninety minutes into our meeting), her eyes and her speech were clearer.  There was no overt physical manifestation of demon expulsion, but it appeared that she had been delivered in the process of forgiveness. I then spoke a deliverance prayer to make sure:  “I command any demons that have invaded this body to leave now and not to return.  Demons of anger and depression—out, right now!” (We attempt to discern what demons have invaded and evict them).  I led her in the baptismal affirmation:  “I renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways.”  And I led her to confess her faith in Jesus Christ and His blood.

Closing:  I spoke with her and with the pastor about the need and method of building up the broken down fence so she could stay free.  I suggested some daily spiritual exercises that would help her walk in freedom.

JESUS AND THE POWER OF DARKNESS – PART I

“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (I John 3:8b). This included healing and deliverance. Then why is there so little deliverance ministry?

  1. There are fewer demons around? Some think developing countries encounter more demons. Possibly, but the rise of the New Age movement, occult practices, astrology, and Masonry suggest that we are infested with the powers of darkness.
  2. They are less active? Paul wrote that “in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons…” (I Tim. 4:1). If anything, demons have increased their activity. And it is a misconception that only bad people are demonized. Jesus delivered people from demons more in synagogues than in slums.

Were some not healed because they needed deliverance rather than healing or counseling? One doesn’t reason with demons. Could “the devil made me do it” theology contain some truth? Sin includes both choice and bondage. Has the church have taken a posture closer to the religious leaders than the disciples? We have taught on it; few of us have done it. What set Jesus off from the Pharisees was that He walked in authority to do what He said.

What are demons? Persons without bodies, intelligent and powerful beings aligned with Satan, part of the fallen world of rebel angels. They entice, harrass, torment, compel, enslave, defile, deceive. They wear us down to take us out. They attack the mind, emotions, and attitudes. Demons gain entry either by inactivity (non-resistance) or by bad choices. Prolonged sin brings bondage (Rom. 6:16). Traumatic experiences, like abuse, pull down fences and invite demons. Chronic problems leave us vulnerable to the enemy, such as living with an alcoholic. Unforgiveness gives Satan permission to attack.

Involuntary action or compulsive behavior (longstanding lust, perversion, lying, or suicide attempts, for instance) or overwhelming emotions (like depression, hatred, or unforgiveness) might indicate demonic activity. Cultic or occult activity, a disturbed family history, or chronic family sickness may also be traced back to demonic roots. So can extremes of legalism or license.

Sin is putrid, and the garbage of ongoing sin attracts rats (demons). The unwillingness or inability to deal with the garbage invites the demons to hang around. Deliverance usually includes helping people get rid of their garbage, often through receiving and extending forgiveness. The best defense is the armor of God, the character of Christ. People who experience deliverance need the fences built up.

CONSIDER THESE TRUTHS:

We are at war, but not with flesh and blood. We know the general better than his troops. They carry out his mission “to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10a). Countless people of God are casualties, because we are operating more out of our senses than out of God’s Word. Give Satan room and he takes ground.

Jesus’ world-view included a world devastated by the enemy. This conviction impacted Him daily. Our culture has domesticated the demonic, and it has even influenced the church. If demons are responsible for some of our sickness and our emotional illness, we must take a more aggressive stance.

It is the nature of God to heal and to deliver. Demons were a threat to people, but Jesus was a threat to demons. When Jesus sent the disciples out, He told them to “heal the sick” and “drive out demons” (Matt. 10:7). That command was never rescinded. With the command comes the authority. When Jesus sent out the apostles, He was going on the offensive. When the disciples returned, Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall from heaven.”

The filling of the Spirit prepares us to battle and deliver. After Jesus was baptized and anointed with the Spirit, He was led into the desert by the Spirit to declare war on the enemy. Healing and deliverance are used interchangeably in the Gospels (Matt. 4:24; 9:32; 15:28 17:16). Some demonized people had physical manifestations of illness, such as blindness (Matt. 12:22).

Counseling and deliverance are both needed. The church has often settled for the former. Deliverance does not do away with the need for counseling, but it usually reduces the need. Renewal of the mind often requires deliverance. Deliverance does not do away with the need for the spiritual disciplines, but it makes them easier.