Tag Archives: suffering

True Olympic Competition: Freedom Versus Control

By Eugene C. Scott

The first competitive event of the 2012 Olympic Games in London was the Opening Ceremony. London versus Beijing. It was no contest. The 2008 Beijing Olympic Games Opening Ceremony stomped the 2012 London Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.

2008 Beijing

The Beijing ceremony, directed by Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou, cost over $100 million using 22,000 performers, including 2,008 precision drummers, 1,800 marshall arts specialists, 900 men under boxes to simulate keys of movable type, and countless children. China also used technology to prevent rainfall on their 43,000 piece computer enhanced fireworks show.

“With all the technical complexities involved, the opening ceremony was 100 times more difficult than making a movie, he [Yimou] said, adding that such a performance was unprecedented in the world,” wrote Zhu Yin for the news agency Xinhua.

Most people agree with Yimou, saying the 2008 opening was the most spectacular ever, and maybe, ever to be. Even Danny Boyle, the director of the 2012 ceremony said he would not try to compete with them.

2012 London

This year the Opening Ceremony cost only $42 million using 15,000 performers including 12 horses, a village cricket team, some sheep dogs roaming around, 70 sheep, 10 chickens, 2 goats, 3 cows, and 10 ducks. Oh yeah, they used real clouds above the stadium and Mr. Bean was there. The show looked disorganized and scattered, on purpose. One blog reported, “So disappointingly for anyone looking for rows, there haven’t been any.”

Perfection versus Imperfection

China wanted to prove something to the world. Uniformity and technology were the Beijing watchwords. China achieved this precision and uniformity by having performers practice their movements for up to 15 hours a day wearing diapers because they were not allowed to take breaks. Even the children practiced for that long. The final rehearsal was 51 hours long with few breaks and only two meals and no shelter from the rain.

In 2008 perfection came at the cost of freedom and with a great deal of coercion and manipulation. After the 2008 games, Yimou told the press that no other country, except possibly communist North Korea, could do a better opening ceremony.

Why? Because they could. In the West, Yimou said, no one would put up with how China treated its performers.

In Britain, however, the opening ceremony told stories, stories by and about imperfect people. Shakespeare, Harry Potter, Mary Poppins, James Bond, Queen Elizabeth, even Mr. Bean.

Kid’s wiggled, people missed cues, the whole thing played out slow and uneven. We were “trying to make you feel like you’re watching a live film being made,” said Boyle.

And the Winner Is

For me the London Opening Ceremony was the better. But the competition was not between Opening Ceremonies but rather between two opposite philosophies. Freedom versus control, machine versus human, uniformity versus individuality. I took a course in drama and theater in college. The professor assigned us to go and view both a movie and a live theater play. He asked us then to evaluate and discuss them in class. He pointed out that in a movie every shot, every word, every move was directed and choreographed. Movies, though well-done and exciting, are farther away from reality than a live show. The excitement, tension, and drama in the live play came, in part, from the possibility of someone missing a line or ad-libbing. The play was more real in its imperfection.

Living Spiritually Demands Freedom

Still I delude myself in my desire for predictability, order, and control in my life. I yell, “Why?” at God when things beyond explanation befall me. I want God to do away with disease and discomfort. And if God won’t, then I hope technology or government will.

The comparison between these two ceremonies reminded me of how we so often look for formulas and systems to help us get our lives under control. To help our lives make sense, have order. But by definition life cannot be controlled and still be life. It becomes something else, an automaton.

Spiritual life more so. No matter what any pastor (me included) or book has told you, there are not seven steps, five keys, or ten secrets to a fulfilling spiritual life.

Living spiritually is living in the freedom of loving God and being loved by God. It is leaning into the mystery of what the next breath of life holds. It is embracing the imperfection of human life while pursuing a perfectly loving God. In short, it is “watching a live film being made.”


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Surprised by Joy: The Joyous Defeat

by Michael Gallup

There are few things harder than to preach the funeral of a convicted murder who committed suicide. Not just that he was a criminal but that he was a father of an eight-year-old boy I befriended. This young boy with his father in prison latched on to me at camp and I began to find myself filling some of the hole left by an absent dad. I saw the boy come to follow Jesus. He was so full of life despite his difficult circumstances.

But then I received a phone call I will never forget. It was his mom telling me the horrible news and asking me to preach the funeral of a man I never met. There have been few times in my life when I have cried harder than that evening. Not so much over the loss of the man’s life, although tragic, but for the intense suffering my young friend was now in the midst of. I began to become angry and angry at the only one who could handle such rage, God. Hadn’t the boy had enough? Why does he have to suffer so much? Why does one so young have to face such harsh realities? Why, God, why?

While I will never pretend to know the full answer of those questions, God has shown me a part of the why. For joy. It seems ludicrous to insist that joy could possibly come out of such pain, but I am coming to believe that it may be ludicrous to think that joy could come out of anything but pain. One of the most perplexing pieces of scripture is James1:2, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trails of many kinds.” We are to somehow find joy in our suffering? Because it leads to perseverance? Yes, God says.

As I have asked God hard questions, He has kindly revealed to me some answers. Last week I described how He showed me what joy wasn’t: happiness. And I am beginning to see why. Happiness is the product of pleasure. When something happens to us that is pleasant we become happy. But now I am seeing that joy is the product of pain. And rightfully so, the process from pain to joy is much longer and arduous than the one from pleasure to happiness.

One of the biblical authors compares the life of a Christ-follower with that of an athlete, suffering the agony of preparing to run the race. This metaphor still rings true when we watch the Super Bowl winners crying tears of joy at the victory they achieved. And that joy is not birthed in the winning but in the months and years of hard work that led them to this moment, that made it even possible. In that passage in James, the reason to consider it joy to suffer is because our suffering is not the end of us and our stories but a catalyst for change. Our suffering refines us, pushing us forward in the race of redemption in the story of our ultimate victory.

This picture is most clearly seen in the death and thus victory of Jesus Christ. It was only through his defeat that the world could know victory. The biblical book Hebrews says that he was able to endure the sufferings of his murder because of the joy set before him. He knew his death, which at the moment it occurred seemed like the biggest train-wreck in history, was not the end of his story. He knew what only he could know, that his pain was giving birth to the joy of the world. That his defeat brought true victory.

Ultimately, it is a defeat we must each embrace because it is the only path to victory, the only path to joy. Our very lives are found in the death of ourselves.

But what about my young friend? That funeral was not the end of his story. Just as Jesus’ and our funerals are not the end of our stories. God began to redeem that situation that was never his will in the first place and in that redemption I saw that boy’s life changed. He learned to let go, if only a little, of his father and to find acceptance in a new father who was there, not in jail but with him, in a man who also knew defeat but also knew life in Jesus.

Our suffering is not the end of our stories but in some ways the beginning.

Michael is a student at Denver Seminary. This is part three of a four part series.


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Hope In the Middle Of Your Pain

“Oh, I think I’ll probably get over it in two or three weeks,” a friend once confided to me. This person had experienced a betrayal that was nothing short of devastating.

“Ummm, I’m not so sure,” I replied. “You’re in a lot of pain. It may take you awhile to get over it.”

The person was incredulous. “What?? You’re not supporting me. I wish you would believe in me.”

“I do believe in you, but it takes time to heal.”

Five years later, this person is still feeling its affects. The road to recovery has been long and hard, yet we can see definite progress.

How do we find hope in the midst of overwhelming pain?

Please join us for our daily Bible conversation.


Lamentations 3:1-5:22
Hebrews 1:1-2:18
Psalm 102:1-103:22
Proverbs 26:21-23


Hebrews 1:1-2:18. One of the greatest debates through the centuries involves the identity of the author of Hebrews. Different theories exist; some say Paul, Apollos, or Barnabas. While possible, surely the identity of these men would have been included at the beginning if they had written it. People who specialize in analyzing writing styles say that it differs significantly from Paul’s epistles—yet it shares certain nuances that are reminiscent of him. So the nameless person was probably acquainted with Paul, but why would the epistle go nameless?

Here’s my theory: if a man had written Hebrews, his name would have been attached to it. But if a woman wrote it, her name would have likely been omitted out of concern that it wouldn’t be accepted in a male-dominated culture. But what women could have possibly written this letter? She would need to be quite familiar with the great aspostle. In various places, Paul acknowledges the gifts of Phoebe of Cenchrea (a deacon, Romans 16:1) and Junias (a female apostle, Romans 16:6). But to me, the logical option is Priscilla, whom Paul calls a “fellow worker.” Historians acknowledge that Priscilla, along with her husband Aquila, were a dynamic ministry team that traveled throughout the Roman Empire. In fact, Priscilla is given unusual prominence in the New Testament, often being named first when she and her husband are mentioned. So that’s my theory. Feel free to disagree.

Hebrews is written like a long sermon, so it is probably best understood when read in one sitting. The underlying theme is pain. Persecution against the Christians was beginning to increase. Relatives were trying to convince the Christians to avoid the suffering and return to the Jewish faith. So the author presents a convincing case that following Jesus is the better way. People who advocate that Judaism and Christianity are basically the same won’t like this book.

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Pain and suffering seem to be the prevailing theme in today’s reading…

The byline of Psalm 102 describes it as “a prayer of an afflicted man.” The pain expressed bears a close resemblance to my friend who I mentioned earlier. The psalmist writes in verse 4, “I forget to eat my food.” My friend lost a significant amount of weight as a result of feeling distraught over this particular devastation.

If you’ve experienced pain of this sort, then perhaps Psalm 102 can serve as a nodding head that expresses and affirms your suffering. If you haven’t experienced this kind of pain, then Psalm 102 can give you a window of understanding into the pain of others.

And what good can come out of our pain? The psalmist continues in verse 18, “Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord.” While God doesn’t waste our pain, usually we’re unable to see it from his perspective in the present. But looking back, often grants us a better perspective.

In the same way, Jeremiah laments the pain of the destruction of Jerusalem:

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:21–24

Jeremiah found hope for the future by recounting God’s faithfulness in the past.

The deliverance from our pain rarely follows our timeline. But look at it this way: the fact that you are still alive is evidence of God’s faithfulness. The fact that your pain hasn’t consumed you is evidence of God’s faithfulness. Your heart still beats and you still wake up every morning.

If God has carried you in the past, he will continue to carry you in the future.

It’s no mistake that Psalm 103 follows such the heartfelt lament in Psalm 102:

Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Psalm 103:1–5

Sometimes our pain results from making poor choices. Lamentations is an example of that. Other times, our pain results from making good choices. Hebrews is another example. Pain is an equal opportunity offender. Yet God redeems any life from the pit and crowns us with love and compassion.

The temptation is to blame God when we suffer. At times I have accused God of enjoying himself watching me squirm. Yet Jeremiah tells us, “[God] does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men” (Lamentations 3:33). He doesn’t willingly cause unredemptive suffering.

So what role does he play in our pain? Here is our additional hope on this side of the cross: “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). Jesus understands our pain, and he can help us in our pain because he has suffered pain.

At various times, I’ve shared a little about a previous painful church experience. In the middle of my suffering, I felt like God was against me. I cried out to God and assumed he was sitting in heaven with his arms crossed, watching me suffer from afar. Eleven years later, I can look back through my pain and identify crucial moments when he gave me the strength to get through it. When I cried out to God, I now realize that Jesus joined me in weeping over my pain.

And today, I can see the important lessons he worked in my life as a result of it. While I wouldn’t want to relive it, I have no regrets about enduring it.

“Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord.” Psalm 102:18


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What does your reading from Hebrews tell you about Jesus? What word or words does the author use to describe him?
  3. What encouragement does the Hebrew reading give you regarding suffering?
  4. Think back to a time when you experienced pain. How did God carry you? How did God change you?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.


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The Worst Thing That Can Happen To You

Dear Mom and Dad,

I just thought I’d drop you a note to let you know what’s going on with me. I’ve fallen in love with a guy named Blaze. He’s a really neat guy, but he quit high school a few years ago to get married. That didn’t work out, so he got a divorce last year. We’ve been going out for several weeks, and we’re thinking about getting married in the fall. Until then, I’ve decided to move into his apartment. I think I might be pregnant. Oh yeah, I dropped out of school last week so that I could get a job to help support Blaze. I’m hoping to finish college after we get married.

Mom and Dad, I just want you to that everything I’ve written so far in this letter is a lie. None of it is true.

But Mom and Dad, it is true that I got a C in French and a D in Math. And it’s also true that I need some more money. Could you please send ma a hundred dollar? Thanks a bunch.

Love, Julie

Two days later a check arrived in the mail from her parents.

The first part of the letter, though, represents every parent’s worst nightmare.

But what if the first part of the letter was true? Is that the worst thing that could ever happen to someone’s daughter?

And what about you? Perhaps you have suffered unimaginable pain and a shattered life. If so, I don’t want to take your suffering lightly—but is it the worst thing that could ever happen to you?

Please join us as we discuss this in today’s daily Bible conversation.


Jeremiah 48:1-49:22
2 Timothy 4:1-22
Psalm 95:1-96:13
Proverbs 26:9-12


2 Timothy 4:1-22. As Paul’s second letter to Timothy draws to a close, I get the feeling that Paul knows the end of his life is near. In rapid-fire succession, he leaves his protégé with parting instructions, little nuggets of wisdom. His words in verse 7 make me a little misty-eyed: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Finishing well isn’t easy for anyone. Fortunately, finishing well doesn’t require a perfect life nor does it require a strong start or a successful middle. All it requires is finishing without quitting the faith. No matter what your past or present looks like, you can still finish well.

In verse 11, Paul tells Timothy, “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” If you remember, Mark caused a sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas. Barnabas wanted Mark to accompany them on their missionary journey, but Paul didn’t because Mark had deserted them on an earlier trip. As a result, Paul and Silas worked together and Barnabas and Mark formed the other team (Acts 15:36-41). But here we read that Paul has softened toward Mark. Finishing well for Paul included the reconciliation of his relationship with Mark.

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The Israelites had just departed Egypt on their way to the Promised Land. Three days into their wilderness “adventure,” they ran out of water. As I’m sure you know, you can only go three days without water before you die.

The people were suffering—and they started to complain. They asked God why He brought them into the desert and they begged him to take them back to Egypt. In fact, they were so worked up that they were ready to stone Moses.

So God told Moses to strike the rock at Mt. Horeb. When he did so, water came gushing out. While the people were happy to quench their thirst, God then named the place Massah and Meribah which mean “testing” and “quarreling.”

Psalm 95:7-11 recounts the events of Exodus 17, and adds some perspective from God:

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had seen what I did. For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.” So I declared on oath in my anger, “They shall never enter my rest.” Psalm 95:7–11

When we experience pain and suffering, the overwhelming temptation is to harden our hearts.

  • We blame God or the people who cause our suffering—or both.
  • We numb the pain through food, fantasy, disengagement, anger, or addictions).
  • We deny the pain.
  • Or we avoid the pain through deception, isolation, self-reliance.

Our tendency is to go anywhere but feel the pain. So in the effort to protect ourselves or avoid further disappointment, we harden our hearts—toward others, toward our loved ones, toward God. Ironically enough, hardening my heart toward someone else inevitably results in me hardening my heart toward God. And when I harden my heart toward God, the cancer inevitably finds its way into other relationships.

You see, the worst thing that can happen to you is to harden your heart. When you harden your heart, you no longer feel pain or conviction. When you harden your heart, you no longer care.

While I’m not advocating that you imitate the false portrayal of the girl in the letter, quitting college and running off with some loser isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a person.

In the same way, your deepest pain isn’t the worst thing that could ever happen to you, as long as you still choose to feel it. The worst thing that can happen to you is to stop feeling the pain. Doctors have a diagnosis for a body that feels no pain: death. So really, feeling the pain is a sign of life. As long as you feel something, you must be alive.

A few years ago, my oldest daughter began straying from the faith. I was concerned about the choices she was making. I was afraid she would dig herself into a hole that would take the rest of her life to dig out of. This passage reminded me that even if she completely messed up her life, she would be okay if her heart remained soft.

Fortunately, her heart remained soft and she eventually returned to the faith akin to the prodigal son.

If you’re feeling pain or you’re concerned about someone who is making bad choices, pray for a soft heart—because a person with a soft heart is never out of reach of the Holy Spirit’s touch.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What events in your life tempt you to harden your heart?
  3. If you’ve chosen to deaden the pain of a past event, how has it affected your relationship with God or others?
  4. What choices do you need to make in order to keep your heart soft?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.


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Making Peace With The Unanswered Questions

“I think what’s best for you right now is to be quiet about the accusations,” I told the man. “If word about it spreads around the community, it might ruin your business.”

A very serious accusation had been leveled against an upstanding man in the small town where I served as the pastor. Because the man owned a local business in town, I knew that any negative gossip could drive him into bankruptcy.

Instead, the man called all of his friends and told them about the accusation and then claimed that I had threatened to drive him out of business.

Well, the town gossip train picked up steam which in turn drove him out of business. Then some of the people blamed me for what happened.

I won’t go into the details, but I found myself caught in the middle of a very divisive conflict. I was privy to some very sensitive information which I couldn’t disclose to the townspeople. Yet because they didn’t have all the information, they assumed I was to blame.

Seeing things from one perspective can lead us to faulty conclusions…unless we’ve made peace with the unanswered questions.

Please join us in today’s daily Bible conversation.


Job 37:1-39:30
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:10
Psalm 44:9-26
Proverbs 22:13


Job 37:1-39:30. Elihu’s words set the stage for God to answer everyone’s questions. God answers out of a whirlwind, which was an old symbol of divine revelation. His response can be misunderstood as an angry defense, but the nuances in the text tell us that it isn’t. Although written as a poem, the book of Job is organized like a legal proceeding. So, the judge—God—finally answers.

Proverbs 22:13. “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside!’ or, ‘I will be murdered in the streets!’” The point of this proverb is that lazy people manufacture excuses for laziness. Not that I’m advocating workaholism, but hard work and responsibility are definitely virtues of the Christian walk.

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Job, his three friends, and Elihu have debated God’s role in Job’s suffering. Job has been accused of bringing judgment upon himself while the accused has claimed that he was beyond reproach. But really, Job wasn’t on trial, God was. The five characters in this court proceeding of sorts were really trying to explain God’s role in pain and suffering. They were attempting to answer the unanswered questions.

So God finally appears and answers them…by asking more questions.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?” Job 38:4–5

As God rattles off a series of rapid-fire questions about animal life and the mystery of creation, it quickly becomes obvious that they can answer none of them. In the end, God never answers their questions. He only answers them with more questions (which continues into tomorrow’s reading).

Does that feel a little unsettling?

It does to me. Earlier in my life, this realization would have sent my world spinning. But I’m beginning to make peace with living with the unanswered questions: God is God and I am not. He understands the big picture of my life and where they fit into his eternal plans.

When I was on the inside of some very sensitive information at my former church, I knew it was in the best interests of everyone involved that I keep my mouth shut—even if it meant attracting further criticism. I can imagine that God encounters similar situations. Many of them.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. ” Isaiah 55:8–9

Modernism taught us that we are entitled to an explanation for everything. We must understand the inner workings of the atom and demand proof for the existence of God. Yet in the process we have robbed ourselves of mystery. In fact, mystery plays a minimal role in our everyday lives. While some mysteries can be solved, God exists in a realm beyond our explanation.

Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians seem particularly apropos here:

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. ”2 Corinthians 4:17–18

If anything, our pain and suffering remind us that God has prepared a better place for us, which Paul explains in today’s reading.

The unanswered questions ultimately lead to the most important question: Do you trust him? When I reflect on the deep love God shows us by sending his only son to die for us, when I reflect on his invitation to enter into a relationship with him and join him in his work, I must answer, “Yes, I trust you.”


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. To what extent do you feel comfortable with mystery?
  3. What are some of the unanswered questions in your life? How do you handle them?
  4. Do you trust him? How? Why?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.


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Why Does The Devil Have All The Good Music?

After sitting in a local pub and comparing the music in church with that sung by the minstrels, Martin Luther posed a great question: “Why does the devil have all the good music?” This is a paraphrase, but it’s the gist of what he said.

Five hundred years later, legendary Christian music pioneer Larry Norman put Luther’s words to music, which you can watch in the above video.

But Martin Luther understood the power of music and more importantly, the power behind the music.

Please join us as we discuss this in our daily Bible conversation.


Job 1:1-7:21
1 Corinthians 14:1-40
Psalm 37:12-40
Proverbs 21:25-27


Job 1:1-7:21. The book of Job is one of the Bible’s most mysterious books. We don’t know who wrote it or when it was written. Most scholars date it to the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (1800-2000 B.C.). If the Pentateuch was penned by Moses, then Job predates the second oldest book(s) by approximately 500 years.

Except for the first two chapters and the epilogue at the end, everything in Job is written as poetry.

Job has also been heretically misinterpreted by certain teachers who believe that pain and godly living are mutually exclusive. They can’t explain how God can allow “bad” things to happen to good people. But he does—which is why Job is such a helpful book. “Job was the biggest fool in the Bible,” I heard one well-known television preacher say.

But the bigger fool is the one who believes Job was a fool. From the outset we read that Job was “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” Furthermore, no one on earth was like him (Job 1:8).

Most amazing about him is his response to deep tragedy, which included the loss of his children, servants, and possessions: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).

These aren’t the words of a fool, but rather a man terribly out of touch with reality, or perhaps, incredibly in touch with reality. I believe the latter.

The bigger fools were Job’s three friends. We’re first introduced to Eliphaz. He can’t believe that bad things happen to good people. “You must need a little discipline to fix some problems in your life” he seems to be saying (Job 5:17). “Just be patient and everything will work out.”

Eliphaz represents the people who cannot enter our pain because they have never experienced it. They look at us and say, “Just hang in there and everything will be okay. Just learn what you need to learn and then the pain will stop.”

Sometimes—oftentimes—pain and loss happen without any good explanation. Rather than sit with Job in his pain, Eliphaz stood at a distance and offered shallow platitudes.

For good reason, Job refused to accept it. After responding to Eliphaz, Job then directs himself to God. The New Bible Commentary makes an excellent observation here:

For the moment, [Job] asks of God nothing except that he should leave him alone so that he can live out his remaining days free from pain. But of course there is more to this than meets the eye; for in the very act of begging God to desert him he is in fact approaching him.

1 Corinthians 14:1-40. Over the last hundred years, countless churches have gotten hung up on the subject of speaking in tongues. At the risk of continuing this practice, I will admit that I see no evidence that proves the gift of tongues has ceased. Yet the point Paul is making is this: tongues aren’t the point. Love is the point (see Eugene’s excellent post from yesterday) and after that, we need prophecy.

According to Paul’s definition in verse 3, prophecy is a word spoken from God for our “strengthening, encouragement and comfort.”

This doesn’t mean that tongues should be ignored over more “important” gifts. All the spiritual gifts are equally important, but they all play different roles. In a corporate worship setting, prophecy is most important.

Paul concludes this discussion with these helpful words: “Be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues” (1 Corinthians 14:39). Good advice!

Psalm 37:12-40. I won’t expound on this passage because this blog post is on the long side, but it offers some great insights into Job’s suffering.

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Zoroastrianism purports that God and Satan are equal adversaries, engaged in a cosmic battle. Taking their cues from this ancient Persian religion, many well-intentioned believers believe that Christianity works the same way. God and Satan are engaged in a cosmic battle, with the deciding factor boiling down to the actions of Christians around the world. If the Christians could just get their act together and pray and legislate righteousness around the world, then God will win.

“Christianity is one generation from extinction,” I’ve heard many preachers say.


At the beginning of Job, we read that Satan enters the presence of God along with the angels.

The word “Satan” means “adversary” or “accuser.” In fact, the literal translation in the first two chapters of Job refers to Satan as “the accuser.” Revelation 12:10 tells us that the accuser stands before God day and night, charging us with any and every sin. His intent? To disarm us. To prevent us from understanding the authority and power that God has over him.

Yet today’s reading clearly shows us that God is greater than any power in heaven and on earth.

Like Job, we may experience pain and loss or unfair accusations. But God is still stronger, still greater, still wiser. This is the message of Job.

Martin Luther once wrote, “The devil is God’s devil.” Like we read today in the book of Job, Luther knew that Satan’s power was no equal to God’s. He found that music was an effective vehicle to not only teach about the power of God over the devil, but also to mobilize people in their resistance to him.

“Music is a gift and grace of God, not an invention of men. Thus it drives out the devil and makes people cheerful…The devil, the originator of sorrowful anxieties and restless troubles, flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the Word of God.”

In addition to appreciating music, he also wrote perhaps the most well-known Protestant hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. The first verse of his hymn is familiar among many, but I’d like to take a moment to highlight the third and fourth verses, which accentuate our reading in Job:

Verse 3:

And tho’ this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph thro’ us;
The prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

Verse 4:

That word above all earthly pow’rs,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours Thro’
Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Our world is filled with evil and the influence of the Accuser. But even in the midst of pain and loss, God is still in control. Satan may buffet us, but God will win because he’s God.

So why did God allow Job to suffer? We’ll discuss that as we work our way through Job.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What does your reading in Job tell you about God and Satan?
  3. How might our reading in Psalm 37 inform your understanding of the righteous who suffer?
  4. What has been your experience with prophecy and tongues? Why do you think these two gifts have been particularly divisive in the church? Is that a valid reason to avoid them? Why or why not?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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