In the previous article we began to discuss a revelation of God’s sovereignty, foreknowledge, and predestination in regards to our lives and why God allows us to go through hardship and trials. We used the life of Joseph to clearly see that although it was the enemy and Joseph’s brothers that were morally responsible for selling him into slavery and putting him through hardship, Joseph came to accept God’s role in his journey, for He saw How God used it for his own good and the good of his people (Gen.45:5-8). In today’s article, as we close out this series, we will see a similar truth found in the lives of both Job and Paul the Apostle which can help us to see the purpose in our pain and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God will use everything we go through for his plans, his purpose, and ultimately our good (Rom.8:28)!
CONSIDER THE PERSEVERANCE OF MY SERVANT JOB
“Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.”
I find it very interesting that God chose to reference the story of Job in the great “faith chapter” of James chapter 5, in the midst of all the other great things which are taught to us about faith in this passage. Many Christians today dismiss the story of Job as “Old Testament” because they don’t understand it. This is unfortunate because they miss out on the blessing that this story holds for all believers, regardless of what dispensation they find themselves living in. Faith is not found in just immediate miraculous desirable results. It is found in patient perseverance while keeping a confident trust in God through it all!
Similar to Joseph and Paul, no amount of rebuking the devil would have helped Job in his situation, because it was God that actually sent Satan to test Job through the procedure that took place in the courts of heaven in Job chapter one. Read it for yourself. Job lost his family, he lost his possessions, he lost his health, and it was clear from the reading of the scripture that it was Satan that wrought this theft, death, and destruction in his life, yet when it came time for Job to pray He credited God with taking everything.
“20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped.
21 And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Similar to the story of Joseph, if you’re not trained to see the scripture through the lens of God’s sovereignty, foreknowledge, and predestination, then you will be confused wondering, “Was it Satan that did these things to Job or was it God?”. Just as in the story of Joseph, it was both the enemy and God (even though this does not impede God’s character one bit). God foresaw how Joseph’s brothers would move against him with jealousy in their hearts, so He worked it into his plans for Joseph. God also foresaw How Satan would gain legal rights through God’s legal system to attack Job and decided to work it into His plan for Job’s life, therefore it was sanctioned by God and completely under God’s jurisdiction (or God’s control you might say), and that is why Job blessed the Lord for this! Do you see it?
Job did not rebuke Satan and command him to give him back his stuff (although at times that is appropriate). No, Job recognized the hand of God in this through divine revelation and worshiped the Lord in this trial. He recognized that it was God that gave him all these blessings, and now it was God that was taking them all away, and in his mind if God was taking it all away then there must be a purpose in it. Job trusted the Lord with his whole life because He had walked with God for many years! What a beautiful story!
If you cannot see the purpose in your pain then you will not know how to move forward, and you could end up rebuking Satan for what God has initiated! At the same time, if you cannot discern Satan’s attacks in your life correctly you could end up laying down and unnecessarily taking Satan’s unwarranted abuse when Jesus is telling you to get up and crush his head in your life!
There are some battles that are to be fought, but there are other battles that are to be endured while God fights for you, trusting the Lord to use the circumstances to humble you, transform you, and shape you into the man or woman you’re called to be. Pain is one of God’s most powerful destiny molders in existence, which is why we should not be so rash to chalk it all up to just being Satan while resisting it ignorantly. Hear the Lord in each circumstance, see your life in the scripture, and get God’s leading in every situation so that you might fully cooperate with him in each season.
JESUS CLEANSING THE HEAVENLY COURTS WITH HIS BLOOD
Now one might say that because Jesus took his own blood into the heavenly realm and cleansed that realm (Heb.9) that Satan no longer has access to the “courts of heaven” (if you will) like He did in the story of Job, and that these “Job type” scenarios can no longer arise for new covenant believers. But I would push back against the idea that we should therefore reject altogether the process that Job, God, and Satan went through in that story, because I believe we see something similar in (2 Cor.12) (which we’ll discuss in more detail later on in this article). But Paul was walking with the Lord, He had a clear understanding of the believer’s authority in Christ, and He was the greatest expert who's ever lived on new covenant doctrine which differentiates life under grace versus life under law. Yet, Paul still came under a very similar burden that Job came under. It was clear that Satan somehow gained legal access to Paul, even though there is no indication that Paul opened this door to Satan through sin or unbelief (2 Cor.12:7), which was the same with Job. It’s clear also that Paul accepted God’s role in this even though Satan was clearly attacking him, just like Job (2 Cor.12:9-10).
So once again, don’t let lazy theology or fear dictate your conclusions when faced with difficult biblical ideals. Many Christians are afraid of what such scriptures might mean for their perfect idea of God and creation, which is really a house of cards waiting to be knocked over if those ideas are not embraced in openness and honesty. It’s okay to worship a God you don’t understand. That’s part of what makes him God, the fact that He is beyond your understanding and your ability to fully figure out. It’s the idols which we have made in our own image and likeness, which make us comfortable with our shallow ideas about God, that have replaced Christ in much of the Western church today. And that’s why when hard times come and the truth of what we believe about God is challenged that many fall away from Christ. Because their belief in God was sinking sand to begin with because it ultimately wasn’t based in truth.
THE QUESTION OF JOB’S FEAR
The other scripture that is used to invalid Job’s story today is found in (Job.3:25), when Job said, “The thing which I feared has come upon me”. Preachers today say that because God has not given us the spirit of fear (2 Tim.1:7), that Job’s situation is not for today because Job didn’t have the blood of Jesus to set him free from such things. But once again, I push back against this for a few reasons. 1) Although we are not under the same covenant, nor living through the same dispensation as pre-cross believers, we are still human beings just like them, made in the image and likeness of God. Therefore we do still deal with all of the same kinds of emotions and basic life experiences as believers from the Old Testament, and because of this the life of Job is still very much applicable and relatable. 2) Nowhere does it say in the book of Job that it was Job’s fear that opened the door for all of this to happen to him. The bible states clearly that it was Satan that initiated this, in issuing a challenge to God concerning His righteous and upright servant Job, and it was God that took Satan up on that challenge, for his wise divine purposes (Job 1:6-12). The bible does not lay any blame on Job for “opening the door” to Satan, just like the bible does not say that Paul opened the door for his attacks that came in (2 Cor.12). Because of this, I would caution you against so easily brushing Job’s story aside as being “not relevant for today”. It is very much relevant which we will see more as we further examine Paul’s New Testament New Covenant example in (2 Cor.12).
PAUL’S THORN IN THE FLESH
7 “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.
8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.
9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Here we have a situation where Paul is definitely under constant demonic assault. Paul didn’t just go along with it, but He prayed to the Lord. Initially when He prayed He asked for the Lord to deliver him from this trial, which is understandable. When we’re in pain, and if we have a relationship with God, our first inclination should be to call out to him to deliver us and to alleviate the pain and suffering. But as Paul prayed He heard the Lord respond. It was maybe not what He was expecting to hear or wanting to hear, but it was what He needed to hear so that He would have divine revelation about how to proceed.
Paul’s divine revelation that He received in regards to this attack was multifaceted. Time does not permit me to break down every revelation contained in this chapter, but let me highlight a few revelations which pertain to this subject of how to flow with the Lord when God is using Satan’s attacks in your life.
A THORN THAT WAS “GIVEN”
The first thing I see here is that Paul accepted this as a “gift from God”.
“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.
To me, “given” implies both “gift” and “giver”, and to me Satan does not give. He forces things on people.
The other question that people have to ask if they don’t believe that it was God that gave to Paul this thorn, is why would Satan give it? The bible states the purpose of it, so that Paul might be humbled lest the abundance of revelations exalt him above measure (vs.7). So if you do believe that Satan alone gave it to him, then why would Satan be interested in “humbling” Paul? The answer is He wouldn’t. Satan is interested in puffing us up in pride, and God is interested in humbling us. For these clear reasons, and also for the revelation which follows this verse, I believe that it was God who gave this thorn to Paul, just like it was God that took Job’s blessings from him.
The thorn is clearly defined as a “messenger of Satan” sent to buffet (beat) him. This is difficult to understand unless you embrace the mystery of what this series of articles is trying to reveal. Once again, let me clearly spell it out in hopes that it will click for you…. Joseph’s brothers had evil hearts and sold him into slavery, but it was God that ultimately arranged the whole thing (Gen.45:5-8). God judged Pharaoh and Egypt for resisting him and took their firstborn in judgment, yet it was “the destroyer” or “the angel of death” that came and killed those babies (Ex.12:23). It was Satan that attacked Job, killed his family and took all of his possessions, yet Job contributed it to the Lord (Job 1:20). It was a messenger (“angel” in the Greek) that came to Paul and attacked him relentlessly, yet God is credited with giving him this in order to humble him (2 Cor.12:7). Truth is not so easy to draw clear lines around at times, but it is truth nonetheless, even if we don’t fully understand it.
THAT THE POWER OF CHRIST MAY REST UPON YOU
Paul prayed to the Lord, and although it took three times the Lord did eventually respond. When the Lord responded the word that He gave to Paul in response to his prayer was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” The Lord elaborated through the spirit of wisdom and understanding to let Paul know that these demonic attacks, that this present trial and affliction, was indeed for a purpose. The purpose was so that the power of Christ might rest upon him in a greater way! Herein lies the next revelation that we see in this passage which helps us to understand why God used Satan’s attacks to humble Paul. It was because God intended to increase his authority and power in Paul’s life, just like how God intended to increase Job after He went through his trial!
Now I believe that the power of Christ was already resting upon Paul, but obviously, because of these events that transpired and how the Lord set this up, the Lord knew that Paul would need an increased measure of his power. And no, the Lord did not have Paul send money to a televangelist so that He could receive a vial of Jerusalem olive oil to receive this new measure of power!!! (Joking… kinda)... No, that’s not the way of God. God orchestrated pressure for Paul. Pressure is needed for the olives to yield their fresh oil, just like pressure is needed to yield a fresh anointing in a servant of God. God orchestrated a Job-type Joseph-type process for Paul to endure so that the power of Christ might rest upon him in a greater measure so that He could ultimately finish his race and fulfill his calling! Isn’t that powerful!
We must always remember, Satan is subject to God, not the other way around. In order for Satan to operate He must do so through the legalism of God’s Word and God’s law. This is why He has to appeal to God through a legal process in order to touch Job, and this is how every Satanic incursion occurs in the earth, in the nations, and in our lives. There is some kind of a legal loophole that Satan goes through to operate in the earth and in our lives. Understand those legalities and you’ll gain great insight for walking with God and walking in freedom and power in this life.
But once again, I need to point out that God did not instruct Paul to rebuke Satan in this case (although that is appropriate in what I would say is most cases (Ja.4:7)). The Lord simply said that His grace was sufficient for him to endure and overcome, and that out of this trial would come an increase in power and anointing. How many people, how many leaders and preachers today in the church are missing out on God’s predestined power for their lives and ministries because they are rebuking Satan for what God set up? We need to come up higher, saints. We need to mature in the Lord.
As I’ve stated already several times, which I’m happy to state again lest I should be misunderstood: There is a time to rebuke Satan. There is a time to resist the enemy and watch him flee from you (Ja.4:7), which like Paul should be a first inclination when attacked. There is a time to tread over all the power of the enemy, to tread over serpents and scorpions, and watch as nothing harms you (Lk.10:19). But there’s also a time when you’ve done all you know to do to live right, shut all the doors to Satan, break all the generational curses, apply the blood, and pray persistently, and He still keeps coming. In those times look to the wisdom of these verses my dear readers. Maybe God has you in a similar process with these great saints of old! If so, let God have his way in your life, in the good times and bad, and watch as the power of Christ rests more mightily upon you.
In His Service,