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Why must men suffer?

"Many are the afflictions of the righteous," says Scripture. WHY? "I am the Eternal . . . I create evil," says ha. 45:5, 7. HOW can this be? Who was responsible for Adam's sin? Did Satan thwart God's purpose? Was God unable to prevent it? The real meaning of the book of JOB brings the true answer.

WHY DOES God permit war? WHY does God allow human suffering and misery? "If God is GOOD — if God is LOVE — if He is MERCIFUL, He would not wish for people to suffer," is the reasoning of many humans. "And if He is ALMIGHTY," they conclude, "He could prevent it. So why doesn't He?”

What's wrong with this reasoning?

The common conception is this: that God finished His Creation as described in the first chapter of Genesis; that God created the first man perfect, immortal; the work of Creation was finished — complete. Adam was perfect in character — innocent of sin — endowed with immortality.

But then, when God wasn't looking, these people believe, Satan entered, succeeded in overthrowing the man, wrecking God's perfect specimen of human creation. In so doing, of course, Satan thwarted God's purpose.

When God returned and beheld what Satan had done, says this conception, He was forced to think out some plan for repairing the damage. And what is that damage supposed to have been? The man's nature had been changed. He had "fallen" from the nature of perfection, innocence and holiness to a fallen, sinful nature.

According to this concept, God must have shaken His head in near-unbelief and near-frustration. But He did think out a plan to repair the damage — a plan to restore man to a state and condition as good as Adam, before the "fall." The plan of salvation is, therefore, regarded as designed to restore damaged mankind to a condition as good as Adam at creation. But, of course, Satan didn't give up and go away. He has been around ever since, opposing God's efforts, and winning the contest.


What Men Don't Understand

Either this common idea is true, or the only alternate possibility — that God was looking, expressly permitted it, and that God therefore is RESPONSIBLE FOR IT!

And the preachers, the churches, and the professing Christian people of this world simply cannot believe this! Yet, to reject it makes Satan more cunning, more powerful than God. The common idea represents Satan as outsmarting God.

What men do not understand is GOD'S PURPOSE, and GOD'S PLAN for accomplishing His great purpose.

Yes, God is responsible! And being responsible, God will see to it — He and He alone is responsible for accomplishing His great original purpose. But being responsible does not imply being guilty. Nor does it imply God caused it.

All that has happened is a necessary part of that great design. Satan can do nothing God does not allow. "My purpose shall stand," says God.

There is NO CONTEST being waged between God and the devil. God reigns SUPREME, and every creature and every being stands subject to God's will!


Becoming the Sons of God

What the world does not grasp is that God is reproducing Himself — creating, in mortal humans, His very own divine CHARACTER — permitting humans to learn by experience; for character cannot be automatically or instantaneously created, imparted or imputed — it must be developed, and this only through EXPERIENCE, and experience requires time.

We humans must have our part in the development of righteous and holy character. We must first come to realize the true values, and to thoroughly repent of the false way. We must come to seek, with our whole hearts and minds, God's true way of righteous character. We must set our wills in tune with God's will.

Then we must come to realize our utter helplessness, and learn to rely on God, in living FAITH, for the power, the strength, the understanding, the righteousness we ourselves are incapable of attaining.

We receive eternal life, and all righteousness, from GOD. But we have our part to do! We must come to desire it above all else — to seek it with all our might — to yield ourselves utterly to God's will, and to trust implicitly and unswervingly in HIM. In no other manner could we become the supreme characters which it is God's PURPOSE to make of us.

To this end, we must now be begotten as God's own children, inheriting His divine nature. Through His power, through feeding on His Spirit, we GROW in grace and knowledge and spiritual character, until, at the resurrection, we shall be BORN of God as His very SONS — elevated to His plane and level!

That's God's supreme purpose. It can be achieved only through EXPERIENCE, and in process of TIME. And men LEARN by suffering.

Jesus suffered. "For it became Him . . . in bringing many sons unto GLORY, to make the captain of their salvation

[Christ] perfect through sufferings" (Heb. 2:10). Again, "Though He were a Son, yet learned He OBEDIENCE by the things which He suffered" (Heb. 5:8).

Now see how Job's experience explains all this.



Job's Experience Explains It!

Thousands of years ago, there was a man named Job. You've heard of the man. He lived, as you live today, for a PURPOSE. And, the solution of this whole question is made clear by the life-experiences of Job. Many know the story, but few understand its MEANING!

This Job was a wealthy man — the wealthiest in all the East. Solomon may have possessed greater wealth. But, as Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, so Job was the most righteous!

So let's glimpse, briefly, this thrilling story and its revealing lesson.

"There was," begins the scriptural record, "a man once in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God and eschewed [shunned) evil. He had seven sons and three daughters; also in livestock he possessed seven thousand sheep and goats, three thousand camels, five hundred pair of oxen, and five hundred she-asses, besides a very large household; so that this man was the greatest man in all the East" (Job 1:1-3, Moffatt translation and A.V.).

"Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the ETERNAL, and Satan came also among them.

"And the ETERNAL said unto Satan, `Whence comest thou?' Then Satan answered the ETERNAL, and said, 'From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.'

"And the ETERNAL said unto Satan, `Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth [shuns] evil?"' (Verses 6-8, A.V.)

"Satan answered, 'But is it for nothing that Job reverences God? Have you not hedged him safely in, his house and all he has? You have prospered him in his business, and his flocks are teeming on the land. Only put out your hand, touch whatever he possesses, and see if he will not curse you to your face!' " (Verses 9-11, Moffatt)


This World's Philosophy

Notice, please, Satan couldn't point out one imperfection in the man's righteousness. Even God said it was perfect. Yes, undoubtedly Job was the most righteous man who ever lived.

But Satan tried to get around it. He argued that it paid Job to be righteous. So, Satan argued, just take away from him what he has, and the man will lose his temper and start cursing God!

Well, God deliberately PERMITTED Satan to take away Job's possessions, and put Job to this test.

"Then said the ETERNAL to Satan, `There! I leave all he has within your power: but lay no hand upon the man himself'" (verse 12, Moffatt).

Notice, will you, Satan did this with God's permission! Satan was the active agent. But he did it with God's express permission — he could go just as far, in inflicting evil, as God permitted, and no further! God set a limit on how far Satan could go! There is no contest here between God and Satan — no equality.

GOD IS MASTER OF THE SITUATION! He gives the orders, grants permission, sets the limitations!

"So, away went Satan from the presence of the ETERNAL."


What Happened to Job?

Then one day a servant came running to Job with the startling news that Arabs in a foray had carried off all his oxen and asses. Even while he was still talking, in dashed another servant shouting that lightning had just struck and burned up all the sheep, goats, and shepherds. While he was yet speaking another rushed in breathlessly announcing three parties of Chaldeans in a raid upon the camels had carried them off, slaying all the servants except the one who escaped to bring the news.

And even he was yet speaking when in burst another.

"Your sons and your daughters," he exclaimed, "were eating and drinking wine in the house of their eldest brother, when a whirlwind swept across the desert and struck the four corners of the house, till it fell upon the young folk; they are DEAD! And I alone escaped to tell you!" (Verses 13-19, Moffatt)

Well, now Job was stripped of all his great wealth — wiped out! Worse, all his children were killed!

Did Job blame this ill fortune upon GOD? Did he lose his temper and curse God? Did he sin, as Satan expected?

"Then Job rose, tore his tunic, shaved his head, and dropped upon the ground in humble worship, crying, 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I must return: the Eternal gave, the Eternal has taken — blessed be the Eternal!' In all this Job did not sin, nor did he give offence to God" (verses 20-22, Moffatt).

Notice, Job attributed ALL to God. The wealth he had had, God gave. The good — the prosperity — all came from God. But also, "The ETERNAL has taken!" The Eternal, too, was responsible for the disaster! NOTHING happens contrary to God's purpose!


Satan Tries Again

"One day the sons of God again came to present themselves before the Eternal, and among them Satan.

" 'Where have you been?' said the Eternal to the Adversary, and the Adversary answered, 'Roaming here and there, roving about the earth.'

"Then the Eternal said to Satan, `Have you noticed that there is no one like my servant Job on earth, a blameless and an upright man, who reverences God and shuns evil? He still holds to his loyalty: it was idle of you to entice me to undo him.' But the Adversary answered,

" 'He has saved his own skin! A man will let all he has go, to preserve his life. Only put out your hand, touch his flesh and bones, and see if he will not curse you to your face!'" (Job 2:1-5, Moffatt)

Notice, there is no contest here between two equals. God sits in authority supreme. Satan cannot do one thing without permission from God!

And here, in this heavenly court, God permits Satan to advance his arguments — even to put them to the test of experience on the most righteous human on earth! It is a thrilling drama here being enacted — a drama with great purpose — tremendous meaning!

"So the Eternal said to Satan, `There! He is in your power; only, spare his life!'" (Verse 6, Moffatt)

Notice again, ALL AUTHORITY comes from God. It is GOD who put poor Job in Satan's power. Satan was permitted to devise his most cunning and cruel affliction — with but one restriction: "Spare his life," commanded God. Satan could go no further than God specifically authorized! And God did permit this evil! WHY, we shall soon see!

So "away went the Adversary from the Eternal's presence, and he smote Job with painful ulcers from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head, till Job took a potsherd to scrape himself.

"As he sat among the ashes, his wife said to him, 'Still holding to your loyalty? Curse God, though you die for it!' "