SIFTED: UNDERSTANDING IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Job 29-31 contains a monologue from Job. He longs for the “good old days”, defends his innocence, and asks why so many awful things have happened to him, since he did not deserve them. In Job 32-37, Elihu, a new voice, delivers his view of what was happening. And then, finally, God speaks. But He does not answer Job’s questions…He has a few questions of His own.

SCRIPTURE

1Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: 2“Who is this that obscures My plans with words without knowledge? 3Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. 4Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. 5Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? 6On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—7while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? 8Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, 9when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, 10when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, 11when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’? 12Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place….? Job 38:1-12

GROUP QUESTIONS

If you could go back in time, what would you say to your younger self? Is there something you would tell yourself to avoid, or something you’d challenge yourself to do?

In order to understand God’s answer to Job, you need to read through some of Job’s statements. Read the following passages and list the things that Job says to or about God. Do you think Job is asking or accusing?

  • Job 13:1-3
  • Job 13:20-23
  • Job 23:3-6
  • Job 31:35

Read Job 38:1-12. What is described in verses 4-7? What did He ask Job?

List all the aspects of nature described in verses 8-12. What did He ask Job? What is the point God is making in theses verses?

These 12 verses in chapter 38 are just a taste of what God says to Job. In chapters 38-41, God goes on and on, reminding Job of how little he understands. Think through how you handle your day-to-day life. Do your attitudes and actions reveal that you think you know as much as or more than God? In what ways? Do these questions from God to Job remind you Who is in control in your life?

Does God give Job an explanation for why he is suffering? Do you think that a theological explanation for suffering would bring peace, comfort, or even some kind of closure to those suffering? Why or why not?

God did not rebuke Job for being honest about his anger, confusion, or bitterness towards Him. He did, however, correct Job’s error in thinking He was being unjust. Have you ever felt that God was unjust toward you? How did you respond?

APPLICATION

On Sunday, Aaron said that if you want to respond rightly to suffering when it comes your way, you have to understand that God is God and that He has you in process. Understanding God in all His fullness is impossible (Job 36:26). But God has given us glimpses of Who He is in His Word. This week, study the names and attributes of God. For online help, go to https://bible.org/article/names-god and https://bible.org/series/let-me-see-thy-glory-study-attributes-god.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Read Job 38-41. How many questions did God ask Job? Read through each one, and answer it as if God was asking you these questions.

Read Psalm 8. How does the language in this Psalm reinforce Job 38?

How would you answer David’s question, “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”

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SIFTED: COMFORT IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

No one wants to suffer. No one chooses to suffer. But Jesus says suffering is inevitable: “In this world you will have trouble…” (John 16:33). While suffering is never our first choice, it is part of the broken world in which we live. At this point in Job’s story Satan has asked God for permission to “sift” Job, and God gives Satan permission to proceed. Satan takes most of Job’s servants, kills most of his animals and his family, strips Job of his fortune, and since God told Satan he wasn’t allowed to kill Job, he inflicts him with horrible sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. And now, Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, enter the narrative. We’ve been asking this question in our sermon series: “How do we respond rightly to suffering?” Now we are asking, “How do you respond rightly to those who suffer around you?”

SCRIPTURE

11When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 13Then 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

GROUP QUESTIONS

What is your favorite comfort food?

Read Job 2:11-13. What do you notice first in these verses?

What was the intent of Job’s friends? What words are used to indicate their depth of feeling when they saw him?

Read the following passages. What are Job’s friends accusing Job of or implying about him? Do you think they felt these words would be helpful or comforting to their friend?

  • Job 4:7-8
  • Job 8:4
  • Job 11:13-14 | Job 15:1-6
  • Job 18:21
  • Job 22:4-11

How would you have comforted Job?

Have you ever tried to comfort someone who was suffering, and your attempt failed because of your words or attitude? What did you learn from that experience about how to comfort someone dealing with suffering?

Aaron shared that the word “sympathize” means “to share in or commiserate; to walk in harmony”, and “comfort” means “to give strength and hope; to ease grief or trouble”. What might these words look like practically as you sympathize with and comfort others?

On Sunday, Joe gave an example of what to do and what not to do when comforting others. Did anything he say surprise you? What was the most helpful thing he said that you plan to put into practice?

APPLICATION

Is there some kind of suffering in your life that you need to share with another Christian in order to be comforted? Ask God to give you the courage and wisdom to share with a trusted fellow believer.

Is there someone you know who is suffering? Ask God to show you how you can comfort them this week.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. What are the three different ways God is described in verse 3? How do these titles affect your view of God and suffering?

In this passage, what does Paul say is the purpose of suffering?

In verses 5-7, what four principles does Paul give concerning suffering and comfort?

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Our capacity to comfort is determined by the degree to which we’ve suffered” (Andy Stanley). Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?

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SIFTED: INTEGRITY IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Job lost almost everything – his children, his livelihood – and yet Job 1 ends with this statement: “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” Job 2 begins with a familiar scene. Satan again comes before God, and God again brings Job to Satan’s attention, saying, “And he still holds fast his integrity.” Satan’s next target is Job’s physical person, seeking to attack that integrity. How can you maintain integrity in the midst of suffering?

SCRIPTURE

1Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. 2The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” 3The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause.” 4Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. 5However, put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse You to Your face.” 6So the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life.” 7Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8And he took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes. 9Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” 10But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Job 2:1-10

GROUP QUESTIONS

When you hear the word integrity, what comes to mind?

Read Job 2:1-10. Discuss the similarities and differences between this scene and the one in Job 1:6-12.

How does Satan’s assertion about Job in 2:5 compare to his statement in 1:11? What do you learn about Satan from this?

How does it make you feel knowing that God gave Satan permission to harm Job?

According to Thomas Constable (Notes on Job), “Job’s ailment … resulted in an unclean condition that made him a social outcast (cf. Exod.9:9-11). He had to take up residence near the city dump where beggars and other social rejects stayed. He had formerly sat at the city gate and enjoyed social prestige as a town judge (29:7). The change in his location, from the best to the worst place, reflects the change in his circumstances, from the best to the worst conditions.” Not only did Job endure the loss of his property, children, and health, he also lost his social standing. Job’s wife also lost her children and way of life, saw her husband in immense pain, and would have been affected by his fall in social status. What was her advice to Job? Why do you think she said this?

Aaron mentioned on Sunday that the first attack on Job was outward – an attack on his property and his children. The second attack was inward – a direct attack on Job’s health. Which attack do you think would have been more difficult to endure? Why?

Do you see any significance in the fact that Job “did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10)?

Do you agree with Job’s conclusions in 1:21 and 2:10?

APPLICATION

On Sunday, Aaron shared three steps to building a life of integrity:

  • It starts with an intentional decision. No one drifts towards integrity. Make an intentional decision to not cheat, cut corners, lie, gossip, etc.
  • It starts today, not tomorrow. Make an intentional decision to start today. If you don’t have integrity outside of suffering you won’t have integrity inside of suffering.
  • It starts with the small things. Make an intentional decision to begin small. When you do all the right things with all the small things, your integrity will grow and you will be able to thrive in the midst of suffering.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Merriam-Webster defines integrity as “1) firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : incorruptibility; 2) an unimpaired condition : soundness; and 3) the quality or state of being complete or undivided : completeness.” Biblestudytools.com defines integrity as “simplicity, soundness, completeness, upright….it is equivalent to being honest, sincere, genuine.” What do the following passages say about integrity?

  • Leviticus 19:35-36, Deuteronomy 25:15
  • Psalm 25:21, Proverbs 2:7-8, 10:9, 11:3, 13:6
  • 1 Chronicles 29:17, Psalm 7:8
  • Zechariah 8:16-17
  • Proverbs 29:10
  • 1 Kings 9:4-5, Nehemiah 7:2, Psalm 41:11-12
  • Titus 2:7-8

Read Genesis 39. Joseph, one of the 12 sons of Jacob (Israel), was sold by his brothers as a slave. Imagine yourself in his position. Your brothers have betrayed you. You belong to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard, and his wife is making advances to you. But Joseph, who was a man of integrity, resists temptation. Where does his integrity get him? If you were Joseph, what would you ask God at this point?

Read Genesis 50:15-21. Joseph suffered for many years because of the actions of his brothers, but ultimately reunites with his family. What was his perspective on the things that had happened to him? Do you have this perspective when suffering enters your life?

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SIFTED: WORSHIP IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

One thing that is consistent with the human experience is the fact that each of us will have times when we suffer. We feel pain. Sometimes our suffering and pain is from our own choices; other times, the pain comes through no fault of our own. The key question in our series is, “How do we respond rightly to the suffering that we experience?”

SCRIPTURE

13Now on the day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 14a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15and the Sabeans attacked and took them. They also slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 16While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three bands and made a raid on the camels and took them and slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 18While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 19and behold, a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people and they died, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 20Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” 22Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God. Job 1:13-22

GROUP QUESTIONS

Share with your group a time that you received bad news and you either reacted badly or were able to see the situation through God’s eyes and reacted with worship.

Read Job 1:13-22. List all of the things that Satan took from Job in the order they occurred. Do you think there is any significance in the order that Satan chose to attack Job?

Read Job 1:6-12. In this passage, we are privy to the fact that God gave Satan permission to cause Job’s suffering. Yet in Job 1:20-21, Job’s response to his losses is to say, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.” Discuss with your group whether you believe Job rightly places the cause of his suffering on God.

Job 1:20-21 tells us how Job responded to his losses. Look up the following verses and list who is being afflicted and what their response was:

WHO?                                   RESPONSE

  • Psalm 57
  • Jonah 2:1-10
  • Matthew 26:38-39
  • 2 Corinthians 12:6-10

Knowing that Satan only has powers which God allows him to have, will you look at your suffering as a way that God is sifting you for His purposes?

APPLICATION

Since God does all things for the good of those who trust in Him (Romans 8:28), this week, if/when you find yourself in a difficult situation or receive bad news, try praising God and worshiping Him instead of reacting in a negative way. Be prepared to share with your group how God showed up and worked in your life as a result.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Joe mentioned on Sunday that God’s presence is there even in your pain. Read the following passages and note what you learn about God’s presence.

  • Psalm 139:7-12
  • Psalm 11:4
  • Psalm 34:15
  • Proverbs 15:3
  • 1 Kings 8:27
  • Jeremiah 23:24

The topic of suffering can often lead to the question, “Why would a sovereign God allow suffering? Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines sovereignty as God’s “absolute right to do all things according to His own good pleasure”. How do you reconcile God’s sovereignty with the reality of suffering?

Read Isaiah 45:1-7. How does God describe Himself in these verses? What is your response to His statement that He creates “calamity”?

Read Mark 15:27-34. Christ, in His suffering, asked His Father “Why?” Does knowing this give you comfort or cause you anxiety?

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