March 10, 2024

“The End of the Lord” in Believers’ Suffering

Written by:
Rev (Dr) Prabhudas Koshy

God works all things after the counsel of His sovereign will. He governs all events in the universe, including the evil devices of the wicked (cf. Proverbs 16:4) – except that He has no part in instigating or initiating sin. But He allows Satan and sinners to work against His people and Him. He takes their defiance as a challenge, only to thrash His enemies at the end. In fact, He can even bring up “the wrath of man” to praise Him, yet “the remainder of wrath shalt (he) restrain” (Psalm 76:10).

But in that great battle that the devil is waging against God, God’s children are often caught up in it, whether we like it or not. There is no sitting on the fence. Being on the Lord’s side, we have to face the challenge that is raised against God, embracing it with joy. We must be happy “fighters”, not in the sense of being belligerent and aggressive (looking for a fight), but in the sense of fighting “the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12) and enduring “hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3).

God Has Purpose in Believers’ Suffering

In this respect, the Holy Spirit’s comment of Job’s reaction to his sufferings is instructive: “Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (James 5:11). Job was described by James as one who happily endured. 

The word (makarizo) for “happy” is the same Greek root word which gives rise to the adjective that is translated as “blessed” in the Beatitudes, like “Blessed are the poor in spirit”, “Blessed are they that mourn”, and so on (Matthew 5:3-11). Truly, we (biblically instructed) believers think of those who endure their sufferings as blessed people. We believe Job was a blessed man because he endured his suffering, for the resultant trying of his faith worketh patience (cf. James 1:3). James is bringing to the readers’ attention, the blessedness of Job’s patience, which is an honourable thing. In God’s sovereign scheme of things, patience and endurance are blessed traits which God wants His children to possess. 

Having established his heart in the Lord, though Job did question God’s will, he kept faith with the Lord and endured to the end. In the whole process, God was glorified and Job purified. Hence James highlighted “the end of the Lord”. Now, the Greek word (telos) for “end” here has the idea of end-result or objective. It is not referring to some sort of termination, for being the eternal Lord, God has no beginning or end. Rather, “the end of the Lord” is referring to the ultimate completion and fulfilment of God’s intent and purpose. So dear Christians, whatever trial you may be presently undergoing is never purposeless. And it is comforting to infer that it is not endless either! You may be having a difficult family life, or great financial problems, or debilitating health troubles, or a host of distressing issues, but please remember, that is what God has purposed. God will work out His purposes in His time and for His glory. In the meantime, “we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience” (Romans 5:3), which is certainly one of God’s purposes for our Christian lives. 

Indeed, the Lord has purpose in our lives. Our sovereign God is not a capricious God who does things according to His whim and fancy. He has a plan. He works out everything according to His plan; nothing happens by chance. He has decreed all things, including our lives and our works. In fact, “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). 

Suffering as Part of Believers’ Preordained “Good Works”

It should not surprise us that as God’s children living in a hostile world, part of the “package” of our “good works in Christ Jesus” inevitably includes sufferings for Christ’s sake. Unbeknown to Job, his sufferings would constitute a very important spiritual work that God committed to him. God was very pleased with His servant’s spiritual maturity and complete surrender to Him as his Master (cf. Job 1:8), but Satan cynically insinuated that it was because of all the beneficial things God had given in his life. To prove His arch-enemy wrong, God then allowed Satan’s attacks on Job, but within certain limits (Job 1:12; 2:6). In this “good spiritual work” (of enduring under suffering) committed to Job by God, Job maintained his integrity and uttered sublime statements of faith; these are his “good works”. In fact, his several rounds of speech and counter-speech, in response to his friends’ absurd provocations, were beautifully poetic in Hebrew. They constitute a masterly piece of literary work in themselves! He used all his literary power, ability and skill to express his thoughts, and refute misguided theological clichés. 

Above all, Job’s patience amidst suffering was used by God to defeat Satan’s mockery, whereby God’s name and honour were exalted. But note that Job’s patience didn’t mean he was quiet all the time. Some people think patience means silent stoicism, without realising that God is a loving Father upon whom we can pour out our woes (cf. 1 Peter 5:7). Actually, Job was talking from chapter 3 all the way to chapter 31 (interrupted from time to time only by his three friends’ baseless accusations and rebuke)! Indeed, his speech recorded in these chapters of the Book of Job had left behind a rich legacy, benefitting Bible-readers and, particularly, suffering Christians, throughout the Old and New Testament ages. Job was truly God’s “workmanship”, earmarked for a deep “work” of sufferings.

Dear Christians, if you believe that God is sovereign, then you have to believe that God has appointed whatever troubles that come into your life. Accept your trouble as God-ordained. The rightful response to such an acceptance of God’s sovereignty is worship, like how Job worshipped: “the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21b). Don’t resist! Don’t say, “I quit!” Accept your peculiar circumstance as what God had already determined even before the foundation of the world, “that we should walk in them”. And acceptance entails the worshipful confession that “The Lord is with me even in this.” 

Truly, as far as God’s challenge to Satan regarding Job’s integrity is concerned, Job passed the test with flying colours! Job sought / worshipped God for who He is, not for the things he could get out of God. Job was shown to be a worshipper of God, not of things. His faith was tested – he came forth as gold (cf. Job 23:10)! 

Hence, the apostle James commented that when believers perceive the “end (i.e. purpose) of the Lord” pertaining to the righteous’ sufferings, they cannot but see how “pitiful” and “of tender mercy” the Lord is. Indeed, the Lord “that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4), and is perfectly “able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24). To God be the glory. Amen.

Gethsemane Bible-Presbyterian Church adheres to the system of faith commonly known as the “Reformed Faith” as expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith together with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms.
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