Does God care whether we love Him or not?
Despite our sins, pride, and rebellion, even when we make a train wreck of our lives, looking at God through the lens of Jesus and in light of the cross, the LORD our God loves us, cares about us, and goes to every length for a relationship with us.
In love, the LORD tells us, commands us to love Him. But why command it?
1) God commands us to love Him for our sake! Because there's no greater love than God's, and no One is greater to love. But sin distorts our view of God, and the devil deceives us. So God commands us to love Him for our own good. That's why Jesus called it the greatest commandment, being told to love the LORD our God directs parched souls to the surest source of eternal joy, wholeness, and happiness.
2) God commands us to love Him for His delight. I recently heard someone say God needs our love but Acts 17:25 makes it clear that our God needs nothing from us, but He does delight in our love. Love enjoys mutual, initiation-and-response relationship with the beloved.
So, yes, because of His love, our God truly cares that we love Him and we do so through the storms of life; even if situation sucks; whether He allows good or bad; even whether we misperceive Him to be unloving, unfair, or unjust.
For what we saw last week in Job, is the devil to dishonor God by taking what God permits and using it to turn others against Him, the angels, Adam, us.
From Job chapter 1, we saw the glory of God's honor and God's goodness rested, in a sense, on Job's devotion and fidelity to God despite Satan's attacks.
And this wasn't a one-time incident. So here our question, Is God worthy of our love even as we see all the pain in the world? Even if we are made to suffer? Can we still praise God in the storm? Many cannot. But does anyone? Yes.
Job 1:20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said "… The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD."
And this means more to God than we imagine. I bring this all up again because what happened to Job last week happens again. And whenever something's repeated in the Bible it's a super important point for us to learn.
Job 2:1 Again 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. 2 The 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." 3 The 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; he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause."
Satan said he'd curse God but instead Job praised Him. This mattered to God. He loves us and He cares that we love Him, that we have a relationship with Him that praises Him thru the storm.
One way some of us strive to maintain our faith in God's goodness is by washing God's hands of any possible connection to our suffering or the world's.
Notice, it was Satan who plotted against Job and took action against Job's family. Yet God takes full responsibility for what happened, as if He Himself afflicted Job.
This is hard for some of us. Our faith isn't strong enough to believe that God is good if He's fully sovereign so a lot of us subtly downplay His sovereignty. Some of us rationalize it like this, "Well of course God is sovereign, but people still have free will, the devil lies, and nations go to war, and earthquakes and cancer and hurricanes and COVID, they're all Mother Nature's doing not God's. He's blameless, innocent, good."
Or course He is blameless, innocent, and truly good. But if people's free will or nature's randomness or if other people's sin or if the devil's wickedness trumps God's sovereignty then He is not sovereign at all.
if people's free will or nature's randomness or if other people's sin or if the devil's wickedness trumps God's sovereignty then He is not sovereign at all.
If not, He's not with us when these overtake us. He's not guiding or preventing or limiting evil. He can't be praised in the storm.
But Job and the empty tomb prove that He can be.
This way of thinking is just what Satan counted on when he answered God.
Job 2:4 Satan answered the LORD and said, "Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. 5 However, put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse You to Your face." 6 So the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life."
Here it is again. In V5, Satan said to God, "Hey, put forth Your hand and strike his flesh and bone and Job will curse You to Your face." In V6 God says "Okay, he's in your power but you can't kill him."
Again, God in His sovereign authority allows Satan to act, within strict limits, but God takes full responsibility for it. God is the ultimate authority over what happens even the hard stuff.
Many who've suffered have found great hope knowing God is present in their grief. The LORD remains their greatest good because they know Him. They've experienced His goodness in their lives. It touched their hearts. It mattered!
Job 2:7 Then 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. 8 And he took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes.
As this story progresses we're told that Job's whole body was racked with incredible pain, insatiable itching, and a high fever; he had inflamed boils, festering, running, leaking sores with worms in them; his skin was turning dark, peeling, and his breath was foul. He was nasty inside and out.
Job 2:9 Then his wife said to him, "Do you still hold fast your integrity? [Do you still think He's good? Do you still serve Him? Why?] Curse God and die!"
Job's wife tells Job to do exactly what Satan wants him to do! Granted, she's hurting and afraid. She just lost her ten children, and her husband is dying.
Job 2:10 But 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 other words, must the LORD our God only do what we approve?
Actually, many would say yes! If the LORD allows this, if He doesn't save our child, our spouse, He's evil. Or many Christians would argue, "O, God wouldn't do this; He never brings adversity. He fits right in my comfortable box. This was all Satan." But Job said the LORD gives and the LORD takes away. Shall we accept good from God and not adversity? God's in this. And Job was right.
Job 2:10... In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
Job believes that God is good, and His love is perfect. He has final authority over everything that happens, and He can be trusted in this, He's earned it.
Job 13:15 "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him."
Today, you can look to Jesus and to the cross, and say God is good, I fully trust Him in my pain, He's earned it. He's proven it to me over and over.
Perhaps our love for God is best shown when it is offered despite suffering.
But for Job's wife, God is good as long as life is good. But if God has anything to do with any grief or suffering, He's no longer good. He's not worth loving. Some say, "I could never love a God who allows pain or such and such to happen."
Well no doubt, the devil is destructive, the world is fallen, nature groans under a curse and the power of sin rules over all of us. But the authors of Scripture are clear that both good and ill come from God.
Ecclesiastes 7:14 In the day of prosperity be happy, but in the day of adversity consider — God has made the one as well as the other so that man will not discover anything that will be after him.
Lamentations 3:37 Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? 38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and ill go forth?
Isaiah 45:6… I am the LORD, and there is no other, 7 the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.
In pain there are two sources, 1) the pairing of sin and Satan ruling over the unbelieving world, 2) and God. Satan's goal is our harm; God's goal is our good, meaning God's love is always found even in inexplicable suffering.
Can God use grief for your good? What may need to shift? Can Satan's attack ever be a means for God to bless you? Can God use suffering to reveal your idols, to see God more clearly, to re-posture you to love more sacrificially?
You see this with Job, but also throughout the Bible. The apostle Paul wrote,
2 Corinthians 12:7… there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me — to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you…"
In Satan's hands, this is a cruel blow. But Paul used his suffering to turn to God, and found hidden in this a means of grace.
And then there's Jesus Christ our Lord.
Satan filled Judas' heart to hand Jesus over to suffering and death, yet God used Jesus' suffering and death to bring about the greatest good.
God has the final word and all things work for good to those who love Him. This doesn't take the pain away, but it promises God works even in the pain. He loves us through the storm, and we can love Him the storms as well, despite the accusations that He is not good, or unworthy of our love.
Is God worthy of our love? Yes, He is.
Someone sent me the following text after last week's sermon and she answers this very well:
"I listened to your sermon yesterday and had to search my soul to answer the question, 'Do I love God for who he is or just for the gifts he bestowed upon me?' And 'would I love God even if everything was taken from me?' I came to the conclusion that I love God for who he is. He is loving and gracious and kind and sovereign and faithful and dependable and He has promised to be with me through all I go through. This is who I love. I am grateful for all the gifts He has blessed me with and I look to him to show me how to bless others with what he has given me. My prayer is that whatever happens I will not forget who my God is."
May God's Spirit and His church help us never to forget.