Discussion Guide for Job 31-33Read Job 31-33 Online
The application of this week’s sermon deals primarily with how God uses negative things in our life to discipline us toward a more loving and obedient relationship with Himself.
To summarize what we see in Job 31-33, God uses suffering as discipline in two ways.
1) When we sin, there are often severe consequences for our action.
Negative consequences can serve as guardrails to keep us out of sin. Because we do not want to feel the pain associated with those consequences, we seek to guard the purity of hearts. We don’t even want to entertain the possibility of committing these sins and suffering their just rewards.
2) God brings suffering in our lives that is not associated with any sin whatsoever.
The effect of this suffering can be the same as consequences for sin. However, God’s intention is for us to face the hard times by clinging tighter to him and seeking him more earnestly.
When Job maintains his own righteousness, he is saying that his suffering belongs in category number 2.
Unfortunately for Job, he does not yet have a full picture of what God intends for a spiritually disciplined life. He is working off of a very primitive and incomplete view of discipline. His understanding says that God is supposed to reward good behavior and punish bad behavior. He has not yet comprehended that the suffering itself can deepen the roots of a righteous heart.
Because the negative things in life are often the things that most quickly get our attention, we often equate discipline only with those things.
In order to have a well-rounded discussion of discipline, we need to remember that God also commands many positive practices to focus our hearts on him.
In February of this year we focused on the practice of consistently studying the Word of God so that we can be trained in the type of righteousness that Job has in mind.
I also recommend Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney. It’s one of the best modern books written on positive spiritual disciplines for anyone looking for a breakthrough in their personal walk with Jesus.
Think about life like a high school class. Everyone takes an exam to determine if they have mastered the things they were supposed to learn in the class.
The rewards and punishments associated with grades may cause some students to pay attention and do their work so they succeed on the exam.
For others, the mere experience of sitting in an exam and potentially not knowing the answers might prod them to learn the material.
Either way, the exam is useful for the learning process.
But no one is foolish enough to say that the exam is the same thing as the class. Learning happens in the mundane daily activities that have taken place for months preceding the exam.
Students may hate their homework. They may not think much of the information they had to memorize and the books that had to read. And, they may actually love the lectures and lab time.
How he performs in these daily activities discipline the student to learn the material so he can ace the exam.
God’s discipline is most noticeable during those times when we can say that we are being tested. Discipline, however, is not exclusive to test-time.
The time we spend in prayer, meditation, Bible study, church worship, and small group teaches us just as much as enduring the harrowing experiences of suffering. It’s all discipline and it’s all for our good.
- In your group, come up with a good definition for “spiritual discipline” that makes sense to all of you.
- What are some of the spiritual disciplines that you practice?
- How is Job being disciplined?
- What is the difference between discipline and punishment?
- Why do we often think of “discipline” as a dirty word?
- What are some ways that Job and Elihu understand discipline correctly?
- What are some ways that Job and Elihu misunderstand discipline?
- Does Job understand that God is training his heart for righteousness?
- Why do you think that God targets our heart and not simply our behavior?
Pray for Our Missionaries
In your prayer time, pray for church in the world who are engaged on the front lines of reaching newly arrived refugees with the Gospel of Jesus. These churches exist in Jordan, Italy, Germany, and even the United States.