For men are not cast off by the Lord for ever.
Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.
For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.
To crush underfoot all prisoners in the land,
to deny a man his rights before the Most High,
to deprive a man of justice-- would not the Lord see such things?
Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?
(Lamentations 3:31-38)

The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life."
So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.
Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.
His wife said to him, "Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!"
He replied, "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
(Job 2:6-10)

One of the things I am very grateful for at this time is that all of the words of encouragement we have received at this time have been sensible and mature. I am very pleased to say, we have not had any of the flaky nonsense that usually surfaces when a believer goes through a time of trial. No-one, praise God, has tried to "discern my sin" or tried to imply that it is due to lack of faith that we went through what we did. All the words that have come, have focussed on God, and his love, his sovereignty and his mercy, and not on Satan and his alleged activities.

Maybe such talk is going on behind my back; who cares! That's where such sulphurous talk belongs! (Mt 16:23) I'm not saying that a believer cannot suffer as the result of sin; that much is obvious. But the conclusion that all suffering is the result of personal sin is just plain wrong! How then could Christ suffer? And why are we told that we will share the sufferings of Christ?

Let me take this opportunity to address a widespread theological problem. Everyone, I trust, can accept that good things come from God; indeed the scriptures tell us that all good things come from God (James 1:17). But many have a problem accepting that troubles and calamities can also come from God. There is a widespread belief that all such activity is from Satan. If anything "good" happens it is from God, but if anything that is not "good" happens it must be from Satan.

There are two big problems with this theology: first, you don't have to read the papers for very long to realise that the world is full of events that are not "good" — so just who is in control? God or Satan? But the real root of the problem is the deficiency of the word "good."

You see we use the word good to mean more than one thing. In the first instance we use "good" in the moral sense: ie. the opposite of evil. Good represents everything that is morally correct, pure and upright. In this sense of the word, God is good all the time and in every situation, and everything he does is good, and there is nothing that he does or is that is not good.

But good is also used to mean "pleasant"; ie the opposite of trouble. We talk of good times, and good things. But God is always good, by the first definition, even if we do not experience the "goodness" of the second definition. It is not correct to say, that everything God does is "pleasant". Indeed the scriptures plainly tell us, that every true son of God undergoes discipline from the Lord, and that no discipline is pleasant at the time. It is here where many believers go wrong, and attribute all such "unpleasantness" to Satan, and waste their time, shouting at the devil and "binding" him when they should be submitting to God (which will always enable us to resist the devil anyway! [James 4:7])

I am encouraged, if what I have received in the way of notes and comments is representative, that we are leaving behind such immaturity, and laying hold of the precious truths of the sovereignty and goodness of God. The Kingdom does not have to come in its fullness before Jesus is Lord. He is on the throne today. From the perspective of heaven, the whole earth is already full of his glory. There is no authority, in heaven, or on earth, or under the earth that does not come from him. He is the one who raises up kings and kingdoms and deposes and overthrows them again. He is not just Lord of the saved, but Lord of all. He is not just in control of our lives by the quiet waters, but even when we go through the valley of the shadow of death!

Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?

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