Why Do Good People Suffer? - Job 1, 2

A service plan focused on the question of suffering and the test of faith it often involves in a series addressing difficult questions of the faith.

Worship Service

Theme of the Service

As the second service in the series of message on "Knots of the Faith," this service will focus on the question of suffering and the test of faith that it often involves. Why do good people suffer?

As such, this service must give worshipers the opportunity to be candid before God and one another about the reality of suffering, about the big questions it raises for many of us, about the search for answers, and about the need to walk by faith when we discover that answers often are not available.

Therefore, this service will acknowledge pain and encourage us to trust God in the face of mystery.


WE GATHER TO WORSHIP IN A WORLD OF PAIN

Prelude: "If You But Trust in God to Guide You," Powell [organ] or Clisham [handbell choir]
"Adagio in G Minor", Albinoni [organ]

The Call to Worship

Introit: "Lift Thine Eyes to the Mountains," Mendelssohn

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting
Congregation of Jesus Christ, in whom are you trusting?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

*Song: "O Lord, My God, Most Earnestly" PsH 63


WE ARE RENEWED IN GOD'S GRACE

The Call to Confession
Knowing that we are unworthy before the face of God, let us confess our sins to the Lord and
ask for his mercy to meet us and cleanse us today.

Our Prayer of Confession: Psalm 51:1-12

The Assurance of God's Pardon: Psalm 32:3-5

*Our Response of Thanks: "In the Lord I'll Be Ever Thankful" SNC 220


GOD SPEAKS HIS WORD TO US

A Litany of Seeking
Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.

For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
This is what the wicked are like-
always carefree, they increase in wealth.

Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure;
in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.
All day long I have been plagued;
I have been punished every morning.

When I tried to understand this,
it was too oppressive to me
till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.
Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.

My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
As for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.
(from Psalm 73)

Sermon: "Why Do Good People Suffer?" (Knots of the Faith - #2)
Text: selected passages from Job 1 and 2


WE RESPOND TO GOD

We Seek God's Help

Song: "Protect Me, God: I Trust in You" (st. 1, 3-4) PsH 16, SFL 217

The Prayer of Intercession

Song: "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" PH 404, PsH 493, TWC 638, UMH 474

We Bring Our Gifts

Offertory Prayer

Offertory: "Sing Praise to God, Who Reigns Above," Haan [organ] or McChesney [handbells]

We Affirm Our Faith

Our Profession
What do you believe when you say:
"I believe in God the Father almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth?"

That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who out of nothing created heaven and earth
and everything in them,
who still upholds and rules them
by his counsel and providence,
is my God and Father
because of Christ his Son.

I trust him so much that I do not doubt
he will provide
whatever I need
for body and soul,
and he will turn to my good
whatever adversity he sends me
in this sad world.

He is able to do this because he is almighty God;
he desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.
(Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 26)

Song: "Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above" PH 483, PsH 465, RL 146, RN 52, TWC 50, UMH 126

Our Profession

What do you understand by the providence of God?
Providence is
the almighty and ever present power of God
by which he upholds, as with his hand,
heaven and earth and all creatures,
and so rules them that leaf and blade,
rain and drought, fruitful and lean years,
food and drink, health and sickness,
prosperity and poverty-
all things, in fact, come to us
not by chance but from his fatherly hand
. (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 27)

Song: "We Will Sing Our Song to God," O'Brien
(The congregation will join the choir on the refrains of st. 2-4.)


WE DEPART WITH GREATER PEACE

*The Benediction and Congregational Amen!

*Song: "Go Now in Peace" PsH 317, RN 293, SFL 79, UMH 665
(first time, choir; second time, all)

Postlude: "Lord, Dismiss Us with Your Blessing," Young [organ]

* you are invited to stand

Sermon Notes:

  1. As we deal with "Knots of the Faith," we may assume that this one is very near the highest on everyone's list. You can assume that the interest level will be high. Be aware that the subject may stir up a wide variety of emotions-genuine struggle, resignation, discouragement, cynicism, etc. Try to be sensitive to all of these possibilities.
  2. An identification of various kinds of suffering would be helpful. Not all experiences are the same. Such identification can happen by references to painful events in our own experiences, in the news, and/or references from authors. It is often helpful to distinguish several different dimensions of suffering:
    - circumstantial suffering (events that happen)
    - moral suffering (results of our wrong behavior)
    - servant suffering (when we lovingly step into someone else's pain)
    - Christian suffering (resistance we experience for the cause of Christ)
  3. Job's experiences helpfully form the base point for a consideration of this struggle. Job's account includes intense drama, extended debate, confrontation by God, and the final blessings by God.
  4. It will be helpful to survey different possible unhealthy responses to suffering-denial, anger, blaming self or others, and picturing a helpless God. And then in contrast point out the dimensions of a healthy response:
    - Expect suffering-it's a fallen world.
    - Be honest about it-it does hurt a great deal.
    - Trust God-even when it doesn't seem to make sense.
    - Hope-there is a whole new day and world coming.
    - Rest-rest in the Lord with a trusting heart.
  5. Because of the nature of this subject, and how deeply it may affect the faith struggle of many hearers, it's very important that the matter be presented with sensitivity, and not merely intellectually. Many will need their hearts encouraged more than their questions answered.

Music Notes:

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

  1. All the music of the service should breathe a spirit of warmth and encouragement.
  2. The prelude music can be found in the following sources:
    - "If You But Trust in God to Guide You," arranged by Robert J. Powell for organ, published by Morningstar MSM-10-873 [1994] (E-M).
    - "If You But Suffer God to Guide Thee," arranged for 3 octave handbell choir by William F. Clisham, published by Agape 1337 [1988] (M).
    - "Adagio in G Minor" by Tomaso Albinoni, arranged for organ by S. Drummond Wolff, published by Concordia 97-5779 [1983] (E-M).
  3. The Introit "Lift Thine Eyes to the Mountains" by Felix Mendelssohn is arranged for SSA voices and published by Studio 7910 [1978] (E-M). This is a separate edition of the chorus from "Elijah."
  4. A piano accompaniment for "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" can be crafted for the congregation from the choral anthem "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" by Ed Lojeski, published by Hal Leonard 08374375 [1982].
  5. The suggestions for offertory music, both based on the tune MIT FREUDEN ZART, can be found in the following sources:
    - "Canonic Variations on 'With High Delight'" by Raymond H. Haan, published by Concordia 97-6167 [1992] (E-M).
    - "Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above," arranged for 2-3 octave handbell choir by Kevin McChesney, published by AGEHR AG23006 [1993] (E-M).
  6. The anthem "We Will Sing Our Song to God" by Francis Patrick O'Brien is arranged for SATB voices and includes a reprintable refrain for congregational voices. It is published by GIA G-3777 [1992] (E).
  7. The postlude, "Lord, Dismiss Us with Your Blessing" arranged by Gordon Young, can be found in the organ collection "Eight Voluntaries" published by Presser 413-41034-30 [1961].

Liturgy Notes:

  1. It will be helpful to craft the sentences of the call to worship around the theme of the service to shape the expectation of worshipers as worship begins. They must feel free to bring their questions and struggles to this service, not leave them at the door as they enter.
  2. The confession, assurance, and litany all draw from the Psalms. These passages are all compatible with the theme of the service, and serve to reinforce it. The prayer of confession from Psalm 51 can be read by the worship leader, read in unison by all worshipers, or crafted to be a responsive reading.
  3. Note that the response section begins with a three-part prayer. First it is sung, then spoken, and then sung again. It is helpful to explain that songs such as these can be sung in different ways: as our own personal call for God's help, as a corporate call for God's help, and as a vicarious call in which we are singing it for and on behalf of others who need it.
  4. The professions from the Heidelberg Catechism are intended to provide a firm affirmation of our trust in God's care, even when we don't have all the answers to our questions.
  5. The conclusion of this service aims at leaving with peace!

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