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‘Vision of God’ needed to endure difficult times, Southern prof says

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Russell Fuller couldn’t believe what he saw. Staring at the babies — all 80 of them — in the University of Cincinnati infant intensive care ward, he saw the tragic and horrific scars of their innocent addiction to crack cocaine.
One question burned in Fuller’s mind as he focused on one of the “crack babies” mangled from his junkie mother’s failed abortion attempt. “Why did God allow this to happen?”
That question will face all ministers and all Christians at some point, Fuller said Feb. 16 at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
If God “works all things after the counsel of his will,” then why do bad things happen to good people? Fuller, assistant professor of Old Testament interpretation, asked in his chapel message.
God, said Fuller, answers that question through the life of Job: “In that book we have a situation where the most righteous man of all the earth, as God will testify, is going to suffer greatly.”
Described by God as “My servant,” Job was a man of piety and uprightness — fearing God and eschewing evil, Fuller said, noting God still allowed Satan to afflict him. Confronted with the loss of material possessions, family and finally health, Job endured and showed great faith at first.
But, as his trials continued, Job grew despondent. His health worsened, Fuller said, and the boils on his body tormented him as he scraped his skin with broken pottery trying desperately to find relief.
“Curse God and die,” Job’s wife instructed him. Job’s friends accused him: “Can a man who is innocent be tortured by such suffering?” At his breaking point, Job received the counsel of a friend named Elihu. He told Job God can communicate through many ways — including chastening, including pain.
Suffering does not necessarily indicate God’s curse; it can also be a sign of God’s favor, Fuller said, explaining Elihu’s comments.
Fuller related a speech of Elihu as he compared suffering in life to rain: “Just like God can take rain and use it as a means of judgment, God can also bring rain in order to keep that society alive — as a sign of mercy.”
As Elihu came into Job’s life, Fuller said Christians should strive to be modern-day Elihus. “God is not going to come to me and say, ‘Russell, let me explain why this happened to you.’ But, in Job’s situation, God sent Elihu, and Elihu explained certain things. He removed certain objections out of the mind.”
But “God does not want to simply remove objections of the mind. He wants to do a work in Job’s heart,” Fuller said, noting head knowledge fails to explain all of life’s difficulties.
Trust in God is what’s necessary to deal with hardships: “We professors put so many facts in your mind — and that’s a good thing,” Fuller said. “And we’re going to try to put as many facts as we possibly can. And if we do that, we are only going as far as professor Elihu.
“When God takes that knowledge and truly applies it to your heart, it no longer puffs up. It truly edifies. What we need is that the Spirit of God would work in such a way that when we come to his Word it’s not simply something that’s academic, it’s something that changes our hearts and lives,” Fuller said.
God’s Word changed Job’s heart when the Lord asked him, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” said Fuller, citing Job 38:4. Realizing his true condition, Job answered, “Behold, I am vile.”
That isn’t a typical response to questions, Fuller said. The reason for Job’s answer is that “God is revealing himself to Job. He’s revealing his infinite perfection in a way that Job has never seen before.”
This revelation of God’s power is what Christians need in difficult situations, not just knowing the “whys,” Fuller explained.
“What we’re going to need is such a vision of God from his Word and from prayer. And, when those difficult days come, we can look at God and say, ‘God, you are infinitely wise. You are infinitely perfect. And though I don’t understand your plan, I understand who you are. And I can trust in you.'”

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  • Bryan Cribb