This past Sunday I wrapped up a five-week sermon series on the Book of Job. This was my second attempt at preaching through Job and I must say that it went far better than the first. The first attempt that I made at preaching this book occurred during the second year of my ministry. I was new to expository preaching and believed that good preaching meant dealing with a book verse by verse. With this noble but ill-conceived notion in my brain, I set out to take my congregation on an enlightening journey through the book of Job. Over the next 40 weeks I laboriously plunged into the book and was still only half-way through the book. This is when my wife wisely and graciously told me not to preach another message from Job because I was “killing” the congregation. Instead of an enlightening journey, I ended up getting my congregation lost in a homiletical forest of despair.
Over the years, I have thought a lot about that early foray into expository preaching and have tried to make adjustments to balance the need for Biblical accuracy and maintaining the interest of the audience. In addition, I have carefully avoided preaching the book of Job, that is until this past month. As I was planning my preaching for this quarter God began to lay the book of Job heavily upon my heart and I determined that it was His will to give this book a second chance. Here are some thoughts that I would like to share about preaching the Book of Job.
- The message of Job is relevant – Job deals with the age old questions of, “why do the righteous suffer?” There is no doubt that Job was a righteous man, God Himself affirms this in the first chapter. But Job still suffers. There are people in our congregations who are going through a similar experience and who are asking the same questions that Job raises. We need to deal Biblically with this issue. There is also good evidence that Job was going through a time of deep depression as a result of his suffering. Every Sunday there are people in your congregation dealing with depression. They need you to address this issue, Biblically, carefully and compassionately.
- Job does not need verse-by-verse exposition– I have come to the conclusion that Job is meant to be digested in larger portions than are possible in verse-by-verse exposition. People need to get the big picture of Job rather than struggling with the minutiae. I made an arbitrary decision to limit the length of my series to five weeks. Some preachers may prefer to lengthen this to six or even eight weeks, but I urge you not to make the series so long that you lose people’s interest. The truth of the matter is that Job deals with difficult subject matter. Be very careful not to labor the points too much and wear your congregation out. It is better to leave them with a desire to do further, deeper study, than to hope they never hear the name Job again.
- Your preaching needs to be transparent– there are some people in the church who don’t want their Pastor to be transparent or to admit any struggle, but these people are few and far between. As the messenger, the people need to see that you have struggles, that you are aware of what it is like to suffer and to question God. They need to see matters of life and faith fleshed out in the form of your life. Over the past few weeks I have had one or two people who have told me they wished I wouldn’t have shared my personal struggle. But I have had dozens more tell me that they found it helpful to see how God was working in my life and my struggles. So don’t be afraid of being open with them.
- Make sure that you tell them that Job is not the final word and point them to Jesus- If we miss the fact that Job raises the questions but doesn’t give all of the answers we miss the big picture. We must place Job in the right context and show how the grand narrative of Scripture fills in the blanks left by this book. Rightly understood, every book of the Bible points us to Jesus. If your preaching of Job does not point people to the cross of Christ, you’ve preached it wrong.