As we continue in our bible study we cover Luke 14:1-24.
What follows is the sermon preached at Joe Nesta’s funeral. The sermon text is: Job 19:21-27. The sermon theme is: I Can’t Take It Anymore.
I Can’t Take It Anymore
Long ago there was a man named Job. He had a good life. But one day all of that changed. In one day his flocks and herds were taken from him. And on that same day the servants he was supposed to care for were killed. And on top of all of that, on that same day, while all of his children were gathered together, the house they were in collapsed and killed all of them. And so, the Lord took away all the things and people he cared for and he gave him an enduring sickness—ulcers and sores that gave him pain day after day and month after month. And finally, in his pain we hear him cry out these words to his friends: “21 “Have pity on me, my friends, have pity, for the hand of God has struck me. 22 Why do you pursue me as God does? Will you never get enough of my flesh?” (Job 19:21–22 NIV)
In his own way, in his own words, Job cried out to his friends beside him and his Lord above him, “I can’t take it anymore.” And just like Job, Joe too said those words. And from where we sit, it would seem like he had every reason to say, “I can’t take it anymore.” Joe had more than a dozen surgeries and suffered with is cancer day after day for more than a dozen years. And in recent years his pain was daily and continual. And when we see someone like Joe—someone we know and cherish in so much pain, we are tempted to conclude that if there is a god then that god must be evil. And if we fall into the trap of saying to ourselves, “How could a good God allow Joe to suffer so much,” then we are turning the truth upside down. We go throughout our lives concluding that if there is good in our lives it is because of us and if there is bad in our lives it is because of God.
But the truth is different than our conclusion. The truth is that about 8000 or 10,000 years ago God created the universe. And he placed Adam and Eve in a garden to tend and care for it. And things were good. In fact they were perfect. And they enjoyed that perfection just long enough to ruin it. For Satan tempted them to trust themselves instead of trusting their Lord. And when they gave into this rebellion they dragged us with them. So it should not surprise us that because of that rebellion people are evil. And because of that rebellion we are evil. Because of that rebellion there is cancer and pneumonia. And because of that rebellion in the garden there is death. That’s why Joe came to church. He came to church to stand shoulder to shoulder with other sinners and confess his sin. Sunday after Sunday he would stand with us and say, “O Lord, I have sinned against you in thought, in word, and in action by what I have done and by what I have left undone.” He came to bible studies on Sunday morning and Thursday morning to be reminded of the truth, that you cannot understand the depth of sin out there in the world or the depth of sin in your heart until you understand that rebellion in the garden.
And when Joe with just as much pain in his heart as he had in his body told me, “I can’t take it anymore,” that is the truth I shared with him from God’s word. Suffering and death are a result of the sinful condition we are born with. But there’s more to say than just that. More than once Joe said, “I can’t take it anymore.” But what Joe learned Sunday after Sunday in church I share with you now. Joe said, “I can’t take it anymore.” But out of love and care for Joe, Jesus said, “I can take that—and more.” Jesus said, “I can take your sin and pay for it.” Look at what Jesus did. Jesus took Joe’s sin and paid for it in Joe’s place by being punished in Joe’s place on a tortured Roman cross. And even more than that, he paid for the sins of the entire world on that cross too. Jesus endured the punishment of hell in our place.
So when Joe said, “I can’t take it anymore,” Jesus said “I can take that sin and even more.” Jesus took Joe’s sin and paid for it. But Jesus did even more than that. Jesus took his suffering and used it. Yesterday, if you looked at Joe’s arm you saw a tattoo on his right hand. It was a bible passage. The bible passage was Joshua 1:9. This is that passage: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”” (Josh 1:9 NIV)
Joe knew that bible passage by heart. But, my dear friends in Christ, what good is it to have a bible passage burned into your skin and then never have it sink into year head and heart? A few years ago I talked with Joe after church and he told me boldly and plainly, “Pastor, I’m afraid of death. I don’t want to die.” What good is it to speak about courage on your arm but have fear in your heart?
And the Lord knew about this. So what did our Savior Jesus do? First, Jesus shared his word with Joe. It was that word combined with water in baptism that first gave Joe faith to know and trust who the true God was. And then through that same word God strengthened his faith for 64 years. So Jesus gave him all his promises in his word. But he did even more. Jesus took Joe’s suffering and used it. Jesus knew that the only way anyone makes it into heaven is if they trust in Jesus—and in Jesus alone. So one by one, piece by piece, Jesus took things away from Joe. So, by the time I came along Joe had lost his job. And I remember speaking to him one hot, sunny day when he was taking a break from mowing the church lawn. He told me that he liked his work. But he admitted that if he hadn’t gotten cancer he would still be out there working every Sunday and long ago he would have forgotten his faith in Christ.
So Christ took away his job and gave him his word again. And we could say the same about his health, couldn’t we? A couple of years ago, I kept hearing Joe say, “I’m going to beat this. I’m going to have a positive attitude and get rid of this cancer.” And there’s nothing wrong with trying to get rid of cancer as best we are able. But where was the “thy will be done” in all of his positive, motivational sayings? And so Jesus took away his health and gave him pain so that he would stop trusting in himself and instead trust in Jesus alone.
Joe said those words often, didn’t he? He said many times, “I can’t take anymore.” And in response, and out of love for him, Jesus said, “I can take that—and more. I can take your sin and pay for it.” And Jesus did. And he said, “I can take your suffering and use it.” And he did. And the result is that the man you knew a month ago, Marianne, was not the same as the one you knew a couple of years ago. Jesus stripped away all of the fear and the doubt and self-trust and replaced it with trust in him.
But if I speak about what Jesus took away, please also let me speak about what Jesus gave. Job speaks about that in these words: “23 “Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, 24 that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever! 25 I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; 27 I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:23–27 NIV)
Job looked forward to Judgement Day when he would see his Savior in his own skin with his own eyes. And that is what Jesus gave to Joe too. Joe is with Jesus right now in heaven away from this sinful world and its fearful suffering. And one day soon, along with all of us who trust in him he will stand on legs that are not filled with neuropathy. And he will hold up arms that are not weak and filled with cancer. He will have a perfect body to praise his Savior forever.
All this I have said for you Joe and Marianne—that you would know where Joe is now and have strength and hope in the promise of the resurrection from the dead. But Joe also told me that he prayed for the rest of you. He told me that he had friends who did not know who Jesus was and what he had done to take away their sins. He told me that he had family members who hadn’t been in church for decades. And it was his continual prayer that you would hear about Jesus and trust in him. For what good is it to work for decades and pile up money and then die and be in hell. What good is it to grow older and endure suffering with cancer and heart disease and other conditions and say to yourself, “I can’t take it anymore” all-the-while you don’t know about Jesus’ words to you, that Jesus tells you, “I can take it all—and more.” So my dear friends in Christ, grow in God’s word. For Jesus took your sin and paid for it. And Jesus takes your suffering and uses it. Amen.