How To Understand Adversity
What is adversity? To be adverse means to be against. Have you ever had anything or someone or an event come against you and you can’t figure out why? Then, you begin to examine your heart and think it might be some sin that God is punishing you for. That is the first thing we do; we blame ourselves and we look for culpability or guilt but in Psalm 34, the Bible says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous.”
I never understood that concept but there are some things you can only learn when you suffer. Now, if I were to ask for volunteers for suffering, nobody is going to raise their hand. I certainly wouldn’t! But suffering will come at some point in your life when something will not go the way you want it to go. You will really need to depend on the Lord. This is a time of fiery trial.
When John the Baptist was introducing Jesus, He said that He will baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16). What is this baptism of fire? Baptism in water is when the pastor puts you into the water and symbolically, you die to your old life and then raises you out of the water, symbolically to a new life. Jesus baptizes us in the Holy Spirit and that is a second experience. He immerses us into the presence of God and spiritual giftings manifest out of that. But the baptism of fire is really a time of suffering where God allows or even engineers a time where we need to depend totally on Him.
Examples Of Adversity:
You say, God, why is life so hard or why am I struggling so much? I know a story of a little boy who took the pupa of a caterpillar that had wound itself into a cocoon. The time came when the cocoon was dry and the beautiful butterfly was trying to emerge. As the butterfly was struggling to emerge, the boy thought he would help it. He took a razor blade and gently cut the outsides so the butterfly could burst free. However, he helped it too much.
When the butterfly got free, it did not develop the wing strength to be able to fly and the butterfly died. Sometimes, struggle is necessary for us to survive the next step that God wants to give us in life.Adversity is God’s method of purifying our faith. Click To Tweet
In John 16, after Jesus had been with His disciples for three and a half years; morning, afternoon, and evening, they had traveled together, heard all His messages, and seen all His miracles. When Jesus was about to go, He said but there are some things I want to tell you but you are not ready yet. I thought to myself what would Jesus want to tell His disciples that they could not bear at that moment in their lives? It was because they hadn’t gone through the struggle, rejection and suffering that they needed to go through to be bold to proclaim the Book of Acts, no matter what came against them.
I despaired when this illness came. My vocal cords tighten up and I have to gasp for air. Food triggers it. Hot sauce, red sauce, acids, and briny pickles. Once, I was rushed to the emergency room, I could hardly breathe and I was ready to die. I told Jesus I was ready to go. I was praying to the Lord, asking Him to speak to me and He dropped Ezekiel 37:3 in my heart. Then, I opened up my Bible app and it said,
“Son of man, can these dry bones live?” I said, ‘LORD, You know.’ And then He said, “Prophesy to those dry bones. Thus says the Sovereign Lord, I will give you breath and you shall live.”Ezekiel 37:3
I shouted, ‘Yes, Jesus!’ When you need a Word, God is there for you. God is there! If you don’t know what is going on in your life, ask the Lord for a Word. You’ll discover the lament Psalms where David cries out passionately to the Lord God. If you are in that place where you need a Word, God is nearest to you. He is closest to the brokenhearted.
There are all kinds of oppositions including failure in finances, mental, emotional, and spiritual battles.
Depression is a real thing. There is a depression that comes from evil spirits but there is also a depression that comes from being emotionally exhausted. If you run around a building ten times, you would be physically exhausted. This happened to Elijah after he had the ‘spiritual high’ of God answering his prayer by fire, emotionally, he fell into the trap of getting so low he fell into self-pity. When we give in to these emotions, they suck us down.
Do you feel like Elijah that you don’t want to live anymore? Do you feel things are so bad that you cannot go on? This is the time you need to draw power from the Holy Spirit and He will minister to you, not only to your spirit but to your soul, your physical body, and your thought life.Adversity is God’s way of getting out attention. Click To Tweet
Read the lament Psalms or Psalm 119. There are 176 Psalms and one of them will fit your situation perfectly just like they always fit me.
The thought of when will I get over this sickness is a common question to ask. I asked the Lord regarding my current ailment and He said ‘Soon’. I laughed, and asked again, ‘How soon is Your soon compared to mine?’
Demonstration Of Soon
A man once asked God in prayer, ‘Lord, what is a million years to You?’ The Lord answered him, a million years to Me is like a second.’ The man inquired again, ‘Lord, what is a million dollars to you?’ The Lord answered immediately, ‘A million dollars is like one penny’. Then the man started thinking and he asked again, ‘Lord, can I have a penny?’ And the Lord answered, ‘Yes, wait a second.’
When my children were little, my wife and I used to act out putting on the armor of God – putting the helmet of salvation on our head, the breastplate of righteousness on our hearts, the belt of truth around our waist, sandals of peace on our feet and lift up the shield of faith to quench all the fiery darts and doubts of the wicked one. Lift it up – why are you letting the devil shoot you? Lift it up. Say, ’The Lord is my shield. He is my strong tower; I will run into it and I will be safe.’
In our hards, we would hold the Sword of the Spirit. Quote the scripture, learn the scripture, and memorise the scripture. If God is for you, who can be against you? Pray at all times in the Spirit. My wife and I did this every morning with our children, even if they were running late for school and they never went into the world. Not for one day. My children never did drugs or got into immorality. They are married to good Christian spouses now. Why? We protected them with the armor of God. Mom, and Dad, pray the armor of God with your children and over your children. Your prayers are a memorial to God.
Memorials To God
When Cornelius was praying to a God he did not know, God sent an angel to him who said, ‘Cornelius, your prayers are a memorial before God.’ A memorial is a thing you look back at that remains and reminds you.
When Joshua led the people of Israel through the Jordan to possess the land, he had one father from every tribe pick up a stone from the riverbed. Then, they put the 12 stones together on the other side of the riverbank. This was done for their children so that when they grew older, they would look at this memorial and know that God answers prayer, and even opened a River for them. The point of this is that I am now entering the answers to the prayers my father and mother prayed for me when I was a little boy.
The prayers you pray for your children to be saved, baptized in the Holy Spirit, and move in the things of God – they will enter into the answers as they age because your prayers are a memorial before God.
The question is, why does God allow adversity? Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? That is a good question and the answer is that we are the cause of some of the adversity. If you go around a corner at 100 miles an hour, you are going to flip the car. You did that. Don’t rage against God for your dumb decisions, or my dumb decisions. God is not punishing you but sometimes our sins punish us. Our foolish, dumb choices punish us. Some of the best lessons we learn, we learn negatively.
There are others who are hurt by the poor decisions of someone close to them. They get sinned against but God is just. He will take our past hurts, and failures, and He will give us a testimony of the grace of God.
There is also adversity that comes as a result of enemy attacks and we know how to deal with that. So why does adversity come?
The Purposes of Adversity
- Trials will be part of our human experience.
Do you know that even though Jesus was God, He took on human flesh and experienced human difficulties like getting tired, having to eat, pain, rejection, and opposition from the Pharisees? Hebrews 5:8 tells us something very interesting about the Son of God.
“Although He was a Son, yet He learned obedience through the things He suffered.”Hebrews 5:8
His suffering was not just on the cross. He was stigmatized as a bastard, meaning He was born out of wedlock. The Pharisees knew the story of how He was born, with Mary being pregnant before she married Joseph and they threw it in His face. This was what they meant when they said they were not born out of immorality, implying that He was. Jesus lived in a bad neighborhood, Nazareth. He worked with His hands till He was 30 years old. Then He came to His own and they didn’t receive Him. He felt lonely and rejected. Jesus wept over Jerusalem and one of His 12 chosen disciples betrayed Him for money. Jesus knew what it was to suffer even before the cross.
- God teaches us something.
God wants to teach us something only suffering will teach us. When you are always feeling good, high, blessed, and prosperous, you think it will always be like that. But God wants us to learn what it is to depend on Him and become more like Jesus Christ.
- Our challenges help us grow spiritually.
Have you ever asked the question: why Lord? There are two ways to ask this. One way is the honest, sincere way. God, why is this happening? Lord, what are you saying to me? What do you want to change in me? What do you want me to learn at this difficult time in my life? God will show you a bit now but you will see most of it afterwards.
Hebrews 12 says it is for a limited time and afterward, it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness. Have you ever asked for patience? God sends difficulty so you develop patience.
The other way of asking why Lord, is actually saying I don’t like this. Why does this have to happen to me? It is a complaint and a rejection of the lesson that we really need most in our lives.
God blessed me in my childhood, teenage years, marriage, and ministry right up till the age of 67. I never experienced tragedy, loss, or sorrow. Other people did but not me. I am 69 now but at 67, I began to lose my voice. I couldn’t sing anymore. It gets difficult to breathe. There have been times I had to command my vocal cords to open. I have to take steroids to preach sometimes and they are changing my body. However, in this time of suffering, I am learning things and drawing nearer to the Lord. So what are some of the lessons or benefits?
The Benefits Of AdversityAdversity is either our greatest motivation to grow spiritually or our deadliest means of discouragement. Click To Tweet
If you are feeling discouraged, God is only a prayer away. Get on your knees by your bed. Say, ‘Jesus, I need You, Lord. I need You more than I ever needed You before.’ And you will feel the beautiful presence of the Holy Spirit. He will lift your heart up. You’ll experience not only the blessings of God, but you’ll also identify with His sorrows and things that He mourns over.
In our trials, we get to feel the heart of God more. I now know the difference between motivation to serve the Lord and discouragement. It is your willingness to understand that God is wanting to teach you something.
When Jesus said, “There are things I want to tell you but you’re not ready for them,” what could some of those things be? I think the word ‘glory’ means heavy. A little child cannot pick up a heavy suitcase. A child needs strengthening from the Lord as it grows, matures, and muscles develop. Then they could pick up a heavy suitcase. I think that adversity and suffering are preparation for the next step to make us stronger to receive the next part of our ministry.
What Adversity Accomplishes
1. Adversity is God’s method of purifying our faith.
What is the most valuable thing in your life? It is not your money. It is not your ministry; it is your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ because without faith it is impossible to please God.
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”1 Peter 1:6-7
We suffer grief. We suffer sorrow. Do you think Job knew why he was suffering? Think about this man. He did nothing wrong. He did not curse or blaspheme God even when he was tempted to. But Job said of his trial, when I go through this fire, I shall come out as gold, (Job 23:10).
Do you know how gold is refined? When it gets heated very hot, little black dots will float up to the surface of the liquid gold. These are impurities inside the gold. They are mixed inside the molecules of the gold. Heat brings them up to the surface. That is exactly what happened to me when God started turning up the fire in my life. All the garbage, junk, pride, selfishness, and things I don’t like to see in myself started to rise to the surface. Fire will do that in your life but that is so the Lord can skim them off your life. Fire will change you, my friend; it will purify you if you cling to your faith in the Lord in that trial. The Lord is closest to you in the fire of trials.
2. Adversity is God’s way of getting out attention (Luke 10:40)
We live in a busy world. Somehow technology which was supposed to make life easier steals more of our time and distracts us. There are so many things jostling for our attention.
The story of Mary and Martha is a misunderstood story. Martha was in the kitchen preparing food. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him. Martha got annoyed and asked Jesus to tell Mary to assist her in the kitchen. Jesus’ gentle admonishment to Martha was not to tell her what she was doing was not important.
Everybody has a ministry gift as a Christian. In the kitchen, Martha had the gift of hospitality and helps. That was her spiritual gift done in a physical way. Jesus was not scolding her for using her gift. She got distracted by the activity of her gift and forgot Who it was for.
We can all do that. We can get distracted by what we do and what we have to do that we forget it is all about Jesus. Jesus appreciates our gift of service. The next time Jesus came to their house, everybody used their spiritual gift to worship the Lord. Don’t let your activity distract you from Who it is for. It is not what you are doing; it is Who you are doing it for in Jesus’ name! If we sing, we sing for You, Lord. If we preach, we preach for You, Lord. We want You to be pleased. Jesus deserves our attention.
3. Adversity is our assurance that God loves you (Hebrews 12:6, 7).
What God wants is first-time obedience. For the parents out there, yelling at your children to obey you is like trying to turn the wheel of your car by honking the horn. It does not work. God wants first-time obedience from us because each time He has to say something, His voice gets weaker and weaker as we harden our hearts. Then, we say that God did not speak whereas He spoke but we ignored Him.
Today, if you hear His voice, don’t harden your hearts as they did in the wilderness. Say, ‘Yes, Lord.’ Even if you don’t want, like, or understand it, obey. For obedience is better than sacrifice. Sometimes, God teaches us obedience by allowing life to spank us a little.
At times, God even allows us to get what we want but when we get what we say we want, it often turns out not to be what we want. Then, we see our hearts are empty. Jesus loves you. God does not punish us because He hates us; He trains us.
4. Adversity is God’s call to examine ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:31)
Often, when you really need healing or are asking God for an answer, everything stops. This causes you to focus on the Lord and discover what He is saying to you. We start becoming introspective but be careful. We are not the Holy Spirit. Don’t look for sin; ask the Holy Spirit to reveal sin.
Have you ever asked for forgiveness for each individual sin you have ever committed? The answer is no. What the Holy Spirit does is picks an area He wants to work on our character and focuses on that. When we obey, we actually learn that lesson and can progress in our spiritual lives.
5. Adversity is God’s way of conquering our pride.
God doesn’t deflate our pride to embarrass us but because He wants to give us grace. What is grace? Philippians 2:13 is the perfect definition of grace.
“For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”Philippians 2:13
To will means to desire and to do involves the power to accomplish something God is asking us to do. Therefore, grace is the desire and power to do God’s will. This is how we forgive. God gives us the grace – the desire and power to forgive according to God’s will. But if we are proud, we don’t receive the grace of God.
The power of forgiveness is that when you forgive someone who hurt you, it benefits you more than it benefits them. When you get bitter about something, you have an infection. Releasing forgiveness cleanses the bacteria that want to infect your bloodstream.Forgiveness is God’s antibiotic to protect your heart from getting infected with bitterness. Click To Tweet
There are three prayers you need to pray to release forgiveness. The first prayer is Father, forgive me. Even if they hurt you, you need forgiveness for your bad reaction to that hurt. You need forgiveness for your ugly desire for revenge because you want to torture them before you forgive them. You want them to feel the pain that they caused you.
The second prayer is Father, forgive them for what they did. You might not want to but grace will give you the desire and power to obey God.
The third prayer is the hardest to pray but also the most powerful: Father, in Jesus’ name, I forgive (say that person’s name).
6. Adversity is God’s reminder of our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Only pride will keep you from humbling yourself. When you humble yourself, or God allows you to be humbled, He gives you a lot of grace. Grace is God’s desire that becomes your desire and God’s power becomes your power.
Example Of The Father
I saw my little daughter crying and asked what was wrong. She said all her older brothers had jobs and had bought me a gift but she didn’t have any money to buy me a present. I gave her some money and asked her to get me a little black flashlight. She goes out with my money, buys the flashlight, packs it up, and gives it to me. My daughter wanted to do my will but she had no power. So, I the father, gave my little girl my power to do what I asked her to do. That is what God wants to do for you.
You are absolutely correct when you say it is impossible for you to release forgiveness. So why don’t you become like a little child and ask your Heavenly Father for the desire that He has for you?
Oh God, give me Your grace. I humble myself. Give me your desire and power to release that person. Forgive me for my disobedience. Father, forgive them for their disobedience. In the name of Jesus Christ, Father, I forgive that person and say their name.
Sermon By Pastor George Davidiuk; Blog By Edward Gardiner
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