God’s Word In Our Adversities
For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life. (Proverbs 6:23)
To profit most from adversity, we should bring the Word of God to bear upon our situation. We should ask God to bring to our attention pertinent passages of Scripture, and then look for those passages.
My first great lesson on the sovereignty of Go’s is still stamped indelibly on my mind after many years. It came as I was desperately searching the Scriptures to find some kind of an answer to a severe time of testing.
As we do this, we’ll find we not only profit from the circumstances themselves, but we gain new insight into the Scriptures. Martin Luther reportedly said, “Were it not for tribulation I should not understand the Scriptures.” Although we may be going to the Scriptures to learn how to respond to our adversities, we find those adversities in turn help us to understand the Scriptures. It is not that we will learn from adversity something different from what we can learn from the Scriptures. Rather, adversity enhances the teaching of God’s Word and makes it more profitable to us. In some instances it clarifies our understanding or causes us to see truths we had passed over before. At other times it will transform “head knowledge” into “heart knowledge” as theological theory becomes a reality to us.
The Puritan Daniel Dyke said, “Look not for any new diverse doctrine to be taught thee by affliction, which is not in the word. For in truth, herein stands our teaching by affliction, that it fits and prepares us for the word, by breaking and sub-dividing the stubbornness of our hearts, and making them pliable, and capable of the impression of the word.”
We might say, then, that the Word of God and adversity have synergistic effects as God uses both of them together to bring about growth in our lives that neither the Word nor adversity would accomplish by itself.
The Bible is not intended to be a book of stories or ideals and philosophy that is discussed and debated in a classroom. Instead, it is a book of instruction and explanation placing every experience in its proper place and understanding. It might be said that it is the instruction book of life and living. Many treat it as a repair manual, only to be consulted when things are going wrong or there is adversity that seems unexplainable. But it is so much more that a “how to fix it” book.
The Bible helps us put life into the perspective of eternity and when we are experiencing adversity find in it the hope of a future beyond the moment. Often in adversity, especially in lengthy times of adversity, it can be easy to become so focused on the adversarial things that we miss the rest of life and so the Bible helps us to think about things beyond the adversity.
I think that we will find ourselves most likely to read the Bible when we are searching for answers to some situation and so adversity becomes a valuable tool in moving us to search the Scriptures. The beauty of the stories of Scripture is that they provide an opportunity for us to read how others have faced and responded to life. For instance, we may read about Job in his time of adversity and see how he responded. We can hear his cry of pain as he seeks to comprehend all that is happening to him. We hear the words of his friends and find that they are saying what many would say to us in adversity. And then we hear what God says about Job and his condition. We get a glimpse of behind the scenes. We can read of David and especially in the Psalms see him as he begins to write expressing the troubling of his soul, sometimes almost hopeless and then as God brings him through the trial, we can see his words of hope. Every experience in life coupled with the Word of God is designed to help us grow in our faith and our knowledge of God. To face adversity without the Bible would leave us thinking that there is no help. We would miss the words of Jesus who promised that we would never be left alone and that the Comforter would come and dwell with us. We would miss the writing of Paul who acknowledges that sorrow accompanies loss of loved ones but it is sorrow with hope. We would miss the promise of the new heavens and earth where there will be no more adversity and therefore we know that ever adversity will end. On the other hand, if we were just to read the Bible for the sake of reading without application, it would become nothing more than a book of theory. We could debate its principles and discuss its merits and return it to the shelf. But when we connect life to the Word and the Word to life we find instruction, direction, discipline, hope and help.
I’ve often said that we are usually in one of three places. We are heading into a storm, we are in a storm, or we are coming out of a storm. Life is filled with an array of good and not so good things and if we are prepared for them, we seem to manage them better. So in conclusion if this is a time of peace and blessing for you, take time to dig into the Word and strengthen your soul. If this is a time of storm, anchor your soul in the Word so you can ride out the storm. It may feel like you’re barely hanging on but you can trust the Rock that you’ve anchored to. If you’re coming out of the storm, with your sails torn and your boat battered wondering if you will stay afloat, find your harbor in the security of the Word and allow it to repair and restore your soul. Though adversity comes, in it we find a more distinct presence of Christ. It was in the storm that the disciples saw Christ more clearly as the Lord of the universe.
“But the boat [by this time] was already a long distance from land, tossed and battered by the waves; for the wind was against them. But when he saw [the effects of] the wind, he was frightened, and he began to sink, and he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus extended His hand and caught him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those in the boat worshiped Him [with awe-inspired reverence], saying, “Truly You are the Son of God!”
“And a fierce windstorm began to blow, and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already being swamped. But Jesus was in the stern, asleep [with His head] on the [sailor’s leather] cushion. And they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are about to die?” And He got up and [sternly] rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still (muzzled)!” And the wind died down [as if it had grown weary] and there was [at once] a great calm [a perfect peacefulness]. Jesus said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith and confidence [in Me]?” They were filled with great fear, and said to each other, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”
May in your storm you too find the revelation of the Son of God who has seen you in the storm and comes to rescue you. May in your storm you discover that Christ is with you and even the wind and waves obey His word. May you find His presence and hear His voice over the noise of the storm and may you take comfort in the fact that He is with you. Let the adversity meet the Word and let them together work together for your good. Remember that everything that God allows in our lives is to build us up, never to tear us down. He loves us that much.
Dr. John Thompson