Deeper With God
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you. (Job 42:5)
Perhaps the most valuable way we profit from adversity is in the deepening of our relationship with God. Through adversity we learn to bow before His sovereignty, to trust His wisdom, and to experience the consolations of His love. We begin to pass from knowing about God to knowing God Himself in a personal and intimate way.
In Philippians 3:10, Paul speaks of the fellowship of sharing in the sufferings of Jesus Christ, that is, of believers sharing with our Lord in His sufferings. Paul’s goal, he declares, is this: “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” This verse has given expression to the deepest heart cry of believers down through the centuries: the desire to know Christ in an ever-increasing intimate, personal way.
I can remember as a young Christian being challenged to “know Christ and to make Him known,” and I can remember praying, because of Philippians 3:10, that God would enable me to know Christ more and more. I have to confess though, that deep inside it bothered me a bit that Paul not only wanted to know Christ Himself but also wanted to experience the fellowship of His sufferings. To know Christ in a more intimate way and to experience the power of His resurrection in my life appealed to me, but not the suffering. I shrank from that. But I’ve come to see that the message of Philippians 3:10 is a “package deal.” Part of the coming to know Christ in a more intimate way is through the fellowship of His sufferings. If we’re to truly grow in knowing Christ, and to experience the power of His resurrection, we can be sure we’ll experience the fellowship of His sufferings to some degree.
There is no escaping the adversities of life. Man has attempted to do so in vain since the fall in the garden. Solomon, perhaps the wealthiest and most intelligent of men sought in vain to do so. He says that he gave himself to pleasure and found it was all vanity. He gave himself to seek wisdom and found that wisdom had not the power to keep adversity at bay. Throughout history men and women have given themselves to the effort of finding utopia only to discover that utopia never exists.
What is interesting is that Christ never attempted to deny nor escape adversity. In fact He said that to become a disciple, we would face certain adversity. Because we live in a world inhabited by evil and ruled by Satan, the prince of darkness, we are subject to persecution and trouble. Jesus recognized this and spoke these words to us:
33 I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]
We know it is possible for God to keep us from all adversity so our question must be that if He can, why he does not. Paul who received the thorn in the flesh tells us that he sought God three times in the matter asking to be released from the adversity. Much speculation has been made concerning what the thorn was. At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter. Perhaps the reason that the specific issue is not mentioned is so that we can know that whatever the adversity the gift of “sufficient grace” is available to us.
We should not get the idea that we should accept every adversity as though it has been approved by God. Jesus was clear when He said that He had come to give life and the devil comes to destroy.
“The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].”
Nor should we think that adversity only comes to those who are unbelievers or believers who have made mistakes. Adversity comes to all, in different forms and different intensities. Both Christian and sinner suffer adversity. This is what Jesus referenced in the parable of the houses and the foundation upon which they were built.
24 “So everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, will be like a wise man [a far-sighted, practical, and sensible man] who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods and torrents came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them, will be like a foolish (stupid) man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods and torrents came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great and complete was its fall.”
Upon both houses came the storm but the one built upon the rock- Christ Jesus stood in the storm. The one built upon the world collapsed.
So if God allows us to experience adversity what is its purpose? To teach us to be dependent upon Him. It’s in adversity that we discover that life is too large for us to manage. I find that most people usually draw nearer to God, pray more, read the Bible more during times of adversity than when things are going along well. What we need to remember is that the adversity God allows us to suffer is never more than we can bear. I know it seems that it might be in the midst of the storm but His promise is sure. Most of us find our walk with God closer, our trust greater and our relationship deeper after going through a time of adversity.
If you are in a time of adversity, whether it is health issues, financial issues, family issues, job issues or emotional or spiritual issues there are two promises for you.
First God will not allow you to be tested beyond your ability and if it becomes so, He makes a way of escape.
No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word—He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy].
1 Corinthians 10:13
Second of all, though it may seem so, you are not left alone in your suffering. God never abandons us in the storm. In fact He is more near in the storm than maybe at any other time.
Let your character [your moral essence, your inner nature] be free from the love of money [shun greed—be financially ethical], being content with what you have; for He has said, “ I will never [under any circumstances] desert you [nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless], nor will I forsake or let you down or relax My hold on you [assuredly not]!” So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently say, “ The Lord is my Helper [in time of need], I will not be afraid. What will man do to me ?”
I just placed some plants in my garden that were grown indoors. Some of them didn’t make it because the environment in which they were grown had kept them from any adverse conditions. Like them, were we to live in a protected environment, the first adverse wind would soon wilt us but if like the palm trees, we learn to bend with the storm, every time we grow stronger and stronger.
So face the wind knowing that the power of God is with you and the presence of God is behind you giving you strength to stand in the storm. In the midst of the storm, lift up your praise and worship. Lift your voice in prayer and thanksgiving. Open your spirit and receive the sufficient grace from God and know that every adversity that the devil sends only serves to grow you in faith and trust in God.
Dr. John Thompson