God’s Wisdom Overrules Our Adversities
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. (Proverbs 19:21)
God’s wisdom is higher than the cunning of our adversaries. This should bring great comfort to us. We often find adversity from contrary circumstances easier to bear than that which comes from the hands of other people. David apparently felt this way; in 2 Samuel 24:14, he says, “I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.”
People may scheme to treat us unjustly, take the advantage of us, or “use” us for their own selfish ends. But Proverbs 21:30 says, “No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord.” Therefore we can say in Paul’s words, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”(Romans 8:31) Even the most nefarious schemes of our adversaries can accomplish only what God has sovereignly ordained for us and in His infinite wisdom skillfully brings to pass.
When Saul sought to kill David, and Davis went into hiding, God used those months and years to build into Davis the character that made him a great king and a man after God’s own heart. Many of his most meaningful psalms were apparently written during this time. One of my favorites, Psalm 34, was written when David was reduced to acting as an insane man for fear of a heathen king. Yet that’s the psalm I most frequently turn to when I struggle with discouragement. What Saul meant for evil, God meant for good.
God’s wisdom is greater than the wisdom of any of our adversaries, whether they be other people or the devil himself. Therefore we should not fear what they seek to do, or even succeed in doing to us. God is just as much at work in those things as He is in the adversities of sickness, death, financial reversal, and ravages of nature.
There is perhaps no better example of how God takes every thing and works it “together for our good” than the story of Joseph. That God had plans to use Joseph is evident even as a child. It is obvious that God was speaking to him in his dreams and those dreams came to pass. He was his father’s favorite son and because of that he received extra attention. One might say that he was spoiled and the resulting arrogance and attitude was going to hinder his usefulness to God. So God in His infinite wisdom brought Joseph to the place of adversity not to harm him or to destroy him, but to mold his character into a man that was useful to God. It is often our adversaries that God works through to bring about a character, heart and trust that is fitting to be used by God for His purposes. In the beginning of this preparation we find Joseph visiting his brothers as they were tending the sheep. He, too, was old enough to have been helping them but as the favorite son was apparently spared from the work. The heart of the one whom God seeks to use must be a servant heart. In the words of Jesus, “not to be served, but to serve.” Joseph was used to being served rather than serving for he did not know that to be great in the kingdom of God, one must become the servant to all. To make Joseph into the man He could use, God allowed Joseph’s own brothers to become his adversaries.
When Joseph comes to them with all his sense of elevated status, they seize him and throw him into a pit intending to let him die there. In their mind this act would rid them of their problem. But God had plans for Joseph and they didn’t end in the pit. Maybe life or some adversary has put you into a pit of despair or struggle and you see no way out. Remember the God “who had begun the good work in you will complete it.” And if God has begun preparing you for His purpose, the pit you’re in is not the end but the beginning, the beginning of the journey of grace. It was grace that put Joseph in the pit for otherwise he could not have become the vessel that God worked through. Though at the time Joseph did not know or understand what God was doing, the wisdom of God was using his adversaries to position Joseph for the purposes of God. And if God did that for Joseph, then my beloved child of God, He is doing the same for you, so take heart, the pit is not the end though it may feel so.
Now most of us would think that God’s next move would be to get Joseph out of the pit and safely home to his father. God did get him out of the pit, but it was out of the pit into slavery of a stranger in a strange land. We read that Joseph’s next lesson would come as he served an Egyptian named Potiphar. God was teaching Joseph how to serve and apparently Joseph was learning well for he was raised to the position of being in control of the household. The Bible doesn’t say, but I believe that with the rise in position the old arrogance returned for we all know that unless our sins and weaknesses are fully worked out of us, they will come back again and again no matter how hard we try to suppress them. At the height of this rise in position God used Potiphar’s wife to place Joseph back into the school of adversity so that his character could be molded into that which God could use. No one can give mercy to others until they have been in a place where they need mercy and often it is those who have received no mercy that are more merciful. Though Joseph wasn’t aware at this time, the day would come when the very brothers who had put him in the pit and sold him into slavery would stand before him. In that moment he would have the power of justice/revenge or grace and mercy. I think that had not Joseph received unjust punishment and was falsely accused that his former character could not have given mercy. In the school of adversity, off Joseph goes to prison. While there he meets two fellow prisoners and God uses him to interpret their dreams. Each promise that when they are freed they will remember Joseph and plead his case. Joseph remains forgotten in prison for a season. Have you ever blessed someone and they promise that when you need help they will be there only to find that when you need help they’re never home? The disappointment of being forgotten is a powerful weapon the devil uses against us. As you read through the Bible many of those whom God used often went through times of feeling forgotten. Maybe you are in a place of adversity and you feel forgotten by friends or family or even God. Remember that the God who brought you to the trial will also bring you through the trial and He has promised that He would never leave us. Though Joseph could not see at the time-all he could see was the prison bars- God was working to bring him to the place of ministry and purpose that had been the plans all along. God gives Pharaoh a dream that none can interpret until the cupbearer remembers Joseph. Joseph is brought before Pharaoh and interprets the dream and is placed second in command over all of Egypt. Back in Canaan Jacob and the brothers are going through a time of famine and God has placed Joseph in a position to preserve this family for from them will come the twelve tribes of Israel and eventually the Son of God in the flesh. They come down to Egypt and Joseph faces the very ones who mistreated him. Had not God molded his character through adversity, no doubt he would have executed those brothers and the plans God had for them would have perished. Sometimes we may not see the purposes of God at the moment but we must trust that God who has brought us into His kingdom has also given us a purpose that no one else can accomplish. We must allow the adversaries and adversities to mold us into the character that God needs for the work of the kingdom for otherwise His plans may be hindered.
Joseph sums us this training of God with these words:
But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children. ” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.
May God give us grace to see that He uses even our adversaries to accomplish His plans for our lives and may we take hope in adversity that “all things work together for good to them that love the Lord.”
Dr. John Thompson