When you come to Christ you are also enrolled in the University of Adversity, and along with questions about adversity you have the incredible opportunity to learn and grow through any situation, good or bad, high or low, mountain top or Valley… And trust me you will learn more in the valleys than on the mountain tops.

 

Life is full of ups and downs, a roller coaster of experiences, emotions and relationships. So given the variety of terrain you face, one of the questions about adversity you often will have is “Where is your education at Uni-Adversity going to be most effective?”

 

We lean more in our valley experiences than in our mountaintop experiences. My may not enjoy them as much, but we definitely learn more from them.

 

James 5:10-11

 

Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

 

By any standards, Job got a raw deal!  Faithful, righteous, caring and successful, God boasted of him and thereby lined him up for a fontal attack by Satan. Job had to go through some very dark, excruciating days, but James reminds us that God never abandoned Him. It always helps to remember God’s unchanging compassion and mercy when we suffer.

 

In this message I’m going to address some of the common questions all of us have when we think about suffering, hard times and adversity.  But before we address these questions, let me remind you what you are about to learn in adversity…

 

So the first of our questions about adversity is what do we learn in our suffering?

 

  1. ADVERSITY REVEALS OUR STRENGTHS AND OUR WEAKNESSES

 

In we can only see our situation and circumstances, we often do not have a true understanding of our potential.  But God does! Consider Gideon’s call to greatness…

 

Judges 6:11-16

 

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”

 

The Lord’s estimation of us often differs from our own. God saw Gideon as a “valiant warrior” because He knew what He was going to accomplish through him. God saw the potential that Gideon never saw in himself for a moment!

 

Gideon saw himself as weak and little because his focus was on his circumstances rather than on the Lord When we believe God and depend on Him to empower us, we become who He says we are—His beloved children through whom He overcomes the world…

 

1 John 5:4

for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.

 

Remember, when we are weak, He is strong!

 

  1. ADVERSITY IS OUR CHANCE TO SHINE

 

Funny how you sometimes misfit a key and it reveals a truth. I mishit the S, so this heading read “Adversity is our chance to whine.” This is a Fraudian slip but probably more true for us.Most of us whine long before we shine, don’t we?

 

When a freak storm hit the boat the disciples and Jesus travelled in, the true extent of their faith was revealed…

 

When hardships come our way, do we respond, “God, I trust You to bring me through this”? Or do we tend to say, “I’m doomed, and there’s nothing anybody can do”? Or maybe we say, “Why me Lord, don’t You care?”

 

Mark 4:38-40

Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

 

How often do we say things like this to our Lord? How often do we have questions about adversity? When we get into some trouble, we question His love, not His ability. And yet despite our lack of faith, He reaches out His hand and saves us. Guess He really does care after all.

 

When the storm hit, Jesus was fast asleep in the stern of the boat, and the disciples cried, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

 

How many times have you felt the same way? Life turns stormy, adversity comes against us, and we don’t see an opportunity to grow, we see disaster!  We cry out: “Don’t You care, Lord, that this is happening to me? God, don’t You love me enough to do something about this hardship?”

 

The disciples woke Jesus and immediately He rebuked the wind and a great calm settled on the lake. Then He turned to His disciples and said, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40).

 

Faith is a gift, and God has given to each one of us the ability to trust Him. He expects us to use this faith to overcome doubt, fear, and anxiety. Many times, these negative feelings accompany hard times, and form the basis of many questions about adversity.

 

When we hit the valley of our trials, we are tempted  to think the worst and wonder if we will ever recover. Satan loves to tell us that all hope is lost, that we will never achieve our goals. Our situation hopeless, our faith worthless.

 

Where can you turn? To Scripture, where we read

 

Romans 8:28

 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

 

All things? Even adversity? That’s what the Bible says!

 

So,, we must stay the course, continue to trust, and know that because Christ is with us, we will make it to the other side. No matter how serious the difficulty, we will recover, and our final state will be better than anything we have experienced in the past.

 

This is your moment to shine!

 

Allow adversity to spur your faith to action rather than into question. When you do, you will find that it reveals areas in which you need to act in confidence rather than fear. When hard times come, instead of running for cover, make a commitment to trust God. Because the more you depend upon Him, the greater your faith will grow.

 

Then the more triumphant you will be! You will shine brightly when others expect you to fade away!

 

 

Yet inevitably you will have questions. That’s ok, just don’t let them steal your faith. Let’s consider a few questions many people have in the School of Hard Knocks at Uni-Adversity.

MOUNTAIN HIGH, VALLEY WHY? Questions about adversity…

 

So why do we even have to face valleys, and what are some of the questions you face when you get right down in the valley of adversity?

 

1.     WHY AM I CRITICISED DURING TIMES OF ADVERSITY?

 

Often as we struggle with adversity, we find ourselves being criticised, often by those who are closest to us…

 

Job 2:9-10

 

His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

 

When you face difficult circumstances and then have to endure negative opinions and comments from others, you need a special kind of courage to stay positive—despite their words, you must continue to believe that the Lord is with you.

 

Just because you’re in Uni-Adversity and facing tough times, it does not make hope and faith automated responses. You have to make a choice, and this requires an act of your will and a fair slice of courage!

 

And the comments of others often don’t help, right?

 

That’s why here at Coast Church, we want to be encouraging you in the trials you face. We want to speak life and faith to you.

 

But if no one else does it, you may need to speak faith to yourself! Use scriptures like Psalm 23, or Psalm 42. Tell yourself that your loving Heavenly Father has a purpose in your pain!

 

Whatever they say, find out what God says and choose to believe that!

 

Deuteronomy 31:8

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

 

2.     WHERE IS GOD WHEN I’M IN PAIN?

 

As a child, I often had to have needles for my asthma. The doctor and my mum would have to chase me around the surgery. As far as I could tell, the doctor was assaulting me and my mum was an accomplice! I could not see as a child the greater good those injections would result in.

 

Isaiah 63:9

In all their distress he too was distressed,

and the angel of his presence saved them.

In his love and mercy he redeemed them;

he lifted them up and carried them

all the days of old.

 

So where is God when you are hurting? He’s right there it’s you, hurting with you, just as my mum was when I faced those injections. Now I am a  father I get that… But I didn’t as a child!

 

Isaiah 56:5

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.

 

 

 

God does not leave us to suffer when the hard times come; instead, He is right there with us, ever mindful of the pain we endure, not only watching and giving moral support, but also acting on our behalf so we don’t suffer a moment longer than we can bear!

 

 

3.     AN ALL TIME FAVOURITE QUESTION ABOUT ADVERSITY IS HOW CAN A GOOD GOD ALLOW SUFFERING IN A BELIEVER’S LIFE?

 

A frequent questions about adversity is how can a good God allow suffering for those who love Him? If you ask this, you’re not the first…

 

Psalms 10:1

 

Psalm 10

Why, Lord, do you stand far off?

Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

 

Or how about Moses

 

Exodus 5:22

 

Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me?

 

 

Adversity that goes beyond your ability to control it simply proves that God is God, and we are not!  When we consider the suffering we face, we become acutely aware of our need for Him and His intervention to save us. We need His grace and love, and we need it now!

 

Satan makes mileage out of this questions about adversity, especially if you have been told that God will never allow adversity in your life. Again, this shallow theology concentrates on you getting your way, not God having his way with you to develop character.

 

I love how Spurgeon puts it…

 

“God knows that soldiers are to be made only in battle; they are not to be grown in peaceful times. Warriors are really educated by the smell of powder, in the midst of whizzing bullets and roaring cannonades…Is He not developing in you the qualities of the soldier by throwing you into the heat of battle, and should you not use every application to come off conqueror?”

 

 

4.     WHAT THE POINT OF ADVERSITY IF IT MAKES ME FEEL WEAK?

 

If you face adversity, chances are you feel overwhelmed or weak at some point. Most of us know what it feels like to be disappointed in ourselves, embarrassed by our failures, rejected but those we thought we could count on, overwhelmed by adversity.

 

What is it that you face today that is overwhelming you! What questions about adversity are making you feel weak?

 

Regardless of how you feel,  whatever brings you to your knees in weakness carries the greatest potential for the greatest spiritual victory.

 

2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

 

If you feel weak, rejoice, you’re ready to truly trust God now!

 

5.     HOW DO I DEAL WITH FEELINGS THAT PLUNGE FROM STRUGGLING TO  DISCOURAGED TO HOPELESS?

Another of the most challenging questions about adversity…

Since stepping up to become pastor of this church, I’ve had my fair share of adversity. I met with a leader of our denomination who told me I had face more adversity and personal attack  in my first 6 months than most pastors face in 20 years.

 

At times I’ve felt discouraged and yes, even hopeless! Then the Lord gave me this…

 

Habakkuk 3:17-18

Though the fig tree does not bud

and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails

and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen

and no cattle in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will be joyful in God my Savior.

 

If you feel hopeless, helpless, or powerless—unable to deal with people or problems and on the verge of exhaustion—take heart from that passage!

 

When everything looked the worst, no food, no livestock, everything up to mud, somehow Habakkuk didn’t just say he had faith, he actually rejoiced!

 

So one of the questions about adversity you often ask is how could he find such hope in the face of unmitigated disaster?

 

He got a revelation from God. Habakkuk 2:2-3. He spent time pressing into Him, reading His Word, seeking His heart and His purposes. He asked God, and frankly didn’t like the answer he got! But he saw the vision, wrote it down and waited, fully confident that God would come through for him. He learned from the University of Adversity.

 

That’s why he rejoiced. That’s why James said, “Count it all joy when you face trials of many kinds.”

 

Not that its fun, but that God is working a greater work within you.

 

The pain isn’t fun, the hurt isn’t pleasant and the feelings of discouragement and hopelessness are almost debilitating, but God is working in and through these adversities to bring about something special within you!

 

Do you need that revelation, that joy today as you attend Uni-Adversity?  Have you had a revelation of God’s love for you and purpose in your time of adversity? First, read His Word, but also, let us pray with you …

 

If you feel hopeless, if you feel like you’ll never triumph, then this morning is for you.

 

Your feelings are valid, they’re normal. When. You walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you’re entitled to feel discouraged. But keep walking, don’t camp there!

 

If you are struggling  with feelings of hopelessness this morning, don’t let questions about adversity hold you back from graduating the University of Adversity!

In my quest to discover how to turn adversity into advantage I was recently reading a book by Peter Wagner called “Humility”, and to my surprise I found an entire chapter relating humility to overcoming adversity.

 

I’ll admit that I’d never equated humility with handling adversity, but upon studying this relationship I’ve discovered that it is critical. Uni-Adversity is, like any academic institution, all about education. It uses the school of hard knocks to get us there, and as we go through the various assessments, we learn, we grow and we become more like Jesus.

 

So before I go through the steps you need to take to turn adversity to advantage, I want to mention 4 aspects of your lifestyle you need to carefully watch in order to stay humble as you learn and graduate the University of Adversity.

 

1.     WATCH YOUR HEART

 

In adversity it is tempting to become hard hearted. When people tell you to “Toughen up, Princess,” they are referring to your resilience, not your heart. Hard hearted people resist being taught, resist forgiving others and face dire consequences in the future because of their hard heartedness…

 

Romans 2:5

But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

CC BY by ljguitar

 

So as you face adversity, keep your heart soft, towards the Lord and towards those who hurt you, and you will be ready to turn adversity into advantage.

 

Matthew 6:14-15

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

 

 

2.     WATCH WHAT YOU SAY

 

In adversity we must guard our tongues, because when you’re down you tend to lash out under pressure and speak negatively over everything. Even the positive things in your life. Just a twist of a word, a cynical, negative  statement, a subtle tone of voice or the dreaded silent treatment will provoke our adversaries, and drive away our supporters.

 

Ephesians 4:29

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

 

3.     WATCH WHAT YOU REMEMBER

 

Memories have to power to influence our actions now if you let them, especially negative memories. Past failures in your own life drag you down, and when you see them in the lives of others they have the power hurt them and make them attack you more.

 

Isaiah 43:18-19

“Forget the former things;

do not dwell on the past.

See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the wilderness

and streams in the wasteland.

 

Let the past be past at last.

 

4.     WATCH WHAT YOU PRONOUNCE

 

In the middle of adversity and attack it is tempting to say, “I told you so!” This is especially true when those causing your adversity seem to take a fall. I

 

If you want to be humble and learn to become like Jesus, do not pronounce negative judgement on others, and do not pronounce positive boastings about yourself. Humility will help you turn adversity into advantage…

 

Proverbs 24:17-18

 

Do not gloat when your enemy falls;

when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,

or the Lord will see and disapprove

and turn his wrath away from them.

 

Be humble, learn, serve and bless others, even your enemies, and you are set to graduate this class at Uni-Adversity.

 

So how can we turn it all around?

 

TURNING ADVERSITY INTO ADVANTAGE

 

Adversity does not need to be negative. In fact, you can turn adversity into advantage in your life. If you humbly listen and humbly learn the lessons in Uni-Adversity then what you currently face and what is causing you pain can become your springboard to success in life!

 

Failure is not the opposite of success, it is part of success!

 

Here’s the steps you can take to turn adversity into advantage in your life…

 

 

1.     KEEP A TRUE PERSPECTIVE TO TURN ADVERSITY INTO ADVANTAGE

 

In the middle of your trials and tests, step back and see the big picture, and especially see if from God’s point of view.

 

In times of adversity, your problems tend to dominate you and become an all consuming part of your life. It is all you think about, all you talk about, it is ever present and controls every aspect of life. You begin to think that stopping the pain or dealing with the immediate problem is all that matters.

 

Perspective is seeing things in a different way. True perspective is seeing things God’s way. His way is the long term goal, and He is prepared to use adversity in your life to achieve His long term plans to prosper you and not to harm you.

 

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

 

As you face adversity, you have limited time and energy, so you need to work smarter not harder  to overcome it. If you step back and see the big picture over years, not the crisis right now, then you will be able to major on the big things, and minor on the things that long term will not count for much. The right perspective turns adversity into advantage.

 

2.     ADMIT THAT YOUR CRITICS MAY BE RIGHT

 

As you struggle through adversity, you are sure to face criticism about what you have done and how you have done it. Don’t assume all critics are wrong, or that they are against you.

 

Growing through adversity means being humble enough to weight up the opinions of a critic and change where necessary.

 

As I lead this church I have a number of critics. I have been criticised for many things, some justified, some not so. I am even criticised by leaders in my denomination, but I choose to call them mentors, not critics!

 

Proverbs 19:20

 

Listen to advice and accept discipline,

and at the end you will be counted among the wise.

 

 

 

3.     LOVE THE CHURCH

 

 

As I mentioned last week, oftentimes when we are going through adversity, we isolate ourselves and pull away from church. I see it all the time in this church, people struggling, in crisis or in sin, and they pull away not towards a church family that loves them.

 

It is a foolish idea. When you are down, when you are under the hammer, that is when you need friends who stand with you, love you and support you through the tough times. Turn adversity into advantage by sharing the load with someone you trust.

 

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

 

Two are better than one,

because they have a good return for their labor:

If either of them falls down,

one can help the other up.

But pity anyone who falls

and has no one to help them up.

 

4.     CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES

 

If you try and fight everything, every time, you will exhaust yourself and collapse. Wisdom is knowing which battles are truly important, and which you can let go through the to the keeper.

 

“You need to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run,” says Kenny Rogers.

 

Proverbs 29:22-23

 

An angry person stirs up conflict,

and a hot-tempered person commits many sins.

Pride brings a person low,

but the lowly in spirit gain honor.

 

If you fight every fight you stir up conflict for yourself, and make life a misery for everyone around you. Some fights you do not need to fight. Some fights help you turn adversity into advantage, but others do not help at all!

 

So how do you decide which battles are important in the long term? Ask God, and then be obedient to Him…

 

I was once dragged before the Optometry registration board because another professional had lied about me. My future hung in the balance. I knew I had done nothing wrong (except been good at what I was doing), but a spiteful, angry psychologist had taken exception to my success with children with learning problems. I stewed for months leading up to the hearing, and God gave me this verse…

 

2 Chronicles 20:17

You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’”

 

When I stood before the panel, they said I was doing a great job, they were pleased to meet me and keep up the good work. I said nothing … I didn’t have to! God did it!

 

Decide ahead of time which battles need to be won, and concentrate on them. If your child seems rebellious, do not try and win every battle. I have seen parents fighting to get their child to not watch a certain movie, then let them go out partying and doing drugs. Pick your battles, and choose the ones that long term really matter.

 

5.     RECOGNISE THAT YOU WIN SOME AND YOU LOSE SOME

 

In life you can’t win everything every time. No one does.

 

A failure is never a loss when you learn from it. It is a gain when you decide to learn and not repeat the same mistake.

 

Thomas Edison invented the light globe and significantly impacted the lives of everyone on the planet. He tried thousands of metals as filaments, and was criticised as failing.  His famous quote was, “I have not failed 10,000 times, I have successfully found 10,000 ways it will not work.” Needless to say, he found the right filament and changed the world.

 

Psalms 73:26

My flesh and my heart may fail,

but God is the strength of my heart

and my portion forever.

 

So in your trials and adversity, do not be so hard on yourself! It’s ok to struggle, and it is ok to fail. Ask God to teach you to rely on Him, and it is lesson learned!

 

From God’s viewpoint, your failure, your weakness is His opportunity to give you victory. When you figure out you cannot do it all yourself, when you are driven down to your knees, you realise that it’s not about you, it’s never been about you,it’s always been about Him. Let Him turn adversity into advantage, not your own efforts!

 

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

If you fail, if you struggle, if you feel weak, weary and over it… Rejoice! You are exactly where God wants you to be!

 

 

 

6.     CHOOSE TO SEE THE GOOD

 

Negative thoughts beget more negative thoughts, and pretty soon you are so cynical you don’t believe anything good about anything or anyone!

 

Philippians 4:8

 

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

 

When something bad happens, choose to see the good. When someone attacks you, choose to see the good in them. When the road is long and hard, when there seems no way out, when you are weighed down and weary, do not just choose to see the good… Choose to see the God in everything!

 

 

7.     BE OBEDIENT TO GOD

 

God honours obedience above any religious thing you can do. He does not want organised religion, he does not want rituals, tall steeples, bells and smells… He wants obedience. If you are ever to graduate the University of Adversity, if you are ever to turn adversity into advantage, you need to learn to obey the Lord and learn from Him.

 

Deuteronomy 28:1-2

 

If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:

 

1 Samuel 15:22

 

But Samuel replied:

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices

as much as in obeying the Lord?

To obey is better than sacrifice,

and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

 

Since taking on the senior pastor position at this church, I have found myself attacked by many people. I have attracted a host of people who disagree with various ways the church is run, it’s direction, it’s emphasis.

 

There are so many voices in my ears, I don’t know who to listen to… And so I turn to God. Every time I have considered where the church is going, I turn to the Lord. Every time I have been hurt, I go to God, read His Word, and seek the advice of godly advisors. I listen, weigh things up, then obey.

 

In all things my burning desire is to obey.  Not to obey you, someone’s theological slant or opinion or even my own desires. I desire to obey the Lord, in all things, because to obey is better than sacrifice!

 

 

8.     PRAY, AND ASK OTHERS TO PRAY TOO

 

God wants us to pray, in fact, He wants us to live in a constant state of prayer, that’s why He says,

 

1 Thessalonians 5:17

pray continually,

 

We are urged to pray, not only for ourselves but also for each other…

 

Ephesians 6:18

 

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

 

I have a team of prayers in this church who pray and receive words from God for me, and I value them. Their prayers and support, your prayers and support are vital. It is like a prayer field, a force field that surrounds and protects.  When I am attacks, they pray and turn adversity into advantage before my eyes!

 

When you face adversity, you need to pray, and you need to be bold enough to share with others and ask them to pray for you. Prayer changes things. Prayer changes you!

 

9.     READ THE WORD DAILY

 

There is no substitute for reading the Word of God. You can come to church, listen to Worship music, watch Christian TV… All are good but none of these is an alternative to reading the Word of God daily.

 

That is why we have prepared our reading plan. Many of you are doing it, and have been amazed at what you have learned as you have read the Bible.

 

2 Timothy 3:16

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

 

This powerful Scripture achieves little in your life if the Bible remains on the shelf. It collects dust, that is about all.

 

The power starts to come when you read it. The power really comes when you read and obey it.

 

James 1:22

 

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

 

As you face a crisis, as you seek to learn from adversity, the Bible is the key. I take time every day to sit and read from the Word of God, and I have truly found that,

 

Psalms 119:105

 

Your word is a lamp for my feet,

a light on my path.

 

The Bible is your text book for the University of Adversity. Without it you experience all the adversity without explanation, without knowing how to learn or understand, without learning how to respond to the various trials life throws at you.

 

If you ever want to grow, you need the place the Word of God into your heart every day. Not once a week, not randomly opening the Bible and stabbing at a random verse… Follow a plan, and see if the Lord doesn’t speak to you day after day.

 

I cannot lead this church without prayer or without the Word of God. I cannot turn adversity into advantage by myself. And His word is better in my heart than on a shelf.

 

Hebrews 4:12

 

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

 

 

10.  STAY FOCUSSED

adversity into advantage

In your time of adversity, when things are tough, when you are in pain, that is when you need to focus. But what do you focus on?

 

2 Timothy 2:4-5

No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.

 

Soldiers concentrate on their missions. Athletes focus on and give their all to their events.

Servants of Jesus need to focus and concentrate on serving the King.

 

When you are in adversity, so many things run through your head. So much fills your mind. The bills, what he or she said, what they did, what may or may not happen. Every night you put your head on the pillow and this massive array of thoughts parade through your head. You can’t seem to switch them off. You try and try, and the worry and anxiety controls your thought patterns, dreams and your whole life, right? You cannot turn adversity into advantage if you worry about everything all the time!

 

2 Corinthians 10:5b

and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

 

If you are to turn adversity into advantage you need to take this type of thinking captive, and focus on what is truly important. You need to set your mind on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2).

 

Hebrews 12:1-2a

 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

 

Focus on Jesus. Read the Word, pray, and focus on Jesus.

 

As you may know, I am an Optometrist. I have studied the workings of the eyes and the brain. It is a physical fact that, if you concentrate on a single point, your peripheral retina begins to shut down. Your peripheral vision closes in.

 

I once was invited to lecture helicopter search and rescue crews on how to search from the air. All sentries, all searchers need to realise that you must keep your eyes moving. If you stop, you will focus one the one point, to the exclusion of your wider vision.

 

But when you focus on Jesus, something amazing happens. Everything else comes into perspective. Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you (Matthew 6:33).

 

 

Today I want to pray about something very specific. For those struggling with adversity, whose minds are filled with worries and anxieties, I want you to pray and turn adversity into advantage. I want our prayers to pray with you about clearing your mind of this debris and having you focus on Jesus.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.

Turn adversity into advantage today…

Depression: We all face it at some time, right?

We’ve learned over the last few weeks that we can learn so much at Uni-Adversity, but it can be hard, discouraging and even soul destroying facing the adversity.

 

Depression is a very clear and present danger when it comes to Uni-Adversity. Why? Because when you face adversity, you often find that it becomes too much to bear. It becomes overwhelming, depressing, discouraging, crushing and that’s when the devil attacks and plunges you into depression!

 

Depression causes you to act in a way you normally wouldn’t, say things you normally wouldn’t, make decisions and give in to temptation that you later regret. Depression makes life miserable, for you and everyone around you, and if you let it depression can control your life, your relationships, your future and fuel your addictions.

 

No one is immune to being depressed, and when you face adversity after Adversity, it’s tempting to fall into depression and never get out!

Usually we try and hide it. We look ok on the outside, we seem to have it all together, but inside we are a mess, we are struggling to cope and we are faking life. Depression is a lonely place to be, and many here fight this fight alone behind closed doors every day.

 

There is also very much a physical side to depression. When you are tired, sick, stressed or if you have an underlying medical problem you are far more prone to the effects of depression.  According to beyondblue.com.au, there is often no single cause of severe depression, so medical and psychological  advice can form part of a treatment.

 

But many times feelings of depression occur simply because you’ve struggled with your Adversity for too long. You’re tired, you’re down, but ours sick of it, you’re over it!

 

Some of you feel like you’ve been smashed and kicked around a time or two, and this message is for you.

 

You may not know this, but the Bible actually holds some great keys when it comes to dealing with Adversity, and the overwhelming depression that it often gives rise to.

 

And when it comes to dealing with a University of Adversity magnitude depression, we can examine the life of one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament, and man who stood for the Lord against incredible odds, triumphed over overwhelming adversity, but sunk into unfathomable depths of depression.

 

Enter the prophet Elijah.(1 Kings 17-19)…

 

MAXIMUM PROPHETS

 

Every investor wants maximum prophets, and among all the prophets, this guy is the one of the maximum prophets!  In 1Kings 17, Elijah predicts a horrific  and debilitating famine that sweeps across the nation.

 

Later on in 1 Kings 18:44, at his word, the drought is broken. Incredible, even the weather is obedient to the word of this man of God!

 

Elijah is most famous for challenging and defeating the 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. At his word fire reigned down from Heaven and consumed the sacrifice,

 

1 Kings 18:38-39

Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”

 

Elijah was so amazing, he is one of only two people recorded in the Bible to not pass through death.

 

That’s pretty special, right?  But we are not going to look at his victories today so much as the depths of depression Elijah found himself in. If you are feeling overwhelmed and depressed by the Adversity you face, be it in your health, business, relationships or anything, then be encouraged because you are in good company. It doesn’t make you less spiritual or less godly, it makes you normal, it makes you human.

 

It simply means you need Jesus!

 

And it means we don’t ignore the signs of depression and try and fake it on our own. It means seeking God, turning from depression and seeking help to be an overcomer.

 

It also can make you a more powerful person of God in the future. It helps you understand when others are depressed. So for your lessons today at Uni-Adversity, let’s do a case study on the amazing prophet Elijah, and let’s see what we can learn about overcoming depression and adversity.

 

Here’s a few things you need to know about depression…

 

 

1.     OFTEN WE FEEL BLAMED BY OTHERS

 

 

When people face adversity, they often blame God or others around them. So, especially when you are hurting and feeling down, you will find some other hurting person attacking you, often someone you love or are close to.

 

In Elijah case, it was someone whom he had previously blessed in his ministry… In fact, he’d saved her and her son’s lives. The miracle was a jug of oil that refused to run dry, which saved the widow and her son from certain death in the drought…

 

1 Kings 17:16

The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.

 

So having worked a miracle to save the widow and her son, you’d have thought he would have been thanked, right? You certainly wouldn’t expect  she’d turn on him.  But the very next verse says this…

 

1 Kings 17:17-18

After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. And she said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!”

 

In her grief, in her hopelessness, she lashed out at the one who had previously sustained her Life!  Sounds unfair, right? It wasn’t Elijah fault, but he bore the brunt of her anger!

 

So Elijah went to prayer. Elijah prayed to the Lord, laid 3 times on the boy…and once again God moved and vindicated his servant… And the boy  was healed!

 

1 Kings 17:22

And the Lord listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived.

 

Nevertheless, when people attack you it can wear thin quickly, especially if you’re feeling down to start with.. I personally have been hurt many times since taking on the church, but like Elijah I decided to just keep on ministering. And so should you, even when it hurts. You’re in Uni-Adversity. Keep going, keep serving be encouraged that God is using you to bless others and learn the lessons God wants you to learn.

 

2.     DEPRESSION  OFTEN HITS  AFTER A HIGH

 

Life has highs and lows, peaks and valleys, just like a mountain range.  And as in a mountain range or a roller coaster, the lows often come right after the highs. We may scale the heights of spiritual victory only to soon find ourselves in the dark valley of depression.

 

Elijah had experienced perhaps his greatest triumph, on Mount Carmel, when fire came from Heaven and consumed the sacrifice.  One of the greatest acts of God caused by any prophet in the Bible, but immediately after this incredible victory Elijah crashes into the Great Depression! How many of you know that when prophets fall dramatically, it’s a Great Depression?

 

I can relate to this. I would often return from ministering before tens of thousands of people in a stadium somewhere and find life at home or at work under attack.  I routinely found myself depressed in the first few days after ministering. Once I recognised this, I could adjust appropriately. I could say, “I feel down… Yes, that’s normal and it will be gone soon.”

 

Even here in this church. We had the high of a mighty offering, followed by a difficult week when you want to just give up and walk away. What Elijah experienced I also experience!

 

After the high of faith defeating the prophets of Baal, then this…

 

1 Kings 19:3

 

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness.

 

So powerful, so anointed, he ran from a woman called Jezebel because he feared for his life. He escaped to his man cave, literally, to be fearful, miserable and alone.

 

But

 

2 Timothy 1:7

God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

 

When fear comes in like this, you know it’s not God. But even a great man like Elijah feared and ran. He was down…. He was defeated…. He was running scared and he was alone…

 

3.     ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT?

 

Stress does nasty things to people, and is one of the triggers for big time depression. And Uni-Adversity can be high stress at times!

 

Stressful situations can drive us to inappropriate responses, and make us experience feelings that are not really true. Under pressure we often make bad decisions, and that’s what Elijah experienced. Under pressure from the godless Jezebel, fearing for his life, after seeing the promises of God enacted before his eyes and at his very word, he panicked, fled and got depressed!

 

He also felt so alone, and he complained about it…

 

1 Kings 19:10

 

He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

 

But God set the record straight…

 

1 Kings 19:18

Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

 

Under intense stress, Elijah collapsed and felt alone. But God ministered to him and told him the truth, and God will do that with you also if you come to Him. God changed Elijah’s perception of events, and God can change yours also.

 

Here’s the thing… When you are here at Coast Church, you never need to face life alone!

 

4.     DEPRESSION AMPLIFIES THE NEGATIVE

 

If you have ever been depressed, you will recognise that one of the chief characteristics of depression is that it makes everything seem worse. Good things in your life suddenly seem bad, and the worst things seem worse than ever!

 

This is how depression operates, and because each negative is made more negative, you can create a gigantic negative feedback loop and ultimately the perfect storm of misery. Everything bad seems to escalate, and everything good loses its goodness. David said,

 

Psalms 38:6-8

I am bowed down and brought very low;

all day long I go about mourning.

My back is filled with searing pain;

there is no health in my body.

I am feeble and utterly crushed;

I groan in anguish of heart.

 

Physically debilitating, bone weariness, crushing anguish… This is depression, this is how it feels.

 

Consider Job, who had everything in the knew taken away from him. He was crushed, depressed, in despair and cursed the day he was born

 

Job 3:11

 

“Why did I not perish at birth,

and die as I came from the womb?

 

He said of mankind,

Job 5:6-7

For hardship does not spring from the soil,

nor does trouble sprout from the ground.

Yet man is born to trouble

as surely as sparks fly upward.

 

Recognise that when you’re down, everything looks bad, tastes bad and smells bad. Depression amplifies the  negative, and ultimately can lead this…

 

5.     THE DARK NIGHT IF THE SOUL: AT THE POINT OF GIVING UP

 

Secular writers call it, “The Dark Night of the Soul,” but believers are not immune to going through such depression, especially when facing adversity.

 

In fact Elijah was so down he was on the point of taking his own life. Have you ever felt so depressed that suicide seemed like a good idea? Have you ever felt so low that you despaired even of continuing to live? Are you there right now, so depressed that you just want the pain to stop?

 

1 Kings 19:3-4

 

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”

 

It can be extremely disheartening to endure many challenges and setbacks. It can be soul destroying to sit in the University of Adversity and not be able to grasp the lessons. Sometimes it’s just all too much and it’s at those moments we think of ending it all.

 

However, though we know disappointments are inevitable, discouragement is a choice. We don’t have to give in to defeat. But hey, if you’re struggling right now, you’re in good company with Elijah! Even the great Apostle Paul experienced this…

 

2 Corinthians 1:8-9

 

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death.

 

Thoughts of suicide are real, but you must never act on them. I had to bury my own brother-in-law who took his life, and he was a Christian, so I know the pain it caused, and the reasons why, but I’m telling you know that suicide is never God’s way.

 

Suicide is at best a permanent solution to a temporary problem. The reasons why people do it are many and varied, sometimes selfish, many times just to try and stop the pain. If you’re feeling this way, then let me share what God thinks about you, your pain, your adversity and your thoughts of ending it all…

 

 

Psalms 34:18-19

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted

and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

The righteous person may have many troubles,

but the Lord delivers him from them all;

 

If you’re  discouraged and depressed today, the Lord knows that this is when you need Him the most, and He wants to comfort you. His strength and courage are always available to those who come to Him. He will see you through the adversity and doesn’t want you checking out early.

 

Bill Newman tells the true story of a couple on the point of divorce, who went away for one last weekend because the man had a conference in another city. While he attended the convention, she stood before the open window in their high rise condo and was about to throw herself out when he unexpectedly returned, stopping her actions. That evening they were invited to a tent crusade that was visiting the city. They both walked forward and accepted Jesus as their Saviour and she later said, “I’m glad I checked in with Jesus before I checked out of life!”

 

Whatever you face, however hard or overwhelming, the Lord loves you, is close to you and will carry you through it. Ask Jesus into your life today and experience it for yourself.

 

Psalms 55:22

 

Cast your cares on the Lord

and he will sustain you;

he will never let

the righteous be shaken.

 

A PRESCRIPTION FOR OVERCOMING DEPRESSION

 

 

Firstly, let me reiterate that if you suffer from long term clinical depression you need to seek the advice of a doctor, psychologist, psychotherapist or counsellor. As a Christian, this is not a lack of faith, it is a wise thing to do.

 

No matter what Uni-Adversity throws at you, no matter what you are facing right now, here’s a prescription for triumphing over depression, discouragement and adversity…

 

1.     TAKE CARE OF THE PHYSICAL- R n R

 

The first thing to do is to deal with the physical stressors you face. Depression is characterised by lack of sleep, anger, weight loss or gain, loss of energy and recklessness. Before you delve deeper into your depression, meet the physical needs.

 

God did that with Elijah. God knew he was exhausted, discouraged and hungry. He had physical needs, like any other man. He lost his appetite; his thinking was disturbed; he withdrew from everyone. During this dark period, he curled up under a tree, wanting to die. He was weighed down by life

 

Proverbs 12:25

 

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.

 

So what did God do? Chastise him? Rebuke him for lack of faith? No, God loved him and first met his physical needs…

 

1 Kings 19:4-6

He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.

All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.

 

If you are depressed, don’t add guilt at being depressed to your depression! God does not condemn you this morning, He loves you, He has plans for you and He is here to lift you out of the pit you find yourself in.

 

Matthew 11:28-30

 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

2.     SHARE THE LOAD

 

Depression almost always means isolation, and it’s in isolation that the devil can pick you off at will. You may feel alone as Elijah did, but the truth is like him you are not alone.

 

1 Kings 19:18

Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

 

Whatever you face today, don’t do it alone! We have people here who will stand with you, cry with you, pray with you and work with you to help God lift you out of depression.

 

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

 

Two are better than one,

because they have a good return for their labor:

If either of them falls down,

one can help the other up.

But pity anyone who falls

and has no one to help them up.

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.

But how can one keep warm alone?

Though one may be overpowered,

two can defend themselves.

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

 

The three strands are you, your supportive friend and Jesus!

 

3.     SPEND TIME WITH GOD

 

God loves you and walks with you through your depression. He is always there, waiting for you to turn to Him. He says,

 

Psalms 34:18

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted

and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

 

1 Peter 5:7

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

 

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

 

If you want to triumph over depression and graduate from the University of Adversity, reading His Word is essential. The better you know Him, the better you will be, so take our reading plan and read the Bible every day.

 

And don’t miss church. Many people isolate themselves when they get down, but it is when you are feeling down that you need to be at church, especially this one. Join a connect group, arrange coffee with someone, get involved, because it brings you closer to God, and can help to lift the burden from your shoulders.

 

4.     LISTEN TO GOD’S VOICE

 

 

It is not always easy to hear the voice of God, but as you fellowship with Him you will learn to distinguish his voice. We live in a crazy busy world, so you need to be quiet before God and really listen.

 

Most often in our down times God speaks quietly, He doesn’t scream at us!

 

1 Kings 19:11-12

 

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

 

 

If you can’t hear Him, ask someone here who can to share with you. Whatever you do, don’t go through your depression alone, because we have people here who long to share the journey out of depression with you.

 

DECIDE NOW

 

The first step towards healing is to decide that you’ve had enough of being like this. Almost all of us pass through valleys, but some of us decide to set up camp there. Don’t stay in the valley when the heights are calling you…

 

Psalms 23:4

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

 

If you are in the valley of the shadow of death today, God is right there with you, and we are right here for you. Here’s a famous poem that really illustrates this…

 

Footprints in the Sand – by Mary Stevenson

 

One night I dreamed a dream.

As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.

Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.

For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,

One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

 

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,

I looked back at the footprints in the sand.

I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,

especially at the very lowest and saddest times,

there was only one set of footprints.

 

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.

“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,

You’d walk with me all the way.

But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,

there was only one set of footprints.

I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

 

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you

Never, ever, during your trials and testings.

When you saw only one set of footprints,

It was then that I carried you.”

 

Do you know Jesus? Are you in the valley right now?

 

 

Adversity comes into your life, but God has a purpose for you. His primary aim is not to make you happy. Not to make you comfortable. Not to give you success in business, in your family, in your ministry or finances. His aim is that you grow spiritually continuously your entire life. He never intends for you to arrive. He continually trains and equips you for the future, and He uses 2 main tools to do this…His Word and circumstances…

 

WELCOME TO UNI-ADVERSITY- The University of Adversity!


God’s purpose for us is that we grow and become more like the Lord Jesus Christ in our daily lives to reflect more of Him and less of us.

 

This is Uni-Adversity, where God uses adversity, trials, and tests to educate you and complete your education, to make you Christ like!

 

Today’s message is like the course overview, the orientation as to what God is going to do over the next several weeks.

 

Let’s face it, sometimes we plateau, we hit a glass ceiling in our spiritual growth. We get mature and think to ourselves, “I no longer have a need to grow or go any deeper in my walk with God.”

 

God will allow adversity to come into our lives to move us forward in our walk with Him and cause us to grow in the things that really matter.

 

How we respond to our trials will either make us or break us. If we will submit ourselves to God during times of adversity we will discover something about our God and ourselves.

 

If we fight Him, we are in for a rough ride and a whole load of pain, and probably a lot longer course too.

 

It’s in our interests to pay attention in class at Uni-Adversity. I’d rather not have to resit some of the exams to be honest, especially the painful ones. No one wants to take 20 years to do their bachelor degree, do they? If you learn fast it is to your advantage.

 

The brook would lose its song if we removed the rocks. So here’s your chance to learn how to make the best song of all!

 

So let’s start Uni-Adversity right now. Turn to James 1:1-12,

 

But before we look at James, lesson 1 is clearing up something right at the start…

 

LESSON 1: THE RESPONSIBLE PARTY FOR OUR ADVERSITY

 

I have often heard it said, and preached, that God is a good God, and He would never let anything bad happen to you. All you need to do is positively confess and believe, and nothing bad will ever happen. If something bad does happen, then you are either in sin or lack enough faith.

 

This view is wrong. Bad things happen to good people in our fallen world. It’s that simple, and if you don’t face some sort of adversity or testing, check your pulse to see if you’re still alive!

 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to live a life where nothing ever goes wrong. But the problem with this doctrine is that, by extension, if something does go wrong, then you must be in sin, or at least have a lack of faith. This is where something in me rises up, because I believe this is one of the most destructive and hurtful doctrines in the church.

 

I was sharing with some young people recently about meeting Joni Erickson, a quadriplegic from age 16, and one of the greatest alumni of the University of Adversity. I saw a man pray for her healing, she didn’t walk, and he accused her of not having enough faith. She said she did, perhaps it was him who did not have enough. Good answer!

 

Only once in Scripture do we ever see into the inner workings of God and Satan. It is in the book of Job.

 

Now some say that the reason all those bad things happened to Job is that he lived in fear…

 

Job 3:25

What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.

 

But that is taking one verse completely out of context. He lived a holy life, and still all this bad stuff happened to him. So why did his finances, family, health and whole life fall apart.

 

The Bible clearly tells us why. The devil didn’t start it, God did!

 

Job 1:8

 

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

 

God allowed Satan to have his way with Job, but God set limits. If you are facing tough times right now, don’t blame yourself, and don’t blame God. Satan is the guy who does this, but only if the Lord lets him, and only as far as God lets him. God never loses control, but He can and will use Satan to try your faith, teach you to trust and create Christ like character.

 

LESSON 2: THE REALITY OF ADVERSITY

 

Adversity, hard times, disappointments, discouragement… They’re going to come. You cannot simply wish or positively confess your way out of them.

 

TRIALS ARE INESCAPABLE

 

James 1:2

 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,

 

Not if you face trials, but whenever you face them. There is an implied certainty about that. You’re going to face them, time and again, so don’t think you’re  immune. If you don’t have problems, check your pulse and make sure you’re still alive and breathing.

 

1 Peter 4:12

 

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

 

So if you are facing trials right now, don’t be shocked! Be joyful. Yes, be joyful and be thankful, because God is training you to become someone greater than you already are!

 

 

 

TRIALS ARE UNPREDICTABLE

 

 

Secondly, trials are not easily predicted. The Greek word used in the verse for face literally means to fall into, and you know when you slip and fall it’s totally unpredictable. The same word is used of the man who falls into the hands of thieves in the Good Samaritan parable.

 

And trials are like that, right? We don’t see them coming, and we don’t expect them to escalate. You don’t predict a flat tyre, or a breakdown. You cannot plan out when an appliance is going to blow, or what another driver will do. You can’t choose when you want to get sick or when your child comes home crying. Trials are random.

 

 

TRIALS ARE MULTICOLOURED

 

Problems in life come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colours. Some are minor inconveniences, some are major dramas. Some are short lived, others last years. Some you don’t even recognise until you’re in it, and some you construct yourself.

 

The Greek word used in James 1:2 for many kinds is literally multicoloured.

 

Have you ever tried to match colours at a paint shop? This bewildering variety of trials you face is a pretty good description.

 

 

LESSON 3: THE REASON FOR ADVERSITY

 

But why do we face trials like this in life. Can’t we just come to the Lord and disappear to heaven, never to face another trial, problem or drama again?

 

Here’s the thing… God has not saved you for your comfort. His highest priority is not giving you a comfortable, cushy life, free from problems, pain, sickness and trials.

 

James 1:3-4

because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

 

This pain, this adversity you face, it has a purpose. God has a reason… He is working a mighty work within you.

 

He’s making you mature and complete!

 

Pain can produce positives. Pressure can produce perseverance. Suffering can create something positive and wonderful.

 

No adversity happens to you except with a purpose in mind… Your maturity of character, your completeness in Christ likeness. You are not facing trials and pushing though pain for no reason, for God’s amusement or pleasure. No, He always has a reason. Welcome to Uni-Adversity.

 

The Eucalyptus and Banksia, have serotinous cones or fruits that are completely sealed with resin. These cones/fruits can only open to release their seeds after the heat of a bushfire has physically melted the resin. No fire, no heat, no seed, no fruit. And it’s the same with you.

 

OK, so what possible reason can God have for putting me through what He’s putting me through?

 

  1. Problems purify your faith.

 

James uses the words “trials and testing”. These are the same words to describe the process of purifying gold. You heat the gold to the point where the impurities – the dross – are burned off.

 

Zechariah 13:9

This third I will put into the fire;

I will refine them like silver

and test them like gold.

 

Trials test us, sure, but they refine us, they purify us, they make us more mature and give us more character.

 

Christians should be like tea bags. Their true colour comes out in hot water.

 

When faced with a very adverse situation in the purchase of our building, your leadership decided to step up and believe God. We could have collapsed and cried woe is me, but we didn’t. It’s a test.

 

Now most often you cannot choose the test, but you can always choose the response!

 

  1. Problems produce perseverance.

 

When you face trials and decide to see things through, you produce perseverance. You learn persistence, staying power, a never give up attitude.

 

You discover hidden reserves of strength you didn’t know we’re there. You find an endurance you previously never though possible. You see it through, keeping your eyes on the goal and then discover the incredible feeling of triumph that only perseverance gives.

 

  1. Problems help us mature.

 

Age is inevitable, but maturity is optional.

 

Trials and adversity help us to grow and mature into the people God wants us to be. We can become mature and complete, not lacking anything.

 

And strangely, God is far more interested in your character than your comfort. He wants to produce maturity not a meal ticket. He wants you complete, not conveniently cushioned.

 

Through the Word of God and trials we are matured. And you need both. You can’t get away from one, so you’d better start reading the Word or you won’t mature as well or as fast as God intends.

 

Trials don’t mean that God doesn’t love you. They mean He really loves you, so much He wants to make you something mature and amazing! He has a plan for you. God’s long range goal goes way beyond your comfort.

 

 

LESSON 4: THE REACTION TO ADVERSITY

 

This one is a hard one. Our response to our trials will either make us or break us. What does the Bible say?

 

James 1:2

 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,

 

Hang on a minute… What do you mean joy? That’s not the normal way people respond to adversity! Most often the response to adversity is to get angry, at whoever is doing it, or at God, or both! The next response is to collapse and say, “Why me, Lord? It’s not fair!”

 

Ok, joy… I guess that means to paint on a happy face and pretend that everything is peachy when inside our life is falling apart, right? Positively confess? Fake it till you make it?

 

The Greek word for consider is hegeomai, which means to consider, govern or account for… Hence some translations say count it all blessing.

 

Accountants add things up and balance the books. Sometimes our trials and adversities just don’t seem to add up or make sense. But counting it as blessings means that, no matter what the trials are, we can add them up to joy and something positive in our lives.

 

Joy in the Greek means gladness, calmness, happiness. It’s not saying get deliriously happy because the trial is so hard, but rather have a quiet sense of joy, not that you face the test, but that you face the test knowing the teacher, and knowing the test is going to yield a great result.

 

You may not feel any joy, but if you know the teacher, and know that the teacher is on your side and not out to fail you, there is a sense of joy. I’m not glad that our church faces a more difficult financial situation to get this building, but I am glad that this trial is already producing amazing fruit in the lives of leadership and church members alike.

 

 

LESSON 5: THE RIGHT RESPONSE TO ADVERSITY

 

Rather than react, how do we respond to the trials and tests we face?

 

In the midst of pain, suffering and adversity, how can you genuinely respond with joy? Pray and ask God for wisdom… and you will get it when you need it…

 

James 1:5

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

 

Ask the Lord, is there something I need to be learning here? Ask for wisdom, don’t try and fake it on your own. Say, “Show me how to respond to this trial in a godly way.”

 

I recommend immersing yourself in the Bible. Pray, ask God for wisdom then ask for a word in season, directly from the Bible. In my hour of need, He just delivers in spades from His Word.

 

God promises that these trials and tests will not be beyond what you can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). They might seem too hard, but He knows you better than you even do. And He will not prolong the pain any more than is necessary to achieve the purpose He has, which is to develop your character.

 

So the right response to adversity, the fast track through Uni-Adversity, is not just to be faithful, but to be joyful…

 

Habakkuk 3:17-18

Though the fig tree does not bud

and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails

and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen

and no cattle in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will be joyful in God my Savior.

 

LESSON 6: THE REWARDS FOR ADVERSITY

 

The reward for attending Uni- Adversity is not just intellectual knowledge but practical and applied experience that provided 3 fantastic rewards…

 

  1. Personal growth and maturity

 

You get to learn from the trials you have triumphed over, or if you flunked out badly, you get to sit the exam all over again. Either way, you gain valuable knowledge that is practical, powerful and applicable to every aspect of your life. You gain maturity.

 

 

 

Romans 5:3-4

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

 

The Greek word here for glory means boasting or pride. Now normally these are not good traits to have, but in this context it means the satisfaction of knowing it’s been a job well done. You feel good, feel triumphant and begin to feel more mature in Christ. Combine this with reading the Word every day, and you have the double whammy, you have the 2 proven tools that yield great maturity.

 

In good times we can survive with a shallow root system, In tough times our roots must go deep. In good times we can stand alone, but in tough times we need to interlock our root systems and send them down deep!

 

As Christians face the winds of adversity and the storms of trouble, they rise like the skylark. They are like the trees that survive the storm because their roots are driven deep. They are like the trees that grow on mountain ridges—trees battered by winds, yet, trees in which we find the strongest wood.

 

The skylark, the flowers, the trees—all these illustrate Job’s words: “When he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (23:10 NIV).

 

The Christian who understands this aspect of God’s nature can find comfort in his suffering and peace in his pain.

 

Job 5:17-18

 

“Blessed is the one whom God corrects;

so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.

For he wounds, but he also binds up;

he injures, but his hands also heal.

 

Growth and maturity means not blaming God, but staying close to Him and learning the lessons of Uni-Adversity!

 

  1. The Ability to Help Others

 

Experiencing trials and adversity gives you empathy with what others are going through. But graduating and  triumphing in your Uni-Adversity course gives you powerful, proven strategies to help others in their hour of need.

 

I didn’t enjoy losing all out money and nearly going bankrupt in the GFC. I certainly did not enjoy losing out family home. But we kept trusting God, and I am really rejoicing in what this has done in my life, Fiona’s life and even our finances. God is so good!

 

Thus when the church fell short financially, I had no hesitation in encouraging the eldership that God will do this for us!  I can face our financial future and the future of Coast Church with real confidence, because I’ve been there, done that, got the T Shirt and have experienced God coming through when we needed Him most.

 

Jesus does the same with us. He suffered, understands, empathises and can show us strategies to triumph too…

 

Hebrews 2:18

Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

 

  1. Eternal Rewards

 

James 1:12

 

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

 

Make no mistake, every time you face tough times and trials, when you triumph you are building a reward in heaven. You are laying up treasure that lasts eternity…

 

Matthew 6:19-21

 

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

CONCLUSION to University of Adversity

 

In this series I pray that you will find the reason for the trials you face, the response and the reward that will bring you through to true spiritual maturity.

 

God has a purpose for every trial that comes into your life. Nothing happens to you without His  approval or purpose. He has the power to work things out to your good, regardless of the circumstances you are facing.   God’s perspective is not the same as yours. God sees the end point clearly, the purpose and outcome of your trial, while all you and I see is the pain and the problem. He sees the future while all you and I see is the present.

 

So what do you seek? God’s command or your comfort. Spiritual maturity or sensual monotony? At Uni-Adversity, God is going to develop a people that have been tried and proven, who have learned to grow through adversity and are willing to follow Him and change whatever is necessary to graduate.

 

I know some of you face terrible trials right now, and we as a family want to support you and face them with you. If you face trials that seem big, ugly and unassailable, come forward and let us stand with you!

 

Specifically, if you face health trials come forward. If you face financial trials, come forward. We are going to pray not that God takes them away, but that God accomplishes what He wants to do in your life through them.