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…
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.
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.
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.
“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…
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
We are urged to pray, not only for ourselves but also for each other…
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.
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,
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.
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
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).
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.