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.
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?
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…
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!
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?”
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
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…
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!
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.
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!
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…
Why, Lord, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
Or how about Moses
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…
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!