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…
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!
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
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.
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?
- 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.
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!
- 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.
- 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?
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…
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…
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…
- 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.
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.
“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!
- 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…
Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
- Eternal Rewards
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…
“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.