Saturday, February 20, 2010

Adversity! Who's to Blame?

-->All of us have had some experience with adversity in one way or another. The question is, who is responsible for the adversity in life? Should we blame ourselves, say the devil did it, or can we justly say God has brought it upon us? I have a few distinguished guests here and I would like to begin by introducing them to you and asking them to comment on their own adversity. 

On my left is Paul. Paul, tell us briefly about yourself.

I was an advocate of adversity. I persecuted Christians. One day on a journey to do just that I saw the light...literally. Now, I find myself at the center of adversity. Let me boast a little. I have worked harder, been imprisoned more, beaten severely to within an inch of my life, stoned, shipwrecked, and on the run from friends and foe. I have been cold, naked, hungry, thirsty, and gone without sleep. Along with all of that I had the daily pressures of my job.

Thank you, Paul. Seated next to Paul is Joseph. Joseph is a bit of a dreamer, isn't that right Joseph?

Yes, I am a dreamer and a few of them got me into trouble. I was seventeen when adversity hit me in a big way. My brothers tricked me. They stole my very colorful coat, a gift from dad, and threw me into a pit. Then, they sold me to some Midianite merchants who in turn sold me to Potipher, one of the Pharaoh's officials. I was doing well working in Potipher's house until his wife came on to me. I turned and ran for all I was worth, but Potipher had me thrown in prison.

Thank you, Joseph. Next at the table is Job. Job, you have a notable reputation for being an upright and blameless man. How did you come to be here with us today?

I can't say that I understand it all myself. One day I was a rich, healthy man with a family and the next I was staring adversity in the face. My children and servants were killed and my livestock carried off. I, myself broke out in open, painful sores all over my body and I had to use broken pottery to scrape them off. My wife got mad at me and my friends turned against me. I have to admit it, I wished I was never born and I wanted to die.

That must have been very painful for you Job. Thank you for sharing that with us.

David, the slayer of bears and giants. What's your story Dave?

In short, after killing Goliath I became successful and famous, but soon Saul became jealous of me and wanted me dead. For a time I ran for my life and hid wherever I could. But I must humbly confess, I brought most of the adversity on myself when I had an affair with Bathsheba and had her husband killed in battle.

Thank you for your honesty David. Now, nearing the end of our guest list is Elijah. Welcome, Elijah. I am told that you were fed by ravens. Is that true?

Yes, that is a true account. The ravens brought me food and I drank water from a brook until it dried up in a severe famine. That's when all the trouble started with Jezebel. I ran for my life and was so afraid I prayed I would die. I slept under a broom tree, then traveled forty days and forty nights to sleep in a cave.

Thank you Elijah. We are extremely honored to have our final guest with us. Jesus, your story has been repeated over the centuries and I must say there are those of us who never tire of it. You left heaven for earth, were stripped of your clothing, mocked, flogged until the skin hung from your body, beaten beyond recognition, crowned with thorns, nailed to a cross, bled to death and finally buried in a borrowed grave. You were innocent of any wrong doings, and yet you suffered this horrendous adversity.

The statements you have made about me are true. "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free". That is why I preserved everything that has been written about me. I hope we can discover some truth about adversity. That is why I am here.

 Speaking from experience I know that adversity is never easy. The word itself makes us cringe. The circumstances may be similar but the experiences are very different. One person loses a pet, another loses a job. Someone experiences a broken appliance, another a broken relationship. A man buries a dream while a woman buries a child. Adversity comes in many fabrics but the familiar thread is pain.

 It can make you think and say some pretty crazy things. More than once I wished I was never born. Sometimes, when I'm in the pits I think if I just stay on top of the garbage, I'll be able to climb out. I have been tempted to give up, give in and get out. After all, what's not to like about that place called Heaven? There will always be wind beneath my wings. Harping on something will have a whole new meaning. Those Golden Arches will be totally fat free. When we shout or sigh "Oh my God", we will unmistakably hear Him say, "Yes?". And we will finally get the answer to the question "Why?".
Why is this happening? Who is responsible for bringing this travesty upon me?

Joseph, you must have blamed your brothers for your troubles. They plotted to kill you.

No, I didn't blame them. It was God that sent me into Egypt.

Are you saying that God is responsible for your adversity, Joe?

Yes, it's just as I told my brothers. God was behind it.

But Joseph, how can you blame God?

He sent me ahead of my brothers to pave the way so their lives would be saved. It was God who brought me through everything so that I would be in charge; a ruler of Egypt when the famine came. I gave my family a place to live and plenty of food to eat. God meant it all for good.

Joe, I can see the ending to your adversity and that makes it easier for me to understand what God was doing. but what about the person who feels like the pain in their life has no purpose?

I felt that way too, that life was pointless. 

Yes Job, your suffering certainly was undeserved. Wasn't Satan to blame for your adversity?

No, it was God's idea to test me. He gave me everything I had and then took it all away. But, I did not curse His name. I asked God questions from my heart and He blessed me for being honest. At the end of my testing He gave me back everything I had and more. It was His right and good that He tested me.

Life is short. It's the next one that lasts forever. Adversity can make our days feel like eternity. For Joseph, adversity lasted years. In the end he triumphed, and his family was saved from certain death. He accepts the fact that God had a plan. On the other hand, Job's family was wiped out. Yet he says it was only a test.
Let me get this straight, Job. You're saying that God's purpose in testing you was to find out where you stood with Him?
Yes, even if He killed me I would still trust Him for my deliverance. That is why I said it was good that He tested me. I would not want to be a godless man standing before Him.
So right you are, Job!

David, are you saying that if God sends adversity, we should ask for more?

Hast thou lost thy marbles? No one is going to ask God to send more pain into their life. But we do make mistakes and God uses adversity to set us straight. I'm telling you, God corrected me severely, but He didn't take my life. He could have put me through hell but He didn't. In the middle of His discipline was love. I went down the wrong path. He was there to steer me in the right direction. When adversity comes from our mistakes there is hope. If we're honest and admit that we messed up we can find the strength to get up and go on.
Dave has a point. When I was in the middle of that drought I didn't ask for more dry weather.

What did you ask for Elijah?
I asked people how long they were going to sit on the fence. I challenged them to make a choice. Adversity helps to prepare our hearts for what God wants to do in our lives. It helps to get us off the fence, and find purpose.
That's right! We can be more than conquerors.

What do you mean, Paul?

Winning doesn't always mean walking away with the gold. Rather, it can be the ability to endure; having the courage to go on. Sometimes, it is just standing firm in the middle of the storm. If we stand in the strength of the Almighty God, then we can know that adverse circumstances do not have control over our lives. God has control over our lives.
In this world you will have adversity. But I will not abandon you. I want you to be unshakable and assured. I want you to have peace. 

Lord Jesus, please continue.
I want you to learn to trust me. I don't want you to think that I have lost control when adversity comes into your life. I will try your heart and test your faith because Father requires it. But I will personally see to it that you are able to bear it. I wish I could convey to you how desperately I want you to know me, to understand how precious you are to me. That is why I willingly walked through the deepest pit of adversity. A pit filled with wrath and judgment. I, who knew no sin, became sin to save you. When adversity comes your way it is not because I don't love you, but because I do. I know it may be hard for you to understand. My ways are not your ways. But if you trust me just a little, I promise I will walk you through it. 
To sum things up, adversity is a reality we cannot escape. It might come to us in the form of trials for our good and the good of others, or tests of our faith, or even tribulation brought on by our own mistakes. I hope we have learned a few things from our guests.
1. Focus on God, no matter how awful things get. We may not be able to find it within ourselves to trust God as Job did. Not many of us can say, "Even if He kills me I will trust Him". But be honest with God and tell Him how you feel. Trust is not something we muster up inside of ourselves. It comes from God. He puts His arm around our shoulder and says don't be afraid. I am with you. I will keep a firm grip on you and hold you up.
2. Focus on the adversity as something that comes from God. Follow Joseph's example. Tell yourself this is from God and He is using it to bring a greater good, a pronounced purpose into my life. God knows the plans He has for your life, to prosper you, not to harm you; it is a plan to give you hope and a future.
3. Focus on being a winner. We can expect to come out on the other side of adversity as a winner because God has everything in perfect control. More than conquerors means just that, more. We will have more fortitude, more character, and more hope than when we went in. The world says, run. God says stand firm and see the deliverance of the Lord.

1 comment:

  1. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



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