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God pulls us through adversity

Creative Commons License photo credit: Jacobo Canady

Jesus said in John 16:33 In me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Notice Jesus doesn’t say “in the world you might have trials” right? He says you will. I shrink away from any pastor who says “just become a Christian” or “just join our church and then all of your problems will go away.”  That’s so not true, it’s the exact opposite of what the bible teaches. If you think being a Christian makes your life easier, why don’t you go ask the apostles or the early church how that worked out for them.

I don’t think the Christians that were thrown to the lions for the entertainment of the Romans ever once thought, “I am so glad my life is easier and devoid of trials now.”

IN fact in Matthew 10, Jesus actually tells his followers “the world will hate you because of me.” Which is terrible marketing by the way.

But we don’t follow Christ because He’s easy, we follow Christ because He’s true. And I think what you’ll find more often is, things that are genuine and things that are authentic are much harder to find, but in the end they are much more valuable.

And so I think when adversity comes you and I typically respond in one of three ways:

a) Dependence (hope) this is the attitude that “it will get better.”

James 1:12 says Blessed is the one  who remains steadfast under trial, for when they have stood the test they will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

Do you think James knew what it meant to be under trial? Acts 12:12 says that James was put to death by a sword. Let me tell you, that type of punishment does not befall if you if you’re just taking life easy. James faced adversity because he had hope in God’s promises and he knew they were greater than any human or worldly trial.

Nobody likes adversity, but you know I think sometimes God leads us into places where there is nowhere to turn but to Him. And before long, the more we see God pull us through the easier it is to be dependant on him the next time.

But another way we can respond is with

b) despair: this is the one who says things like, “it wont get better” “it will always be this way” “I’ll never learn” “this always happens to me.” “Just my luck”

Proverbs 12:25 “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down

We all know people like this, we may even be… people like this, right? If acting in dependence is optimistic, then acting in despair is pessimistic.  But see the thing is, the message of the Bible is one of hope.

Jesus says in John 14:1 Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”

Galatians 6:9 says In due season we will reap, if (what?) we do not give up.

Yes adversity will come, but the thing we have to remember is those are moments in our life to work through because ultimately they are working towards our spiritual maturity.

You know what drives me crazy? When people misquote the bible. And there is this one verse that people misquote all of the time and it is this: “God won’t give you anything you can’t handle.”

I tell you, that theology is so wrong and so backwards it’s not even funny. God always gives you stuff you can’t handle. The actual verse is

1 Corinthians 10:13 God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,  he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Who is faithful in this passage? God. Who provides the way out? God. So who is really handling the adversity in this passage? God.

Can we handle adversity when it comes? Of course. But…. we do it by God and through God.  The bible doesn’t say “You can handle anything” it says..

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

When we say “Why me?” I’ll answer that for you. God allows you to experience the low points of life in order to teach you lessons that you could learn no other way.

Nobody willingly steps into a lion’s den or a fiery furnace. Nobody willingly allows themselves to be swallowed by a wale and nobody signs up to be the sole survivors of a world wide flood. Instead of despairing in your own weakness, look to God’s provision and strength to pull you through.

And the last way people act in the face of adversity is

c) disregard; these are the people who say, “I don’t care”

Revelation 3:16 Because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

Apathy is the servant who did nothing with their bag of Gold, this is the person who sits on their blessings and their gifts. In the book of Revelation Jesus likens this person to lukewarm, room temperature water and he says this person has no flavor and deserves to be spit out.

Romans 12:11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

What were the other two servants rewarded for? WORK! You know, the bible is a book written by workers about workers for workers.

In fact do you know what’s funny? A pastor will often call their office, “a study.” Do you know why? Because a study sounds biblical, but an “office” sounds secular. But there is nothing secular about work.

God works – doesn’t he? – God begins the story of the bible by working.

How many days did God work? 6

How many days did God rest? 1

Which is ironic, how often will you hear a sermon on the Sabbath and it perhaps even makes you feel guilty about not honoring the Sabbath, but how often will you hear a sermon on the 6 day work week?

That’s actually the beginning of the commandment, the bible says

Exodus 34:21“Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.”

We always say that the commandment is to honor the Sabbath, but it’s also to honor the 6 day work week isn’t it? We look forward to Sunday to find God on our “rest day,” but how many of us are looking for God ….the other six days? In our work?

We can find God in our rest, but the truth is, we can also find God in our experiences as well. And I think it’s in our experiences, and it’s in our real life that we become the person God fashions. It’s in our 6 day work week that we will find adventure -we fall into trials from 9 to 5.

And when you go through something major in your life, you’re going to find that in those moments of hardship – you’re going to gravitate towards the people who know what you’re going through. If you’re the type of person who meets adventure and adversity head on, then think how much more equipped you’ll be, how much more of a friend you can be when those around you experience them to.

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