There are times when something worthwhile can be achieved only through adversity, and true wisdom is manifested when that adversity is not just embraced but relished. This is not to suggest that we should go around looking to engage in hardships because we find in them something uplifting and noble. There are those who believe the Christian life should be one of dreary existence, living in fear of an angry God while ensconced in monastic gloom, trying to eke out a miserable existence and shunning all earth's wholesome pleasures. This is what some truly believe because of them the Christian's life is one of sorrow, sacrifice, sombreness and supplication.
On the contrary Christians should seek to live a life of sincere fulfilment and unadulterated happiness as much as possible for Jesus came into the world that we might have life in all its abundance (John 10:10); meaning a happy life, full of freedom and adventure, overflowing with joy and exciting, packed with spiritual blessings too numerous to count and all firmly based on a blessed relationship with Almighty God.
One of the problems Christians face is that some people demonize anything that is pleasant, enjoyable, happy and gives great pleasure. They act as if God has prohibited Christians from doing everything that is fun, delightful, gratifying and amusing.
This erroneous thinking can easily be laid to rest by looking at a few Scriptures, for the Bible tells us that God wants believers to be happy and tells us how we can be so.
"Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God." (Psalm 146:5)
"He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the LORD, happy is he." (Proverbs 16:20)
"Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he." (Proverbs 29:18)
"Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." (1 Peter 1:8)
"Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." (Psalm 16:11)
"Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full." (John 16:24)
God's ideal for his children are spelled out clearly but not all ideals are achieved for a number of different reasons. Believers are not immune from making errors and blunders that often lead to regret and agony. Sometimes believers walk into situations with their eyes wide open and fall heavily into the enemy's trap. And sometimes we take for granted what God has graciously given us, and not value it as we should, and fritter it away. All of these can result in adversity.
However there is a special kind of adversity that yields positive benefits even though at the time of the occurrence the positives are too opaque to be observed.
Take the case of Abraham.
Every Bible student knows the case of Abraham when he was asked to sacrifice his son on Mount Moriah and he journeyed to the assigned place ready to sacrifice Isaac. The request from God began like this, "And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of." (Genesis 20:2) This was an adverse request or instruction and many believers would've flatly refused to comply, knowing that God does not approve of human sacrifice; were they hearing right, is this the devil trying to fool them, etc.
Abraham did not hesitate to comply with God's instruction fully and with measured enthusiasm. It can only be guessed what was Abraham's deportment, for he was about to kill his only son and burn him on the wood for a sacrifice, and the kinds of challenging thoughts that ran through his head. But this we know that whatever his bearing, he travelled for three days and never once questioned God's wisdom and right to ask such a thing of him.
Abraham undertook this adversity with such majestic love of God and trust in his ability to do the right thing and with such unquestioning obedience and loyalty to his commands that he knew all was going to be good even when he had no idea how. This is the bedrock of true faith.
When God stopped Abraham in the act of slaying his son, God said, "... Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me." (Genesis 22:12)
Many believers stumble at this verse because they misunderstand the phrase "now I know" and interpret it as if God is ignorant of anything. The truth is that God already knows everything from eternity to eternity so the truth here is not related to God's knowledge but to his timely declaration. God could not, in keeping with the norms of his nature, declare to the world that Abraham was an example of filial faith until Abraham had been thoroughly tested and shown to be so.
It was because Abraham undertook this adversity in submission to God's will that the writer of Hebrews could say, "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure." (Hebrews 11:17-19) For good reason Abraham is known as the Father of the Faithful.
Take the case of Job.
One of the most loved and memorable characters in the Bible is that of Job and all believers regards him as an outstanding man of virtue. But Job did not earn his reputation in the same way as Abraham, for he was not instructed to do something and did it valiantly, but rather he was thrust into severe hardship not of his making.
Job's adversity was caused by a confluence of events beyond his control and for which he was in no way responsible for by his action or lack of diligence.
There comes a time in a believer's walk with God that things just happen, sometimes they occur frequently and the believer is mystified as to what he has done wrong. The answer often is that he has done nothing wrong but this sits uneasily with most believers because they are so wedded to the usual cause and effect duality. You sow good therefore you reap good and you sow bad and reap bad. While this is true it is not the whole truth as Job found out.
Job's adversity was as a consequence of a conversation between God and Satan and then Satan does his utmost to show to God that Job's love and loyalty to Him was based solely on Job's prosperity.
Satan was permitted to pestilentially abuse an innocent, righteous, God-fearing believer and did so, not just to the man but also his family, and then when Job still stood firm he inflicted him with nauseous sores and extreme poverty.
Job was successful and prosperous all his life but it was not until a raft of adversity descended on him that he demonstrated his unfailing commitment to Almighty God and his undying trust in the just God he worships. Who can forget these ineffable sentiments as expressed in these magnificent words, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him." (Job 13:15)
The adversity weighed heavily on him but he never once accused God although at one point the unfairness were so palpable that he cried out for a referee, "There is no umpire between us, who might lay his hand on us both. If he would take his rod away from me, and not let dread of him terrify me, then I would speak without fear of him, for I know I am not what I am thought to be." (Job 9:33-35 NRSV)
At the end of such severe testing Job triumphed and was able to testify, "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." (Job 19:25-26) This is a result of going through much adversity and coming out triumphant.
Admittedly it is easier said than done but we should see and handle adversity the same way, and towards the same result, as the refining of silver; producing a flawless product. (Matthew 5:48)
So what about you and the adversities you are going through? Are they making you stronger, more resilient, more faithful and determined? Are they bringing out the best that's in you and demonstrating to the world that your love for God is sincere, well rooted and durable? Are they enabling you to show the grace and beauty of Jesus in you? That is entirely up to you.
Books by this author (non-fiction except indicated otherwise)
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Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2013
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