By Walt Healy
Your Strength Is Small Proverbs 24:10
Adversity comes as hostile or unfavorable conditions. When circumstances loom as mountains or when threat opposes our interest or desires, it feels as if the rug is pulled from under us. It seems like the tide has turned against us and we see the enemy coming in like a flood. At these times, we can’t escape emotional agitation and must see beyond the foreboding and distressing picture of the future, looking to God for strength.
It helps to know there are four reasons for adversity. Job 5:7 tells us, “man is born to trouble”. This is general adversity and is inescapable as with: war in the land; cold and heat; recession; etc. These events are neither caused by one’s personal wickedness nor stopped by one’s righteousness. Our fallen world is full of uncertainty and provokes all without respect to age, gender, status, etc.
Secondly, there is adversity God employs for His disobedient children (Hebrews 12:5–8). This is divine training. If we ignore the leading of the Spirit or the more direct word of Scripture, God immediately sends a correcting word (Isaiah 30:21). The wise correct their ways and it is finished. The unwise do not and we then find that “God troubled them with every adversity” (2 Chronicles 15:6). Jonah, and Abram when he went to Egypt, are examples. God always acts for our good and wants us headed in the right direction: “when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:32).
Thirdly, there is adversity for the obedient children of God: “tribulation or persecution arises because of the word” (Matthew 13:21). Satan plots to cut off your fruit. He wants you offended, resentful, angry at God or church, or worn out. Galatians 6:9 reminds us, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (KJV says, “if we faint not”.)
Lastly, there is adversity for fruitful, faithful servants of God. “A thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me” (Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:7). Extra-ordinary pressure can follow extraordinary fruitfulness. Paul was constantly attacked, John the Baptist and James were beheaded, Peter was imprisoned, and John was exiled. The satanic purpose is to compromise you or cause you to quit. To these threats, our response should be as in Nehemiah 6:9 “For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, ‘Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done.’ Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.” Peter tells us to resist the devil, “steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world” (1 Peter 5:9).
It is imperative that we discern the actual source of adversity. If God is correcting us and we are rebuking Satan, we prolong and compound the difficulty. If Satan is buffeting us and we blame God, or if we repent for “nothing”, we will draw back. If we mistake a “thorn” for divine disapproval we won’t fully engage the devil in war. Failing to discern the actual reason for the adversity, we can easily get discouraged, back off, and stop running the race. We faint in the day of adversity.
Habakkuk was about to do that (Chapter 1) when God corrected him (Chapter 2). Then the prophet got it and said, “Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills” (Habakkuk 3:17-19).
There is a future and a hope if we know God is pleased with our intent and actions. We can see beyond circumstances of adversity knowing, as Peter tells us that these trials are quite normal. No single battle is the war. Unfortunately, we don’t win every battle but we can win the war even before the next battle comes. This is what Jesus was doing in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46) as He fought His war alone and found His victory within.
We all face struggles; fear and trepidation come to each one, albeit differently: divorce; medical test; financial ruin; or aggression from the ungodly. These things produce uncertainty and discomfort and, like Jesus, we want the disciples around us to be alert and responsive to our deep sorrow and distress. We can feel “exceedingly sorrowful even to death” but reaching out to the disciples doesn’t always help. In this case, Jesus had to fight alone. In your spiritual battle before the temporal battle you can almost bank on this; Peter will not draw his sword until after the mob forms.
Jesus won alone; He found God in His decision to obey. We know God will not forsake us and will be there when the bombs begin to fall – but do we remember that in the battle before the battle? Gethsemane was the real war of the inner man, far more important to success with God than Jesus’ war of the outer man at the cross.
You can find God in the decision to obey and walk confidently and courageously into every battle, knowing He will be with you: Psalms 23:4 “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Even as death looms up and blocks the light, know “You are with me.”
Win the war first and then face evil with the sure knowledge that God will never leave you or forsake you. Finding God before the battle rages is the key. Find Him in the prelude and win before you start. Meet with and agree with Him; then say in faith, “Thanks be to God who always causes us to triumph in Christ Jesus.”
Don’t withdraw from the war! In Gethsemane it took three times before Jesus’ obedience was complete (Heb.5:8-9). Don’t be paralyzed into inactivity to witness, minister, or face the next battle. Don’t wait for the doctor’s report, the court summons, the bank notice, or the surprises of the ungodly. Don’t be paralyzed with fear, sorrow or distress. Win now! Fear not, “I Am” is with you on the way to do battle. Make a decision: “I’m going to win now over (name your fear and trepidation, sorrow and distress, or other issue) so that when the temporal battle comes I will already be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. I will do right and trust God with the results.”