James 1:2-4 – My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (NKJV)
Life is tough.
If you read that and think that it doesn’t apply to you… just wait a little bit, it will.
Trials, suffering and hard times come to every single person born into this world. So it is never really a question of “why do bad things happen to good people?”, the real question is “why do bad things happen?”… because adversity visits every single human and shows no favoritism. You can’t wish it away, close your eyes and ignore it, or buy your way out of it.
Adversity and hardship are a fact of a sin cursed world (Genesis 3; Rev 22.3; ). When man chose to sin and brought the stain of evil into God’s perfect creation, suffering became the logical and predictable result. We are suffering the results of our own sin; and when I say “we” I mean the human race as a whole. There also times when we as individuals suffer the direct results of our sin (it may even be that the majority of our suffering is a consequence of our own personal sin) but sometimes we just suffer simply because we live in a sin cursed world and for no other reason than that.
James tells us, in fact he commands us to “count it all joy WHEN you fall into various trials”. Notice he says WHEN not IF. The fact of adversity is reality for every person, and specifically every Christian (Jn 16.33; Acts 14.22; Jas 5.11; 1Thess 3.3).
A fact? Does God get some joy out of seeing us suffer? Hardly. What good father gets pleasure out of seeing his child’s suffer? But on the other hand, what good father does not understand that suffering is part of the growth process for any child, and to thwart or rescue the child from all suffering would cause the child great harm?
A toddler is allowed to touch something sharp to learn the pain it can cause. A child is allowed a little burn on their finger from an oven they won’t leave alone. A teenager walks to work for a few weeks to earn money to fix the car they wrecked. A college student spends a night in jail for drinking in a car with friends. We don’t rescue them because there is a greater blessing in letting them suffer for a little while.
Its easy for us to understand the principle when it comes to our children, but we quickly forget when it comes to God dealing with us. While frequently true, suffering is not always about “learning a lesson”. Sometimes there is blessing to be gained simply by enduring the process of adversity. We’ll learn more about that later in the series.
In our day and age of the “positive Gospel” it may come as a surprise to you that the promised blessing for the obedient Christian is adversity and persecution ( Mt 5:4 ; 1Pe 4:13 , 14; 2Cor 4.17; 2Cor 4.8-11; Ps 119.71; 1Pet 1.7; Heb 12.10-11) . Material prosperity was promised in the Old Testament as part of the covenant to Israel as a blessing for their obedience to the Lord (Gen. 13:1-7; 26:12-14; 30:43; 39:2-6; I Kings 3:13; Job 42:10-17; Deut. 15:10; Prov. 3:9-10; 11:25 ; Mal. 3:8-12; Deut. 28:1-13). It was indeed a blessing, but not the greatest blessing.
Suffering is a SUPERIOR blessing to material prosperity.
You won’t hear that in alot of our churches today. Throughout this series of lessons, it is my prayer that you will come to understand that suffering and adversity are a blessing and gift from God; and not only a gift, but the SUPERIOR gift.
The superior gift of adversity results in ETERNAL prosperity and abundancewhich is a far greater, yes infinitely greater value than material possessions.
Does that mean we should go looking for trials and tribulations? Hardly. Just be alive for any length of time and don’t worry, they will find you. So rather than spending our time lamenting the existence of adversity, I would submit to you that a more profitable use of time would be to discover what God says about it, how we should respond to it, and what, if any, are the blessings to be gained by enduring it.
The disappointments, discouragements and suffering of man started in the garden with Adam and have been common to all since then. No matter the era, the culture or the level of material wealth, hardship is common to all men of all time when…
- all your efforts seem to end in failure
- no matter how hard you try, you just don’t seem get anything accomplished
- you suffer unjustly
- nothing ever seems to go right
- life just doesn’t seem to be getting any better
- it feels like nothing good has resulted from your life
- you do your best and still fail
- you do what is right and it still turns out wrong
- your family falls apart
- your health fails, your money is lost and your friends forsake you
- you think you have nothing to show for your life
- you feel lonely and isolated
- you feel like no one understands what you’re going through
- it feels like everyone sees you as a failure
- your kids go down the wrong path
- you look at your life and it just doesn’t seem like there is any reason to keep trying
- you just flat-out can’t see anything good coming from trying anymore
- your whole life feels like one great big regret
- you realize that your life is not what you ever thought it would be
That list may seem very depressing and pessimistic, but I would dare say that there’s hardly a person reading this who has not experienced several, if not the majority, of these feelings and circumstances. Since this is a fact of our existence, it is profitable for us to learn what Scripture has to say on the subject. Some of the common questions are:
- Why is this happening to me?
- What did I do to deserve this?
- Is this my fault?
- How do I respond?
- Is God aware of what’s happening?
- Is He allowing it to happen, or causing it to happen?
- Is there a lesson to learn?
- Is this a punishment or a blessing?
As we begin this series, let’s start with an answer:
2 Corinthians 2:14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. (NKJV)
Thanks be to God who ALWAYS (not sometimes or with conditions) LEADS (God shows us the way going ahead of us to prepare the way) US (His children, all His children) IN TRIUMPH (victory, success… God’s version, not ours) IN CHRIST (not beside Him or apart from Him but IN Christ; protected, sheltered, safe) and through us diffuses the FRAGRANCE (do others “smell” Christ on you?)….
God has already given the answers, the results and all we need to live this life in victory. It is up to us to discover through His revealed Word what those answers are.
Father in Heaven, help us to both understand and be grateful for adversity in our life. Teach us to embrace it as the blessing you mean for it be even though it is hard for us to understand and difficult to endure. In Jesus name, Amen.
Contemplation: Do you believe that Christians are promised a life of prosperity and ease? Is it the blessing of Christianity to enjoy a life of comfort and smooth sailing? Is your first reaction to suffering or adversity and prayer for it to end? Do you believe it is Scriptural to see adversity as a “blessing” from God?
Application: Adversity is difficult when you see it as something to be avoided at all cost. It is all the more difficult when you have been taught that trials and suffering come from a “lack of faith”. Learn what the Bible truly says about life’s difficulties. When you realize the incredible blessing that God has in store for you, delivered in a package of adversity, you will face the tough times of life with enthusiasm and expectation.
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?