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Watch 2022 online sermons » Dr. Charles Stanley » Charles Stanley - In the Midst of Adversity

Charles Stanley - In the Midst of Adversity

TOPICS: Adversity

Adversity's not really a choice. If it were, we'd all say, "No thank you". We'd just take it some other way. It's not a choice, but it is a reality, because we live in a fallen world. And, because there is sin, and disobedience, and wickedness wherever you turn there's going to be adversity. And we're all going to experience it at one time, or the other in our life. And sometimes it's many times, and once in a while I'll meet somebody who says, "You know what? My life has just been one long trail of adversity".

And so I want to clarify what we mean by adversity. It is a condition of suffering, and, hardship involving anguish, pressure, trials, heartaches, disappointments, and of course, many other aspects of life that cause us discomfort in some way. So, we've all been there. We've all experienced adversity in one way or the other, and we would all like to avoid it if at all possible. But, it's not possible to avoid it. Because, we said we live in a fallen world. Now, if you avoid all possibilities of adversity you may miss some of the best things in life. You say, "Well, now how can adversity which causes me pain, hardship, heartache, anguish, and all suffering, how can that bring me something good"?

Well, I want you to think about some people in the Scripture for example, who went through adversity, but on the other side of that experience how God worked in their life. He still works that way. That is, God has never changed the way He operates. He knows what He wants to accomplish in our lives, and He knows exactly what it'll take. He never condones sin, and disobedience, and rebellion. But, in spite of the fact that He doesn't condone it, if we respond correctly He will use it for our good. So, let's just think about some people in the Scripture, who went through some terrible adversity, but look what God did.

Look at Joseph for example. Look at all the betrayal, the hardship, the heartache, the punishment he suffered, but look how he ended up, second to Pharaoh in Egypt. Would he say to us afterwards it was worth every bit of it? Yes, he would. No question about it. Think about Moses, for example. All the hardship he went through. But look what happened in his life. Would he say it was worth it all? Yes, he would. Think about David, for example. How many years he ran from King Saul, and yet he ended up being the king, the most notable king, the king when you think about the kings of the Old Testament, David above all the rest stands high. Then, when you think about women, for example, what about Esther? Difficult times, tragic times, and yet, God used her to save the Hebrew people. And, of course, if you were to ask Daniel, "Daniel all the things you've been through, you've taken away from your homeland, and brought over here to Babylon, would you go through this again"? And, I'm sure he would say, "yes," because look at where he ended up. He ended up beside the king. That is, God used him in the most awesome ways. We're still talking about him.

So, we would have to say that all adversity is not bad. It depends upon how we respond to it. So, whatever you're going through today, wherever you are in some realm of adversity in your family, among your children, financially, at your job, whatever it might be, whatever it may be, it could be that it is a part of one of God's greatest blessings in your life. So, it depends upon how we respond to it, and in that way, that's going to determine it. So, I want you to turn to Second Corinthians, the chapter I want to keep turning to in the twelfth chapter, because it's such a perfect example of the apostle Paul of all the wonderful things that he did and you think about all the adversities he went through, which he lists them in chapter eleven. And, in spite of his prayers, and asking God to take away all of this, listen to what he says about himself in verse seven of chapter twelve.

"Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself," that is, the awesome things he went through to keep him from exalting himself, "there was given to me a thorn in the flesh," whatever it may have been, "a messenger of Satan to torment me". Not make me feel bad, "torment me". "To keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored," I didn't just talk to the Lord, "I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.'" It's easier to read that than to live by it. Amen? He says, "This grace of God is sufficient for me. For power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, distresses, persecutions," prisons and so forth, "with difficulties, for Christ's sake". For, here he says, "What I've discovered when I am weak, then am I strong".

So, what I want us to think about, we respond to adversity in two ways. One way is the fact that some people just even though we're talking about believers, now, some people when they go through adversity their response is just walk away from God. "I've trusted Him as my Savior. I've believed Him. I've read the Bible. I've prayed. I've done all these things, but I want you to look at what happened to me". So, their choice is to walk away. And what they begin to think is they begin to doubt the reality of God. If God is really who He says He is, what the Bible says is He wouldn't dare let this happen, so they walk away. They doubt Him. A second response they have is they want to blame God for not preventing it from happening. In other words, "If God really loved me He would not allow this to happen to my family, to my finances, to my job, to my future, to my reputation," whatever it might be. "If He's really who He says He is, He wouldn't have let that happen, so it's God's fault".

And, sometimes when a person can't blame their husband, or wife, or blame someone else, they want to blame God. And so, they want to walk away, because if God was who He says He is, He wouldn't allow this and so, they want to point their finger at God. Then, some people just turn their back on God permanently. And I've met a few people over the years, things have happened in their life, and I remember one young man, he had a beautiful family, and his son, young lad. He must have been about, only about seven years of age was the joy of his life. And, he died suddenly. In spite of all of our prayers, all of our talking about how God had been good to him, how God had given him a great family. He had plenty of everything. He never could accept the fact that God took his son. He grew very, very bitter about it. And so, no matter what happened he blamed God, and he walked away from church, first of all, then he walked away from his family, and I never heard from him again. And, he was at church every Sunday, and sitting down in the center section.

When I knew him, he was a fine man. But that was an adversity in his life he just could not accept. Some people's response is, they say, "You know what? Don't give me that Bible business anymore. Because, here's the promises in the Bible, God does not fulfill His promises," and so, they just want to close the Book. Well, do you believe the Word of God? "I used to". Do you believe the Word of God? "It's not always true". In other words, people close the Bible. They just say, "You know what, that's what it says, but that's not what happens". Because, their expectations versus their partial knowledge of how God operates causes them to close the Word of God. Then, of course, here's what happens.

When people get disappointed, and God doesn't match up to their expectation what they do is they begin to nurture their hurt, and their anger. And, their hurt grows deeper, and deeper, and their anger gets stronger, and stronger, until they, not only are they miserable, they make the people they live with miserable, the people they work with miserable. In fact, you don't even want to see them coming. Because, their attitude has grown to such rejection of things that are Godly, and righteous, and they're blaming God, and they're blaming the Bible. "The Bible's not true and God has allowed this hurt in my life". And so, what happens? Sometimes that person that they don't get over it, they live with a bitter spirit.

How many of you have ever met somebody who is bitter? Yes. You know why? Because they can't hide it. You can't hide bitterness. You may hide some hurt in your life, or things that have gone on in your life, but bitterness is like poisoning the bloodstream in your body. It affects every single thing about you. It affects your ability to smile. It affects your ability to love, to accept. It affects every aspect of your life. Bitterness because of some adversity that happened to you in life, and you grow bitter. And, it probably is the reason for a lot of divorces. A person gets so bitter the other person says I can't live with this any longer. I'm not justifying it. I'm just saying that's oftentimes what happens.

And then, the worst thing is the people who grow bitter like this, let adversity get the best of them. They waste their life. They walk away from God, close the Word of God. They're not interested in this, and that, and the other. And whatever God may have planned for them, watch this, whatever God may have planned for them in that good, awesome plan was this act of adversity that God allowed to either purge something out of them that shouldn't have been there, grow them up, mature them, teach them something. Instead of responding correctly, they decide, no, then they walk away, and they absolutely waste their life.

Adversity is not always bad. It's not all bad if you respond correctly. So, we have two major responses. One of them is to walk away from God, and the second response is this: in the midst of that adversity people oftentimes grow into a deeper relationship with God. So, all of us fall into one of these two categories. And, this first category is walking away from God, or secondly, we walk into a deeper relationship with God. And, what happens? Well, here's what happens. We develop unshakeable faith. Because in that adversity God proves Himself to us over, and over, and over again that He's still there, He's still trustworthy. We can believe that He'll keep His promises. And what happens is the adversity tests our faith.

And so, people who decided in spite of what I'm going through I'm going to trust God, I'm going to persevere, I'm going to keep moving no matter what. And so, when we allow adversity to drive us into a relationship with God, a deeper relationship, that's one thing. A second thing is this: it enables us to have unwearied patience. That is, we don't, we don't get impatient. In other words, if I know that this is of God, and I'm trusting Him, He will give us the patience to endure whatever we're facing. And, I think probably one of the greatest tests of our trust in God, and our patience is the fact that no matter what's going on, and how painful it may be, and how we'd like to separate it, and get rid of it, we patiently wait for God to change it.

And, that's a very, very important point, because patience is not easy. It wasn't easy for the Apostle Paul. He said three times he prayed. And, that doesn't mean he just got on his knees, and prayed three short prayers. But, these, no doubt, were long, prolonged periods of agonizing before God. A third thing that happens is this: walking into a deeper relationship with God something happens to our courage. We begin to have unwavering courage, because we know what? In the past when we've been in difficult situations God gave us the courage to hang in there no matter how difficult it was, how threatening or loss, or whatever it might be. And so, what happens? It builds courage. It builds faith. It builds patience in our life. If we didn't have any adversity we wouldn't know what we could do. It's adversity that builds courage. I'm going to trust Him; I'm going to wait for Him; I'm going to believe Him; and I'm claiming the victory no matter what. I may be hurting at the moment, I may not like what's going on, but I know in my heart that God's not going to let me down.

And one of my favorite verses, you've heard me say it many times in Joshua one, nine. "Be strong and of a good," what? That's right. Fear not, because God's going to be with us in the midst of everything. "Fear not. Be strong and of a good courage for the Lord your God is with you wherever He leads you". It's not only the Word of God and the promises of God, it is proof of the promises of God. Here's what He's done in your life. So, we said you have two choices now. You can walk away from God, or you can walk into a deeper relationship with God, which is going to affect your patience, your faith, and your courage. And of course, it always makes us purer in heart. That is, something happens to our relationship to the Lord. And, holiness becomes more than a word.

And if I ask you, "Do you live a holy life"? A lot of people wouldn't even know what we mean by holy life. A holy life does not mean a perfect life, because nobody can live a perfect life, because we still have that old tendency of sinfulness in our lives that will be there until Jesus calls us home. We can live an obedient life, which means that most of the time, and when I say most of the time, I mean most, and most of the time we do the right thing. And if somebody asks you, "Are you living a holy life"? More than likely, I'm not saying it's true of you saints right here, but more than likely, you would say, "Well, I'm not, I don't say that I'm holy". "Well why not"? You, listen, God has forgiven you of your sin. The Spirit of God is living within you. Your name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life. He is your Savior, your Lord, your master, your helper, your encourager.

Why can't you live a holy life? It doesn't mean sinless. But it means one who is given to Him totally and completely as best you know how with all of your heart. You have no desire to sin against God. And so, God uses adversity and hardship and pain in our life to get us to thinking right. I'm a child of God. I'm to live a godly life. In other words, living a godly life, listen, that's the natural way for a believer to live. And so, if I'm going to live a godly life, I have to give up sin. And somebody says, "Well how long can you live without sin"? You want to know the answer to that? Say, "Amen". You don't want to know how long do, if you want to know the answer to this, how long can I live without sin, say, "Amen". As long as you choose to. As long as you choose to. You don't have to sin.

Well you don't, well you say, "Well, but you know, I saw something that made me lustful". Well don't look. If you think that's going to make... don't look. If you see something that you think that you could pick that up and nobody would ever see it, walk away. In other words, watch this. Sin is a choice. It's a bad choice. It's a choice that separates us in our fellowship from God and in His work and will and purpose and plan for our life. He has the best for us. And adversity is God's, one of God's ways of doing what? Molding us into His own likeness. Holiness, righteousness, that's a part of living the Christian life.

When I have the right response, I'm going to get in the Word of God. When adversity comes, the first thing I'm going to do is open this book, and say, "What, Lord, what are You trying to say to me"? And one of the things I love, my personal devotional book is the "Living Bible" translation. Because it's simple to understand. And for me personally, I jot down on the edge of my Bible things and I think the Lord has said and sometimes, when I need a certain word of encouragement, I know exactly where to turn. And sometimes I'll look at a verse that I have six dates down by it. That means I needed it five, six times before. And so, there's something about living with the Word of God. I don't know what you call precious in your possessions, but I can tell you that's the most precious thing you own. It's the only guidebook there is to get you to heaven.

Here's the voice of God in human print. This is the way to live. This is the way to look every single adversity in the face and say, "Yes"! Because I'm going to do it God's way. I'm going to follow Him. And whatever He wants to do in my life, the answer is, "Yes, God, I want You to have Your way because whatever Your goal is for my life, that's my goal. If it takes pain, suffering and heartache, whatever it might be, according to Your Word, here's what You said and that's what I'm going with". Now listen, we're going to face adversity. There's, nobody who is beyond it. So, knowing that it's going to happen, just make a wise choice today.

"Lord, I want You to turn the adversities that You allow in my life to making me a real saint. I want to be a godly person. I want to be somebody that You can use. I want to be somebody that looks a little bit like Your Son, Jesus; who acts like Him; who responds like He did. I want to make the right decision about adversity. You made Paul and awesome saint. And he's blessed us for these thousands of years. And God, I want You to make me that kind of saint. Not that I would write as he wrote, but I would just be the kind of child of God that would attract other people to the Lord Jesus Christ who is my Savior and my life".

Well, you have a choice. Some of you are suffering adversity unlike anything probably I would even know about. But I can tell you this. God knows where you are. He's there with you in that adversity. He will do exactly what He promised to do. He will help you, keep you, give you the patience, give you the faith, give you the courage, give you the love for Him that will enable you to endure it until He's finished with that, in order to make you the kind of person He wants you to be. Here's the choice. My choice is to yield to that adversity, knowing that He's got something good in mind. Or, I can turn away from Him and waste my life. And that's not what you want. You see, we only have two choices in life. We can either live our life the way we want to live it and just refuse to give God a chance. Or we can acknowledge the fact that we've sinned against God, and this God in whom we believe and trust, the God of the Bible, He sent His Son, Jesus, to the cross to die on the cross for our sins and explain that this way.

The shedding of Jesus' blood on the cross paid our sin debt in full. And the moment you ask Him to forgive you of your sin, and you don't make any promise, well I'm going to be a perfect person. No, you're not. He's asking you to surrender your life to Him, accept the death of His Son as payment for your sin, become one of His children. And as you have had to grow up your children, He'll grow you up. And when you allow Him to grow you up with the adversities, the difficulties, the hardship, the pain that all of us face. He'll make you a trophy. You'll be like a jewel to Almighty God. That is, you will shine forth as a saint, not perfect, but as a saint. Not sinless, but holy. He will bless you in ways that you could never imagine. That's who He is. That's the kind of God we have. And I trust that if you've never trusted Him, that you will right now where you are.

Father, how precious You are to be so patient with us. To not only forgive us of our sins, but to cleanse us, sanctify us, make us holy. May we look at adversity both ways. As challenges to who we are and what we are becoming. And as a pathway to become the person You want us to be. I pray that every person who hears this message will look at themselves; look at the things that are troubling them; acknowledge that You're the one true God and that You will join them in their adversity to help them through it no matter what. Thank You for being that kind of a loving Father is our prayer in Jesus' name, amen.

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