“Dealing With Adversity”
Hello, welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” My name is Bret McCasland. No matter how you say it or what words you use, life is hard. Oh, there's nothing easy about it. Every day we face adversity. Every day we are disappointed, frustrated, and discouraged when things don't work out our way. And so, how do we handle that? What is the best approach to take and how can we rise above the adversity of life? Well, we can come up with our own plan of action or we can do what the apostle Paul did. In our lesson today, on “Key to the Kingdom,” we will think about some of the struggles and adversity he faced, and then notice how he dealt with it. Yes, Paul did some things that enabled him to not only deal with but to overcome his struggles. He focused on rising above his adversity to be God's representative in this world; and we too can rise above and not give in to the adversity that comes our way. Hopefully you will stay tuned to this station for the next few minutes as we give some thought to dealing with adversity while still walking with the Lord. I encourage you now to open your heart and your Bible as we study this lesson together.
I don't know who first said the words, “Living as a Christian would be easy.” And I don't suppose it really matters who said the words, “When you give your life to Jesus all of your problems will go away.” I don't agree with either one of those statements or with statements like them. Now, it is true Christians receive some wonderful blessings when they become a part of God's family. We enjoy wonderful spiritual blessings as a result of that yet we will still encounter adversity. We still have problems in our life. Oh, perhaps the most dedicated Christian who ever lived on the face of this earth was a man named the apostle Paul. He gave his heart and soul to the Lord. He gave up every thing that meant something to him in order to pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ and to share the good news of that with other people. He served those whom God put into his life. He established churches. He taught people to be disciples. He encouraged others to follow in his footsteps. And the list goes on of all the things Paul did as a Christian. Yet in spite of that, he still faced opposition. People constantly challenged his authority saying that you truly are not an apostle of the Lord. Your message carries no weight or no authority with us. And those people questioned his credentials. Even other Christians presented some unique challenges for him to overcome and Paul seemed to always be on the defensive of who he was and what he was trying to do in this world. And no doubt, Paul could have lived with fear and anxiety of all of these things and what was happening. He could have been afraid of those who stood against him and against his message. He could have run away from his responsibilities and said I'm not going to represent Jesus Christ in my life any more, but Paul did not do that. He stood firmly on his conviction that Jesus was by his side. He believed with all of his heart God was in control and that God was taking care of him, no matter what kind of problems or adversity he faced. Paul knew his role and his ministry in this world was to represent the One who saved him, and to never look back. In the first few chapters of 2nd Corinthians, Paul gives us a glimpse into some of his personal trials and adversity. Yet in spite of all of the struggles, he knows God is good to him and continually blesses him. He tells us, beginning in verse 13 of chapter 4, how he deals with the adversity he encounters, and it revolves around 5 specific things. Paul does 5 things in his life that make a difference, that allow him to rise above and defeat the adversity he faces. For the next few minutes, I want us to think about these 5 things and how we might use them, even in our lives, when we face the adversity of this world. The first thing Paul does is to believe. Listen to these words in the 4th chapter of 2nd Corinthians, beginning with verse 13. – It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the One who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in His presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. – Quoting from the Old Testament, Paul lets it be known that he proclaims the good news of Jesus Christ because of his faith in Him. In other words, Paul shares what he believes. The story of Jesus’ salvation means something to Paul and he cannot keep from telling others about it. He believes the gospel message is the most important thing he could ever talk about, and that's exactly what he does. Yes, Paul believes not only in Jesus but he believes in the resurrection of Jesus. He believes in the ministry of Jesus. He also believes that God's presence is always with him and sustains him in his ministry and in times of adversity. Yes, God blesses Paul in a very special way, and Paul knows that. And the same is true with us. If we genuinely believe something to be important, we will talk about it, won't we? That might be our jobs or our family, our children, our grandchildren, or other things happening in our life. If we believe them to be true we’re going to share that good news with other people, and hopefully that includes our salvation and our relationship with the Lord. And so as we read these verses, we recognize that Paul's example is important for us to consider. The more faith we possess in the Lord, and in His resurrection, and trusting in God's love for us, the more He gives us the courage and the ability to overcome and deal with the adversity in our life. So that's where Paul starts. He begins with developing and strengthening his faith in the Lord. Now the second thing Paul does, in order to deal with that adversity, is to persevere, and he points that out in the next verses here in the 4th chapter of 2nd Corinthians, as we read verses 16-18. – Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. – It's interesting, Paul states again what he stated in verse 1 of the 4th chapter. 2 times in 16 verses he writes, “Don’t lose heart.” Well evidently, that must be important. He does not want anyone who reads these words to lose heart, to quit, or to give up. He wants Christians to persevere through the hard times. Even when we wonder whether or not representing Jesus is worth it, he wants us to hold fast to what Jesus has done for us. And even though the life we live upon this earth might bring about some pain and some suffering from time to time, the new life that comes with a relationship with Jesus Christ is being renewed and it grows every single day. Once we understand that then adversity takes on a new perspective. Once we understand how we can grow through and overcome that adversity we think about it differently. We realize that it is only temporary and the glory of what lies ahead far outweighs the pain of the present. It is beyond all comparison. No doubt, that changes our thinking. It changes the way we think about the pain and the persecution of this world. Oh, athletes who excel in their chosen sport go through a great deal of pain, and struggles, and adversities in order to rise to the top. They live a very disciplined life, eating certain foods and not eating other foods. They work out early in the morning and late at night. They put in those extra hours. They receive that training and that instruction. They do whatever they can to become the very best at what they want to do. At times, no doubt, they want to give up. They want to quit. They want to say you know this really isn't worth it and I'm going to do something different. And yet they know there is something that lies ahead if they will just work through the adversities and the difficulties of today. They know there is a prize waiting for them. And likewise, we are being renewed and refreshed every time we look to the future and to what God has in store for us. Yes, the pain and the struggles, the adversities, of today may weigh heavily upon us but we persevere knowing what lies ahead. That's the second way Paul dealt with and overcame adversity. He persevered through it. There's a third thing that Paul did, and I believe he encourages us to do it as well, and that is to anticipate heaven. Listen to these words here in the 5th chapter, beginning with verse 1. – Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. – We know today that a tent represents the insecurity of life. And even though some tents may be very strong and able to withstand all kinds of weather there is no tent that is stronger or has the strength of a permanent dwelling. And when we die our tent, as Paul refers to it here upon this earth, is replaced with a secure and lasting home in heaven. And no matter how beautiful our tent or home might be, no matter what kind of pleasure we might receive in our earthly home or tent, it is only temporary compared to that eternal dwelling with God. That is something that we can look forward to in the midst of our adversity. Something that is stable. Something that is secure. Something that is eternal and permanent compared to our tent here on this earth. Paul then goes on to illustrate heaven once again by saying that to pass from this life to the next is like taking off and putting on clothes. We get rid of those clothes that are old, and worn-out, and smelly, and used up, and instead we put on clothes right off the rack; clothes that are brand-new with the tags still on them and not a thread out of place. And that's his description of heaven; everything is perfect, without defect, and awaiting our arrival. Let me ask you a question. Do you ever long for heaven? Do you ever long for that eternal dwelling place with God? Do you anticipate going there and spending an eternity with Him and not having to do with the tent of this earth? Oh, it's something we can anticipate and look forward to, and it encourages us when we do. Take a look at this short video clip and perhaps it will encourage you to anticipate heaven every single day.
The story is told of a mother sharing with her young daughter about the family vacation they are planning. They are going to Disneyland. The mother is describing for her all of the wonderful things they will enjoy: the amusement park, the rides, the fun, the food and all of the activities, how fun it will be. And after she finishes the daughter responds by saying, “Mom, I just want to go to the park.” Yes, sometimes we are content with what we have right before us. We like our parks, and our activities, and all of the things we can see and do here upon this earth. But, let me ask you a question. Are we content with that to the point that we forget about heaven? Are we really anticipating the coming of the Lord? Are we anticipating Him coming back and making all things new? Yes, that is something to look forward to and to expect. I think about the words of John, found in Revelation chapter 21:2. As he looks into heaven he said, “I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” Yes, that is a beautiful site, isn't it? Oh, I hope and pray that we are looking forward to that day, to the coming, to the return of Jesus Christ. Or perhaps, this is a question that we need to consider first. Are you prepared for that day? Are you prepared to see Jesus and to spend an eternity with Him? If you are then you can look forward to and anticipate heaven.
Yes, Paul reminds us, here in 2nd Corinthians chapter 5, when we keep our eye on the prize of heaven, and when we anticipate the joys and the blessings that await us there, then we can rise above, and defeat, and overcome the adversity of this world. There is a fourth thing that Paul does, as he deals with his adversity. It's found in verses 6-8 here in the 5th chapter. And that is, Paul lives with a great amount of confidence in the Lord. Listen to these words from Paul, here in 2nd Corinthians 5. – Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. – Paul enjoys the continual presence of God as God dwells within him, as He gives him that Spirit, that deposit, assurance, that guarantee of a life that is to come. And he knows with complete confidence, there is coming a time when he will be with the Lord and all of the adversity will amount to nothing, and that is not just some wishful thinking. That is not something that Paul hopes will someday happen, but he knows with complete confidence that when he dies he will be in the presence of the Lord. He will have the glorious experience of being in His presence, just like what happened on that road to Damascus in that conversion experience when the presence of God appeared to him in that great light. So, that confidence keeps Paul focused on what lies ahead. The adversity he faces does not distract him. He puts faith in the Lord and he knows the Lord will not disappoint him. And even though he cannot see it, currently, he knows it is there and someday it will become a reality. Oh, we all live with a certain amount of confidence in our life, don't we? I am confident my automobile will take me where I want to go. I am confident the food I eat today will sustain me until tomorrow. I am confident that in spite of my many failures my wife still loves me very much. Now, as true as those things might be, and as confident as I am in those things, there is one that is even more important. That is, God gives me the confidence to know that the adversity I face on this earth will never keep me from seeing Him. I hope and pray that you live with the same kind of confidence in your life, knowing that God has a home and a place prepared for you, as well. Well, the confidence with which Paul lives his life, and encourages us to do the same, leads us to the fifth thing upon which he builds his life. It is very simple. It is found in the next phrase, there in verse 9 of the 5th chapter. – “So we make it our aim to please Him.” – So we make it our aim, we make it our goal to please the Lord. Paul lives with obedience, and that's how he overcomes adversity. No matter where his life takes him, no matter what kind of adversity he experiences, no matter who or what stands against him, his goal is to obey the Lord and to please Him. No doubt, it would be very difficult for Paul to feel at home with the Lord if he did not seek to please Him upon the earth. And certainly none of us would feel at home, or comfortable, with the Lord if we did not live to obey and to please Him in our daily activities here upon the earth. That really doesn't make sense, does it? It is no different than living a life today, totally focused on our own interests and our own desires; seeking to do our own thing, seeking to live by our own set of standards or beliefs, disobeying God irregardless of what He is asking us to do, and yet at the same time praying to God and asking for His blessing to be upon us. Oh, those two things don't match up. They are incompatible. How can we live by our own standards and yet seek to please God? That is what Paul is addressing here. We cannot live in obedience to Him and feel at home with Him if we are doing our own thing in this world. Rather, when we obey God we know we are walking with Him. We are at home with Him and we can feel comfortable in His presence. We might even say it like this; obedience and seeking to please the Lord solidifies our relationship with the Lord. And because of that relationship, God sustains our life in the midst of adversity. Paul did at least 5 things when he faced adversity in his life and in his ministry. He increased his belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. He persevered through those hard times. He anticipated a future home in heaven. He was fully confident that he was on God's side and God would reward him. And he lived with complete obedience, obeying and serving the Lord in every aspect of his life. Yes, Paul did those things, and that's the way he dealt with and overcame the opposition and the adversity he encountered in this world. Likewise today, when we have adversity we have a choice to make, like Paul did. We can run away and hide. We can give in to that adversity and that opposition. We can't allow it to consume us and overtake us, or we can do what Paul did. We can live with a greater measure of belief, and perseverance, and anticipation, and confidence, and obedience. Yes, God gives us the strength to rise above the adversity of this world, no matter what it is, and we do not have to live in fear of those people or of those things who oppose us, or what they might say or do. Rather, we can deal with it and overcome the same way Paul did. Yes, nothing stopped Paul from letting the light of the gospel shine through his life. He extended love and mercy, even to those people who tried to discredit him and his ministry. He was able to do that because he knew who he was and he knew whom he represented. He also knew that the adversity he faced in this world was absolutely nothing compared to the glories of what awaited him in heaven. Oh, our representation of Jesus Christ to other people here in this world is full of challenges. It's full of discouragements, and anxiety, and setbacks, and problems, and adversity. And yes, we can allow all of those things to take away our love for the Lord and take away our desire to live for Him, and to represent Him in this world, and that’s where that choice comes in. Will we allow those things to do that or will we stand firm in our faith, and as Paul writes in verse 16, not lose heart; not give into the deceptive ways of Satan, not giving to the challenging ways of this world, not focusing on the adversity that seems to affect us day in and day out. Rather, living with full confidence that there is a home waiting for us in heaven, and so we persevere to the very end. Here is my challenge for us to consider, today. For the next 30 days, for one month, I invite and I encourage you to do these 5 things: to live with greater amounts of belief and perseverance, anticipation, confidence, and obedience. And as you do, see if that doesn't make a difference in how you are able to deal with and to rise above the adversity in your life. Oh, I encourage you today to never give up, never lose heart, but to do what Paul did, to follow his example and rise above the adversity you experience in your life today.
Thank you for taking a few minutes to watch this episode entitled “Dealing with Adversity.” I hope it helped you think about how you can overcome the adversity that comes your way. If you have not been to our website recently I invite you to visit keytothekingdom.com. There you'll find a variety of lessons, devotional thoughts, and inspiring messages. You can even download a free Bible study, which requires no commitment. Something else we offer is a free download to your Android or Apple iPhone. Simply put the free “Key to the Kingdom” app on your phone and have easy access to daily messages from us. We would also like to hear from you by way of an e-mail. Please send us a message and will be sure to get back to you. A toll-free number is also available if you would like to order your free Bible study by phone. Our goal is to assist you in any way possible in your walk with the Lord. Let us know how we can be of assistance to you. Once again, thank you for watching the program today and we invite you to join us again next time as we continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom.”