Adversity – Burden Or Bridge?
No one wants to experience tough times. But when they come our way, we have a choice about how to view them: as a burden or a bridge. Many people believe that they draw closer to God through blessings, but really, we discover God’s true love, mercy and grace through difficult situations and circumstances.
rebuild and form a life of sustaining faith and intimacy with God, begin your journey today. Yeah. In touch with Dr. Charles Stanley celebrating 45 years of God’s faithfulness and sharing the gospel worldwide. Next on in touch adversity burden or bridge. Well, there are probably more people going through adversity today than a long, long time. A lot of that is because of financial circumstances and situations and they’re facing things have never faced before. They never even thought about losing their home and not being able to send their kids to college. I never thought about the fact that they wouldn’t have all their needs met the way they’ve been to meeting him. I never thought about that somebody would walk in and say, we don’t need you anymore on this job. Adversity comes in all forms and when I think about it, I think about how universal it is that’s making this where you live, where you come from, what color, what culture and that’s making a difference. Adversity is just adversity. What really makes the difference is her attitude makes all the difference in the world. And so when a person’s attitude is that they want to blame somebody else or put somebody else on the responsibility road, then things don’t work out right. It’s when my attitude is right that matters and what I want you to understand in this message, I want you to understand that adversity in their life can either be this overwhelming sense of burden, this burden that is waiting heavy. That makes us weary, tired, restless and and just worn out or the same. adversity can be like a bridge, like a bridge that leads me to a deeper relationship to God. It’s all in my attitude and all in my understanding of what God is doing so in your own life, would you say that the adversity in your life is like a burden? It’s a heavyweight in your life and you just keep thinking God, how much longer am I gonna have to go? Or do you see it as an opportunity as a bridge over which you can travel above those circumstances and above all the adversity that’s there, because you understand that it’s leading you into a deeper relationship with jesus christ. Well, the Apostle paul is the best example in the scripture of a person who not only went through all kinds of adversity, but who understood the most basic principles and in this passage, if you will listen carefully and I want to encourage you to write down these statements, it will help you enable you to keep your attitude right? The goal right, understand what God’s doing in your life, and you will have a totally different attitude about whatever you’re going through whatever that may be. So, I want you to turn to second Corinthians chapter 12 and you’ll remember in second Corinthians Paul is writing about many things uh dealing with the church, but one of those things that he’s dealing with here Uh in this 11th and 12 chapters is his own adversity and the things he had to go through. So, um In the 11th chapter, he list many things that he had had to uh suffer. For example, he said he was stoned and left for dead in Lastra and he was shipwrecked and left out there to die. And he was beaten several times with rods. He was jailed over and over and over again. They tried to assassinate him several times. And so this is the kind of life he lived from the time he was saved and went to Arabia to understand better the word of God. When he came back and began to preach. It was one adversity after the other And he sort of ends up his list in the 11th chapter. And uh he ended up sort of in verse 28 by saying apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. And so he said, daily pressure, that is this wasn’t something that happened once in a while. Daily. He felt the burden. He felt the pressure daily of all the churches that he started, what’s happening to them is the false doctrine entering these churches? In other words, he had a tremendous responsibility an opportunity. But but but adversity was a big part of it all. So what did he learn? How did he go through this? What was his attitude? And I want us to come to this passage in a few moments just to look at all the things that he learned that you and I can learn that will help us face whatever we have to face in life, you’re going to face adversity. The question is how you’re going to face it, How are you going to respond? Are you going to respond in a way that you come out winning no matter what are you gonna face in such a way that you’re gonna try and deny it, that’s not gonna work. You got alcohol and sex and drugs, they’re not gonna work, or it’s some kind of pleasure that none of that’s gonna work. That’s how you’re going to face it. You’re gonna crumble beneath it, and you’re gonna say, I can handle it some way, are you going to deal with it in reality what I want you to see? And the rest of this message is this there’s some very specific truths, the apostle paul learned that he’s sharing in this passage, that will help you through any and every adversity in life. So I want you to listen carefully for your own sake, because it’s gonna happen, you’re gonna need it. And the question is how you’re gonna respond. So I won’t put these in any order necessarily of importance from somebody’s viewpoint. I just want to start with this very first thing, and that is he learned this, that he and all of these on the Mac screens, and I want you to encourage you to write them down. He learned that he could experience contentment in the midst of his adversity, which is what most people never learn. That he could be content in the midst of his adversity. Now, In in Chapter four of of Philippians, for example, that 11th verse he says this very thing when he’s writing about what’s happening to him. He says in verse 10, but I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned before, but you have lacked the opportunity. They’ve been supporting him then they couldn’t be, he says, not that I speak from want for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I’m in. So now back to this 12th chapter where we’ll spend most of our time beginning in this particular passage. And I want you to notice what he says in verse 10, he says. Therefore, therefore I am well content with what weaknesses, insults, distresses, prosecutions, difficulties, that send most people to bed. He says, I’m content with these things. Now, why could he say that? Because he knew how to respond. Here’s what he had learned. He learned that he was learning something about his relationship to jesus and he was learning that these things were not tearing him down, but that somehow he could have contentment. And remember he’s writing, he’s writing Philippians and envisions the colossians. He’s writing these epistles from a prison cell because he’s gone one jail to the other. And now he’s talking about the fact that one thing he learned was that he could have contentment in the midst of all that there’s only one way to be content in the midst of adversity. And when we go through these, I think as they we add one upon the other. You understand that the second thing that I want you to notice here is this he could experience God’s supernatural strength in his weakness. Because that’s what that’s what adversity does. Adversity. Adversity makes us weak, emotionally or physically, whatever it might be, it makes us weary and tired and worn out. And here’s what he says, he said, he learned that he could experience God’s supernatural strength. Listen to what he says in this passage. And uh In in 2nd Corinthians In verse 10, therefore, I’m well content with weaknesses with insults with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties. For Christ’s sake. He says, for when I am weak, then I am strong. Here’s what he learned. He says, here’s what I’ve learned. I’ve learned that when I’m at my weakest moments in my life when I think I just can’t keep going. Remember what he said. The daily pressure of the Church’s upon him. The fact that they tried to assassinate him, stone, him whip him. That was he says, what I’ve learned is that when I am the very weakest, I get my greatest surge of the presence of the supernatural energy and power in my life, I can keep going. It’s when I think I can’t, that I began to realize who is my Lord, Who is my strength? What is this life within me? It is the life of jesus. And he says, when I come to those points that I think I can’t handle it, that’s when I get this new fresh awareness and energizing of christ within me, energizing me and enabling me. And so that being true, whatever he was facing like a bridge, these truths that would help him to drive right over it. And then he said he had learned the lesson. He said he had learned the source for all of his needs. Notice what he says in this passage, he says beginning in verse nine and he said to me, my grace is sufficient for you. For power is perfected in weakness most grandly, he says, therefore I will rather boast about my weaknesses so that the power of christ may dwell in me. He says, I’ve learned that my sufficiency is in christ. He says, I’ve learned that when I’m going through these difficulties, when there’s no one there to help me and oftentimes he was abandoned even by his friends. He says, I’ve learned that whatever my need is christ is my sufficiency, knowing him, loving him, being loved by him, being cared for by him, this relationship, this intimate relationship that he has with christ, he says, what I’ve learned is that even in my worst adversity, that relationship gives me a sense of sufficiency because I know that he’s made promises, he’s made promises that he’s going to guide me and keep me and supply my need, whatever that might be. And of course, you and I all know the verse in Philippians, my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in christ jesus. That comes from a person who spend a lot of time in jail, persecuted stone shipwreck. You name me, what’s he saying? He’s talking about being content. He’s talking about the supernatural energy of almighty God coursing through his life equipping him and and making him sufficient to deal with any and every circumstance of life. You see, he was looking in the right direction when the adversity came, not looking within himself, but looking to the Lord jesus and knowing and having learned and learning at the same time, there was something about that relationship that made it possible for him to rise above that. And this is why, for example, also in Philippians, he says, the whole praetorian guard. They know I’m here in jail and as he was, as he was chained to these soldiers and sharing his faith with them. God was working mighty miracles through his life. Because you see he didn’t give up and quit and he didn’t say, well, God, where are you? He was learning something and he’s learning something that he’s placed in this passage. He learned that God was the source of all of his knees. And he also listened came to realize that he could trust in the faithfulness of God. He could trust in the faithfulness of God. That is that God was going to be true to his promises. And when I think about that promise, I think about what he says in verse 10, he says, therefore, I’m well content with weaknesses with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties for christ’s sake, for when I am weak, then I’m strong, he said, I know that my God is going to be faithful to keep his word, that he’s going to supply my needs, that that I’m gonna be sufficient in him to face any and every situation circumstance of life. And you see, when a person begins to question the faithfulness of God because of adversity, God wants us at that point to turn to him and asked the question, were you faithful back yonder, were you faithful to keep your word? Did you do what you promised here? When I prayed that what happened, That is the truth is if you think about it, God can’t do anything but be faithful. That’s who he is. That’s his nature and because his nature is to be faithful to us, we can trust him that in whatever circumstance we’re going through whatever the situation may be, that we can count on him to be who he says he is, count on him to do what he says, he’ll do and see us through it, no matter what. Then another issue that he learned here, and that I think is so very, very valuable. He says, for example, he learned that God valued his service more than his desires. Now listen to what he says in this 12th chapter verse seven, He says, for example, because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations for this reason to keep me from exalting myself. That was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of satan to torment me, to keep me from exalting myself. Here’s what he said. It’s a it’s an awesome valuable lesson, he says, I’ve learned that from God’s perspective, he knows exactly what it takes to bring me into an intimate relationship with him. And listen, watch this God is so desirous to bring us into that living eternal, listen, satisfying and enjoyable, indescribable intimacy with him. That look, he will overlook my desires in order to do what he will overlook my desires in order to equip me to serve him. But if I choose to just soak and have self pity and all the rest, I’m gonna lose the most wonderful opportunity and the most wonderful opportunity to watch. This is not just being a servant of God, but this wonderful intimate relationship that develops in that kind of adversity, there comes no other way, then I think about when he says he he learned that even in his adversity that God was strengthening his message to his followers. And that’s interesting because in Philippians here he is in jail and here’s what’s happening as some of his followers are out there and they’re not they’re not being very understanding of their possible. In fact, they’re criticizing him. Here’s what he says in verse 13, so that my imprisonment in the cause of christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and they were the ones who defended the emperor and to everyone else. And that most of the brethren trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear. Now, he says some to be sure of preaching christ even from envy and strife, but some are for goodwill. That is, here’s what he’s saying. He says that even in our adversity, God is doing something in her life, what is he doing? He’s strengthening our message. Because you see when you go through difficulty and hardship and pain in your life, and you begin to understand how God is working in your life, your faith, your faith, for example, becomes stronger. And he also learned to see everything as coming from God, which is one of the basic principles to prevent a person from being Bitter, resentful and hostile listen to what he says in this passage, he says, for example, in verse seven because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations. Uh, for this reason to keep me from exalting myself. That was given to me a thorn in the flesh. A messenger of satan to torment me. To keep me from exalting myself now. Where did that come from? Ultimately? It had to be God. That is God could have stopped it. He could have he could have stopped all of that, but he allowed it. What was he doing? He was allowing these things in his life. And Paul said, one of the greatest things he learned was to be able to see everything is coming from God. Then of course he learned something else. And that is, he says, we become far more capable of being comforters to other people when we have been through adversity and have been comforted ourselves. Now, he says that in different ways in this particular passage, but I want us to go back to what he said in the first chapter of this book. This is the 12th chapter we’ve been talking about. But back in the first chapter, he starts off his this letter to the Corinthians. Here’s what he says, he says, blessed be the God and father of our Lord, jesus christ, the father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us, watch this, who comforts us in all our afflictions. Adversities so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God? Then he says on later in the in the same chapter for we do not want you to be unaware, brethren of our affliction which came to us in Asia, but we were burdened excessively beyond our strength so that we despaired even of life, that’s what he was going through. And what is he talking about? He’s talking about that God in those situations by comforting him has equipped him to be a comfort in other people. You can only comfort people genuinely when you’ve been hurt when you felt pain when you felt rejection, when you have felt in need, when you have felt yourself heading in the wrong direction, when you felt yourself losing it, losing it, losing it in life. And somehow God begins to work in your life. His awesome comfort. And he says, what he’s learned is this we become the most effective when we’ve heard the most when when we have to be comforted, then we understand what it means to comfort someone else. So, when he talks about all the things that he’s learned and how to deal with adversity, well, listen, here’s what he’s saying when I’m dealing with adversity, I understand that God is equipping me in the very process, equipping me to be a comfort to someone else. So we don’t we don’t like adversity, But what we have to ask is this when am I the most effective when I’ve hurt? Like they’ve hurt when I felt what they felt. So am I willing to feel what they feel and hurt like they hurt and have pain like they’ve heard? Am I willing to suffer loss if that will equip me to be the kind of comforter that some people need policy? Yes, yes, indeed, I will and what I’ve learned in my needs and uh in my hurts that I am the strongest and the most effective in my comforting. Then, of course he mentioned something else. He says He learned that God had a specific purpose for the adversity. Now, that’s what he starts off saying in this 12th Chapter. Listen, what he says, because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations. Now, what is he talking about now? The book of revelation is is singular revelation because it was one prophetic revelation when he talks about these surpassing revelations that he has admitted those times those situations and circumstances in which God revealed him to him this truth and that truth and this truth and that truth. He says God had given him such awesome, surpassing revelations. That in order to keep him from becoming prideful and arrogant, he says that was given me a thorn in the flesh. A messenger of satan to torment me to keep me from Exalting from exalting myself now, you might think about this when you’re going through something and it’s very difficult. You might ask yourself the question God, what’s your purpose for this? In fact you have a right dance, ask that. In fact, you should ask it, what’s your purpose? And paul said, I know what the purposes he says, watch this. If God has watch this carefully, if God has a purpose for everything he allows in our life, would you say, is that a good purpose or bad purpose? I didn’t get much answer on that. I I do understand that. Listen, what kind of God is he? He is a good god. He’s a perfect god. He’s an unconditional loving God. So that whatever he allows in a life, there is a specific purpose he has in mind and that purpose. Listen is not only good for him, but it’s good for us. What did he say? He said, My God causes all things now, what we do, we take out all things and we interpret it to be sweet, loving, wealthy, all these wonderful things, famous all this, he causes all things. Just pain suffering, hardship. We we sort of misinterpret that word, what we put in there, what we want to happen, my God causes all things all includes all to work together together for my good because he loves us. And so when you think about that, if you really and truly believe that, listen, this is painful, I don’t like it, but somehow according to what I read in the scripture God’s working this thing out for my good. And then of course he learned that he could rejoice in the midst of his adversity. And I love Philippians because of some of these wonderful verses here. But look, if you were in this fourth chapter of Philippians, here’s what he says. He says, rejoice in the Lord. Always again, I will say rejoice. He wrote in jail in a roman prison and he’s talking about rejoicing why? Because here’s what he learned all these things that had happened to him instead of having a pity party and wanting to break out of jail and get somebody to rescue him and spending his days and nights of crying God, Please please rescue me. Please get me out of this place. What was he doing? He was just taking all those experiences and running him over in his mind and his heart and gleaning and learning and reaping the most richest of rewards of who this God is that he served. So whatever adversity you’re facing most of the time, you can’t control it. So you have to decide how you’re gonna think about it. Are you gonna think about it as a bridge that God is building for you listen to bring you into an intimate relationship with him for which no man on earth can create for you, a relationship to him. That you will never be able to fully fathom all the days of your life, a relationship with him for which he died to make possible a relationship with him that will absolutely revolutionize your life, equip you to be a strong servant of God. All you want is have pity parties, drink, corrals sex, anything to get your mind off of it, essentially. Your mind never gets off of it. So that’s the devil’s approach. Or you can take paul’s approach. This is a bridge and I’m gonna travel above all this because I know what’s on the other side. This indescribable, sweet, precious, eternal relationship with jesus christ, that’s what it’s all about. So look at your adversity, whatever it may be, and ask yourself the question, God have I been acting? Have I been responding? And let me just say this? You may not be a christian. You think what in the world is all of this about? Here’s what it’s about. It’s about God getting your attention, sending you enough heartache and pain and suffering. That finally, it’ll drive you to himself. You can resist it. You can rebel against it, but only to your own hurt and pain. What he wants is to for you to recognize, he created you for himself, not for yourself. He wants you to confess your sinfulness, your inadequacy and rely upon him to forgive you of your sins through his son, jesus, who died on the cross and paid your sin that in full surrender your life to him and watch him. You say, well that take away all my adversity, not necessarily because you see, look, he knows how much of that you need to make you the person he wants you to be. But you do have two choices. You can rebel or you can surrender and that’s the best way. And that’s my prayer for you.