Dealing With Adversity
Posted February 15, 2023
Some of us, after we have been saved and redeemed, begin to believe that life will be filled with sunshine and rainbows, figuratively speaking. Yet, the truth is that we are going to have trials, tribulation, afflictions, and adversity. Dare I say that, at times, life will feel like it has gotten a bit more difficult because we realize the adversity that we are up against. In our study this week, we are going to take another look at Paul and how he dealt with the adversity he faced so that we can become better at dealing with adversity.
Facing the Truth
In our most recent study, we took a look at Paul’s redemption from his very dark past of persecuting the church to becoming a testifying of God before an angry mob. I want to start this study off by looking at Paul on the road to Damascus as he is being confronted by Christ (Acts 9:1-9).
Confronted by Christ
After hearing about how he was persecuting Christ, the Lord, and His church, Paul was left trembling. Scripture tells us that Paul asked Christ, “Lord, what do You want me to do (Acts 9:6)?”
Why do I start here? I start here because I believe that this was the first time that Paul had truly met adversity in his life. I suppose this thought could be a bit confusing because we would not say that Paul was speaking to an ‘enemy’ since he was speaking to Christ. So, let me explain what I mean by Paul facing adversity in this confrontation with Christ.
As I said in the last study, when Paul was persecuting the church, he believed he was doing what was right according to the law. As we saw him tell the angry mob, Paul was a man of the law as he was raised under the law and lived by the law (Acts 22:3). Paul told that angry mob that he was zealous for the Lord, which means that his passion for God was fiery and hot.
When Christ confronted Paul with the truth of what Paul was actually doing, it hit him hard in his soul; he was met with internal adversity as he recognized that he was being his own worst enemy. So, how did Paul handle this adversity? How did he handle God’s rebuke?
Did he try to argue against the Lord’s rebuke? No. What did he do? Paul asked what he could do for the Lord. Paul immediately repented from the wickedness of his way and desired to commit his way to the Lord.
Note: Our first note of this study is that the first adversity we all face in life is in how we handle the truth about how we are living in the world. Some of us choose to ignore the truth, but we must not reject the truth that has come to us from God. We must meet this adversity head on and accept the error of our ways. Then, just as Paul did, we must repent by committing ourselves to the way of God.
Unfortunately, many put up a fight against God’s truth; they deny the Lord’s truth, ignore His truth, and live in rejection of His truth. For some, choosing to live life this way makes them happy; as the saying goes, ignorance is bliss. However, in the long run, living this way ends up being a life lived in misery. Others that choose to live in rejection of the truth can feel the weight behind the burden of their choice, and again, they end up living a life of misery.
For those that choose to live in rejection of God’s truth, I cannot do much for them, especially if they do not seek His word. However, because you are here, I can only assume that you are looking for help when it comes to dealing with adversity. So, let’s continue taking a look at Paul because he was a man that lived a life full of adversity. Yet, as he said to Timothy, he fought the good fight of faith, finished the race, and kept the faith (2 Tim. 4:7).
Life of Adversity
When we think of adversity, our mind may first drift towards those that could be our adversaries. Of course, when we consider scripture, and things of the spirit, we cannot help but think of Satan who is certainly our great adversary. As Peter said about him, Satan is like a lion on the hunt that is trying to seek what it can devour (1 Pet. 5:8).
Adversity of doubt
Yes, Satan is our great adversary as he does desire to see us fall. However, I would suggest to you that there is an adversary that poses just as much a threat against you as the devil. I recently preached – Still Standing Strong – about how we can also be our own worst enemy. Satan will often attack you not by something or someone externally but by using you against yourself.
I would suggest to you that doubt is one of the biggest weapons that the devil will use against you. Think about this for a moment: when the devil attacked Eve, how did he attack her? He created and used doubt.
In Genesis 3:1-5, you will see that Satan asked Eve, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” Satan believed he knew what would happen if they ate from the tree. Yet, at the same time, if you read that scripture, what is very certain is that Eve remembered exactly what God had instructed her and Adam not to do (Gen. 2:16).
However, this is a ploy that Satan will often use against you – he will attack the truth you know and believe. Why does he do this? He wants you to question the truth and what you believe? He does this so that he can create a moment of doubt and hesitation so that he can entice you to move against your principles.
Note: Satan’s approach to you is the complete opposite of how the Lord will approach you. Christ confronted Paul by speaking the truth. Satan approached Eve by questioning the truth. The Lord approaches you with a rebuke of truth to turn you to the truth. Satan approaches you, again, with a question of the truth to entice self doubt so that you will act against yourself, your faith, and your principles.
As I said with Paul, I will say for Eve: Satan’s enticing was a moment of adversity for Eve. So, both Paul and Eve dealt with a moment of adversity that caused them to look at what they knew and believed to be true. Paul immediately recognized that his truth was not the divine truth and he corrected himself. Eve, on the other hand, was overcome by adversity and gave in to the enticing of Satan.
In life, we are all met with moments of adversity of having to choose between doing what is righteous and what is not. Frankly, because we know the Lord’s instructions, there should be no doubt and hesitation when it comes to making the right choice. However, doubt often raises its head and it can cause us to question whether or not we are doing what is right.
In need of confidence
To combat Satan, doubt, and all other adversity that we may face in life, we need some confidence. Eve was enticed and gave in to her adversity because her level of confidence was not where it should have been in order to remain steadfast and obedient. So, in order for us to not cave in our moments of adversity, we must build up some confidence so that we can stand firm on our faith.
Confidence was not something that Paul ever really lacked. Yes, Paul did have some worries and fears but he never really lacked confidence that much. To Timothy, Paul wrote that he was not ashamed because he knew his faith was in the Lord and that he had been persuaded that God would keep what he (Paul) had committed to Him until the day of His judgment (2 Tim. 1:12).
This was a statement of firm trust and confidence from Paul in God. So, why was Paul so confident in the Lord at that point in time when he wrote that statement to Timothy? Where did Paul’s confidence come from? I would suggest to you that Paul’s confidence came from two places. So, let us understand where Paul’s boldness came from so that we can move in the same manner.
Confidence through the Holy Spirit
The first place Paul’s confidence came from was from God through the inner dwelling of the Holy Spirit. Let us remember what we have learned and studied before about the benefits from the inner dwelling of the Holy Spirit.
First: the Holy Spirit is transforming us from our old ways by the renewing of our mind (soul) (Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 5:17) Second: the Holy Spirit dwells in us to guide us into all truth (John 16:13). Third: the Holy Spirit will glorify Christ, take what is His and declare it to us (John 16:14). The Holy Spirit, the Helper, teaches us all things, and brings to remembrance all things that have been taught to us by Christ (John 14:26).
When Jesus spoke about our receiving of the Holy Spirit, He said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27).”
Going back to Satan using us against ourselves for a moment, doubt can and will trouble your heart (soul). Yet, Jesus tells us that we should not let doubt and worry come into our heart to trouble us as we should lean on the Holy Spirit.
Let us note: the Holy Spirit is the peace that has been given to all of that genuinely believe. Peace, in this sense, speaks to peace of mind (soul); the soul is at rest because it has the reassurance of Christ given to it by the Spirit. A soul that has been reassured and secured by Christ is one that ends up being confident in the Lord.
So, peace of mind brings about confidence. Confidence does not rattle – it is not shaken nor is it disturbed. A lot of times when we hear that we should be confident in the Lord, we solely think about being confident in what God can and will do for us.
However, I want you to also understand that you must be confident in His way and truth. We must be so confident in the instructions that the Lord has instructed us to live by that we actually go about abiding by His instructions. What good would it be for you to say that you are confident in the Lord but aren’t actually living by His instructions? When you heed the voice of the Holy Spirit, He will guide you in doing just that and this, again, will fill you with confidence.
When Paul stood before governors and kings, he was not rattled by the big stage. Why was that the case? Because his confidence was in the truth the Holy Spirit guided him in to share. When Paul addressed the Areopagus (Acts 17:22-34), he was again confident. Why? Because his confidence was in the Lord rather than it being in himself. You and I, we can do nothing on our own as we need the backing of the Spirit in our corner.
Confidence through sound doctrine
So, something else that helped Paul to be so confident is that he was always able to lean on the sound doctrine of the Lord. In other words, Paul knew the word of God! Knowing and having a good understanding of sound doctrine is so undervalued in the body of Christ today.
Again, I feel I need to remind you of the moment of adversity that Jesus faced after he had fasted for forty days and nights; Satan tempted him by trying to attack the truth (Matt. 4:1-11).
In that passage of scripture, Satan first tempted Jesus by trying to get Jesus to command stones to become bread. Off the bat, some of us would not think much of this temptation but this temptation is very similar to how Satan enticed Eve. This test was a physical test as Satan desired for Jesus to cave in for the flesh as Eve did.
In 1 John 2:15-16, John said that such temptation is a temptation of the flesh. Rather than being dependent on our might to satisfy our wants or needs, we must be dependent on the Lord. Jesus responded to Satan with sound doctrine, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
Satan then went about tempting Jesus with a spiritual and psychological temptation to either tempt fate or to gain power. In those two verses from his epistle, John called for us not to love the world, “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.”
Note: Jesus overcame the devil’s temptation in all three facets (of the flesh, psychological, and spiritual) by holding fast to the sound doctrine of God. Each temptation against Christ was a move to get Him to question or doubt the doctrine of God in order to fulfill the lust of the flesh. Also, let us note that while the devil was external to Jesus, he was playing mind games which take place on the inside.
We are often worried about the external adversities that we will face in life, but I tell you, your biggest tests and adversity will always be on the inside. Should you lean on God and His sound doctrine, you can always win the conflict within. Being able to win our conflicts within is why Paul always wrote about being diligent in our seeking and out studying of sound doctrine from the Lord.
As you may remember, Paul wrote to Timothy, that he should be diligent to present himself approved to God by being diligent in the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).
To Timothy, Paul wrote this:
12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.2 Timothy 3:12-15 NKJV
Note: Pay close attention to the call of continuing in what you have learned and have been assured of; Paul stated that the Holy Scriptures – sound doctrine from God – are able to make you wise for salvation (saving and deliverance from sin) through faith. Faith in sound doctrine, Paul was able to say from his own personal experience, is able to save you in your day(s) of adversity.
Help enduring infirmities
I cannot speak to you about Paul and affliction without mentioning Paul’s infirmity that he spoke of to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 12:1-10). Our infirmities and afflictions can come from external sources or from within but, as often is the case, the pain they cause will be to our soul. I want to also note that our afflictions and infirmities can be physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual.
So, if you notice, our afflictions and infirmities are other means of how Satan attempts to attack us when the psychological and mental games are not working on us with his attacks on the truth. Afflictions and infirmities, whatever yours may be, can make you feel weak to the point that we begin to believe in our hearts that we are hindered. What all of this means is that your afflictions and infirmities are another form of adversity that we all inevitably face.
How did Paul endure his infirmities? I can tell you that he did not try to rely on his own power or might! No, Paul immediately began to pray and he tells the Corinthians that he did not pray just one time for his infirmity to go away; Paul prayed multiple times about his “thorn in the flesh”.
I want you to pay very close attention to the scripture and to how the Lord responded to Paul’s infirmity so that it may fill you with confidence in handling such adversity. The Lord said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” When Paul heard this from the Lord, he said that he gladly boasts in his infirmities because the power of Christ shines and rests upon him in his day of weakness.
Throughout the gospels, Jesus’ power was revealed through healing all of those that were afflicted and had an infirmity. My mind instantly goes to the gentile woman who sought Jesus out on her daughter’s behalf (Matt. 15:21-28). I also pause and consider the woman that had a severe bleeding issue and how she was healed by just touching the hem of Jesus’ garment (Matt. 9:20-22).
You see, Paul was able to endure all of the adversity he faced in practically every city he faced because he had overcome any doubt within and simply lived by faith. Paul had faith in the Lord, the inner dwelling of the Holy Spirit, and faith in the sound doctrine he had heard and learned from Christ. These things carried Paul beyond adversity and to the finish line.
You and I, we have the word of God which Christ taught and preached; we have the sound doctrine of the Lord and we also have all of these living testimonies of God’s love and work walking around. Our faith in the Lord, as it did for Paul, can help us in our adversities from within. As I said recently, when we can overcome the adversities we face within, we can overcome anything externally.
Faith in the Lord can help us cross the finish line. You must have the confidence in the Lord to be able to endure and make it.