Thursday, July 4, 2013

Days of Adversity

"If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small."
Proverbs 24:10

There is so much power in this verse.
Mom used to quote it to me when life was pressing me,
and I was negative and tempted to give up.

I would call her, and she would listen to me vent.
Then she would say, 
"Cheryl, the Bible says..." and then she would quote this verse to me.

Somehow, that admonition has kept me going more times than I can count...
or even remember.

Don't we all experience it?

Have you ever noticed how life is full of peaks and valleys?

How it seems like it is either feast or famine?

Either things are really, really smooth...
or really, really uproarious.

Circumstances are either really, really calm...
or overwhelmingly chaotic.

Finances are either overflowing with abundance....
or threatening to land you on poverty street.

It is either a day of prosperity...
when health is abundant,
cash flow is available,
and life is drama and trauma-free.


It is a day of adversity...
when sickness prevails and interferes with every part of life,
money is tight and hard to find,
and life is traumatized on multiple levels.

I have never understood that.

I have often talked to Kevin about it and told him how
I don't understand why it can't just be balanced.
Why can't there just be a happy medium...
where we are all well enough to get by,
we prosper enough to feel comfortable,
and stress is kept at a bearable minimum?

Why must there be such extremes?

I have such humanly-unanswerable questions.
None of us know why we are either high on the mountaintop of bliss,
or low in the valley of distress,
and there seems to be no middle ground.

Oh, sure, there are medium moments and days, too, 
from time to time...scattered here and there.
But for some reason, for the most part, it seems that we are either 
on the tip-top of the totem pole
or at the very bottom.

It is on those unordinary days of adversity 
that we really appreciate the value of an ordinary day.

Ecclesiastes 7:14 says, 
"In the day of prosperity be joyful,
but in the day of adversity consider..."

I have learned that the sooner I find a place to pray and start seeking God's face
when we are experiencing days of adversity,
the better I can cope and the better-equipped I am...
to fix anything that needs to be fixed.

" the day of adversity consider..."

Consider what?

I'll tell you what it means to me.
On days of adversity, I find a place alone with God.
I begin to ask pointed questions...about me.
I take a brutally-honest look in the mirror.
This exercise is not for the faint of heart or the proud of spirit.
Because a lot of the time, God begins to point...
to the root of my problem...
and it isn't pretty.
I start examining my motives,
the health of my relationship with Almighty God,
my spiritual state.
I ask Him what I am doing wrong.
Because I have a tendency to overlook my own faults.
Sometimes, I don't even recognize or see them.
So, it is not a safe gauge to rely on my own understanding.
I must lean solely on His.

I am not saying that every time I face a trial,
it is because of something I have done wrong.

Please don't misunderstand me.

I mean, look at Job.
The man was without sin.
When God was speaking to satan about Job,
He said this,
"Hast thou considered my servant Job,
that there is none like him in the earth,
a perfect and an upright man,
one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?"

Can you imagine God giving this testimony about you?

It is hard for me to picture it....about me, I mean.
I feel so inadequate, so imperfect, so unrighteous.
So unlike Job.
So far from what I long to be.

There are definite times of Divinely-appointed, Divinely-permitted trials,
tests, tribulations, and temptations in each and every one of our lives.

Peter knew this.
He wrote,
"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you,
as though some strange thing happened unto you..."
I Peter 4:12

But, the thing I have learned is this...
when the fiery trials come...during days of adversity...
I need to stop and consider.

I need to seek God's face earnestly to determine the cause.

I just like to make sure...that the not me.
That God is not trying to get my attention to reveal something He is not pleased with...
in my life.

It pays to be honest with God.
He knows everything about us, anyway.
To try to hide things from Him is mere foolishness.
To live a life of hypocrisy, pretending to be something we are not,
is the height of absurdity.

Of the seven things listed in Proverbs 6:16-19,
the very first thing mentioned is
"a proud look".

God hates a proud look, because He sees what is inside the heart.
He is not impressed by our pride and our outward appearance.

Number six on the list of things God hates is...
"a false witness that speaketh lies..."

God knows whether or not our Christian testimony and witness is true...
or whether or not we are speaking lies by professing Christianity.

Again, He knows what is in the heart.

So, we may as well come clean.
We may as well face the truth.
We may as well climb the rugged path to knowing His perfect will
and the reason for the adversity.

We may as well ask Him, as David did in Psalm 139:23-24 to,
 "Search me, O God, and know my heart:
try me, and know my thoughts:
And see if there be any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting."

I would rather know now...on time's side of eternity.
I don't want to glide through life thinking all is well with my soul,
then come to the Judgment seat of Christ,
and find, to my eternal dismay, that all was not well.

How sad that would be!
Sad doesn't even come close to describing the horrors
of eternity void of the presence of God.

So, I want to know.
Throughout my life, God has been faithful.
He has sent days of adversity.
They have never failed to get my attention.
To make me fall on my knees.
To get down to business.
To be earnest...with God.

I believe one of God's greatest attributes is His faithfulness.
I believe He will do everything He possibly can to see us safely through
to an eternity spent in Heaven with Him.

God is "longsuffering to us-ward,
not willing that any should perish,
but that all should come to repentance."
2 Peter 3:9

But, we have to cooperate.
We have to take the hints,
read the warning signs,
identify the wake-up calls...
and adjust ourselves accordingly.

Before we can adjust, we have to consider.

We tend to limit those who need to "come to repentance",
as those who have never sought all.

Sometimes, Christians need to "come to repentance", too.
The sooner we lay down our pride and false assumptions that we are above
needing to repent,
the better off we, and everyone around us will be.

Repentance in this passage comes from the Greek word, μετάνοιαν, (metanoian),
and it means this:
a change of mind,
change in the inner man,
that change of mind by which we turn from or desist from,
to think differently after,
to make a radical turn from one way of life to another,
a conscious turning away from wrong actions, attitudes, and thoughts that conflict with a Godly lifestyle and Biblical commands,
an intentional turning toward doing that which the Bible says pleases God,
a complete change of direction.

We should never be so proud as to think we are beyond needing to repent.

" the day of adversity consider."

Sometimes, we can believe we are doing the right,
when all along we are headed in the opposite direction of where God wants us to go.

Remember, Saul whose name was changed after repentance to the Apostle Paul?

He truly thought he was doing the will of God when he was
making the lives of Christians intolerable and ordering them killed.
He stood by and watched as Stephen, the first Christian martyr,
was ruthlessly stoned completely to death.
He had orders from the high priest in Jerusalem to go to Damascus and round up
any Christians he could find and bring them bound back to Jerusalem.

He did all of this in the name of pleasing God.

My point is, that any one of us can be deceived.
We can believe we are on the right path,
when in actuality, we are headed completely outside of God's will.

So, He sometimes permits days of adversity.
To shake us up.
To make us feel the consider.

In Saul's case, He shone a literal light from Heaven down upon his path,
and Jesus spoke to him in an audible voice.
(Read Acts 9:1-20 for the incredible story of his conversion.)
He experienced three consecutive days of adversity,
in a state of completely blinded darkness, as God dealt with the inmost recesses of his heart.

Saul needed to repent....change directions...
and be transformed into Paul.

In order to be what God designed and wanted Saul to be,
repentance had to take place.
Considering was the prerequisite.

Wouldn't you love to know everything God showed Saul as he sat in total darkness,
completely blinded, in the house of Judas, in Damascus, on a street called Straight?

What did God say...during those three days of Saul considered?

Everything in his zealous life came to a screeching, complete halt.
He could not see.
He had to be led about by the hand.
God had him right where He wanted him.

He did not eat.
He did not drink.
His heart...and mind....were completely open...

Transparently clear.
Like an open book.
Before God.

100% focused....
on what God was trying to say.

He faced the truth.
He had no choice.

When Saul left Judas' house three days later,
he was a changed man.
True, Godly repentance had transpired.
He was no longer the same.

Old things had passed away, and behold all things had become new.
(2 Corinthians 5:17)
He walked out of there so different that people around him couldn't believe
the transformation.

The man who had come to Damascus with the sole intent of finding every Christian he could
and bring them back to be imprisoned...or Jerusalem,
was now preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and seeking fellowship with the
very ones he came to torture.

Acts 20:20-22 says,
"And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.
But all that heard him were amazed, and said;
Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem,
and came hither for that intent,
that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?
But Saul increased the more in strength,
and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus,
proving that this is very Christ."

How did he prove it?

There was a change!
A turnaround.
A reversal of direction.

He proved that "this is very Christ" because of the transformation
that had taken place in his mind, heart, life, and outward behavior.

On many an adverse day,
I have found myself in dire need of God.
I want to know.
I want Him to tell me.
Without holding back.
I want the truth.

I am more than willing to consider.

I found myself the familiar grounds of adversity.
My heart came wide God.

I was seeking Him with my whole heart....
nothing held back...
no pretenses...
complete honesty.

I fervently,
"Lord, I know you are trying to get my attention.
What is it, Lord?"

For a while now, it has been leading this moment.
I've been here before.
It is not unfamiliar.
Today, I finally came to a place of reckoning...
with the turmoil and questions swirling around in my heart.

Over my kitchen sink, He began to answer speak,
as He often does.
He asked me if I was willing to do something.
I stood there, speechless, hardly able to believe,
what He had just asked....of me.
For a moment, I was terrified.
Then, realizing I was starting to get to the bottom of the reason for the adversity,
and recognizing that this is what was going on,
I rejoiced.
Even though what He was asking of me was a hard thing.
The flesh inside of me recoiled.
But, I didn't refuse.
I won't refuse....Him.
I learned a long time ago that when it comes to matters of obedience,
it is much, much easier to just obey...
say yes...
than to rebel.
Rebelling against God creates the worst kind of misery in the human heart.
Whatever He asks us to do, no matter how difficult,
is 1,000 times easier than telling Him no and walking life's road as a fugitive from God.
It plain just isn't worth it.

I stood there, looking out the kitchen window, watching the pouring rain,
and the icy reserve I have erected and carefully protected
around a certain area of my heart began to melt.

So, this is the reason for the adversity with which I have been faced.
This is it.
This is something I have as of yet been unwilling to do.
Even when hints of it have appeared in the back of my mind.
I have quickly and emphatically brushed them away.
Because this task is not going to be easy.
It won't be pleasant.

I heard His voice....six words He uttered...
to the inmost part of my soul.
Words of comfort.
Words that filled me with hope...real and certain.

I stood there...letting His words sink deep...and fall, piercing through
what remained of the icy reserve.

I knew He was right.
Isn't He always?
There is no trace of unrighteousness in our God.
He is always just.
His ways past finding out.

As the ice trickled, so did my tears.
I waited.
I didn't want to say "Yes, Lord.  I will."
Not until I really, really meant it.

Suddenly, I knew what I had to do.
I must mind God.
No matter what.
Regardless how difficult.
Never mind the personal sacrifice.

Is anything too great?
After all He has done for me?

After some struggle with self, I breathed the words....whispered them softly.
"Yes, Lord."

"Will you do it?"
I heard Him ask again.

"You know I will, Lord.
I will not tell you no."

I meant it.
I have never meant it more.

Peace washed over me.
The reason for adversity is beginning to become clear.
He has my full, undivided attention.
I have a feeling He isn't finished.
I still feel like there is this puzzle.
As I open my heart, He is piecing it together...
in a way I can understand.

This isn't just a fiery trial...which is to try me.
There is a cause.

How about you, my friend?
Are you experiencing a day of adversity?
Does everything seem to be operating in reverse?

May I encourage you to consider?
Maybe God has something He wants to share with only you.
Maybe there is something He wants you to do...for Him.
Perhaps He longs for you to turn your heart...Heavenward...
and listen for the instructions of His still, small voice.

And, may I remind you of words from the third verse of the old, familiar hymn,
"When I Get To The End of the Way"?

(Written by Charles D. Tillman)

"He loves me too well to forsake me,
Or give me a trial too much;
All His people have been dearly purchased,
And satan can never claim such.
By and by I shall see Him and praise Him,
In the city of unending day;
And the toils of the road will seem nothing,
When I get to the end of the way."

He sends days of adversity, as well as days of prosperity.

In the words of Solomon,

"In the day of prosperity be joyful,
but in the day of adversity consider..."

Ecclesiastes 7:14

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