Adversity and peace.
Adversity produces a bountiful harvest of spiritual virtue in those who are looking and listening up and waiting expectantly on God. Even a brief survey of Scripture reminds us that patience, endurance, perseverance, and steadfastness are the promised outcomes of tough times. They are among the richest lessons of what my parents called the "school of hard knocks", the rugged realities of life. Jesus told his followers that they would have hard times. Life surely isn't a stroll in the park. But, in the same sentence he reminded them that he had overcome the world and that they should take heart.
In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
John 16: 33, ESV
Of course, that's not the entire verse. Like many others I have used only the part of the verse that seems most applicable to my topic, you know, the reality of peace when we're facing the harder elements of life. The preliminary sentence in that passage is perhaps the jewel of our learning when we're dealing with the mean streets that most of us travel so often. Up front Jesus promised peace---
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.
You see, for believers, peace in the ultimate lesson of hardship. He gives us patience, endurance, perseverance, steadfastness, vision, hope, his wonderful promises so that, even in the darkest hour we may have peace.
To be honest, adversity typically stretches my most well developed patience, endurance, and steadfastness. Surely patience is a spiritual fruit that should grow naturally in me as I mature and grow in Christ (see Galatians 5:23). Tough times should extend and expand my ability to persevere and wait even in the worst trials (see James 1:3). Yes, If imitating Christ this kind of endurance should be a personal goal (see Hebrews 12:2). The ups and downs of daily living ought to produce steadfastness in me as well (see James 1:3, again). Still, with all of that underscored, peace should rule my life even in the most troubling circumstances.
Harriet and I both compare notes regularly and have marveled for the past 47 years over a shared trait that often carries us through uncertain and questionable times. You may not understand this, but we're both "bulldogs" by nature. Which means we're stubborn. Our stubbornness is a default setting when trouble comes calling. And, in reality, that's not always good. You see, stubbornness is an egocentric personal vice, part of our wiring that stands us toe-to-toe with challenges and obstacles. Being stubborn is about us. In many instances we dare life to stand in our way. It is totally self motivated and self honoring. It announces "I won" when the final scores are tabulated.
Living the promises of God in adversity shifts our responses to hardship heavenward. Stubbornness yields to steadfastness, endurance, and patience, spiritual virtues that are dependent on God and glorifies and honors him. God's real and powerful promises give us confidence and security even when our stubbornness is waning. They move us beyond the shallows of personal achievement to the depths of his provision. Our shallow ways usually result in frustration, lack of confidence, and misery. His ways give us confidence and hope as we look and listen up, and wait.
One promise superintends life's challenges for me. It is from the pen of the Apostle Paul, a man who knew intimately the rough and difficult roads of this life. To the Philippians he wrote---
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in
Philippians 4:19, ESV
What a sweeping and all encompassing promise from God. He will provide all of our needs, even those we face when troubles come calling. And, peace is the outcome. To the Philippians Paul also wrote the verse I referenced Monday---
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts
and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4: 7, ESV
The lessons of adversity should (1) lift our eyes and ears to God, (2) teach us to wait on God's provision for whatever life throws at us, and (3) give us peace regardless of the severity of our trials.
That is the real deal even in our advanced but complex culture. We're scrambling for answers in our relational messes. It's a world trapped in layers of adversity. This adversity can pit us against each other in dangerous and destructive ways. Or, it can give us steadfastness, and then, peace.
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