- Overcoming Adversity
- Isaiah 43:1-3
- Lyndol Loyd August 11, 2019
Adversity can come into our lives in a number of different ways. It is not much of an exaggeration to say that most of us here today have felt or will feel the impact of adversity upon our lives at some point. It might be financial or relational, physical, or emotional. It may come from contact with a complete stranger or from those who are closest to you. It may come on slowly or all of a sudden, out of the clear blue sky.
The events of this past week in El Paso and Dayton give illustration to this. We should even consider what might have been here in Lubbock had quick action not been taken.
Some of you are living in the midst of adversity right now. Maybe you try to smile and put a good face on for others, but the truth is that you find yourself in the midst of a considerable challenge – maybe personally, maybe in professionally, maybe in your marriage, maybe in your family.
But in the middle of our darkest moments, Jesus says, “Take courage. There is still hope. There is still a power that can sustain you during a time of unbelievable tragedy and adversity.” We all need to hear these words of encouragement.
- So how does a nearly defeated person take courage?
- How does a discouraged person decide to resist defeat and learn to become an overcomer?
- How do we face adversity and learn to stand strong, even when the storms of life try to knock us down?
I want to suggest to you this morning that it usually boils down to three things:
- What you believe
- How you grieve
- Who you lean on.
When adversity strikes our lives, it can make the whole world feel like it is spinning. When we begin to lose our balance and direction, we need to get back to the basics. We must anchor ourselves in the truth of God’s word, be honest about the pain we are facing, and allow other Christ-followers to support us through hard times.
This issue of overcoming adversity is clearly addressed in scripture. This morning I would have us turn to the Old Testament and Isaiah 43:1-3. For some of you, this will be a passage of scripture that you will want to take home and keep in front of you in the days and weeks ahead.
1 But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.
O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
2 When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.
3 For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom;
I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place.- Isaiah 43:1-3 (NLT)
Some people live under the misperception that if you live a good life and are faithful to God, you will never face suffering or adversity. Others work with the flawed logic that when you go through hard times, it means that God has deserted you in your moment of need. I can testify to this crazy thinking because there was a time in my life where I believed this warped sort of logic.
Both of these thoughts couldn’t be further from the truth. Choosing to live life as a Christian doesn’t exempt you from difficulty. It doesn’t mean that you will never face times of challenge or difficulty. Isaiah is clear that all of us will face trials, struggles, and adversity. This is simply part of walking through life in a fallen world. Too often we buy into the false idea that being a Christ-follower guarantees us a life with no pain. This is simply not true.
Isaiah teaches us adversity will come, but God will never leave us alone or let the struggles of life overcome us. He offers us power to overcome adversity.
For some of you here this morning the imagery of waters, rivers, and fires is all too vivid for you. You get what Isaiah is talking about because it is what you find yourself dealing with right now in life.
God’s word to you is that He is on the scene that He cares. He is walking with you. He is working to keep your head above water. He is protecting you.
Earlier I suggested to you that our ability to live as overcomers in these kinds of situations has to do with what you believe, how you grieve, and who you lean on. I’d like for us to unpack that a little bit further now.
If we are going to overcome the adversities of this life, we must know what we believe. False beliefs can poison our thinking and weigh down our hearts. When facing the struggles of life, some fundamental beliefs must be firmly implanted in our minds, or we are bound to get into trouble.
God is not the author of evil. Jesus taught that there are two forces at work in this world: the devil and God the Father. Jesus taught that the evil one comes to steal, kill, and destroy. That is the devil’s nature, his agenda, and what he seeks to do in the world. In contrast, Jesus also taught that His own purpose was to give us life in all its fullness.
When things are stolen, when a destructive power creates havoc in your life, when you stand at the graveside of someone who was killed by a drunk driver, don’t start blaming God. When you hear stories of hatred, oppression, prejudice, greed, and abuse don’t start blaming God. These things are the work of the devil.
Conversely, when grace, forgiveness, kindness, and love come your way, know that God is at work. When someone offers you a second chance, blesses your life, encourages you, or serves you, be confident that God is in it. Jesus came to give life, encouragement, grace, salvation, and new beginnings.
God makes sure that for every bit of adversity that we suffer in life that He provides the power to you to overcome it. God will never allow you to be swept away by adversity. Hang on to this truth with all your strength anytime things get bad in your life.
“But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” – 1 John 4:4
“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” – Phil 4:13
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” – Psalm 34:18
God is completely available in the middle of our troubles. God is with us in the middle of our darkest night. We can talk to Him. He listens to us. He understands. He cares. This kind of knowledge is often the difference between us caving in or taking courage, giving up or trusting.
God is committed to bringing good out of the hardships of our lives. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”
Sometimes all we can see in the heartbreaks of life is the pain and struggle. But God sees the refining process. He can use any and all adversity to bring about something good. This does not mean that God causes all adversity. But rather, that God can bring good even out of the painful suffering that comes into this world through the devil.
If you are going to live as an overcomer, then you need to know how to grieve. Some of us have never learned to allow ourselves to feel the deep and terrible sadness over the adversity we face in life. We need to feel free to tell God about it, kick the dirt, cry until our tears run dry and repeat the process as often as necessary if need be.
Some of us have lost sight of the fact that there is a tomorrow and there is a good God who rules over it. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 says some of us grieves as though there was no hope. But there is a coming day when there will be no more sadness, darkness, tragedy, or tears. That day is surely coming. There is hope as long as God is on the throne, as long as the resurrected Christ is available for relationship with us, and as long as the Holy Spirit resides inside of us. With this knowledge, we need to learn to grieve over the tragedies that have come our way, and then to move ahead with our lives.
Sometimes overcomers learn how to walk in victory when they find a few trusted friends they can lean on. We need to lean on others who are seeking to follow Christ as well. You can find other people to lean on, but it doesn’t mean they are the right people to lean on.
If you are struggling in your marriage, you probably don’t need to be leaning on other people who are frustrated with their own bad marriages. Even Job had friends when his life was falling apart. They gave him plenty of advice, but it wasn’t sound wisdom.
When Jesus was drawing near the end of His life, He did not want to be alone. He took his three closest friends (Peter, James and John) to a garden and asked them to keep watch with Him. Jesus knew He was facing the cross, and He needed a few friends around Him in a time of adversity. If Jesus needed people to lean on, who are we to think that we can make it on our own in life?
God made us for community. The truth is that we are strongest when we are surrounded by other followers of Christ and weakest when we try to face life alone.
We’ve talked principles of overcoming adversity. Now I want for you to consider a real-life story of what it means to overcome adversity.
Horatio G. Spafford was a successful lawyer and businessman in Chicago with a lovely family – a wife, Anna, and five children. However, they were not strangers to tears and tragedy. Their young son died with pneumonia in 1871, and in that same year, much of their business was lost in the great Chicago fire. On Nov. 21, 1873, the French ocean liner, Ville du Havre was crossing the Atlantic from the U.S. to Europe with 313 passengers on board. Among the passengers were Mrs. Spafford and their four daughters. Although Mr. Spafford had planned to go with his family, he found it necessary to stay in Chicago to help solve an unexpected business problem. He told his wife he would join her and their children in Europe a few days later. His plan was to take another ship. About four days into the crossing of the Atlantic, the Ville du Harve collided with a powerful, iron-hulled Scottish ship, the Loch Earn. Suddenly, all of those on board were in grave danger. Anna hurriedly brought her four children to the deck. She knelt there with her children and prayed. Within approximately 12 minutes, the Ville du Harve slipped beneath the dark waters of the Atlantic, carrying with it 226 of the passengers including the four Spafford children. A sailor, rowing a small boat over the spot where the ship went down, spotted a woman floating on a piece of the wreckage. It was Anna, still alive. He pulled her into the boat, and they were picked up by another large vessel which, nine days later, landed them in Cardiff, Wales. From there, she wired her husband a message which began, “Saved alone, what shall I do?” Mr. Spafford booked passage on the next available ship and left to join his grieving wife. With the ship about four days out, the captain called Spafford to his cabin and told him they were over the place where his children went down.
It was then that Spafford wrote “It Is Well With My Soul.”
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul