Does God ever cause adversity in our lives? The Bible teaches that God does send adversity, but within certain parameters and always for a reason that relates to our growth, perfection, and eternal good.
Does this make God any less a loving, good God? No. Neither is a parent who disciplines a child any less a loving, good parent. In fact, the consistent and positive discipline of a child is a primary part of good parenting. In the same manner, the disciplining actions of God are part of His attribute of flawless goodness. A good and loving God would do nothing less than discipline His children for their benefit.
Introduction: Example of Paul. Cf 2 Co. 11:23-28
A. There can be no doubt that the Lord greatly loved him.
1. God called him in a dramatic and direct way to become an apostle to the gentile world.
2. Paul knew the Lord intimately, and he followed Him explicitly.
3. But that does not mean that Paul was spared all adversity.
B. Some of the adversity that Paul faced was no doubt of his own doing.
1. He was a bold man who refused to compromise and who likely ruffled some feathers along the way.
2. Much of the adversity was caused by others; those who refused his ministry and who persecuted him with beatings, floggings, imprisonment, and stonings, even to the point of attempting to kill him.
3. Paul also said he was robbed on occasion.
4. False brethren and his own countrymen attempted to harm him.
C. Some of the adversity was encountered as he traveled and ministered in foreign places. eg Storms, weariness and toil, sleeplessness, cold, hunger and thirst.
D. Some of the adversity was no doubt caused by Satan, who attempted to destroy Paul at every turn.
E. Note: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
1. Many people have speculated about the exact nature of Paul's "thorn in the flesh," but we don't know what it was. God doesn't tell us in His Word.
2. We do know these things about Paul's thorn in the flesh:
a. It was given to him.
1) Paul concluded that a "messenger from Satan" delivered the gift.
2) But that the giver of the adversity was the Lord Himself.
b. It was for a purpose.
1) Paul pleaded with the Lord to take back the gift, but the Lord refused.
2) "I have a purpose for this in your life."
c. It was for Paul's ultimate good.
1) Even as Paul began describing the gift of God, he noted that it was for a specific purpose.
2) Paul perceived that the Lord had given him a thorn in the flesh so that he wouldn't be "exalted above measure" and so that the Lord might be seen as the sole cause for anything that might be called successful ministry in Paul's life.
3. We know Paul regarded the thorn in the flesh as coming from the Lord because of the way he dealt with it.
a. When confronted by demons or satanic attack, Paul rebuked the enemy soundly and brought deliverance to those who were under Satan's influence.
b. Paul stood up to persecutors, and he had no fear when it came to confronting them or arguing with them.
c. Throughout his letters in the N. T. Paul was quick to acknowledge his own past sinful nature.
d. But in this instance Paul reported a conversation with the Lord.
1) Paul acknowledged that the Lord had a purpose in giving a thorn in the flesh to him.
2) And that he was submissive to that purpose.
3) Being submissive to adversity isn't easy.
4) Our first response to adversity is to attempt to flee from it or shake it off.
5) It takes a certain amount of spiritual maturity to admit, "God may have a message for me in this adversity. He may be trying to deal with me in some way so that I might grow in my faith and become more like Jesus."
Note: Some things for us to consider.
I. God's Plan for Our Life.
A. God has a plan and a purpose for our life as a whole.
1. He is continually in the process of preparing us to be the kind of person He desires us to be.
2. God has a plan and a purpose for everything that becomes a part of our life or that affects our life.
3. God's love for us is far greater than anything we can ask or imagine.
4. He knows who, and what, to bring into our life at any given moment in order to accomplish His very specific goals in our life.
B. Sometimes the only way some of us will submit ourselves to God's plan is for us to experience anguish, pressure, trials, tribulations, or heartaches.
1. If that is the case, the Lord will use adversity to:
a. Lead us to a place in our spiritual life where we will turn to Him, and trust Him more.
b. So that we will be healed in areas where we need healing.
c. And that we will grow in ways we need to grow.
2. We may not see any purpose for some of the troubles that come our way.
3. But God always sees purpose in everything.
C. Our first response when adversity comes must be to:
1. Trust God to make a way through the adversity.
2. To trust God to have a "perfecting good" for us as a result of the adversity.
3. And to trust God that there is an eternal purpose for the adversity.
II. God Gives the Permission
The Lord gave permission to Satan on two occasions to test Job: once regarding his possessions and children, and a second time regarding job's personal health and well-being.
The life story of Joseph, son of Jacob, is another lesson for us in understanding God's granting permission for adversity to enter our lives so that an ultimate good might be accomplished.
A. Joseph's Adversity.
1. Joseph's brothers conspired first to kill him, and then to strip him of his tunic and throw him into an empty, waterless pit.
2. When a caravan of Midianite traders came along, they sold Joseph to them.
3. The Midianites, in turn, sold Joseph as a slave to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh. (Gen. 37:11-28, 36).
4. Joseph rose to prominence in Potiphar's house, but the advances and false accusations of Potiphar's wife landed him in prison.
5. Joseph rose in leadership among the prisoners, but the chief butler he aided in prison forgot him for two fun years before he mentioned him to Pharaoh (Gen. 39-40).
6. Joseph endured adversity year after year after year.
B. Joseph's Deliverance.
1. In a day, Joseph's destiny was fulfilled.
2. His adversity was reversed.
3. Joseph interpreted a dream for Pharaoh and was put in charge of the nation's harvest, an important and prominent position.
4. He was given Pharaoh's signet ring in order to conduct business in Pharaoh's name.
5. He was given a chariot and a gold chain that indicated to the entire nation that Joseph was second in command to Pharaoh, in other words, the prime minister of the land.
C. Joseph's Understanding of the Adversity.
1. Later, Joseph was able to help his family in a time of severe famine.
2. After Jacob's death, the brothers feared for their lives for what they had done to Joseph in selling him to the Midianites.
3. Joseph said to them, "... Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive." (Ge. 50:19-20)
4. Joseph concluded in looking back over the events of his life that God had been in charge all the time.
5. Nothing had happened to him that was apart from God's permissive will.
D. Concluding thoughts.
1. When we belong to the Lord, any adversity that we experience is subject to the Lord's power and grace.
2. He never stops being in charge of our life.
3. He never loses authority over us or over the circumstances that affect us.
4. God is always in control.
5. When the Lord allows, or permits, adversity to enter our life on occasion, He uses adversity to fulfill His purposes in us and through us.
6. Although God may allow Satan to persecute us and harass us, God also puts a limit on the amount of adversity He allows Satan to send our way.
7. Today's troubles are just that, today's troubles.
a. Crises pass.
b. Circumstances change.
c. Situations evolve.
8. God works in and through adversity to bring it to an end according to His timetable.
9. The Lord does not allow us to be tempted or persecuted beyond our ability to endure it. Cf 1 Co. 10:13
III. Our Response When God Sends Adversity
A. "Deliver me!'
1. That is repeatedly the cry of God's people throughout the Scriptures.
2. Pray for God's speedy deliverance from adversity.
B. "Thank You, Lord."
1. We must acknowledge to the Lord that we realize that He may be dealing with us.
2. To show us something in our life that needs to be changed, or something that we need to do, so that we might become more like His Son, Jesus Christ.
C. "I trust You, Lord."
1. As we yield to what the Lord desires to accomplish in our life, we must rest in faith:
2. That God has a plan and that He is in control.
3. And that His hand on our life is one of unconditional love and omnipotent power.