Adversity, handcrafted by God in a believer’s life, is used to help us mature spiritually.
The verse penned by Paul in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,” is a verse that has taken on a deeper meaning for me in the Back 9 of life.
Sanctification is a big word with great meaning for all Christians. In order for this post to make sense, and in hopes of encouraging you in your walk with Christ, it is necessary that I define sanctification. Sanctification is a process that Christians go through after they have invited Jesus into their hearts. Sanctify originates from the Greek word hagiazo, which means to be “separate” or to be “set apart.” In the Bible, sanctification generally relates to a sovereign act of God whereby He “sets apart” a person, place, or thing in order that His purposes may be accomplished. We all have a created purpose that God intends for us to live. We have a free will to choose Christ or not. When we choose Jesus and invite him into our hearts, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of us, and thus we begin the process of becoming more like Christ through obeying God’s Word and being led by the Holy Spirit. That is the process of sanctification.
Often in the process of sanctification, which is a continual process, God allows adversity to be a common part of our lives in order to grow us and teach us. There is nothing like adversity to cause us to turn our eyes toward Jesus and depend on Him. When we read Romans 8:28 it tells us that “God works things for the good.” Adversity often brings extreme pain and suffering, some undeserved and some are consequences of our sin. In either case, God wastes nothing in our lives and engineers these events to grow and teach us. We only need to look at the life of Paul, Daniel, Joseph and others, especially Jesus, for examples.
We might say, “Where is the good?” Even though Jesus was fully God and fully man and in NO need of sanctification, Romans 8:28 applies. The good was He was an innocent man who experienced condemnation resulting in His brutal death on the cross and His resurrection as the provision and payment for our sin. The GOOD was for us. As we dig deep we see adversity as God’s provision and for HIS good and glory. Our suffering could also be for someone else’s greater good in God’s omnipotent plan. We often allow Satan to deceive us into thinking that adversity is unjust and not a part of God’s plan. If you believe that, I can say from personal testimony that you are probably living on spiritual milk. Time to dig deep…
In my forties I came to realize I was surviving on spiritual milk and I began to feel as if I were about to starve to death spiritually. I was actively involved in church and in Bible studies such as BSF and CBS. I was learning, reading and hearing God’s word but part of growing up spiritually is applying it. There is a tremendous difference between knowing and doing. The verse in Romans had a different meaning then than it does now.
Eleven years ago, in God’s great mercy and grace, I was brought to God’s great banquet table of spiritual meat. Yes, it took a state of spiritual starvation. (I was learning God’s Word but not applying it to my personal life.) I looked in the mirror one ordinary day and realized that my definition of spiritual depth and God’s was light years apart.
I was led by God to several very strong people of faith and theology to guide me to a deeper surrendered walk. I soon started to recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit in my life. I shudder now to think about the years it was my voice and the voice of others that I allowed to be louder than the voice of the Holy Spirit. God’s light and voice was ushered into my life with a flood but adversity didn’t depart. Instead it came with guns loaded and I grew exponentially.
I study all the time and there is a quote by Mark Batterson that I have found to be very true: “The will of God isn’t safe.” If you read his book, “The Grave Robber,” you will clearly see the point of this quote and I 100% agree with it.
Over a span of 11 years many things happened. Collins’ experienced bullying in high school and in college. My mother was diagnosed with a rare brain disease that was debilitating, very much like Lou Gehrig’s disease. Her suffering was almost unbearable to watch and it eventually took her life. Thomas had a serious, near death, staph infection. Brewer had a sudden stroke and a second episode this past summer. My dad was suddenly taken ill and passed away after complications with his illness. There were many other things that happened but I think you get the picture.
Reflection is a great thing to do. When I look back at all the events, I see God and my spiritual growth through the continued adversity. You see, so much of these situations were out of my control. I was in awe when I experienced a strange peace that became very apparent through all the adversity—the kind of peace that Scripture describes as a peace passing all understanding. It was the sweet and strong presence of the Lord—a deepening dependence on Him and learning to take my thoughts captive and bringing them to the obedience of Christ.
These circumstances drove me to Scripture where the words jumped off the pages. I was desperate for comfort and direction. Applying Scripture was the source of strength and it tuned my ears to the voice of God in my life. Some of the adversity ended well and my prayers were answered in the way I desired and some were not. In all cases I experienced the supernatural hand of God.
One of my biggest fears in life was the day I would have to say goodbye to my mother. When that day came, how the Lord provided during that time of great loss and since then has been amazing. I still feel sadness and miss her every day but it hasn’t been at all what I imagined. The Lord has filled the places in my life that my mother once filled. I do find incredible comfort in knowing both of my parents are in heaven.
I share all of this with you to show you what the process of sanctification and adversity has looked like for me. If we turn to God and His Word during adversity…not only does He provide, but we see Him in ways that are not possible otherwise. The forcing of “dropping our hands” and relinquishing control to Him, especially on things that don’t make one bit of sense to us, ushers in the experience of the supernatural power of Jesus Christ, and it is the most unique, special experience in life.
Embrace adversity…Look to Jesus and His Word. Even though there may be deep sadness, sleepless nights and many tears…there will be a peace that passes all understanding. One that can’t be adequately explained, only experienced. You will find growth in your faith like none other.
Today, draw on the example of others as described in Hebrews:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3).