Adversity Let’s Count the Ways
Updated: Nov 9, 2020
A Prayer to Open Our Study
Heavenly Father, as we meet here as Your daughters, we praise You for who You are and what You have done. We pray that You would guard our hearts against jealousy and comparison with each other. Strengthen us in our areas of weakness, so we may develop a virtuous character in Your likeness. Fortify our minds with Your armor to protect us against the attacks of the enemy and the lies of the world. We thank You for Your unending care as we walk in Your path. May we be women of prayer in constant communion with You.
In Jesus' name, Amen.
Lesson Four Part One: Three Reasons Why God Allows Adversity
Once again Mr. Stanley starts us off with two questions:
Learning: What is the purpose of adversity in the first place?
Growing: What am I supposed to be learning from this?
Mr. Stanley asks, “if we are willing to acknowledge that God uses adversity to make us more like Jesus, what reasons may the Lord have for this adversity in my life?” In this lesson, he wants us to ask this question with these three reasons in mind:
To Get Our Attention
To lead us into self-examination
To help us change our belief or our behavior
To Get Our Attention
In lesson three we learned that adversity is in our lives with God’s permission, for it to be a benefit to our growth. Job reminds us, “Whether for correction, or for His world, or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen.” (Job 37:13) Joseph told his brothers and us that “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good,” (Genesis 50:20) Saul on the road to Damascus had his high horse knocked right out from under him, so that he would see the Lord in all His glory. “And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4)
But knowing this is not enough for us, we continue to ask what is God’s purpose in all this adversity? Mr. Stanley uses the example of a teacher trying to get his students' attention. One time I had a teacher slam her lesson book on the desk so hard that it stopped the entire class in their tracks, and so I agree with Charles, sometimes God must do something extreme to get our attention back where it belongs. He may use our situations to get the attention of others around us.
As I was doing my research for this lesson, my mind kept going back to Saul’s encounter and his subsequent blindness. We can see how this infirmity would be the equivalent to a cosmic book slamming on the teacher’s desk. It certainly got Saul’s attention. But did you consider how his blindness was used for others? In my school classroom not only did the troublemakers stop but so did the rest of us, we had our eyes and focus on the wrong thing, and with that loud bang it brought us back to the realization of our error. Saul’s error was in thinking that he had all the answers, he knew the Torah, but he didn’t know the Son of God. Now he did. That was lesson one, the one for Saul, but lesson two from God, was for the “Believers, the Ones of the Way” if God was going to use Saul they were going to have to trust him.
This is when we meet Ananias. The Lord appears to him and it’s not blindness but vision he is gifted with. The vision of Jesus himself and told to go to a man and not just any man but the one who is persecuting Christians and lay on your hands and pray for him. I love how Ananias has the courage to say to God, maybe you need me to remind you how bad this guy is, he is here to kill people like me, and you want me to just walk in and do what? God wasn’t too happy with him and said “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel.” (Acts 9:15)
It was hard for Ananias to believe that this man could be changed, it was like that for the other Christians too. It was difficult to imagine that God could transform Saul from a killer to a brother.
Read Acts 9-19-21
Just as Mr. Stanley stated Saul became Paul the apostle- who spread the gospel, preached, and planted churches across the Roman world. In our first question in this lesson he asks us,
1. “If you had been in Saul’s position, how might you have reacted to being suddenly struck blind?” I think that we all would want to be like Saul open to hear Jesus’ voice of instruction and that we would move quickly to do whatever it is that God is calling us to do. But the truth of the matter is, we are afflicted each day and in most cases, we fail to listen or act. Thankfully Paul and Ananias decided to believe. So many people live today in a state of unbelief, not seeing the opportunities for growth in God’s kingdom when we are presented with it. There is something we can do right now, and that is to pray for the unbelievers and for ourselves when we are facing our unbelief.
1. Pray that God would circumcise their hearts. Circumcision was the Old Testament sign, of being God’s people. To have a circumcised heart symbolizes having a heart that is fully joined to God, fully submissive to Him.
Read Deuteronomy 30:6
2. Pray that God would give them a heart of flesh. The contrasts a heart of flesh as a heart that is alive and responsive to God, rather than a heart of stone, that is cold and unyielding.
Read Ezekiel 11:19
3. Pray that they would come to Christ. If unbelievers are to come to salvation, there is only one way. They must come through Christ alone.
Read John 14:6
4. Pray that God would put His Spirit in them. The great joy of salvation is being indwelled by the Holy Spirit so that God can take up permanent residence in the body of a believer.
Read Ezekiel 36:27
5. Pray that you will develop a relationship with them. Many people come to faith after seeing Christ’s love displayed through the ministry of Christian. Pray for boldness to speak the right and best words to help them grow in their relationship with Jesus.
Read Ephesians 6:19
2. “How did God use physical blindness to give Paul sight?” Often God saves people through difficult circumstances, bringing them to the very end of themselves. Saul was completely dependent on the help of others when he became blind. He was a proud man, but his blindness made him lowly. Watching people as they go through difficult situations can bring us closer to God. Just as Paul’s witness led many to believe in Christ, how we handle our adversities can make a difference too.
“How has He used adversity in your life to provide something better than what you lost?” After we lost everything in our bankruptcy, there were days I wondered what we would do next, where would we live, what would we do to provide an income for our family? But thankfully God had a new plan for us. Take a few minutes and make a list of your wins that came from defeats. My list is pretty long, how about yours? So, why is it that we always wonder how will I ever recover from XYZ that has gone wrong in our life?
Because we have short memories. And like Ananias who wanted to remind God just who good old Saul was, we think God has memory problems too. But He definitely doesn’t; and everything we go through, as we have said before, has an objective. The objective of molding us more into the image of Christ.
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:18 and 1 Corinthians 15:49