Is Adversity Ever Caused By God?
A Prayer to Open Our Study
Heavenly Father, thank you that you are our source of delight and wonder. As we meet together as your beloved daughters, may we be reminded of your faithfulness to generations of women who have gone before us. As your disciples, may we go from strength to strength as you shape us into your likeness. Defeat the power of darkness in our lives and help us conquer every obstacle that stands in our path. To you, our God, be the glory, before all time, and now and forever. Through Jesus Christ, Amen.
Lesson Three Part One
Once again Mr. Stanley starts us off with two questions:
Learning: Does God cause bad thing to happen?
Growing: What are God’s purposes when adversity strikes?
Charles asks us, does God ever cause adversity? He reminds us that whether or not we want to believe it, “the Bible teaches that God does send adversity. Within certain parameters and always for a reason that relates to our growth and eternal good.” He goes on to say that “God’s discipline is part of His attribute of flawless goodness.” As our earthly father sets down his determination of punishment when we break the rules of expected behavior, our heavenly Father has rules too, and as we discussed in a past lesson, He will use adversity to move us back on to the right path. But for this lesson we are going to be examining the adversity that God allows in our lives when it has nothing to do with our sinful natures. We will look at three men: Paul, Joseph, and Job.
Paul, the apostle, was intimately connected to Jesus, but before he became this ardent follower, he was Saul of Tarsus (a city in Cilicia, in what is now Turkey). They trained him as a Pharisaic scribe. In this profession he learned how to read and write, and it was his job to keep and interpret the law of the Tora. They said his zeal for his community led him to be a thug, so he tormented and persecuted Christians. He believed that they were Heretics for desecrating the sacred words, and he knew the laws, because he was exceptionally good at his job. It was this training that would make Saul valuable to the work of the Lord. Who better to help translate the Tora to Gentiles and Jewish people, to help them see all the prophetic clues to the coming of the Son of God to His people? Who better to write so many books of the New Testament? It is no wonder that Jesus would call this man, just like He called the other twelve men to their new life’s work.
The first of Paul’s adversities came to him on that fateful day on the road to Damascus, where the Lord knocked him off his high horse, and then blinded him by the light of salvation. (Acts 9:1–9 also Gal. 1:15–16). Just like the old song we love to sing, once he was blind but now he really sees! He sees all of the pain and hurt he has been committing to the true believers of Christ, and he is blessed to have a personal encounter with Jesus, and this will change him forever. Right off Paul learned that to be a servant to the Lord is not a day trip of fun and laughter, although Paul wrote a letter to the Philippians that is saturated with joy. Sixteen times in just four chapters Paul uses words like rejoice or joy to describe what our state of mind or general attitude should be as Christians. And he writes this joy-soaked letter in the midst of his own difficult circumstances. He was under house arrest in Rome, living in a rented apartment (at his own expense!) chained to a different Roman soldier every few hours.
During his service to the Lord Paul suffered from many afflictions, (2 Corinthians 11:23-27) Mr. Stanley gives us a list and I know for my part anyone of them would be hard to endure, but it was the one he called his “thorn in the flesh” that he repeatedly asked Jesus to remove. We know just as Paul did that there is nothing that God cannot do, and if it was His will for this thorn to be in Paul’s life, then it had to be for a reason. It also doesn’t matter what that thorn was but what is important is that God allowed Satan to gift it to Paul. I don’t use that word gift lightly, Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:7 said, “a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me,” He was quite aware that God had a purpose for this gift and he would submit to it.
1. Mr. Stanley asks us “Why did Paul believe God had given him a “thorn in the flesh”?
Paul tells us in the continuation of verse 7 that it was, “to keep me from becoming conceited” the purpose of Paul’s thorn is the same purpose that God allows us to go through suffering. It is to keep us humble and in desperate need for God. God cannot fix what is not broken. He resists the proud but will give grace to the humble.
Read James 4:6 and 2 Corinthians 4:17
2. Paul wrote, “When I am weak, then I am strong” Mr. Stanley asks us to consider this paradox and to explain this statement in our own words.
I heard it best said this way, “When we are going through times of trouble, God is producing in us righteousness, peace, glory, and refining us like gold. When gold is refined, the refiner passes it through extreme heat and in this fire, the dross (impurities) are removed. And when is the gold finally refined to its purest form? It is when the refiner can finally see his own reflection in the gold. That is the point. We are being refined by trials, sufferings, illnesses, and hardships and the more suffering we go through, the more we reflect Christ Himself. The irony is that when we are weak, He is strong. When we can do nothing, He can do anything, and He is glorified in the process. He takes weak, broken, base, simple vessels (Us)…doing the impossible through the improbable…all to reveal His glory. So, the world must realize that it must have been God because look at who He was working through!”
Read 1 Peter 4:12-13 and Isaiah 48:10
3. Mr. Stanley wants use to reflect about a time when we have seen God’s strength made more visible because of our weakness.
I’m not sure about your experiences of weakness but we sure are living through a time full of new adverse experiences, food and toilet paper shortages, mask wearing, and the most difficult for me to understand is the separation of families from their loved ones in nursing homes and hospitals. Each of us has their own hardships and stories from the past 8 months living during Covid-19. From family illnesses (Covid, and larger), to our personal fears about the state of our country. And I completely understand that none of this has been fun, but there is a nugget that most of us never pick up through these adverse times. And that is you will discover how real your relationship with Jesus is in the midst of these tough places. When adversity comes, we are forced to face problems and pressures that are too big for us to resolve. In this way, God gets our attention. We can’t continue to pursue our goals, tasks, and relationships in the same manner. We have to stop and evaluate our situation, ask God for wisdom, obey His Word, and trust Him to bring the help we need. Really trust Him. If you are in a wishy-washy relationship with Jesus how can you have any confidence in His strength?
Read Psalm 25:1–2 and Isaiah 40:29-31
In Part Two, we will discuss how it is that God May Give the Permission for our testing, by looking at the life of Joseph.
More to come…