A Prayer to Open Our Study
Dear Heavenly Father, we confess that we have been dwelling in a state of fear and anxiety. Forgive us, Lord. Help us develop a spirit of courage, as we also remember that You haven't given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind. Even as we go through scary times, and times of turmoil, please help me remember to stand firm on Your promises of protection and provision, and to find rest under the shadow of Your wings.
We ask this In Jesus' name, Amen.
Lesson Nine: Advancing Through Adversity
Mr. Stanley starts us off with two questions:
Learning: What am I to do when I am feeling overwhelmed with my problems?
Growing: How can I face adversity and still serve God?
I like the analogy that Mr. Stanley uses when he said, “facing adversity is like attending a boot camp.” He said it was rigorous, painful, and challenging, and I couldn’t agree more. When we face any type of adversity it not only takes a toll on our minds, it is as hard on our bodies. It’s as hard as if we were training for the Olympics with a couch potato physique. Adversity causes us a tremendous amount of stress. Stressors such as a pandemic, major life events (health issues, a relative dying. lay-offs, mortgages), daily annoyances (traffic, work), and ambient stressors (pollution, social distancing,) all register as threats to our brains. People under these stresses will start experiencing problems sleeping, focusing, working, and eventually will see their health worsen.
Isaiah 45:7 reminds us that God is “The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.” But before Isaiah gave us that little bit of bad news, he gave us the good news. We read in chapter 41:10 “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” We need to fully absorb how these two scriptures work together. One reminds us that nothing happens to us that is not in God’s control and the second one reminds us He will be there holding us in His hands, and that we can have confidence, not fear, while we are facing adversities.
People go to boot camps to build up their bodies, we need think of our trials like a boot camp for our faith. Part of coping with stress is learning to put it in the right perspective. By focusing on the positive, uplifting things of God. We can begin to overcome stress as we build our ability to control our thoughts. Maybe what we need is to look at what we have been thinking about. This advice is given to us in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
I found a study from the Mayo Clinic called Positive thinking: Stop negative self-talk to reduce stress. It talks about the age-old question on positive thinking and how it affects our outlook on life. It emphasizes the idea that you can’t start out each day with negative thoughts and expect to have positive results. We need to emphasize our positive self-talk, just as verse 8 in Philippians chapter 4 tells us to think on pure, praiseworthy, and admirable things, to bring about happier experiences. Positive thinking doesn't mean that you keep your head in the sand and ignore life's less pleasant situations. Positive thinking just means that you approach the unpleasantness in a more positive and productive way.
Another way we can build our faith muscles is by sharing it with others. By being a friend to someone in need is a great way for us to deal more positively about our own anxiety. Acts 20:35 puts it like this, “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving” comforting or helping someone usually brings satisfaction and joy to the giver. But how do we step up and reach out to others when we feel so bad about ourselves?
Reaching Out To Others Takes Courage
Mr. Stanley’s answer to that question was “It is when you think you have nothing to give that’s when you need to give!” That is why he said it takes courage to reach out to others. I love the quote on courage that is credited to Lt. John B. Putnam, Jr. “Courage is not the lack of fear but the ability to face it.” Or the great mantra "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke those words in his inaugural speech in 1933, but we still remember them. Because we all feel fear when faced with a situation that calls us to step up in confidence. You probably equate courage with fearlessness, but that's a faulty interpretation. In fact, courage is taking action despite the fear you feel. Courage is the willingness to respond fearlessly despite the anxiety and worry that might tug at you.
You might feel fear when God puts in your mind to reach out to someone in need. But that comfort doesn’t need to be a huge grand gesture. It could be as simple as a phone call, or a card sent at just the time. We may not know at the time why we felt compelled to make that call or send a card, but God’s timing is perfect, and we need to build our trust in that timing.
The word confidence (or its close derivatives) is used 54 times in the King James Version and 60 times in the New International Version. The majority of uses concern trust in people, circumstances, or God. There are so many Biblical examples. There’s Stephen, who was stoned to death. Paul, who endured hardship after hardship. David when he defeated Goliath. And the greatest of all, Jesus, who died on the Cross for us.
If the Bible teaches us to be confident, what should we be confident about?
1. The confidence to walk in obedience to God.
1 Samuel 15:22, Genesis 22:18, Isaiah 1:19,
2. Courage is having the faith to trust God.
Isaiah 12:2, Joshua 1:9, Romans 15:13, Psalm 56:3-4
3. Confidence to look to God for comfort and strength.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Psalm 27:14,
These scriptures point us to God’s laws about how we should live our lives and how we should act toward others. Which brings us to the next step in our courage walk, keeping God’s commandments.
Keeping God’s Laws Requires Courage
Mr. Stanley said, “adversity can knock us off our stride, locations and routines.” This past year we have had our routines turned upside down, so it is no wonder we need courage to keep God’s laws. Just as Mr. Stanley reminds us it’s easy to follow God’s directives when things are going our way, but when trouble sets in, well that is, as mother says, “that is a horse of another color.” Add to it people who mock us for our faith on a good day, let alone when adversity hits, and we find our resolve to believe in the loving grace of God faltering. But that is when our Lord is expecting us to find the courage to stand strong in what we know we are to do, think and say to those naysayers and ourselves. How will we know what God wants us to do?
1. Read the stories in our Bible. We can learn from the mistakes that others made in the past. These examples are recorded in the Bible. This instruction comes from God and is the best instruction possible!
Proverbs 1:5, Isaiah 4:17-18
2. Let God’s principles guide you. A principle is a basic truth that guides our thinking, helping us to make moral decisions. Jesus used principles to teach his disciples that attitudes and actions have consequences.
Matthew 5:21-22, 1 Corinthians 10:31
3. Practice the most important law for Christians, the law of love. Love is called “the royal law” and “the law’s fulfillment.” Love is more than just a feeling. We prove our love by our actions. Are we willing to make a personal sacrifice to help others?
James 2:8, John 13:35, Romans 13:10
The more time we spend reading our Bible, learning about principles, and practicing them, the more faith fit we will become. And we will understand more clearly what God would like us to do in any situation. This leads me to Mr. Stanley’s next step in our courage boot camp and that is how to grow our hope and belief.
Courage To Hope And To Believe
How can Christians exemplify faith and peace when they are tired and tested by the storms of life? This is a question we must continue to ask God for help in managing. But how can believers also find hope and courage to persevere in a season of strife that we may feel is only getting worse? These are trying times, and I feel we need to prepare for more. But I also know we can’t give up! Deuteronomy 31:6 tells us to, “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you.” Sometimes I wonder how things will work out and it makes it hard to keep hoping for the best. I find that music can bring me comfort and helps me to look encouragingly to the future. Oddly, though, it’s the music from the 70s (songs I listened to growing up) that can bolster my mood. The words of one song comes to mind, Ray Stevens, Everything is Beautiful. The chorus goes like this:
Everything is beautiful in its own way Like a starry summer night, On a snow covered winter's day, And everybody's beautiful in their own way Under God's Heaven, The world's gonna find the way
We need to stop the negative thoughts, sing happy songs (whichever one's Hymns or secular) and remember that Under God’s heaven the children of God will find a way!
1 Corinthians 16:13, Hebrews 10:23
We can never do any of the things we have just been discussing without first finding Jesus. And then work at becoming more like Him each day.
Courage To Be Like Jesus
The Lord Jesus is our greatest example of courage. While none of the words used in the New Testament for acting courageously or boldly are specifically used by Jesus, He is still the epitome of courage as one who followed the will of God in the face of the greatest hostility and antagonism. Though He was deeply troubled when he was facing the cross where He (the sinless one) would bear the sin of the world, He courageously committed Himself to the will of the Father. Jesus drew his courage from His faith in His purpose and in what the Father had promised to do. He not only went boldly to the cross, but that’s not all. Just hours before His arrest, Jesus also sought to be an encourager and impart courage to His disciples and to us.
Jesus gave us an example of courage and of the need for us to become encouragers. Right after demonstrating His own love and courage, He called upon His disciples to be courageous in the face of the many pressures, afflictions, and challenges they would face as His disciples. By doing this, He shows us that mature Christ-likeness seeks to impart courage to others as an encourager regardless of what one might be facing himself. Let us never forget that when we go through the fire, others are watching. May we be reminded that God is committed to reproducing in us the character of Jesus Christ. The qualities we see in His life in the Word are the very ones God wants to reproduce in us, and this will require suffering at times. Spiritual growth and greatness in God’s kingdom does not come through ease and luxury. it comes through pain and tears, the tools God uses to draw us closer and closer to Himself.
John 16:33, Hebrews 5:7-10, Colossians 3:23-24
Charles Stanley wants us to consider these thoughts:
Today and Tomorrow
Today: Adversity can grow my faith and give me greater compassion for others.
Tomorrow: I will ask the Lord to use adversity to make me more profitable to His kingdom.
Closing Prayer, Charles Stanley
Heavenly Father, purify and enlarge our faith as the result of the adversity we are facing. Give us compassion for others, especially for those who do not know You, as the result of the trials we face. Use the adversity we confront in our lives to prepare us to minister comfort, encouragement, and Your Word to others. We want to be available vessels-stepping-stones of Your love-to help those who are suffering in their adversity. We want to help them understand the wonderful work You are doing in their lives so they can become enriched, blessed, and even profit from that adversity. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.