Trials are a fact of life in this fallen world—for both the non-believer and the believer in Christ. Jesus said that God the Father “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). He also told those who wanted to follow Him exactly what they could expect from such a life: “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mark 8:34).
This was Jesus’ way of warning the people—and us—that if we lead a godly life, walk in His ways, and follow His will, there will be times we are going to have to deny everything that is within us—our desires, wants, goals, and plans—in order to do what He wants us to do.
There will be times when we will have to face adversity for our beliefs. He wanted each of us to know that following after Him was not an easy path to take. Jesus even said, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26).
Now, what did Jesus mean by this statement? He certainly did not mean that we are to be angry, resentful, hostile, and literally hate our families. Rather, Jesus meant that for us to be obedient to God, there will be times when those we love the most will not understand when we say, “I know this is the will of God for my life—and I must walk in it.”
I’ve known students who have come to me and said, “The Lord has called me to preach. I’ve told my parents, and they are very upset with me. They don’t want me to preach. They are spending all this money on getting me an education to be an engineer, administrator, or whatever, and now I’m saying to them, ‘God wants me to preach the gospel.’ What shall I do?” My answer is always the same: “You must be willing to be obedient to God, even if you are misunderstood, and trust God to take care of you no matter what comes your way.”
Jesus went even further in His warnings about the adversity His followers will face in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11–12). Many people believe that when you become a Christian, things just sort of clear up. But Jesus’ words reveal that some things clear up while some things cloud up. What matters the most is how we choose to respond to the adversity that we will inevitably face in life.
In particular, we have to ask ourselves whether we are going to make it our habit to just walk away when things don’t suit us or whether we are going to let God help us to advance through the adversity and benefit as a result. Jesus has promised us the best life possible. He has said to us, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). But He never said that life would always be peaceful or full of contentment. Sometimes, He uses the adversity in our lives to point others to His redemptive work.
- Excerpted from Advancing through Adversity, by Charles F. Stanley (Part of the Charles F. Stanley Bible Study Series)
How to Use these Bible Studies:
My hope is that, as you engage in these studies, you will find yourself referring to your Bible again and again. You can use these studies alone or with several other people in a small group study. At various times, you will be asked to relate to the material in one of the following four ways.
First, what new insights have you gained?
Second, how do you relate to the material?
Third, how do you feel about the material presented?
Fourth, in what way do you feel challenged to respond?
Keep the Bible at the center of your study. A genuine Bible study stays focused on God’s Word and will promote a growing faith and a closer walk with the Holy Spirit. Learn more and download a free study at ChurchSource.