overcoming Adversity With God
How well do you remember the old Mission Impossible television shows? Maybe you have seen the movies starring Tom Cruise as the resourceful and resilient Ethan Hunt?
There are many little lessons in the Mission Impossible story lines.
- The men and women serving the organization had a purpose for being involved.
- They had an objective.
- They needed training.
- They needed to be in submission to their authorities.
- They needed to be absolutely fearless!
Mission Impossible operatives came up against seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Instead of viewing it as a problem, they tackled it with resolve, putting their training to the test and working to overcome adversity.
Imagine how boring the Mission Impossible shows would have been if the agents never had any trouble with their missions? The show wouldn’t have lasted a week, let alone the ten years it ran.
We face overcoming adversity in our lives, and unlike characters in a movie or television show, this is real.
As tough as things can get, we do have the comfort of knowing that God has a plan and we are part of it. Perhaps it will be fun for a moment to imagine we are Mission Operatives, tackling the mission God has given us here on earth.
Tip #1 for Mission Operatives: You must always be advancing!
Life is not a passive activity. We are here for a reason and never want to forget that.
11"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11) NIV
Tip #2 for Mission Operatives: This is a Battle.
When someone comes up against some form of adversity, I often hear the words: “I’m under attack!” as if it comes as some surprise.
Our enemy does attempt to advance and attack us. However, if we do what we are supposed to do, we move on the offensive, not the devil.
So when we run into some obstacles or experience some adversity, we are not under some surprise attack; we have simply come up against his defenses. Don’t panic; God has everything under control.
7"Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (James 4:7) NKJV
Tip #3 for Mission Operatives: Expect Resistance
Ethan Hunt and his team came up against incredible resistance in the Mission Impossible movies. You can bet that someone was just as determined to defend whatever they were trying to get at.
Instead of being shocked at the resistance, Ethan and the others simply looked for the loophole. And there is always a loophole.
When you are on the mission of fulfilling God’s purpose for your life, He will show you where victory can be found.
17"No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgement. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord." (Isaiah 54:17) ESV
Tip #4 for Mission Operatives: Never let down your defenses.
Keep prayed up. Keep in fellowship. Keep accountable. Keep checking yourself for progress and advancement.
Do you know when someone is most vulnerable to attack? When they are sitting still. When they are overtired and can’t defend themselves, when they are not advancing, that is when the enemy can come along and blindside you.
Can you be doing everything you are supposed to be doing and suddenly be hit with something completely unexpected? Absolutely. But is God still in control? You bet.
11"Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 13Therefore, put on every piece of God's armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God's righteousness. 15For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Ephesians 6:11-17) NLT
Tip #5 for Mission Operatives: Keep your eye on the Primary Concern
Our Primary Concern is to be in an intimate relationship with God and see His Kingdom grow.
Adversity comes along, and we are tempted to take our eyes off the Primary Concern. We get distracted by the problems, and pretty soon, we have lost sight of our purpose and try to “make it through.”
The problem with this is that as soon as one obstacle is handled, the enemy throws out another one. If you are focused on the challenges, you are focused on the wrong things.
Keep your focus on the Mission, and these temporary concerns will come into proper perspective.
Let’s consider Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Mary was a good girl. Loving parents raised her with plans to get married to a good man. She loved God and was obedient to His calling. If anyone could hold to enjoying a life of peace, it’s Mary.
Yet Mary experienced serious Adversity.
Take a look at the timeline:
- She received a promise from God. She would give birth to the Messiah.
- She almost lost her intended husband - but God took care of that.
- In her ninth month of pregnancy, she had to ride a donkey to Bethlehem.
- She had to give birth in a stable.
- She had to flee with her husband and newborn baby to a strange land to protect his life.
- At some point, she became a widow.
- Her son was ridiculed when he came to minister in their hometown.
- She watched her son die on the cross.
For Mary, as it is for many of you, adversity came in varied forms. From irritation to anguish, she faced it all.
One thing we don’t get much of an account of is her response to it all, other than in the very beginning, we know she received the promise with a willing heart and trust in God.
One thing I’m pretty sure of, when Mary was experiencing Adversity, when things were as bad as they could be, I’m hoping that she remembered the promise that God made her about her son. I hope that Mary kept her eye on the Primary Concern.
Tip #6 for Mission Operatives: Expect To Be Tested
As we grow, we are tested and tried. Sometimes it feels like we’re facing the same trials repeatedly.
We don’t love facing the same tests over and over. Still, we know God knows what He is doing. I may not realize that I need the repetition, but He knows my heart.
Not every test that you re-take is about teaching you something. Sometimes God allows you to experience a trial so you can model a grace-filled response for someone else. Maybe for your children or a friend or a complete stranger. Your response to Adversity speaks volumes to the world about your faith and your belief in the mission.
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." (Romans 8:28) NIV
Tip #7 for Mission Operatives: See the Blessing in the Battle
Maybe you don’t like the idea that you can be experiencing adversity, and it is God’s will for you to be right where you’re at.
But consider the classic story:
A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared; he sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole.
Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and could go no farther.
Then the man decided to help the butterfly, so he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and tiny, shriveled wings.
The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.
Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It was never able to fly.
What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.
Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If God allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as we could have been - and we could never fly.
God is always at work in our lives.
Let’s close with this often-shared fictitious exchange from an unknown author…
I am writing to request a transfer to a desk job. I herewith present my reasons:
I began my career as a private because of the intensity of the battle. You have quickly moved me up in the ranks. You have made me an officer and given me tremendous responsibility. There are many soldiers and recruits under my charge.
I am constantly being called upon to dispense wisdom, make judgments, and find solutions to complex problems. You have placed me in a position to function as an officer when in my heart, I know I have only the skills of a private. I realize that You have promised to supply all I would need for the battle.
But Sir, I must present You with a realistic picture of my equipment. Once so crisp and starched, my uniform is stained with tears and blood from those I have tried to assist. The soles of my boots are cracked and worn from the miles I have walked trying to enlist and encourage the instructed troops. My weapons are marred, tarnished, and chipped from constant battle against the enemy. Even the Book of Regulations I was issued has been torn and tattered from endless use. The words are now smeared.
You have promised You would be with me throughout, but when the noise of the battle is so loud, and the confusion is so great, I can neither see nor hear You. I feel so alone. I'm tired. I'm discouraged. I have Battle Fatigue. I would never ask You for a discharge. I love being in Your service. But I humbly request a demotion and transfer. I'll file papers or clean latrines.
Just get me out of the battle--please, Sir.
Your Faithful but tired, Warrior.
To: Faithful Soldier, Spiritual Armed Forces
Location: The Battlefield
Your transfer request has been denied. I herewith present My reasons: You are needed in this battle. I have selected you, and I will keep My Word to supply your need. You do not need a demotion and transfer.
You need a period of "R&R" –Rest and Renewal. I am setting aside a place on the battlefield insulated from all sound and fully protected from the enemy. I will meet you there, and I will give you rest. I will remove your old equipment and "make all things new."
You have been wounded in the battle, My soldier. You need to be healed. I will heal you. You have been weakened in the fight. You need to be strengthened. I will support you and be your strength. I will instill in you confidence and ability. My Words will rekindle within you and renew love, zeal, and enthusiasm.
Report to Me tattered and empty. I will refill you.
Your Commander-in-Chief, Jesus Christ
Enjoy this sweet reminder that our God is fully aware of where you are today.
10"Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10) NKJV
He has gifted you and equipped you for the mission that He has called you to. He offers you full armor for the battle, and He knows what you need every step of the way. You can trust Him.
Grace and peace,