Adversity & Faith

by William J. Stewart

James 1:17 reads,

Every good gift and every perfect  gift Is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

The Lord showers all kinds of blessings on us. When we begin to count our blessings, we see how truly blessed we are. But what about the not so good things, or the bad things that happen in life? Where do they come from?

It is an oversimplification to say the good things come from God and the bad things from the devil. We must be careful not to be too quick in identifying something as good or bad, or from God or the devil. Our perception of good and bad is often based on whether it fits our preferences, not the potential good that may come.

Consider the example of Joseph being sold by his brothers. Their deed was of the devil, it was sinful; but God has a purpose in it as well. Did Joseph acknowledge God’s hand in it when he was being dragged away from the land of Canaan? Or when he was sold to Potiphar? Or when he was sent to prison? Or when he was forgotten in prison? We do not know Joseph’s thought on what was happening as it was happening, though we know that he maintained his integrity. It is entirely possible he didn’t see God’s purpose, the good that would come from his struggles, until he was raised up by Pharaoh. God was faithful to Joseph through the whole time he was afflicted, and God brought him out of affliction to the benefit of His people.

When the people of Israel were called to journey from Egypt to Canaan, they would face several challenges. They would not have a regular source of water. They would run out of food. The circumstances seemed dire, and yet were under God’s control. The aim was for Israel to rely upon the Lord. Sadly, they failed the test time and again, complaining against the Lord rather than seeking His help.

Sometimes hardship will come our way because of the faith. When God mentioned Job to Satan, He knew the devil would seek to challenge Job’s faith. So, was the challenge fro the devil or from God? I believe the answer is yes. The devil brought the trials upon Job, but God was proving Job’s faith through it. Again, God was proving Abraham’s faith when He commanded the patriarch to sacrifice Isaac. That was no doubt an adversity for Abraham to deal with. In that case, the devil had no part in it; it was the Lord testing and proving Abraham’s faith.

Romans 8:28 says

…we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

God is going to work things out for our spiritual good, if we will allow it. That doesn’t mean it will be for our physical good. There may be times when what happens to us is not for our physical good (severe illness, loss of a job, persecution, etc.), but it will result in spiritual benefit (greater confidence in God, growth in our faith, encouragement to others, etc.). Did God bring the severe illness? No. Did the devil bring the pink slip at work? No. These things happen in the ebb and flow of life. They are what Solomon would refer to as “time and chance” (Ecclesiastes 9:11). But, God can work through these things for our benefit, if we will allow it.

Whether the source of adversity is time and chance, the devil, or God, the Lord can use it to bring about good. Any adversity, if faced with faith, can result in spiritual growth.

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