Adversity—Burden or Bridge?
By Dr. Charles Stanley
Watch Adversity—Burden or Bridge? video.
Memory Verse: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
I. Introduction: Adversity touches everyone sooner or later. Some believers crumble under the pressure of difficult times. They become so bitter and resentful towards God that they walk away from His calling on their lives. They might even resort to addictive behaviors in an attempt to escape pain. Others face similar challenges but have a totally different reaction. Instead of weakening them, trials make them stronger because they learn to depend more fully on the power of the Holy Spirit. Adversity can be either an overwhelming burden or a bridge to deeper relationship with God.
II. A Burden or a Bridge?
A. We can see tough times as a burden or a bridge.
1. A burden, spiritually speaking, is a heaviness that weighs us. We may feel weary or discouraged, without joy and peace.
2. A bridge, in contrast, is a way to rise above the difficulty and develop a deeper, more intimate relationship with God.
B. Two verses are the foundation of this bridge to greater intimacy with the Lord.
1. Psalm 103:19: “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all.”
2. Romans 8:28: “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
III. Adversity as a Bridge in the Life of Paul
The life of Paul is one of the best examples of how adversity can act as a bridge to a closer relationship with God. Without the supernatural revelations the Lord gave him, we would have far less insight into living the day-to-day Christian life. But his closeness to the Father came only as the result of severe personal loss and hardship (Phil. 3:8,10). Through difficulty, he learned:
A. Contentment is possible in the midst of adversity. The apostle explained: “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Phil. 4:11).
B. God provides supernatural strength in our weakness. Paul’s limitations allowed the Holy Spirit’s power to work through his life (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
C. The Lord is the source for all our needs. When we fully rely on the Father, we can count on His provision (Phil. 4:19).
D. We can trust in the Lord’s faithfulness. Paul had learned to depend on the Lord to carry him through any trial (1 Cor. 10:13).
E. The Father values service more than our desires. Instead of satisfying Paul’s natural inclination toward comfort and ease, God sent adversity to prepare him for greater service (2 Cor. 12:7). The Lord prioritizes character development over comfort.
F. In difficult times, God will give us strength to proclaim the truth. Because Paul was imprisoned, the entire Praetorian guard heard the gospel (Phil. 1:13-15). The more adversity we face, the more effective our message will be to others.
G. We can treat everything as if it comes from God. The Lord uses all we experience, even the wrongs of others, for His purposes in our lives. If we can embrace the circumstances that come our way as an opportunity to grow, it prevents our trials from making us resentful.
H. We learn more about the Lord through trials. Suffering often is the stimulus to greater closeness with God.
I. Adversity prepares us to comfort others more effectively. From God‘s viewpoint, suffering prepares us to minister to others (2 Cor. 1:3-8).
J. God has a specific purpose for allowing adversity. Paul’s thorn was designed to keep him humble and dependent on God, despite the astounding spiritual revelations he had been given (2 Cor. 12:7).
K. We are to know joy in the midst of adversity. In Philippians 4:4, the apostle wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”
Most likely, you are experiencing some degree of adversity today. You can try to handle it using your own resources, or you can choose to see it as a path to deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. If you are a believer, the awesome power of the Holy Spirit is available to equip, transform, and carry you through any suffering. The bridge of adversity can take you to a place of indescribable closeness with the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
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