by Manley Beasley, Jr.
Pastor, Hot Springs Baptist Church
Over thirty years ago my Dad put together a sermon series entitled “Dealing with Adversity.” It became one of his most requested items. While circumstances have changed, the need for biblical wisdom when coping with crisis has not. I speak with people every day that are confused, concerned even worried about what the future holds, particularly in light of our current situation. Allow me to share several principles from God’s Word that have had significant personal impact on me in my search for answers to the questions we are all asking.
Let’s begin by agreeing that God’s Word is the absolute authority in addressing concerns of any and every kind. With that in mind I conclude that It is God’s revealed desire that we rejoice in all circumstances, noting that special attention is given to those we feel are more difficult. Somewhere in the vicinity of one-tenth or more of all references to rejoicing are tied to adversity. The psalms are filled with a connection between rejoicing and distress. The psalmist says, “I will rejoice and be glad in Thy lovingkindness, Because Thou hast seen my affliction.” While he doesn’t address a specific issue, Paul in I Thessalonians 5:17 clearly includes “bad” as well as “good” circumstances when he succinctly states—”Rejoice always.” He repeats this statement in Philippians 4:4 and then repeats himself again—”Rejoice in the Lord always; and again, I say rejoice.” It is interesting to note that there is no timetable, no specified condition, absolutely no prerequisite for giving praise to God, it is expected under all circumstances.
Simply stated, our rejoicing reveals our confidence in God’s goodness regardless of what is happening around us. Romans 8:28 reminds us of why we can and must rejoice always—”And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” When we rejoice, we confess that He is worthy of our confidence even if we can’t see the way out. The question of when we should rejoice, is clearly answered—always. That includes right now. To rejoice always is to REJOICE NOW. So, first thing we need to do when we don’t know what to do is praise the Lord.
But there are other lessons to be learned. Additional insight is found in Philippians 4:6. Here we are instructed to seek the Lord (pray) in difficult circumstances (actually in all, but all includes difficult and that’s what we are investigating). Paul indicates that we are to “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” At least two important conclusions are to be drawn regarding prayer and difficulties: 1) problems are a call to prayer and 2) perseverance is a key to prayer. There are few promises repeated more frequently in Scripture than God’s willingness to hear and respond to the cries of His people. While it is clear that the most important lesson of prayer is to ASK, of almost equal importance is the biblical lesson to keep on ASKING. Luke 18:1 records—”Now he told them a parable on the need for them to pray always and not give up.” Which one of us hasn’t memorized with good reason, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 “Pray without ceasing,” or maybe better understood as, “Pray without quitting.” When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray in Luke 11, He illustrated with a parable in which the point was that the individual received what he asked for because of his persistence. So, we must conclude that anxiety in itself is a call to prayer—v.6 “…be anxious about nothing but in everything BY PRAYER….” But it is only the prayer warrior who exercises fervency and perseverance who can expect to discover the peace that surpasses all human understanding. Sad to say, seeking God until receiving supernatural peace is not even considered part of the prayer conversation today. Probably, because this kind of peace only comes in the context of a fully surrendered will. We will only get what we ask for as long as we are willing to let God change what we want.
In the end it always ultimately boils down to trust. Praise Him, Seek Him, Trust Him. These are the three great weapons for overcoming worry. But whatever else we do or don’t do, if we don’t Trust Him we are a rudderless ship. Can we have assurance that God will see us through? Many of us can’t recall a time in our lives when our nation, our world, or for that matter our churches were so spiritually destitute? We must do as millions of believers have done throughout history; we must trust in the promises of God. 2 Peter 1:3-4 “…His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises…” In Philippians 4:7-9, we are given four life transforming promises. We are promised His supernatural peace, so incredible that it can’t be fully comprehended by the human mind or adequately expressed with human language. He also promises to protect us by guarding our hearts (feelings) and minds (thoughts). Notice in verse 7 he states that our hearts and minds are guarded in Christ Jesus. This is so significant because it is our minds and our hearts that will betray us if we set them on anything other than Christ and Him alone. This gives insight into the importance of having a mind that is being renewed. By setting our minds on whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, that which is excellent and worthy and of praise we gain the eternal perspective. Paul tells us in Romans 12 that we are not to be conformed to this world’s way of thinking but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. As long as we settle for men’s perspective we will worry. Without trust in God the world’s chaos can produce nothing but fear and anxiety. God has given many promises to stimulate our trust and strengthen our faithfulness, but there is none greater than the last phrase found in Philippians 4:9 “… and the God of peace shall be with you.” When it comes to trusting Him, it is an amazing thing to feel His peace in times of turmoil, to sense His protection in times of unrest, even to gain His perspective in times of uncertainty, but there is nothing like having the assurance in your heart that no matter how critical the circumstances surrounding you appear, THE GOD OF PEACE SHALL BE WITH YOU.