This article will give you some powerful advice on how to cope with adversity. I will be using the life of David as he fled from Saul. I wish that I could tell you the moment you come to Jesus and accept Him as your Savior, you will never have another adverse circumstance in your life. But that is not true. In fact, the New Testament tells us that we will face adversity.
James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
We are going to see this verse illustrated in the life of King David. When David came to a place of leadership in the kingdom, David was mature and complete, He was able to give leadership and influence in his life, because he had already learned to cope with adversity in his life. Some of the world’s greatest men and women have been saddled with disabilities and adversities but have managed to overcome them.
Cripple him, and you have a Sir Walter Scott who was a prolific poet and author.
Lock him in a prison cell, and you have a John Bunyan who wrote Pilgrims Progress.
Bury him in the snows of Valley Forge, and you have a George Washington who would lead a nation to freedom.
Raise him in abject poverty, and you have an Abraham Lincoln who would abolish slavery and stand for a united nation.
Subject him to bitter religious prejudice, and you have a Benjamin Disraeli.
Strike him down with infantile paralysis, and he becomes a Franklin D. Roosevelt who assisted a country back to economic health
Burn him so severely in a schoolhouse fire that the doctors say he will never walk again, and you have a Glenn Cunningham, who set a world’s record in 1934 for running a mile in 4 minutes, 6.7 seconds.
Deafen a genius composer, and you have a Ludwig van Beethoven.
Have him or her born black in a society filled with racial discrimination, and you have a Booker T. Washington, a Harriet Tubman, a Marian Anderson, a George Washington Carver, and a a Martin Luther King.
Make him the first child to survive in a poor Italian family of eighteen children, and you have an Enrico Caruso, one of the most famous tenors in all of history
Have him born of parents who survived a Nazi concentration camp, paralyze him from the waist down when he is four, and you have an incomparable concert violinist, Itzhak Perlman.
Call him a slow learner, ‘retarded,’ and write him off as ineducable, and you have an Albert Einstein.
All of these individuals faced adversity that probably you and I have never experienced and yet in spite of their adversity they were carried to a place of influence where many decades after their existence some of them are still household names. Although, I don’t know everything about all of these individuals, and did not observe their lives, I will guarantee, that every single one of them was faithful in some aspect or another during their adversity. They were faithful to apply themselves in some way or another.
It is a biblical principal. Faithfulness in adversity prepares you for influence in the kingdom. You will discover that those who are faithful in adversity will be given the opportunity for more influence in their life. There is power in faithfulness.
David went through a great deal of adversity in his life. There is a massive amount of Biblical content during this period of David’s life. There was a period in David’s life when God tested him to see if he would be faithful even if things were difficult. I could go through all the places and all the names that covered 13 chapters but let me just give you the shortened version.
His success in killing Goliath causes others to be jealous.
He must wait on becoming King for a long period of time.
There are two individual murder attempts on his life by someone in authority over him.
His best friend and other known associates are ordered to kill him.
He is pursued by national armies that kill his friends including priests in pursuit of him.
He has to go in search of a weapon to defend himself.
He has to feign being a madman drooling on himself in order to protect his life in front of his enemies.
He suffers the loss by death of his spiritual advisor and mentor, Samuel.
He is estranged from his family.
He is mistreated for asking for a favor.
He winds up live in a cave.
He stops associating with Kings and Princes and begins to associate with malcontents, debtors and others in distress.
His wife and children are taken captives of war and possibly raped or tortured or killed.
His own men think about stoning him.
That was an incredible amount of adversity in his life. You may be asking the question: Why did things have to go that way in David’s life? God wanted David to serve his purpose in his generation. God needed a mature and complete leader to lead his people. Adversity, test and trials will cause us to grow up in him. That is why we must deal with tragedy and testing and trials! It is not because it feels good at the time. It is because we know God puts us in a process to bring us to a place where we can be used.
Most Bible Characters Had To Cope With Adversity
I challenge you to find any biblical character who did not go through some form or some type of adversity before they came to a place of influence.
Abraham had to wait for years to receive the promise of his own son.
Isaac was bound and ready to be offered as a sacrifice.
Jacob was estranged from his family and cheated by Laban.
Joseph was sold into slavery.
Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego were tested in a fiery furnace
Daniel was tested in a den of lions.
Jeremiah was thrown in a pit.
Elijah was pursued by Jezebel.
John the Baptist had to live out in the desert and eat honey and wild locust.
Jesus was tempted for 40 days in the wilderness with no food.
Paul was stoned and left for dead.
Yet all of these men found themselves in a powerful place of influence in the kingdom. What does that tell me? Faithfulness in adversity prepares you for influence in the kingdom. It doesn’t sound too fun. But if you are going to come to a place where you have great influence then you also will have to face some adversity.
If you are going to be faithful and cope with adversity. There are three questions you have to consider. I am going to show you that David had to consider these three questions as well. Three important questions to motivate you to faithfulness.
- Will you accept help from the friends God gives you?
The longer I study God’s Word, the more convinced I am that God doesn’t want anyone to have to face adversity in their life alone. One of the first things I see that God did for David, was he gave David a friend. David had just killed Goliath. He is talking to Saul that same day. In my opinion the period of testing in natural things is over and the period of testing in adversity has begun. The first thing God does in 1 Samuel 18:1 “After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.”
The scripture goes on to tell us that Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off his robe he was wearing along with his tunic, and even his sword, and his bow and his belt, and gave them as a gift to David. The hearts of David and Jonathan became knit together. That relationship may have preserved David’s life. Without Jonathans friendship, David may have returned to Saul and been killed. Without Jonathans counsel David may have made critical mistakes in his life.
Not all of us can be like Paul. There is one New Testament Scripture where Paul said in 1 Timothy that everyone had deserted him, no one stood by his side except the Lord who gave him strength. I admire Paul. I am not denying the power of God to give you strength if you do find yourself standing all alone. But I think most of us are more like David. When we are going through adversity, we need someone with us. That is why God invented the church.
I don’t think God wants you alone. That is why Jesus taught us to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep. The saddest calls I get in the church office are from people who randomly call churches looking for someone just to pray for them. Looking for someone just to hear about their hurt. Instinctively, people know. I am not supposed to be alone in the world.
If you are going to be able to cope with adversity, you need your family. You need the body of Christ. You need others. Even Paul, as strong and independent as he was said in one of his letters, pray for me. That is the first question God asks you to consider. Will you accept help at your point of need?
I have seen some who close themselves in. Brick by brick they put up their defensive wall. They say, you don’t know what I am going through. I am not telling what all has happened to me. You stay over there and I will stay over here. And what happens to them is that the get weary in the battle. They often settle for solutions that are not the best solutions. It is easy to be “unfaithful” when you live your life in “isolation”.
A mother and her daughter began to attend this church 19 years ago. They came for a few months and then, we had a church dinner, and people got to know them, and then some leaders asked them for further involvement. They were asked, “Would you like to come to my Sunday School Class? Would you be interested in being a part of a small group? Could we have a cup of coffee some time?” The next day, I received a phone call and an email from this pair. They were very upset. I was informed we were too pushy. Our whole congregation was pushy. They didn’t like it. They suspected that I had arranged the whole thing. They told me we don’t want any friends. In fact they informed me in angry tones, they would never be back.
But what they failed to see in that scenario, that God in his mercy was attempting to give them friendship. God was attempting to give them a support system of a small group that would love them. God was attempting to give them friends who care for them. My mom fell and broke her hip. We have no one. We are all alone. Adversity has touched us. We have no support system.” But by now pride had placed the brick wall firmly in place. They still would not respond back to the email.
Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Why did God give you brothers? Why did God give you friends? He knew adversity would come and he knew that if you had a friend it would be easier to be faithful. Years ago, I was facing a huge hurt in my life. The phone rang…it was a friend. He simply said his name and then he said Bob whatever has happened. “I am your friend.” That is all I needed.
Let me give you the second question…
2. Will you live according to the principles you believe in?
Adversity will test to see if you believe the truths that you espouse. David believed this principle: He believed that you do not touch the Lord’s anointed. God had anointed Saul as King and then because of disobedience God had rejected Saul as King. But David’s thought was if anyone was going to deal with Saul it would be the Lord. Two different times, David could have easily taken Saul’s life.
It was Saul who had tried to kill him.
It was Saul who was unrighteous.
It was Saul who was consorting with the witch of Endor.
It was Saul who used deceit and trickery in his dealings with David.
It was Saul who was jealous even though David was a faithful servant, a faithful warrior.
Saul tried to kill him.
It was Saul who had caused all the adversity in his life. Yet David had this principle. I am not going to touch the anointed of the Lord. In one of the conversations he had with Saul after sparing Saul’s life he said in 1 Samuel 26:33 “The LORD rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness. The LORD delivered you into my hands today, but I would not lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed.” David knew God would reward those who are faithful to the principles they lived by. Adversity will test if you really believe the principles you live by:
I have brought my tithes for many years to the house of the Lord. I have taught even some of the poorest people in the nation of Colombia. If you will be faithful to God, God will be faithful to you. Many years ago, when transitioning between Missionary life and the pastorate, I faced a situation where I had to decide if I believed that God would honor my tithing. I was unemployed and waiting for a church to open up. I go to the mailbox and supernaturally, there was 400 dollars made out to me that God had provided. I am sitting in Trinity Church, in Cedar Hill, Texas and Pastor Hennessey is taking up the Sunday Morning Tithes and Offerings.
He is talking about faithfulness. The Holy Spirit says, “Bob, You know you got 400 dollars supernaturally. You didn’t even earn that money. Are you going to be faithful with your tithes?” Do you know what God was saying? Do you believe in the principles that you have taught, or do you just live by your principles when they are convenient? I cannot tell you I was a cheerful giver that day. I can tell you I was stressed out about where my next check was coming from. I put that 40 dollars in the offering plate. That week I got calls from three churches and God opened a door for our ministry. Stay faithful to God even during adversity and you will see His hand in powerful ways!
Let me tell you another story. It is the story of Ire Stanphill. Some of you older folks including myself know many of his hymns: I’ve got a mansion over the Hilltop. Supper Time. We’ll talk it over in the by and by. The story of his life is fascinating. An evangelist who married a singer and a piano player. They were going around the country holding meetings and serving the Lord together. The day came when Ire Stanphill’s wife fell away from the Lord. She started singing in bars. She became an alcoholic. She lived a promiscuous life. She even came to where he was preaching and heckled him as he preached.
Ire Stanphill had made a commitment to marriage. He would not seek divorce. His wife finally divorced him. Years passed and he was working as an associate pastor. He met another woman and fell in love with her. But Ire Stanphill had this conviction, that you should not remarry as long as your former wife lives. (Let me just say, there are many scriptures to consider when making such a decision.) For years he had been faithful to that conviction, especially as a minister of the gospel.
The day came when he had to make a long drive…from Dallas, Texas to the state of Washington. He determined that he was going to make a decision on this issue. Will he violate what he believed to be his biblical conviction because of adversity? Or would he choose faithfulness. He prayed all the way there and all the way back. He made a decision to not violate his convictions.
He came back and he told his friend who was in love with him and he with her. I will not marry you or see you until my wife passes. Two weeks later he got the news, his ex-wife had been in a serious car accident and passed away that very evening, leaving him free to marry the woman that became his lifelong companion. Their ministry prospered and flourished together. Ire Stanphill was faithful to the principles he believed in, God in turn was faithful to him.
At the end of David, David the Psalmist and harpist wrote these words. 2 Samuel 22:28 “To the faithful you show yourself faithful…”
3. Will you keep your attitude right even in the midst of adversity?
Part of the faithful heart of David is that he kept his attitudes right even though he was suffering. David could have grown bitter. Why did he have to be pursued by Saul like this…living in a cave and being estranged from his family? David coped with adversity by keeping his inner life right.
David could have grown impatient – the Lord had anointed him King. Why not just go ahead and proclaim himself King because Saul obviously wasn’t right.
David could have grown angry towards the Lord and said, if this is what it means to serve the Lord, then forget it! I will go worship the Baals, I will make the god of the Philistines my God.
David could have decided to go ahead and seek his vengeance on Saul because he had not done anything wrong- he could have justified it. Everyone knew Saul was out to kill David.
But David during this period of time kept his attitude right. Was he happy to be out on the run? Of course not! Was he enjoying going through this season? No! But he kept his attitudes right.
The most dangerous thing about adversity is not that which comes from the outside. It is that which comes from the inside. Outside there will be relational conflict. Outside there will be sickness. Outside there will be loss. Outside there are financial setbacks, traffic accidents, flat tires, houses that burn, doctor’s reports that aren’t good, hurricanes come, tornadoes, wars, burglaries, divorce, abuse, unexpected pregnancies, dentists. All those things have an inherent danger and pain that goes with it.
But I believe that the greatest danger to your soul is not what happens on the outside during adversity. It is what happens on the inside of a person. God is much more concerned about what is happening in you than what is happening to you. The way to stay faithful is to order your inner life right. If you don’t order your inner life right, here is what can happen.
You can grow jealous…why do other people not have this problem?
You can grow bitter…living your life in anger and regret and long after the adversity is gone, inside of you is that poison that keeps rising up.
You can become an angry person…lashing out at everyone and everything around you!
You can become a depressed person…turning that anger inward until you become numb to pain and withdraw from those who love you.
You can become vengeful, taking vengeance on anyone and everyone who ever hurt you.
You can become distrustful, constantly seeking to protect yourself.
You can give in to despair and your faith will faint.
Some have suffered adversity and decided, I will live for pleasure, I will put my morality aside and live for sex or drugs or alcohol or pornography. And they attempt to justify that before God, because their life was hard.
The key to overcoming adversity is to order your inner life rightly. Jesus said, Matthew 5:19-20 “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean’…” It is in adversity that your character is truly tested. Here is the point I want to make. If you keep your inner life right…advancement is coming to you.
Philippians 2:5 “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…” No one suffered more adversity and unjust treatment than the son of God. He was despised and rejected of men. A man of sorrows. Acquainted with grief. Jesus knows about adversity. Betrayed by one of his own disciples. But Philippians tells us that he kept his attitude right. He took on the form of a servant and became obedient even to death. And even on the cross his attitude was right.
“Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”
“Into your hands I commit my spirit.”
“It is finished.”
Here is the good part. Because his attitude was kept 100% completely right. God exalted Him. You can study this passage in Philippians for yourself and you will see that if you keep your attitude right in adversity that promotion is coming. If you keep your attitude right, God will bring you to the next level. Paul talks about having the same attitude Jesus had, it explains the effect of his attitude. Then it says, Philippians 2:9 “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place…” God watches us to see if we are faithful in adversity. When we are-this is what happens-God moves us from a place of adversity to a place of influence. That is what happened to David.
The most despairing moment of David’s life up to this point was the day, David and his men returned to Ziklag to find their houses burned, their possessions stolen, and their wives and children taken by the enemy. They all sat down and wept. While the men around David were all in despair, plotting revenge, placing blame, thinking there is nothing we can do. David was encouraging himself in the Lord.
You may or may not know the story. They went after their enemies, defeated them, got their families back. What is amazing as you are reading the scripture, in the next chapter Saul dies. The next chapter, David finds out about it. Then just three chapters later-David is anointed king over Judah.
God has a plan and a purpose for your life. His plan is not to cause you sorrow or difficulty or heartache. There is enough of that in the world all by itself. Gods plan is that testings and trials will come. But his plan is that you will pass the test…and he will move you to greater influence.