A few years back, my husband and I decided it was finally time to donate our old VCR and all of our videos (yes I know, can you believe we still had a VCR?). Not that everything didn’t work just fine, but the nostalgia of having the machine had worn off, and it had been years since we’d used it. So we made a list of the videos that we wanted to replace with DVD’s, packed it all up, and said our good-byes. It had been quite some time since either of us had looked into our video cabinet, and as we perused the titles it felt like a trip down memory lane.
One of the videos was a movie about the life of Joseph, the son of Jacob, from the book of Genesis; a movie we both liked a lot and knew we would be replacing. We ordered the DVD online and shortly after receiving it we set aside the afternoon (it’s a rather long movie), popped some popcorn and started the movie. As we watched the film I was deeply affected by the depth of Joseph’s faithfulness and commitment to God, and my thoughts turned to how I might fare if everything I held dear was suddenly torn away from me at the hand of betrayal. Would my faith and trust in the goodness of God hold up in the face of such adversity? Or would my anger seethe against Him as one Who could have prevented these things from happening?
I wondered what made Joseph such a man. He was a boy, just 17 years old, when he was sold into slavery and from that point forward was immersed into a world that neither knew, nor cared to know, his God. And the Bible makes no mention of anyone in Joseph’s life during this time from whom he was able to draw strength or encouragement in his circumstances. So, what kept him so faithful?
Over the next several days, weeks, and months I contemplated this with a growing ferocity. I began to think of other great men and women in the Bible who endured their own set of terrible circumstances but somehow managed to stand firm in their faith. Not to mention the vast number of believers throughout history who gave their lives simply because they refused to deny their God. What is it that so persistently compelled them, and how did they arrive at that place? In contrast, I considered the apathy and indifference that is so prevalent in the western church today, and even in my own life at times. Why are we so lacking in fervor? What is it that causes a man or woman to remain unyielding in their devotion to God, regardless of what life hands them; and if it is obtainable, why are there so few who find it?
Interestingly, as I was contemplating this post I turned on a Charles Stanley podcast called “Turning Our Crisis Into An Opportunity” and almost immediately he began talking about Joseph. Coincidence? Definitely not. The sermon actually shed a lot of light on this subject for me and reminded me that, before Joseph was betrayed by his brothers God had given him a dream. Two dreams, actually. Both revealing that one day all would bow down to Him. During his time in Egypt this is likely what he held onto, trusting God to bring to pass what He knew to be from Him. Having seen God’s faithfulness to his fathers, his faith was firm in this fact. And the adversity he experienced over the years in captivity changed him from a carefree, spoiled young boy to the man who would become second in command of Egypt; the greatest nation on earth at the time.
What about us today? If Joseph could stand so firm on the basis of a couple dreams, why does the church today, who has the fullness of God’s Word at its disposal (something Joseph never had) struggle so deeply with its faith and commitment to God? I don’t have an answer to this question. At least not one that would apply to anyone but myself. But this I do know, it is possible to have the faith that Joseph had; that Daniel had, that David had, and so many others. But it requires the fires of adversity. Something most of us tend to shy away from.
In his sermon, Charles Stanley offers 15 suggestions on how to approach adversity in our own lives, in a way that will mature us in our faith and commitment to God. I think he says it best, so I’ve provided his steps below as he recorded them:
- Trust that God is working everything in your life for
your good (Rom. 8:28).
- Believe that our heavenly Father is in control of
everything. When you and I believe in God’s
sovereignty, it’s easier to retain our hope—even if
we don’t understand why we are suffering.
- Accept that the Lord’s ways are higher than ours
(Isa. 55:8-9). Don’t lose heart by asking why; simply
trust God’s intimate involvement in your life.
- Refuse to make quick judgments in the midst of a
crisis. Ask, “God, what are you doing in my life?”
- Focus on the Father instead of the crisis. Meditate
on Scripture, which fuels your awareness of the
Father’s comfort and unconditional love.
- Avoid dwelling on the pain. It’s normal to feel loss
and suffering, but instead of fixating on the grief,
go to the ultimate source of strength—the Word of
God (Ps. 103:19).
- Recall past crises and the opportunities that
followed. Seeing God’s handiwork through past
hardships will encourage you in your current trial
(See Romans 8:29.)
- Let go of your anger immediately. Even if you feel
upset at first, don’t let that emotion take root in
your life (Eph. 4:26). Releasing your irritation frees
you to see God’s purpose in your circumstances.
- Submit yourself to God’s will. Joseph faced every
trial with a humble heart that was willing to grow
and learn. When we believe the Lord’s promises,
we are also motivated to surrender to His will in
- Demonstrate a spirit of gratitude. Even in the
darkest valley, knowing the Lord has good
plans for your life is a powerful motivator of
- Determine to view the trial as a chance to see God
at work. Choose to approach the situation with
hope and a desire to learn.
- Refuse to listen to unscriptural interpretations of
your situation. No matter how well meaning others
are, they are not in your exact situation. Ask God
how you are to respond to adverse circumstances.
- Remain in constant prayer, listening for the Father’s
instructions. God will often use hardship to draw
you closer to Himself. Pain, trials, and suffering
are all used by the Father to develop your intimate
relationship with Him.
- Do not give in to fluctuating emotions. When you
pray and your situation doesn’t change, you may
want to give up. But remember that feelings are
often the enemy of obedience, and resist the
- Obey God and leave all the consequences to Him.
No matter what, know that the Father loves you
and is in control. You can’t go wrong by trusting
your entire life to Him.
Admittedly these steps will be difficult, but practice makes perfect. I have discovered in my own life that as I trust God in very small ways, I am able to trust Him in incrementally bigger things as time goes by. But it takes deliberate practice, and the time to learn to trust Him is now, in the small daily things of life. Then we will be prepared to stand firm in Him when true adversity comes our way.
And true adversity is coming. For some, it is already here. If we are to remain faithful to Him, as Joseph did, today is the time for preparation.
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