By Rev. O.L. Johnson
Here’s a revelation for you, one you might find difficult to internalize.
Adversity in life is a blessing if — and that is a big word in this case — you are one of God’s people. This is a biblical truth that only works for those in his family. We’ve all been taught to avoid adversity like the plague, but this advice is contrary to the Bible’s teaching.
I know this sounds weird. You’re probably wondering how a loving God can support and allow adversity to exist in the lives of his people. Believe it or not, he can and he does.
Adversity has a role to play in the lives of believers and God is the architect of that role. Stick with me and we’ll find out how this all works to our benefit.
We’ll start with one of the many promises we find in scripture where God tells his people to be not afraid in adversity, but rather to just let it alone. This is all we have to do. If we develop this mindset and trust him, he has promised to overcome adversity for us (check out Exodus 14: 14, Deuteronomy 1:30, and 3:22).
This promise is the reason Paul, in Romans 5:3, and James, in James 1:2, were able to say, respectively, “we glory in tribulations,” and “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.” They knew that all adversity is no match for this promise, so they each felt confident in advising their readers as they did.
But their advice didn’t stop there. What they said thereafter shows us adversity’s role in our lives and how we benefit from its role. James tells us that adversity is a test of one’s faith, and that this testing enhances our patience. To stay true to our context, the faith referred to is faith in the promise of God, and patience refers to our ability to wait for God to move on our behalf.
We must always remember that God seldom, if ever, works according to our timetable; he has his own, and it’s much more efficient than ours. Now, let’s listen to Paul as he weighs in on this issue in Romans 5:3, 4. He agrees with James, but he takes the benefits to a level beyond patience. Paul says that patience enhances experience, and experience enhances hope.
So, here’s the entire picture: we should face adversity with a positive attitude, knowing that adversity tests our faith in God; this testing enhances our patience with God; patience with God enhances our experience with God; and our experience with God enhances our hope in God. God is at the center of our ability to endure adversity. Without his input, adversity would consume us.
We are encouraged to strive to endure adversity through the power of God and our trust in his promises. And when we are victorious, James shares the final benefit in James 1:12. “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”
It’s good to know that God is with us always.
Rev. O.L. Johnson, a retired LAPD lieutenant, is an associate pastor in his home church, Greater New Zion Baptist, 501 W. 80th St. in South Los Angeles. Pastor’s Corner is a religious column that looks at the relevancy of scripture in life today. The column will appear monthly in The Wave and on its website, www.wavepublication.com.