By Olufemi Emmanuel PhD
Adversity: What is it all about?
Adversity means a state of misfortune and calamity. It is a difficult and unpleasant situation. It is the kind of situation we experience in sickness, disease, lack, disappointment, setback, loss of job, breakage of relationship through death, disagreement, and divorce, etc.
The reality of these challenges on this side of eternity cannot be disputed. In Jn. 16:33, The Lord Jesus mentions the inevitability of adversity and tribulations. The Lord also mentioned that as the present world continues to grind to the end, dreadful adversities will also continue to increase (Lk.21:25,26).
The Apostle Paul also mentioned the difficulties that will characterize the latter times (2Tim.3:1-5ff); this is in addition to the fact that “…all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2Tim.3:12).
Therefore, life on earth does not necessarily promise to be a jolly ride; there will definitely be moments of stress, pains, and challenges. But the reality of adversities is not an excuse for defeat as it is possible to have peace in Christ even in the midst of crisis. One of the many problems among human beings today, especially those who claim to be followers of Christ, is the inability to identify the separating lines between adversity and defeat. The fact that a person is passing through a rough and challenging time does not mean he is defeated; neither does it mean that a person who is apparently enjoying the good things of life is victorious. Victory is determined in adversity and not outside of it; a defeated person may not necessarily be suffering any pain from the human point of view.
Becoming victorious in adversity has a requirement that must be kept as mentioned in Proverbs 24:10: “If you faint in the days of adversity, your strength is small”.
There must be no shortage of strength in the days of adversity, otherwise, there will be fainting. To faint means to be weak and tired and likely become unconscious. To faint in the day of adversity is to become cowered, dejected and unconscious when one faces difficult and unpleasant situations of life.
Therefore, adversities require commensurate strength to withstand and survive them. The reason why many are falling away and dying spiritually and physically today is not because of the devastating calamities but for lack of the necessary strength to survive the challenges. There must be putting on of strength for survival. But with what kind of strength can one stand and not fall when the adversity of life comes?
Five various sources or kinds of strength that people often go for are here discussed. There will later be a narrowing into the only kind of strength by which one can survive.
” The glory of young men is their strength…. ” (Prv 20:29). This is referring to exercise of physical energy to get things done. But what does Isaiah 40:29-31 states about this kind of strength?
‘…youths shall faint and be weary young men shall utterly fall….”
The strength of the youth is highly limited in confronting the adversity of life. ” …for by strength shall no man prevail….” (1Sam 2:9). So many are handling their challenges by the strength of muscles, mind and money. But the more they do, the more they die.
Strength of Sophistication
“…some trust in chariots and some in horses….” (Ps 20:7a).
This is the modernized source of strength. It is invented to make life “easy”. The quality of this kind of strength is speed and safety. (Is.31:1-3) The modern-day gadgets and systems that enhance swift results have become the measure of strength for many today. In the present day, the faster one can get things done the more one is respected.
But how best do the sophisticated gadgets of modern times able to withstand the real challenges of life? Ps.20:8 states, ” They will bow down and fall; they will fall down and perish. As fast, strong, and effective they might seem, machines and devices will fail and fall in the face of adversity.
Strength of Human Connection
In Jeremiah 17:5. This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord”.
One of the sources of strength among human beings of the present day is the connection they have and maintain with people in high places. We are in the world of “who do you know?” Those who have people at the top positions in society often carry a high sense of importance and hedge above those who do not know anybody. But drawing strength from human relationships is a serious problem.
Jeremiah 17:6 states the following as the lot of whosoever depends on the strength of human connection: That person will be “like a bush in the wastelands, and will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives”.
No matter how powerful and highly placed the human helper is, irrespective of how willing he or she is to offer help, trusting him or her is a failure before God. According to Ps.146:3, 4, “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish”. Humans are not meant to depend on humans but on God.
Human beings are finite with a very fragile lifespan. According to 1 Peter 1:24, “For, ‘All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall” (NIV). How much strength can man draw from grasses and flowers when adversities come his way? The futility of relying on human connection and help is revealed in Isaiah 31:3: “Now the Egyptians are men and not God, And their horses are flesh, and not spirit. When the Lord stretches out His hand, both he who helps will fall, And he who is helped will fall down; They all will perish together”.
Strength of Occultism
Dependence on occult powers has been on the increase in the present day. People who exercise demonic powers are highly respected and feared as powerful people. They are often patronized for one help or the other even by some so-called Christians. In search of money, security, and power, people have gone into occultism and the use of diabolical powers.
In Deuteronomy 18:9, God warned his people “When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you.
The Lord detests the use of evil powers to get things done. There must be a clear distinction between His people and the people of the world particularly when it comes to dealing with occult powers. God always works against any power that contradicts his own. According to Isaiah 44:25, God … frustrates the signs of the babblers, and drives diviners mad; Who turns wise men backward, And makes their knowledge foolishness.
And in Isaiah 50:11, God warns thus: Look, all you who kindle a fire, Who encircle yourselves with sparks: Walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks, you have kindled— This you shall have from My hand: You shall lie down in torment.
This is a warning against occultism. The end result of the practice is torment
Strength of Wealth and Riches
Many people in the present day are craving riches and wealth. The popular notion is that the rich is the strongest.
Money is seen as a very powerful weapon by which anything can be achieved. The richest man that ever lived, Solomon, said that money answers all things (Eccl.10:19). But does money answer all things correctly? Even Solomon himself said, “…riches are not forever nor does a crown endure to all generation”. This reveals the unreliability of wealth and riches. The Lord Jesus said in Luke 12:15 “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (NIV).
Life cannot be measured in terms of how much money and material things one possesses. As good as money is, there are many things it cannot buy and that is why the rich also cry. The rich cries for lack of peace with God and man; peace of God in the mind; unspeakable joy; safety from death; good sleep; marital bliss, responsible children; sound health; future assurance; and the like because none of these things can money buy.
There is none of the sources of strength mentioned above that can guarantee survival in the face of adversity. By what kind of strength can man stand the trials and difficulties of life?
Dr. Emmanuel is a lecturer at West Africa Theological Seminary, Ipaja, Lagos
(TO BE CONTINUED)