The Role of Adversity in Your Spiritual Growth

by APC on November 05, 2015

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh (II Corinthians 4:8–11, KJV).

Thin to Thick and Hard to Soft

Oswald Chambers once said, “Spiritual maturity is going from being thin-skinned and hard-hearted to thick-skinned and soft-hearted.” The picturesque figure of someone who is “thin-skinned” gets offended easily and someone who is “hard-hearted” is not willing to be affected by others. Paul instructs the church in Scripture to obtain spiritual maturity: the transformation from being thin-skinned and hard-hearted to thick-skinned and soft-hearted.

Paul never conceptualized adversity, but spoke from his own experiences. He noted adversity and resistance was necessary to spiritual growth. Resistance builds us, teaches and instills faith in us, and forces us to depend on God. Once we have reached a level of spiritual maturity, we will be able to accept adversity as useful and also welcome it! Paul understood the necessity of adversity and the benefit it had in his life. He noted it was when he was weak, he was truly strong (II Corinthians 12:10).

Sources of Spiritual Adversity

The Devil

I Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” (KJV). Scripture calls the devil our adversary (our enemy), and he’s out to get us. Satan’s greatest weapon is his mouth. The Saint of God has the ability to overcome the devil if we would just push back when we hear his voice. Scripture tells us to resist him and he doesn’t have a choice but to run from us (I Peter 5:9).

Everyone who chooses to forsake a self-serving life and to follow God instantly becomes a target of the devil and other forces of darkness. All children of God will face afflictions from the devil—that is just a part of serving Jesus.

Other People

When we’ve matured spiritually, we will be able to deal with offenses from others and make allowance for their faults. Offenses will come to us and we need to make provision for how to deal with these in our minds. Colossians 3:13 tells us that we need to be ready to forgive other people. No one is perfect and we need to make room for people’s mess-ups. The writers of Hebrews 12:15 warns that we do not let a poisonous root of bitterness spring up in us.

Back in the Garden of Eden, God didn’t ignore the sin of Adam and Eve. He had a plan to deal with the problem. God set the example for us—we need to deal with the problems we have with others. We gain strength when we go to our brother or sister that have offended us and tell them!

Circumstances

Day-to-day we experience a little something called “life.” Stuff will happen, but we need to remember to reach for help when we need it. Jesus tells us to cast all of our cares on Him (I Peter 5:7); however, there are other sources of help at our disposal. The Saints of God are called upon to be a resource to people who are struggling. Galatians 6:2 instructs us to bear one another’s burdens and Ephesians 6:18 tells us to pray for each other! We are purposed to help with the adversity of our brothers and sisters. When we make ourselves available for someone enduring adversity, when we go through it ourselves due to life circumstances, God will make a way for us to receive the help we extended to someone else.

God

We need to be honest about three things in our life: 1) who we are, 2) where we are spiritually, and 3) how we got there. Our power to deal with adversity comes from position and not a location. The closer we are to God, the better suited we will be to handle adversity in our life (Psalms 91:1). When we aren’t close to God, we could find ourselves working against Him.

When God is our adversary, this is the worst place to be. “Is not my word like as a fire? Saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29, KJV). When we’re not close to Him, He will pour out His judgment, and sometimes that comes in the form of adversity. We are commanded to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to Him (Romans 12:1) and allow Him to move in all areas of our life.

We may meet adversity from God when He tries to work in an area of our life that makes us uncomfortable. We have to stop slipping into the false notion of how we feel about God’s Word and its validity in our life! If we violate one principle of the law, we’ve violated the entire law (James 2:10). If we do not uphold God’s law in our life, we will be held accountable. God will always be able to discern the thoughts and the intents of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12).

Soft Heart vs. Hard Heart

In order to successfully work through adversity, we need to have a soft heart. “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:5, KJV). We are to love others and to love God—this is how we are identified as a disciple (John 13:35). We need to know more of the Word than the devil so he doesn’t gain a foothold in our life. We need to love others too much to take offense. We should reach out to help others when they need it. And we need to learn to follow so closely to God that we don’t struggle with His Word.

If we’re able to focus on these areas of our lives we will be able to come close to the goal of spiritual maturity and be better prepared to face spiritual adversity.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on November 4, 2015