How would you feel if you knew that within a matter of months our country would be conquered by a terrorist nation; that many of your friends, family, and neighbors would be killed, women raped and many taken away as slaves under some of the cruelest of situations—that all you had come to know and love was about to be destroyed? Overcoming adversity like that is exactly the message Isaiah had to give to the nation of Israel, that they would soon be conquered by the Assyrians. What message of hope would God give His own children? His message to them may surprise you. These are words we should take to heart, for none of us knows what lies ahead. God gave them three strong commands, along with one promise. Listen to the words of Isaiah:
“The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said, ‘Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. The Lord is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble. He will keep you safe’” (Isaiah 8:11-14; New Living Bible, emphasis mine). Notice the four major points Isaiah makes:
Don’t “think” like everyone else does when working on overcoming adversity.
When you’re overcoming adversity, the mind is one of the most strategic battlefields. The way we think can win battles. The Lord doesn’t merely warn them. He gives them a “strong warning” not to think like everyone else. When everyone else was hitting the panic button, Isaiah tells them to keep their eyes upon the Lord and be at peace. Amazing!
Our faith is not to be in our nation’s wealth, its military might, or our leaders’ wisdom, nor are we to fear the imminent dangers which threaten us. Our faith is to be in the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. The apostle Paul wrote, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Elijah’s servant was panicking when the house was surrounded by enemy soldiers. Elijah prayed that God would open his eyes, and what did he see? An army of holy, fiery angels surrounding their home (II Kings 6:15-17). As hard as it is for us to grasp and truly believe, no person or thing can harm us apart from God’s will.
Speaking personally, if I could just eliminate fear-based thinking from my life, my life would be a whole lot easier and much happier! I bet yours would be too. Charles Swindoll says that 10 percent of life is what happens to us and 90 percent of how we respond to it.
In overcoming adversity, being driven by fear will never get us where we want to go.
Joy and peace do not coexist with fear. Joy and peace grow out of faith, not fear. Faith is the antidote to fear. What frightens most people? Isn’t it the fear of pain or loss? Loss of home, health, wealth, job, freedom, family, or having to endure suffering? Question: how can we really lose that which is eternally ours? Think about it. In I Corinthians 3:24, 25 Paul says that “all things are [present tense] yours.” We will all die someday. It is only a matter of how and when (unless the rapture or second coming occurs first). If we know Christ, we already have “all things”. We are commanded not to fear.
We are [present tense] joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16,17). So what if we lose our earthly home for a few months or years? We have an eternal home of unimaginable glory and beauty waiting for us in Heaven. (John 14;1,2) Rather than living in fear we are called to relax and have faith. We have a God who will provide for us, a Savior who was willing to lay down His life for us, and the Holy Spirit who promises to guide, comfort, and counsel us throughout the course of our entire life. What can a man possibly do to us unless God allows it for our good and His glory?
We are called to live “holy” lives while overcoming adversity.
We are not to get sucked into the corruption, dysfunction, and fear-based thinking of the world around us. No matter how evil or frightening the world is, we are called to live lives of holiness, peace, faith, hope, and love—for soon, very soon, we will leave this ole’ world behind and step into eternity.
Holiness counts for eternity. That which is eternal will trump the temporal every time. I don’t understand a lot of
things, but the Bible is clear that the things we do in this life impact eternity. Holiness and purity will be eternally rewarded. Even though the world around us is growing darker and darker, we are called to live as lights in the world.
Lastly, Isaiah gives them this wonderful promise: “He (God) will keep you safe.”
In the face of the most horrible threats and dangers imaginable, God is able to keep His children safe. When surrounded by death, destruction, and invading armies, we are called to walk by faith. David said a thousand might fall at his side, and ten thousand fall at his right hand, yet his faith was in God, that harm would not come near his tent (home) because God’s angels were protecting him. (Psalm 91:7-11)
If our country falls, or our own world falls apart, will these things impact and affect our lives? Of course, they will, but in the midst of it all, God is able to keep us safe so we make it through the fire. We may have the smell of smoke on us, but the fires of judgment and wrath will not touch us. We just need to be sure that we are on the Lord’s side and in His protective care when judgment does come. Even the most fearful, powerful army in the world cannot hurt us unless it is God’s providential will.
In Ezekiel 9:4-6, when the Babylonians came to destroy Jerusalem, God instructed an angel to put a mark on the head of every righteous person. They were to be spared. This is not to say that Christians will not die in war, but no one will die apart from God’s will. That is the issue. If our lives are in the hands of an all-powerful God, then whatever happens, or doesn’t happen to us, is allowed by a God who loves us. As hard and as difficult as it may seem, we are called to relax and trust God. If we are called to lay down our lives, no big deal. We have all eternity in front of us. We will be resurrected to new life. Death will never defeat us. Paul says, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Discipline in Overcoming Adversity
If God brings judgment upon our nation, as He did Israel, it is because we deserve it. As hard a pill as it is to swallow, sometimes it takes God’s judgment to bring a nation back to Himself. That was certainly the case with Israel. Much of the Old Testament is the story of God using judgment and hard times to discipline and call the nation of Israel back to Himself when they were in a state of rebellion. When things got bad enough, the people would turn back to God and He would deliver them. Throughout the Old Testament, this cycle of judgment, followed by repentance, is repeated over and over again.
In order for God to save the soul, He must sometimes harshly judge the body. The same is true with the soul of a nation. In order to get our attention, God must sometimes bring harsh judgment. As hard as it is to comprehend, judgment is often a severe form of God’s mercy.
As a Chaplain, I probably view hard times and overcoming adversity differently than most. I see such great good coming out of trials and suffering. The majority of patients and families I work with are most receptive to the things of God, not when things are going well, but when their world is falling apart. It is often God’s mercy that brings us pain, trials, and even judgment. We all live in a house of cards, so to speak. C.S. Lewis says that sometimes the only way God can show us that we are living in a house made of cards is to lovingly knock the cards down.
In closing, let me share a story with you. My father grew up in Kansas during the Great Depression, during the Dust Bowl years. He describes seeing huge, red, thunderhead-looking dust clouds from the south rolling in from Oklahoma where the dirt is red. These massive dust clouds would grow larger and larger until they filled the whole sky. Then, he said, the massive cloud of dust would finally engulf them, throwing them into almost total darkness, leaving red dust everywhere.
I don’t know about you, but the older I get, just like those dust clouds, eternity is starting to loom pretty largely on the horizon. It is beginning to fill the sky as it gets closer and closer. The imminent threats and dangers of this world, by comparison, are growing smaller and smaller as they fade into insignificance. Soon we will be swallowed up into eternal life if we know Him, a life of eternal joy and peace. It will be a day, not of darkness, but of light. We have a choice. While overcoming adversity, we can either focus on the immediate threats and fears of this tiny world and its puny armies and economies, or we can keep my eyes on the Lord of eternity. As hard as it is, we need to relax and take a deep breath. Our Father is still in charge, and He has
His eyes of love upon us and our eternal well-being.