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Advancing in adversity

By Dr Cecil Stewart OBE

Some of the biggest breakthroughs and advances happen right in the midst of adversity, take for example David and Goliath, the opposition could not have been more challenging, and the adversity was so threatening against David and Israel.  If you are facing adversity in your health, your relationships, perhaps even in your finances, then now is a good time to advance forward into a new day.  Advance in your kingdom influence for reaching your generation and making a difference.  When it looks impossible that is the right time to advance.

Please read Hebrews chapter 10 v 35-39, it encourages us not to throw away our confidence, which is great recompense of reward.  We are then exhorted to remember that patience will play a big part; we have needed patience, that after we have done the will of God we may inherit the promise.  Nothing great is accomplished without perseverance and patience.  We do not draw back or give up, once we know we are doing the right thing we can advance in the knowledge that God Almighty is with us and He will make a way where there is no way. 

Psalm chapter 78 v 9 shows us some people who turn back in the day of battle, even though they were armed and capable of winning over the enemy.  They looked at the impossible circumstances and became afraid and so they turned back.  Confidence will always take you forward, cowardice will pull you back.

Proverbs chapter 24 v 10 tells us if we faint in the day of adversity our strength is small.  We all face adversity, sometimes it is from people who misunderstand us, who have false perceptions about us and so they show a bad attitude or speak against us.  If we are to advance we must learn quickly to forgive them and also be a blessing to them.  Remember, advancing is a process.

Psalm chapter 37 v 23 says ‘the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord’.  We take steps and make progress on purpose, recognising that God has already ordered and ordained our steps. In Exodus chapter 14 v 15 Moses was told of the Lord to speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward.  It looked like there was no way forward; the enemy was coming behind them and the Red Sea was in front of them, but God told Moses to lift up the rod and to divide the sea and as he did that God opened it up and they crossed over by a mighty miracle.

Discouragement will always disable you; it will destroy your creativity and your courage.  We must give no place to discouragement even when we have been hurt.  I can think of a number of young people who were once going forward in great diligence for the Lord, but through words that were spoken, even within the church, they were offended and they turned aside.  Years later their lives are still going nowhere, what a tragedy!  Some of them made wrong choices, some now have children and they don’t go to church.  Discouragement is one of satan’s greatest weapons, designed to make us turn aside and give up.  That is why Hebrews chapter 10 v 35 is so important to meditate upon.  When all the people turned aside from God’s ways, Elijah the prophet called them to a decision and asked them ‘how long will you delay between two opinions?  If the Lord be God then serve Him, and if Baal then follow him.’  We need to be people of great courage, to walk in love and to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, but also to be very bold at times and confront the deception of the enemy and expose his evil schemes so that people will be awakened to rise up and go forward.  

Adversity can be a great thing.  In Acts chapter 8 we see how the church was under severe persecution, they were being scattered abroad and their lives were under threat; some had already been killed.  But it says they went everywhere sharing the testimony of the love of God and Philip went to Samaria where he saw a mighty spiritual awakening in an area outside the region he would normally go and to a people that he normally would not connect with.

In 2 Timothy chapter 2 v 3 we are encouraged to endure hardness as a good soldier.  A soldier doesn’t run away when he is facing the enemy, he stays with the team and they fight even if it costs him his life.  Believers need to have more of this kind of spirit, that they will be loyal to each other, committed most of all to the cause of Christ and be people of patience and persistence, who simply refuse to give up.  Paul said in Philippians chapter 1 v 12 ‘the things that have happened unto me have fallen out rather than unto the furtherance of the gospel’.  He went on to explain how the gospel was changing lives, even in the palace and in the prison.  He was in prison and he was suffering, but he exhorted the church to say ‘this is turning out for our good; if we keep going forward in faith and don’t allow it to turn against us we will continue to turn it around for our good’.

It is never right to cast away our confidence, its never right to draw back and give up.  We must walk in faith and be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians chapter 4 v 17-18 reminds us not to look at the things that are seen but to look at the things that are not seen.  In other words don’t just look at the material evidence and the circumstances, look at the word of God and the promises and the power of the Holy Spirit in you and follow the leading of the Lord.  

Proverbs chapter 11 v 24 exhorts us to expect increase.  It says ‘there is but scatters and yet increases, but to withhold tends to poverty’.  We must continue giving out to others in love, witnessing, sharing our testimony, helping people to move out of their trapped positions where they are seemingly stuck and we must help them to go forward by being givers ourselves, not only in prayer and in service but also financially.  Scatter the seed and it will bring a harvest.

If we allow the mindset of the world to guide us we will not advance in adversity, but we will be restricted and controlled by feelings and circumstances.  Romans chapter 12 v 2 reminds us not to be conformed to this world, but be transformed by renewing the mind.  We need to think completely differently from the world.  Our confidence plays a big part in our advancement, remember Jesus didn’t die so we could have an average life and just get by with a survival vision.  We are not meant to simply survive, we are meant to thrive and make an impact on our generation.  We need to be more concerned about pleasing God than pleasing people or even our friends.  Jesus died so we could be extraordinary, bold, courageous, radiant people, realising we are ambassadors of Christ and charged with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Hebrews chapter 3 v 6 says ‘hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end’, so we need to keep our confidence alive, never give expression to a hopeless, negative mindset.  We all have thoughts like that but we must maintain confidence and rejoice in the face of a hopeless situation.  The book of James exhorts us to count it all joy when we fall into different trials and tests, knowing that God is with us and He will turn it around for our good.  No matter what trial, disappointment, loss or injustice we can keep our confidence alive.  Proverbs chapter 3 v 26 says ‘the Lord shall be thy confidence’.

1 Peter chapter 5 v 7-8 reminds us that satan the enemy is our adversary.  He goes about like a roaring lion, seeking who he may devour.  He cannot devour everyone, only those who are turning aside and giving into feelings, rather than walking by faith.  Satan never comes saying ‘I want to steal your confidence’ but he comes to us with negative thoughts of unbelief, doubts and fear, showing you the impossible pictures of what we are trying to do.  Even when we have been mistreated and poorly rewarded for our work we must never meditate on this as it steals our confidence.  

In Isaiah chapter 54 v 1-2 we see a picture of great desolation, baroness, lifelessness and nothing happening, but then the Lord speaks and gives direction about how to come out of that fruitlessness into a time of progress.  The first word that is used is ‘sing’, so if you are facing adversity, whether it is a health challenge, depression, anxiety, fear, disappointment, hurt, offence, give it over to the Lord and start to sing unto Him in an attitude of praise and worship.  There is far more power in worshiping and singing than we could ever realise.  So He said ‘sing’ and as they sang they went forward and advanced the whole picture changed from one of deadness and baroness to fruitfulness and progress.

1 Corinthians chapter 16 v 9, Paul said ‘a great door of opportunity has opened to me, but there are many adversities’.  Adversity will always come when you are about to have a big breakthrough or you are about to make an important step forward into the purpose of God.  So ignore those feelings and start to sing and magnify the Lord.  God is putting up a notice that its time to advance, its time to go forward.  Psalm chapter 100 v 2 says ‘come before His presence with singing’.  Psalm chapter 66 v 2 says ‘sing forth the honour of His name’.  We need to have this mindset every day of thankfulness, gratefulness, singing and magnifying the Lord and it keeps us in strength and our mind is the mind of Christ so we know what He is doing in our lives.  Ephesians chapter 5 v 19 exhorts us to speak to ourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord.  Singing and joy is the key to strength and advancing.  In Numbers chapter 13 v 33 we see a picture of people who were murmuring, being negative and  complaining, even they were told of God to advance and go on to possess the good land and future that God had prepared for them, they saw themselves as grasshoppers and they saw the giants as something that could not be overcome.  But God had told them that He was with them and they would overcome, unfortunately they gave in to what they saw rather than going on in faith.

In 2 Chronicles chapter 20 we see how God told Jehoshaphat to put singers in front of the army when he was facing 3 great armies, all greater than his and as they went forth with the singers at the front God caused confusion in the enemy and they began to fight each other.  Proverbs chapter 17 v 22 reminds us that merry heart does good like a medicine.

When we are singing and have a merry heart and a worshipping attitude it creates an atmosphere of harmony in the home, family, church and workplace.  In our own lives it is good for our health.  Singing and joy releases life and victory, it dispels darkness and despair.  Nehemiah chapter 8 v 10 says ‘the joy of the Lord is your strength’.  Proverbs chapter 29 v 6 ‘the righteous sing and rejoice’. 

The best way to draw attention to the Cross is to live in the good of its provision, so when we are living out our lives in the midst of adversity, when everyone thinks we should be down and depressed we should be joyful, singing and expecting good things.  When we allow turnaround to happen it is testimony to all around us and it blesses people and it pleases God.

Psalm chapter 104 v 33, David said ‘I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live’.  Proverbs chapter 29 v 6 ‘the righteous sing and rejoice’.  If we are right with God by faith we have been born again, we have given our lives to Jesus then we have every reason to sing because we have been eternally redeemed from the hand of the enemy.  We have heaven as our home and victory in this life.  Psalm chapter 147 v 1 reminds us that it is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord and to sing praises to His name.  

Paul said in 1 Corinthians chapter 14 v 15 ‘I will sing with my understanding and I will sing with my spirit also’.  He is talking about singing and worshipping to the Lord in the heavenly language and also in his own language.  Negative thinking, talking and attitude will arrest your progress, but singing and praising will cause you to advance.  Unbelief and doubt will always rob you of faith and vision and drain you of energy and enthusiasm.  

Proverbs chapter 4 v 18 says ‘the path of the just is as a shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day’.  We are to expect it to get brighter for us as believers, even though the world is getting darker, that’s why we need to be shining the light more than ever.  Psalm chapter 92 v 12 says ‘the righteous flourish like a palm tree’.  So we go forward as a palm tree in a tornado or storm, it bends over almost to the ground and then rises again and stands straight after the storm is over.  It refuses to break under the pressure.

In 1 Timothy chapter 4 v 15 Paul said to Timothy ‘meditate upon these things, give yourself wholly to them’.  So advancement doesn’t come by a simple casual look at a verse, it must become a way of life, meditating on the word of God.  It should be the thing that is most in your mind all day, every day, spending hours in fellowship with the Lord.  Romans chapter 14 v 23 reminds us that whatever is not of faith is sin.  In Luke chapter 21 v 15 it says that ‘all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist’.   

 

Enlarge

 

The first word in the portion of scripture in Isaiah chapter 54 v 2 is ‘enlarge’, in other words ‘reach higher’, ‘reach wider’, ‘think bigger’.  Reach out to your kingdom influence in your family, pray for your loved ones, speak encouraging words to everyone around you and let the love of God be manifested in the way you think and talk.  Enlarge your influence for Jesus and expect Him to confirm the words you speak with bringing good change.  John chapter 15 v 16 shows us that we are to go forth and bring forth fruit for the kingdom of God.  So we should think of soul winning, serving and ask ourselves ‘how can I help?’  Luke chapter 19 v 10 says ‘Jesus came to seek and to save the lost’.  We are not living for ourselves, we have a big vision, a kingdom vision, and we go forward in strength using the talents God has given us, as mentioned in Matthew chapter 24 v 14-30.

2 Samuel chapter 22 v 7 says ‘enlarge my steps’ – this should be our prayer.  David said in Psalm chapter 4 v 1 ‘I will enlarge in my distress’, so that’s when we grow and become mature, when we are facing battles, when we are in a difficult time.  God is more interested in developing our character than giving us what we want, yes, he wants to give us our desires, but he wants us to grow in the process.  2 Corinthians chapter 6 v 13 says ‘be also enlarged’; we are to grow, to go forward. 

 

Stretch

 

In Isaiah chapter 54 v 2 it says ‘stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations, spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes’.  We need to stretch out beyond our comfort zone, sometimes having to do things that are not easy, when we are tired, sometimes opportunity comes at inconvenient times but we must take it even when we don’t feel like it.  If we are to advance in adversity we much stretch beyond the normal and believe God for a fruitful future.  Paul said that in Philippians chapter 3 v 13-14 ‘forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus’.  That means effort and energy will be needed.  God promises us His ability in 2 Chronicles chapter 3 v 6, he makes us able ministers.  Remember favour is manifested when preparation and opportunity meet.  1 Chronicles chapter 4 v 9-10 is about the story of Jabez, even his name meant ‘sorrow’, he had nothing going for him, everything was against him, but he prayed for the Lord to bless him and enlarge his coast and God gave him his desire.

 

Lengthen and strengthen

 

God wants us to join hands with others, to delegate responsibility, to realise that team works makes dream work, and if we are going to expand and take more territory we must secure the ground we take and put the pegs in the ground as we go.  Lengthen our cord, strengthen our stakes.  Make secure what we have already taken so we can maintain it and advance further.  Proverbs chapter 24 v 5 says ‘a man of understanding increases strength’, so when we get to understand the Holy Spirit and the word of God and get connected with what God is doing we will be strengthened and we will lengthen our stakes.  We need to put people in positions of service and empower them to become what God has called them to become, if we are to expand and grow.  We must increase the intake of the word and go forward by faith.   

 

Breakthrough

 

When we do this there will be breakthrough and answers to prayers.  A breakthrough simply means a major advance, discovery or an act of breaking through an obstacle.  What obstacles are against you?  God wants you to breakthrough them.  Proverbs chapter 23 v 7 says ‘as a man thinks so is he’.  We need to be thinking faith and victory, James chapter 2 v 17-18 reminds us faith without works is death, so we must act on what we believe.  Philippians chapter 4 v 8 ‘think on things of good report’.  We have everything going for us, ‘we shall reap, if we do not faint’, Galatians chapter 6 v 9.  Let us believe God for breakthroughs as we advance in adversity, continue in the word and be steadfast like they we in Acts chapter 2 v 42.  Breakthrough comes through prayer, unity, being quick to forgive, singing unto the Lord, walking in faith and expecting good things to happen every day and God will reward us according to our faith. 

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