Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A New Adventure Pt. 7- Adversity

                In North Carolina, we see our fair share of hurricanes and tropical storms. A few years ago, my sister and my niece came down from Iowa and we rented a condo for the week out at the Outer Banks. While we were there Tropical Storm Andrea decided to show up. My sister and niece who had never been through a Tropical Storm wanted to walk to the beach and check out the ocean during the storm. So, we did. As we walked towards the dunes the wind pushed at us so hard that we had to lean into it so that we didn’t fall over. The sand whipped at our exposed skin and we had to fight to stay upright. But, as we were coming over the dunes and down onto the beach we looked up and saw the most beautiful rainbow stretched out over the ocean before us. It was just beautiful. The storm was raging around us, but God reminded us through the beauty of His rainbow that the storm we were walking through would soon be over and His promise would remain. We just had to keep fighting and not let the wind knock us down.
Rainbow we saw during Tropical Storm Andrea- Corolla, NC
                As we walk on our new adventures, we too are going to have to face tropical storms of our own. There will be strong winds and whipping sands before we get over the dunes and down to the beach to see the promise of His rainbow waiting for us. We call these storms, adversity. But, the Lord wants us to look up from these storms, from the midst of our adversity. He wants us to fight our way over those dunes and draw strength from the hope that if we just keep walking there will be a rainbow waiting for us too. Adversity is coming, and it will continue to come on our paths, but there is always His promise waiting just over the next dune.
            In my last blog about our new adventure I talked about discouragement and distractions. (See end of this blog for link) Our enemy still wants to discourage us, and if he can’t do it through distractions, he is going to use adversity. Adversity is an unfavorable fortune, a misfortune, a calamity or a distress that basically comes out of nowhere. A catastrophe has hit your path and you find yourself fighting against the wind, and the whipping sand. Nehemiah faced adversity too.
                “Now when Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies heard that I had built the wall and that there was no breach left in it (although up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates) Sanballat and Geshem sent to me saying, ‘Come and let us meet together at Hakkephirim in the plain of Ono.’ But they intended to do me harm. And I sent messengers to them, saying, ‘I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?’ And they sent four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner.” Nehemiah 6:1-4 (ESV)
                The enemy, Sanballat and Tobiah, are trying everything they can to distract Nehemiah. They want him to stop the working and come down to meet with them, they just want to talk, or so they tell him. But Nehemiah is not having any of it. He knows what he needs to do and he is determined to finish the work that God has put in his hands.
                “In the same way Sanballat for the fifth time sent his servant to me with an open letter in his hand. In it was written, ‘It is reported among the nations, and Geshem also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel; and that is why you are building the wall. And according to these reports you wish to become king. And you have also set up prophets to proclaim concerning you in Jerusalem. ‘There is a king in Judah’. And now the king will hear of these reports. So now come and let us take counsel together. ‘Then I sent to him, saying, ‘No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind.’ For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.’ But now, O God, strengthen my hands.’” Nehemiah 6:5-9 (ESV)
Corolla, Outer banks, NC
                Here comes the adversity. The wind and the storm have come onshore and Nehemiah faces it all head on. The threats to tell the king that Nehemiah is preparing to rebel against the current government and set up himself as king would be a true calamity. The enemy would essentially start a war because the current king would not be happy to hear that the man he agreed to send to do the work now wants to fight him for power. But Nehemiah faced the adversity. He looked it in the eyes and said no way; you are not going to knock me down. He replied to the letter and said that it was not true, that it was just a trick and he was not going to stop what he was doing to give it any of his time or attention. Nehemiah was determined to see the work finished and not even the threat of war was going to stop him. The only way for us to walk against the winds of adversity is to walk with determination. My sister and I were determined to get to the beach, so we were willing to put up with the pushing winds, the whipping sand and the pain as it cut into our flesh. Anything worth doing will be done with determination. The only way to face adversity in our adventures and even in our daily lives is to face it head on with determination.
                Nehemiah 6:9 tells us that the whole purpose for this adversity was because the enemy wanted to scare them into giving up. But God, He is our strength. Through Him we are more than conquerors. (Romans 8:37) Through Him we can face the enemy and all the adversity he throws our way because greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4) Nehemiah called out to God to give him strength to press on and press forward. Nehemiah knew that no matter what the enemy threw at him he would need the strength of God to get through it. God does not save us from the storms of our lives, but He will give us the strength to get through them.
                I do also want to point out that not all adversity is of the enemy. Sometimes God will send adversity to test us, to try us, to see if we really do believe in His promises to us. There are going to be many obstacles going forward on this new adventure we are on. The enemy is going to throw everything he can at us that is true, but some of these obstacles are going to be from our Lord, to see if we truly want what He has for us. Is the path we are on worth fighting for? The Lord already knows the answer; He just wants us to know it too. So He will send adversity to try us, to reveal to us the motives of our hearts.
                “Search me O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxieties. And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24 (NKJV)
                Are we willing to count the cost and fight through every obstacle that comes our way to reach the rainbow? The promise is at the end of the journey, not the beginning. Are we willing to do what it takes, no matter the cost to reach the promise of His rainbow that is waiting for us just over that last dune? Do we see the fear or do we have faith? When my sister and I crossed over those dunes and saw that rainbow stretched out before us we were rejuvenated and we knew that all the wind, the sand and the pain was worth it because we were rewarded with the beauty of His promise. Adversity is going to test our faith. It is going to try our hearts to see if we really believe in the promises God has given to us. There is a rainbow at the end of our adventure, but we won’t ever get to see it if we let the winds of adversity know us down.
                Hebrews 12:2 tells us that “for the joy that was set before Him,” Jesus endured the cross. He fought through the adversity. He pushed through the pain. He fought the fear because He had faith that just over that cross was a promise, a promise that was worth fighting for. Adversity will come my friends, because a promise remains for each one of us. Nothing worth fighting for is ever easy. We may want to give up, we may want to turn back and get out of the storm, but we must lean into the wind and fight through the pain, because if we give up now, we will never see the beauty of the promise that is waiting for us, just over that dune.
Link to Previous Blog- Part 6: