How to Find Peace in Adversity
How to Find Peace in Adversity
For 2,000 years, followers of Jesus have faced adversity, opposition and persecution. In many places Pippa and I have visited over the years, Christians face physical persecution. In fact, persecution of Christians around the world today is probably worse than at any time in history.
We do not, at this time, face physical persecution in the West. However, as we see some of the messages that are emerging from those with their stated intention of ‘eradicating faith’, it is clear that the aggression and vehemence of the attacks may increase.
Opposition is bound to come. Those who desire ‘to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’ (2 Timothy 3:12). Opposition comes both from those far away from us (the Philistines in the Old Testament passage for today), and also, sadly, sometimes from those closer to home (the Pharisees in the New Testament passage). How do you find peace in adversity?
Promote peaceProverbs 12:18-27
The antidote to opposition and evil is to walk in the opposite spirit – to be those who ‘promote peace’. The writer contrasts the ‘deceit in the hearts of those who plot evil’ (v.20a) with ‘joy for those who promote peace’ (v.20b). How can you do this?
- Bring healing
Promote peace with your words. ‘Rash language cuts and maims, but there is healing in the words of the wise’ (v.18, MSG). Words are so powerful; they can hurt deeply but they can also heal.
- Be truthful
‘Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment’ (v.19). Truthful words are not only cathartic, they also have a lasting impact – they ‘endure forever’ (v.19).
- Be restrained
‘Fools blurt out folly’ (v.23b). But ‘a prudent person is reluctant to display his knowledge’ (v.23a, AMP). Knowledge is like underwear – it is useful to have it, but not necessary to show it off! The mere fact that you know the answer does not mean that you should give it. I am always so impressed by the restraint of hosts and helpers on Alpha who do this so well.
- Be kind
‘Anxiety weighs down the heart’ (v.25a). God wants you to enjoy life, to help others, not to be weighed down by anxiety. ‘A kind word cheers’ up other people’s hearts (v.25b). By an encouraging word you can transform a person’s day or even their life.
Lord, help me to be a person who promotes peace and who speaks words of healing, truth, restraint and kindness.
Live in peaceJohn 11:45-12:11
God is sovereign. He uses even the worst things for good. Supremely, we see this on the cross: the very worst plot ever – torture and murder of the innocent Son of God – was used by God to bring salvation to the entire human race.
This being the case, you can live in peace, trusting that God will use even the worst things that you face in life, for good (Romans 8:28).
Jesus faced evil plots. The motive appears to be envy (a sin the religious are prone to). People were envious of Jesus because he had so many followers and seemed to be more ‘successful’ than the religious leaders. Out of envy, the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin (John 11:47a).
The Sanhedrin was the supreme court of the nation. It comprised seventy-one members including the high priest. The chief priests were the majority and the Pharisees an influential minority. They asked, ‘What are we accomplishing?’ (v.47b). It was a very good question! They were envious of the popularity of Jesus and plotted to take his life (v.53).
They meant it for evil. God meant it for good. Caiaphas (who was high priest from AD 18 – AD 36) prophesied, ‘It is better for you that one person die for the people than that the whole nation perish’ (v.50). God is able to speak through an unwitting agent.
John comments, ‘He didn’t say this of his own accord, but as Chief Priest that year he unwittingly prophesied that Jesus was about to die sacrificially for the nation, and not only for the nation but so that all God’s exile-scattered children might be gathered together into one people’ (vv.51–52, MSG).
Perhaps because he knew of the plot against him, ‘Jesus no longer moved about publicly… Instead he withdrew… he stayed with his disciples’ (v.54). But this was not to be the end of the opposition Jesus faced.
Most painful of all must have been the opposition from Judas. When Mary pours the perfume on Jesus’ feet, Judas objects, ‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages’ (12:5). This, on the face of it, is a perfectly good objection, but we read, ‘He did not say this because he cared about the poor’ (v.6).
It must have been so distressing for Jesus that his friend and disciple, Judas, was, in fact, stealing money from the gifts made to Jesus and his disciples by generous donors (Luke 8:2–3).
Jesus simply responds to Judas’ objection, ‘You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me’ (John 12:8).
Jesus was certainly not encouraging complacency about the poor. The fact that we will never obliterate poverty in the world does not mean that we should not try – after all, compassion for the poor was central to Jesus’ ministry. Rather, Jesus was turning the attention of his disciples to the significance of what Mary had done.
Whilst all this was going on, plans against Jesus were being formed (vv.9–11). Envy can lead to murder. Not only did they plot to take Jesus’ life (11:53), they also made plans to kill Lazarus as well, because he was leading many people to faith (12:10–11).
Extraordinarily, we see God’s hand at work through it all. Despite opposition and wrongdoing, God’s ultimate plan was still fulfilled. What Jesus’ opponents meant for evil, God used for good.
Lord, thank you that I can live in peace, knowing that in everything you work for the good of those who love you.
Pray for peace1 Samuel 5:1-7:17
God never forgets a single prayer you pray, even though you may forget. Things may have happened to you today as a result of prayers that you prayed years ago and you have forgotten all about them. But God is still working on them in his timing. Keep stacking up the prayers. Persevering prayer prevails.
Under the old covenant, the ark of God was the place where God was supremely present, and it was the location of God’s glory. Yesterday we read that ‘the glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured’ (4:22).
You may sometimes have to wait a long time for the Lord to act and answer your prayers. ‘It was a long time, twenty years in all… all the people of Israel mourned and sought after the Lord’ (7:2). I feel we have prayed for a long time if we have prayed for a week, but they prayed for twenty years for their country before God acted.
The path to deliverance often begins when we return to the Lord with all our heart. Samuel said, ‘“If you are truly serious about coming back to God, clean house. Get rid of the foreign gods and fertility goddesses, ground yourselves firmly in God, worship him and him alone, and he’ll save you from Philistine oppression.” They did it. They got rid of the gods and goddesses, the images of Baal and Ashtoreth, and gave their exclusive attention and service to God’ (7:3–4, MSG).
The first thing you need to do in your life when you are seeking God’s presence and help is remove anything that is drawing your attention and focus away from God.
After the return to the Lord there was a need for a period of confession and repentance, which was shown by their fasting: ‘On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.”’ (v.6).
Finally, it was Samuel’s intercession and persistence in prayer for twenty years that brought the people of God victory. Samuel said, ‘I will intercede with the Lord for you’ (v.5). They said, ‘Pray with all your might! And don’t let up! Pray to God, our God, that he’ll save us from the boot of the Philistines’ (v.8, MSG). Samuel ‘cried out to the Lord on Israel’s behalf, and the Lord answered him’ (v.9).
They recognised it was an amazing answer to prayer: ‘Thus far has the Lord helped us’ (v.12). They were delivered from the power of the Philistines and there was peace in the land (v.13).
Lord, I commit myself to you again to serve you only. Forgive my sins and the sins of your people. I cry out to you for deliverance and peace. May we see many people in this land putting their faith in Jesus, finding peace in adversity.
1 Samuel 5:4
‘But the following morning when they rose, there was Dagon [the god they had been worshipping], fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained.’
When the presence of the Lord is in a place, the power of God is released and false idols lie broken on the ground.
Verse of the Day
‘Anxiety weighs down the heart,
but a kind word cheers it up’ (Proverbs 12:25).
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.