By Robert Mullins
There is no development of Christlikeness in a person’s life apart from adversity.
Jesus experienced adversity through the harassment of His enemies who wanted to destroy Him and through the agony of dying on the cross.
Christians likewise are not exempt from trials and suffering. Difficulties are necessary in the development of our Christian lives.
God not only allows adversity but even brings it upon us at times—not because we lack faith or are disobedient, but as a way to increase our faith.
Tribulation helps us to mature into the people of faith God wants us to be.
Many Christians live in discouragement because they don’t realize how God uses adversity to increase our faith. It yields wonderful benefits in the lives of those “who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).
Awareness of God-allowed adversity can spiritually renew the lives of Christians who are not living daily in the joy of the Lord.
Often, what I remember as hurtful experiences were actually situations carefully orchestrated by God, who was working in those circumstances according to His will for my life (Ephesians 1:11) and for my good (Romans 8:28).
Hebrews 12:4-11 reveals why God’s discipline of us includes adversity. The original readers of Hebrews would experience persecution because of their obedience to God. In this passage, God reveals that He allows suffering and chastening to help us grow to maturity in our Christian faith.
God does cause us to suffer as a way of punishing us for disobedience, but not all our discipline from God is because we have done something wrong. God uses difficulties and hardships as a means of needed correction, but they are also God’s methods of helpful, faith-maturing discipline.
One example of the disciplines of God is divine darkness. God places a person into a period of extended, mostly private meditation to produce deeper fellowship with Him. Among individuals in the Bible who experienced such adversity are David (2 Samuel 22:29-32), Job (Job 19:8; 23:17; 30:26), Jeremiah (Lamentations 3:2), Isaiah (Isaiah 50:10), and Micah (Micah 7:8).
Another example, the divine discipline of delay, is illustrated in the life of Moses. It involves a period of waiting after hearing God’s original call regarding a matter.
While he was royalty living in a palace, Moses had a desire to help his fellow Israelites. He was chosen by God to lead the Israelites out of bondage, but he initially sought to do it in the strength of the flesh (Exodus 2:11-15).
God sent Moses to the far side of the wilderness for 40 years to get the Egypt out of Moses so that he could get the Israelites out of Egypt in the power of the Spirit.
God uses adversity not only to benefit us personally but also to benefit others. As God helps us through adversity, we are able to help others who have all kinds of troubles, using the same help that we ourselves have received from God (2 Corinthians 1:4).
Adversity helps our faith to grow in countless ways. God can use any kind of adversity we experience for our good and for the benefit of others. It is His training ground for spiritual maturity.
BOBBY MULLINS is pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Hernando, Mississippi and author of Divine Disciplines: God’s Training Ground for Spiritual Growth and Maturity.