Adversity is God's remedy for a sin sick soul. Adversity trains us in righteousness. Adversity is God's weapon to chasten the natural man still trying to rest control of our spiritually fervent walk with His Son. Adversity makes us look up and moves us to cry out to heaven for guidance. Obedience to God's adversity, illuminates His light within us so we shine brighter and brighter. Without adversity we will not become the soldiers that we must be in order to win the war we are guaranteed to win if just fight on. Without adversity we will not become men and women of faith. Without adversity we will not learn the art of perseverance. Without adversity we are not worth that much to the world we are called to serve.
To learn more of how to move through adversity under the Spirit's leadership, let us peer into the life of Paul and study how he handled the adversity of being shipwrecked as a prisoner of Rome. When Paul carried his very long appeal process to the highest authority of the Roman empire, he did so under the government of God, Paul also accomplished this work publicly. Paul responded to his calling so that could publicly testify as a true believer in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Dramatically ordained by Christ as a servant of His message, Paul was sanctioned by King Jesus to speak directly to the world power brokers, the glory of His everlasting kingdom and authority. That He is the real King of the earth and He has risen from the grave, and in doing so, defeated soundly the power of death. Paul testified of His Power to break his stoney and brittled religiously hard heart, that he had actually heard His voice in the Hebrew dialect AND saw His Glory outshine the brightness of the noonday sun.
Even through this very hard season as a prisoner of Rome, Paul did exactly what had been predestined for him to accomplish to extend Christ's kingdom in the earth. Paul's earlier missionary journeys, were full of preaching and discipling, miraculous signs and wonders, that manifested Christ's kingly authority. These faithful acts of obedience established churches all over the known world. In this current season, Paul's opportunities to preach were very limited, in this imprisonment season, Paul was still very much doing the will of God, but public preaching was limited, in their place was suffering in a jail cell, waiting for God's open door while scandal brewed all around his life. Just simple endurance was his commission. During this season we can only imagine Paul's desire to write and preach the message he was commissioned to preach. I believe that Paul made the most of this season by using the most powerful weapon available to him, intercessory prayer.
From Paul's life we learn that hiss chains were completely in accordance with God's plan for his life. Paul's chains fell upon him by his emphatic desire to appeal to Caesar in order to gain freedom from the charge of insurrection to Roman supremacy falsely set forth by his old pharisee buddies. As a Roman citizen Paul had rights, he used these rights to promote Christ's kingdom. As a Roman citizen, Paul had the privilege to take his case to the emperor, Caesar. Instead of shrinking back from this call and challenge, Paul pushed the issue to the absolute limit of his being.
In Paul's Roman gambit, he put his life in the hands of His God, he walked in the path set for him by Jesus, a path marked with suffering and human abandonment. Why would a loving God who loves us so passionately put a man like Paul in a place of hardship? If you read with interest Paul's appeal process, you will be astonished at the pain he suffered just because he pressed his case to the meet directly with the emperor of Rome. This kind of effort would meet with several untimely and painful delays, political gamesmanship, and harrowing very narrow near death experiences at sea.
In order to obey the Great Commission of Jesus Christ and to move His kingdom message forward in the world, Paul moved into this kind of trouble without reservation, and so should we. The Lord confirmed his word that Paul would make it alive to Rome. Paul settled on Christ's word. He trusted that God would meet him in time space history and keep him all the way through this incredibly scary journey to Rome, even spending the winter on the open seas and on a half deserted island. At the core of his being Paul embraced his sonship in the Father and his position as an heir of the everlasting kingdom of heaven, and so must we, if we are to endure our days of adversity and hardship to promote Christ's kingdom in times of civil and religious opposition to Christ's message.
In this epic watery journey to Rome, Paul faced with his fellow prisoners and their captors, amazing adversity in the harbors and seas of the Roman empire. By making his case in the manner Paul chose, he selected the path that brought the most exposure to his message, but also increased exponentially his trouble. This kind of adversity was foretold by our Lord when He instructed his disciples to expect trouble and to prepare their hearts not to speak of the own accord, but rather to trust in the Holy Spirit to give them the words the Lord wanted his Spirit led leaders to say to the leaders of the earth realm.
Luke 21:12-15, The Lord's gave us His plan to spread His Word to the leaders of the political and religious structures, “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name's sake. It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. So you will make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute.”
Have you ever had to put this promise to the test? Or have you just glossed over this portion of scripture as irrelevant to you? If we don't assimilate the holy Christ-like attitude of Paul and the other disciples, we will never bring the church of Jesus back to the ancient landmarks of our apostolic heritage. Our sin sick culture and church will continue to languish in unbelief and carnality, and we will never see real sustainable forward movement in the American church.
How did we conveniently let all the adventure associated with the apostolic way stay stuck in the Biblical narrative or church history? Why do we so easily release our minds and hearts to assume that these kinds of adverse situations are for believers located in repressive Muslim nations or in totalitarian regimes? We don't realize that Rome is burning already whether the heat of the fire is seen or felt. The day has come my friends and it is here for us to stand up and face the fact that many days of adversity are ahead, if real change is coming.
The Bible tells us in Prov. 24:10, “if you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” Rejection from your church culture. The ravages of domestic unrest. Separation of from friends and family. Missed opportunities for advancement in your business because of your zealous and sincere faith. Setbacks in your pursuit of temporal comfort just because your committed to the call of God on your life. Strange discord rises up to sully your good reputation. Attacks against your character that you are not able to defend. Disowned by your denominational family. All these types of adversity are forms of resistance designed to prepare us to handle the real adversity associated with being a christian in the days that lie ahead.
In the end, you and I are going to die by some means, why don't we release our minds and bodies to do the will of God? We should be preparing our minds for conflict as soldiers. As soldiers of the cross we are releasing ourselves to do gospel work, no matter the cost, if we fail to prepare our hearts and minds, we will faint in the day of adversity as the text in Proverbs states. Most of us have small strength, but this is not our Lord's desire for us. We need much more strength to face the challenges ahead.
Until we, as American born again believers, get to the point where we put everything else aside and face the Lord in complete honesty and say to the Lord, “whatever it takes,” just lead us to the paths that make the most impact on our needy culture. So much is accomplished in these little offerings of our heartfelt love for God, more then we will ever know here on earth. We are here to inspire a generation to say in the collective, “I will follow you wherever and whenever.” Until this happens, we will not see any change in our culture and in the life of the body of Christ.
On a personal note, the reason I feel such an intimate connection with hardcore music is simple, the music is sincere and honest with our times. The sound picture that these spirit-led artists paint is in-line with our real state. Their heavy sounds are designed to call sinners to Christ with a loud alarm. Our preaching has been dull and lifeless, a new sound is required to instigate the necessary awakening we so desperately need. Most evangelical churches are dead! So in light of this reality, a heavy and hard sound of war is required to wake the dead all around us. The rising generation that dances and jumps for the cause of Christ in the earth are designed to inspire a generation to enter into battle, not sit on the sidelines. Won't you come and join us?
We are not allowed the luxury of raising another consumer generation in the walls of our churches, no more pew sitting believers allowed! We at LLI Fellowship resolve to teach the rising generation while we work with them to build the kingdom. Outside of the walls of what we call church, we seek after those who are lost and broken. We are determined to restore the ruins of the church we are part of in America.
We note quite clearly the pathetic work we have done to recreate a gospel without cost and without adversity. We declare it dead! Shame on us for leading two generations of christians down the path of ease and a spiritual malaise of a false peace. The enemy has reeked havoc while we slept. We must recapture the warrior mentality that was deeply woven into the fabric of 1st century faith. Most of us have to go and dig around the history of scripture to find those who we can say got the point about being a follower of Jesus. Why do we remember so fondly people who have died for Jesus? Because that is the gospel way! You gain your eternal life by losing it!
We see this reality played out so evidently in the account of Paul's intense very long voyage to Rome as represented in Luke's account of the voyage in Acts 27:1 – 28:16. Please take the time to read carefully through this account. If you have experience at sailing it will read like a nautical nightmare. So many hard decisions had to be made by experienced sea captains that turned out bad. The account includes a massive northeaster that blew hurricane strength winds and buffeted a very large ship to the center of the Mediterranean Sea for weeks and weeks. The “Master and Commander” movie could not hold a candle to ins and outs of this tale.
We have much intricate detail that allows us entrance into the account written by the hand of Luke. It is this journey and it's ultimate purpose that have motivated me and my family to face more intently the struggles we are facing to stay in our house and keep our family in clothes and food. The apostle Peter exhorted us in I Pet. 4:1, “Therefore since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.”
To summarize a very long account, our hero Paul was held in prison for two years as a political prisoner. The the newly installed governor of the region, Festus sought to please the Jews in his province by keeping Paul bound and out of public eye. The Jews used their political leverage on Festus to set Paul up for assassination. The plot to kill Paul was uncovered so Festus went to Caesarea to see Paul personally. His pompous arrival was arranged and Paul was released to speak directly to Festus. In Paul's defense, he demanded to be heard by Caesar, Festus responded with these words, “You have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you shall go.” Acts 25:12.
If Paul did not appeal to Caesar, he would have never had to endure a very long and dangerous 1500 mile wild sea journey to Rome. Jesus told his disciples that they would be led to speak before kings and governors for His Name's sake, Paul was led by the Spirit of Christ to speak to kings and governors Christ's words of Kingly authority. Jesus wants all the kings of the earth to bow down now before He comes in power to take full control of all the nations and the entire universe in the age to come.
The words Paul would say to King Agrippa and eventually to Caesar were more powerful then 1000 nuclear missiles. More pervasive then a massive worldwide pandemic. The words that Paul spoke were Holy Spirit words. They still have deep impact on our world today. They inspired the inauguration of the catholic church three centuries later. Inspired the revolution we call The Reformation almost 1500 years later. Led men and women to take major risk in maritime travel to foreign nations to live among savage natives just to spread Christ's message of love and grace to those who have never heard. Paul's words of testimony were and are important to all of us, even to those who refused to believe them.
In all languages the words that were said to King Agrippa and eventually spoken to the ultimate authority of Paul's day, Caesar, literally changed all of history. To Paul this was just a matter of course, all in the way of following the Lord's directive to take the gospel of kingdom to the uttermost parts of the earth. As a servant of that message and as His apostle, Paul went where he was told, no pretense, just a simple obedience. We must recapture this Pauline approach in our day or we will see more decay and idolatry pervade our church.
The journey went as God had arranged it. Paul came out as the leader of this epic voyage to safety. He began the journey as a simple political prisoner with no clout. The pilot of the ship would have died had not Paul been aboard his ship. The seas were so rough that the best ship and the best seamen could not make a way through the storms that fell upon them, but God, using His servant Paul, guided them to safe landing in Italy. Only when things got real bad on the sea did they listen and do what Paul guided them to do to avoid a watery death.
Paul's first words of advice were not heeded, Acts 27:12, they trusted in the experience of the sea captain. As Paul captors faced rough seas and a very large hurricane, they decided it a better choice to listen to God's servant, even though he wasn't a great seaman, just a religious prisoner. It didn't matter how Paul presented God's words to these experienced seamen, for them to listen to this smallish Jewish pharisee, they needed to know what His God was going to allow them to do next. They were trapped in God's powerful grip. Whether Paul spoke of angels or encounters with Jesus of Nazareth, there desperate condition made for an occasion to listen. So it will be for us when circumstances dictate that a calm Spirit-led approach is the only way to safety in times of great uncertainty and danger.
After everyone of the 276 ship's passengers were saved at sea, making their safe landing by floating on pieces of the ship that had run aground a mile from the beaches of Malta, the encounter with danger was not finished. You think surviving horrible storms and cold wintery nights was enough hardship for one voyager, but when our hero of faith was finally safe on the island of Malta, a poisonous viper releases a venomous attack on Paul's arm. Paul shook the viper from his arm and suffers no injury. The natives on this obscure island think him to be an awful criminal because their superstitions lead them to believe that only a criminal would be able to survive a shipwreck and still die on their shores by means of wild encounter with a snake. Our foe, Satan, didn't stop badgering Paul even after so much torment at sea and for so long a time, the enemy of our souls kept coming at Paul, but Paul's God, and ours, continued to supply the answers to every effort of the evil one to destroy Paul and his powerful testimony of God's grace as a minister of the gospel.
We see from the life of Paul that every adversity we face in obedience to God's will, challenges our faith in God's sovereign control of the details of our life. We must realize that in our adversity, the Lord will make an occasion to testify of the power of God's grace in us and declare His power over all other powers in the world. When we see a world at war. Another version of the Bubonic Plague. The impending destruction of nuclear war. Anarchy in our streets. Economic devastation, we must know that our adversity is happening within the boundaries of God's supreme care and control over our lives and in the plan to promote the kingdom of His Son.
It is assured that in the way of obedience we will face much adversity. But we face our adversities in God, and with God. The intent of our adversities is not to ruin us, but to raise us up with Him and present us spotless in that day when all men will face most preeminently the reality of Jesus Christ presence and power face-to-face. What a day that will be. Face the Lord today and give him your heart, no matter what happens, stay glued to Him. As you endure by faith, you never know how powerful your simple public endurance in your day of adversity might reshape human history, Paul did not have a clue how impactful his appeal to Caesar would reshape the world he would soon leave behind.
In : Spiritual Warfare
Tags: adversity spiritual growth god jesus paul prisoner