I had coffee with a pastor friend of mine this morning and we started talking about adversity. I happen to be currently involved in helping several folks who are struggling and the jury is out as to how they will react to their current circumstances. Janet and I have had quite a bit of education in this area, as we were in the midst of tough situations about 10 years ago. Admittedly, it hits a little close to home when I deal with these kinds of problems, but then again, I am sure that God had a purpose when he put us through our trials.
In fact, it was December 15, 2005 when we were struggling the most. I sat for my oral exams in my doctoral work that day and we had just made the mortgage payment on the way to my final defense for my degree. I can remember it like it was yesterday. Thankfully, I had just completed several assignments for a local company that paid me more in one week than I had made in the entire year up to that point. Not that I was paid well for the several days that I worked, but I wasn’t able to find part time work the rest of the year other than conducting funerals and weddings at $150 each.
Janet and I were down and out. And when you struggle like we did, there are only several ways that a person responds. First of all, you can get angry at God or anyone else who is around and lash out in anger. Or, you can curl up and protect yourself from the outside world and discontinue communications with others. Most people choose one of these two options. But there is a third way to respond – with an open palms up attitude imploring God to teach you in your adversity and to use that period in your life for good. Thankfully, that’s the way that Janet and I looked at our issues. She has always been a woman of great faith, having much more faith than I had, and Janet never questioned that God would be glorified in our adversity.
Too often, people choose anger or withdrawal and those options almost never advance the kingdom of God on earth. Assuming you can get past the adversity, as we did, that leads to a building of character. Having successfully navigated adversities, a person develops a stronger backbone and this makes the person less vulnerable to adversity in the future. This stronger character leads to a lifestyle filled with integrity and will, over time, cause others to notice, and even possibly emulate, a healthier character in those who have sustained and overcome problems in their lives.
Oddly, once adversity is in the past, character has grown and integrity has become a way of life, the final stage of the process is spiritual authority. Now I don’t mean that you are automatically ordained or that people will flock to your door to hear words of wisdom, but I do wish to convey that people who have trusted God and overcome adverse conditions are generally seen to be good folks to consult in the area of spiritual authority.
By this I mean that they convey a tone of sincerity, authenticity and humility. Because they know that the battles that have been fought and won are a direct result of God’s intervention. Sometimes, we all go through things that are messy and scary. But the more you can trust God to get you through, the more your testimony and witness will be found to be attractive to others. Before you know it, people will be asking for counsel and advise for issues they are facing in their own lives. Therein lies the increase in spiritual authority.
That becomes a sacred trust. Because most people want to have a stronger faith. They just don’t know how to do it. And I can let you in on a little secret about that part of it. Faith is a gift from God. You and I can’t increase our own faith – we must pray for increased faith. Faith is a gift from God and the more faith we have, the greater our ability to overcome adversity, improve our character, increase our integrity and command spiritual authority.
I guess I never really thought about the cycle that leads others to come to us for advice. But it is a real privilege to have that honor and one that we must, as Christians, not take lightly. The whole purpose of spiritual authority is to build up the body of Christ. The verse for tonight is from Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians. We are told, in 2 Cor. 10:8, “For even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than pulling you down, I will not be ashamed of it.” Paul knew that authority was God given.
My encouragement this evening is to let you know that God will grant each of us spiritual authority consistent with how we overcome adversity, advance our character and build our integrity. My prayer is that when that authority comes in your life, that you will use it will all humility; remembering that it is a sacred trust given to you by God. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…