When exactly did hard times stop being fertile ground for God?
Has there ever been anything good in human history that wasn’t birthed through trauma?
Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not praying for tribulation here! I don’t ‘like things difficult’ any more than anyone else does.
The Bible doesn’t advise us to go looking for hardships any more than go running after pleasures. We’re simply told not to fear the first or love the second.
When we give Him first place, blessing doesn’t corrupt and affliction doesn’t destroy.
‘Seek God with all your heart!’ is what the Scriptures teach. When we give Him first place, blessing doesn’t corrupt and affliction doesn’t destroy.
Our goal is to run after Him and pursue the things that please the Father. The moment we veer from that path, blessings bring problems; but when God comes first, even afflictions produce blessing. Every time.
Regardless of the source of suffering – leave that one for another day – when we know the Redeemer, not only the outcome but even the journey become a fertile valley of hope and joy. Hardships, earned or unearned, have a way of weaving us into, and weaving into us, God’s great redemption narrative.
In 2020, I marvelled at how incredibly adaptive and resilient the church of Jesus Christ is. Put the true body of Christ anywhere and it will come out on top. Somehow. Drop an ocean on top of our heads and we will, with equal and opposite force, come springing up through the surface. Somewhere.
There’s a spiritual law at work: “… Christ in you, the hope of glory!”
The church doesn’t just survive ‘impossible’ odds; it thrives when counted out, and bounces back with interest.
History has demonstrated, again and again, that the church doesn’t just survive ‘impossible’ odds; it thrives when counted out, and bounces back with interest. The drag-back turns out to be the pre-launch. Dowse the flame here and it leaps up over there. Squeezing and compression create nuclear fusion …
Metaphors from the natural world are endless.
No Christian should be surprised by the unstop-ability of the church of Jesus Christ for two main reasons. Let’s have them in reverse order: second, Jesus said His church would overcome Hell’s best; and first, it’s Jesus Himself who is building this thing.
That which is truly alive in Him will not only continue to live but to beget life.
Not just regardless but, most spectacularly, when subjected to the most hostile forces.
“God seems to have incorporated into life the ability to ‘find a way’“.Alan McCarrick
Commenting on the evolutionary phenomenon of ‘adaptive mutation’, whereby organisms change or mutate in order to survive, Christian scientist Alan McCarrick, said, “God seems to have incorporated into life the ability to ‘find a way’”.
God’s creation is remarkably adaptable. I’ll never forget my amazement as a 19 year-old in Italy when, for the first time, I saw a firefly produce its own glow at night – ‘bioluminescence’ is the big word scientists have reduced it to. If you mate at night and you need light to attract a mate, then you just have to produce your own light! If evolutionists have come to expect this, how much more should we who believe in the One who first spoke into utter darkness and said, “Let there be light!”
How about the wings of an eagle in the storm, the same storm that drives all else to shelter accelerating the eagle’s lift to greater heights? Or the cactus that turns the desert into a watering hole?
Unfortunately, I was never the best buyer of flowers for my wife. So Barbara’s smiling response was understandably one of ‘Well, at least he tried’ when I once brought her home … a cactus plant. My creative excuse was, “This reminded me of how well you do in difficult circumstances!”
Seriously, though, the cactus is an amazing plant. Find it in a desert with nothing but sand and sun, not another living thing in sight. It survives, grows and reproduces in the most unnatural of habitats. Its roots stretch out just below the surface so that when it rains (once a year being quite sufficient) it absorbs and stores water instantly, its waxy stem a waterproof to keep moisture in not out. Amazing.
The apostle Paul said, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
“And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.”Apostle Paul in lockdown
For Paul, becoming a follower of Christ was not so much a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card as a prison pass; a ticket to the kind of hostile terrain where apostles flourish and apostolic communities multiply. His jails became venues for new audiences; platforms from which to model fearlessness to the churches he inspired; writing rooms to pen epistles that have become foundational to the churches we lead two thousand years on – who knows that his two-year Roman lockdown wasn’t the most productive period of his entire ministry?
Yes, he had seasons of abundance too, but Paul saw famine and plenty alike merely as different types of opportunity for the Gospel. Christ was the treasure he was seeking, and sometimes He was best found in what Paul described as “the fellowship of His sufferings.” Jesus has always been present in fair weather and foul. Whether in life or death, it was all a win-win for Paul!
Paul never survived hardship; he totally exploited it.
Paul never survived hardship; he totally exploited it. Physical confinement, state opposition, material lack, religious persecution, personal treachery, character assassination … they were all part of his natural habitat, a fertile place for him and the church he led to live, grow and multiply. He used all of these circumstances as literal and metaphorical travel corridors to ‘regions beyond’.
If this Corona virus pandemic, perhaps more ‘Braxton Hick’ than labour pain proper in the catalogue of end-time events, has done anything, surely it has drawn us closer to the less cosseted world within which the entire New Testament was written and becomes most relevant to the reader. The church in our so-called ‘More Developed Countries’ may not be there yet, but perhaps this past year has brought us a step nearer to the confinement from which Paul wrote these words: “… I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel.”
 John 16:33.
 II Timothy 3:4.
 Colossians 1:27, NASB.
 Matthew 16:18.
 McCarrick, A (1998), https://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/1998/PSCF3-98McCarrick.html, Directed or Adaptive Mutation, The American Scientific Affiliation: Science in Christian Perspective.
 Genesis 1:2-3.
 Philippians 4:11-13, NASB.
 Acts 28:30-31.
 Philippians 3:10, NASB.
 Philippians 1:21-24.
 Philippians 1:12, NASB.