We all face various levels of distress, trouble, and hardship. Today, we look at five ways to overcome adversity, no matter the source.
Yesterday during prayer, I saw a vision of a paved, mountainous road completely covered with huge boulders. Many people attempted to navigate the road, pain-stakingly climbing over boulder after boulder. Fatigued and weary, some had already given up. Their garments hung torn from their frail bodies, exposing scaped arms and legs. Then I saw sand being poured out over the boulders, filling in the crevices between the rocks and making the road smooth. Although the boulders remained, the road became easily passable.
Through the vision God showed me the plight of many people — weary from struggle, battered from their efforts, and on the verge of giving up. Perhaps, you face similar circumstances. The road ahead seems too rough and your strength too little.
From Genesis to Revelation, we read of many people who also faced insurmountable odds. Their examples continue to speak encouragement to us all.
#1 Stand in Battle
As Christians, we fight a real battle against a real enemy who attempts to slow or stop our progress. He comes to steal, kill, and destroy at every level. As Christ followers, we position ourselves with others on the battlefield, not on a relaxing sunny beach.
Paul encouraged young Timothy,
“Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.”
2 Timothy 2:3-4
Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:9-13, and Luke 4:1-13, all record Satan’s attack on Jesus to destroy His mission before He even began. Jesus stood His ground. His only weapon was the Word of God.
“Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.”
Luke uses the Greek word apeste for “left him,” meaning “retreat, desert, or remove.” I love that! Jesus stood His ground until the enemy turned tail and ran! Immediately, angels moved in to minister to Jesus. As the devil fled the scene, God figuratively poured sand over the rugged road for Jesus to walk upon.
At the end of his life, the mighty warrior and military leader, Joshua, declared,
“Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” Joshua 23:14
In the vision, some people were sitting on the rocks their heads bent in defeat. Others were standing on the boulders. They appeared to be immobilized — uncertain whether to go back or move forward.
Most of us have heard or seen illustrations of people giving up just before they uncover a treasure, or on the edge of breakthrough. But when we are the ones broken and weary, perseverance seems trite or even cruel.
“Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.”
2 Timothy 2:5
Every successful athlete undergoes strict training. Few, if any, athletes enjoy the discipline required. They all look to the end goal — “the victor’s crown,” a gold metal, a personal best, public recognition, or reward. And so, they persevere through arduous training, preparing themselves physically and psychologically to excel.
Perseverance perfectly describes both athletes and Christians, who give continued effort to achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition.
As we overcome adversity through perseverance, God pours more sand upon our path, smoothing our way.
#3 Choose Joy
Jesus again becomes our prime example.
“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of fath. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
No one will ever undergo what Jesus endured. Words fail to define the fullness of what He bore as He carried the weight of every sin committed to set humanity free and declared righteous before Holy God.
How did He do it? With joy! In joy! Through joy!
During times when my boulders, though small by comparison, seemed insurmountable, as I chose joy, God poured sand upon my path, creating a way to press through rough territory and eventually overcome. Joy is a choice — a decision of the will. In Christ, joy becomes a viable option.
Paul wrote to a church under extreme persecution the following words:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
#4 Focus Forward
In the vision, the people near the beginning clawed their way up the rocks inch by inch. While further along, others took giant leaps of faith from one boulder to another. I feared they would miss the mark and become wedged between the boulders. Yet, they moved with a capacity beyond natural ability. More often than not, as they leapt forward sand filled the chasms between the boulders. Even their misses weren’t fatal. Solid ground appeared beneath them, enabling them to more easily ascend the boulders.
No longer focused on the boulders, their gaze fixed on the bigness of God. Rather than the adversity, they looked to the God possibility ahead. Perhaps, these are the ones Jeremiah spoke about,
“I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.”
#5 Take Courage
As more and more sand filled the gaps and covered the rocks, the boulders became completely concealed beneath the sand. The road, once cluttered and impassable now became level. Not smooth black pavement but soft pliable sand softened the travellers’ footsteps.
These now walked unhindered with confidence and boldness. They knew, beyond a doubt, God enabled every step. He was with them.
As Joshua assumed leadership, replacing Moses, Moses commanded him,
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
To overcome adversity, we must possess an abiding assurance and an unwavering awareness, that God is with us. The same miracle-moving God who parted the Red Sea walks with us. God, who empowered people of old to overcome, works the impossible on our behalf. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead, lives in us.
In the vision, the forerunners, those who were making the most progress, encouraged those who followed as they pressed ahead. The weak drew strength from the strong. The fearful found hope in the courageous. Confused travellers regained direction from the focused leaders.
No matter what “boulders” you are attempting to overcome, may Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians encourage you.
“My heart is always full and overflowing with thanks to God for you as I constantly remember you in my prayers. I pray that the Father of glory, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, would impart to you the riches of the Spirit of wisdom and the Spirit of revelation to know him through your deepening intimacy with him. I pray that the light of God will illuminate the eyes of your imagination, flooding you with light, until you experience the full revelation of the hope of his calling — that is, the wealth of God’s glorious inheritances that he finds in us, his holy ones! I pray that you will continually experience the immeasurable greatness of God’s power made available to you through faith. Then your lives will be an advertisement of this immense power as it works through you! This is the mighty power that was released when God raised Christ from the dead and exalted him to the place of highest honor and supreme authority in the heavenly realm! And now he is exalted as first above every ruler, authority, government, and realm of power in existence! He is gloriously enthroned over every name that is ever praised, not only in this age, but in the age that is coming!”**********
Ephesians 1:16-21 TPT