overcoming adversity

Adversity – don’t be surprised!

“For a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” 1 Corinthians 16:9 (ESV)

Adversity is a fact of life, even in the best of times. I love this verse penned by the Apostle Paul when he was in Ephesus, because it encourages us to keep things in perspective. Just when things seem perfect the phone rings, it starts to rain, something breaks, someone is disgruntled or you have a health scare. Open doors of blessing are often accompanied by adversity. But in spite of the opposition Paul ran into there in Ephesus, he was unshaken in his resolve, made the most of his opportunity, actually stayed there two years and planted arguably the greatest church in all of his journeys.

The Apostle Peter who had the amazing opportunity of living with and observing Jesus’ handling of adversity wrote “since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had and be ready to suffer.” (1 Peter 4:1) Dealing successfully with adversity, especially when it seems to come at the most inopportune times, requires having an attitude or mindset that is always prepared to overcome it. Jesus himself said “in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)

That kind of overcoming attitude is absolutely essential if we are going to navigate the winds and waves of life. And no where have I learned that more graphically than as a neophyte sailor. Less than a month ago I was in the Caribbean on a sailboat. My cousin and I rented a thirty-two foot boat for eight days and set off for the bucket list adventure that even Jack Sparrow would envy. Our dream was to spend sun-kissed days sailing and snorkeling while exploring the history rich British Virgin Islands. Columbus discovered them on his second voyage in 1493 and they are where all the infamous pirates roamed and raided ships for centuries in the Sir Francis Drake Channel.

It did not take me long to realize however, that even though I was on vacation I had better not lay aside my overcoming attitude because being in paradise does not necessarily guarantee paradise being in you. Navigating a sailboat in unfamiliar waters, six foot rollers and steady 15-20 knot winds has a way of bringing that reality home very quickly, especially for an inland water sailor. In spite of wide open seas there are still pirates of adversity lurking there to despoil even the most virtuous sailor of his dream vacation.

One stark realization was that spring break makes March the busiest month of the year for sailing in the BVI. There were sailboats, catamarans and huge yachts of all sizes and shapes everywhere and that made for stiff competition in claiming a mooring ball to anchor at night, no matter which island cove you choose as your destination. Unfortunately it made everyday a race to the next island anchorage, because if your boat had not tied up to the rope floating from a mooring ball by 11 am you were out of luck.

The first day, with a late start from the marina we arrived at Norman Island, where Robert Lewis Stevenson, cast his novel Treasure Island, at five o’clock. God had mercy on us and heard our prayers and we found one mooring ball unclaimed, it was literally a miracle. The next day we did a short sail to another side of the island and claimed a ball by 10 am in a beautiful setting right near a reef for snorkeling. Praise God.

The third day was a different story. We had mapped out a long sail, half-way up the channel to a picturesque spot on Cooper Island. Leaving at day break we hoped to arrive by eleven, sailing conditions were favorable and we reached the Island as planned. But by then the weather had taken a turn for the worse with dark cloudy skies, pouring rain and 20 knot winds blowing off shore. We immediately began the hunt among all the anchored boats for a mooring ball. We were waved off the first two mooring balls we found by someone on shore shouting that they were reserved.

After a somewhat frantic search we finally found one ball unoccupied. As I approached it my one man crew was on the bow with a six foot aluminum pole ready to hook the rope. Somehow the pole got wrenched from his hand and started floating away. With no pole we could not secure a ball. He made his way back to the stern where I was and we decided he would have to take the dinghy to chase it down. In the rain, wind and panic of the moment the dinghy rope got caught in the prop of the dinghy outboard. Before long the dinghy was floating away with him in it, the pole was floating away with our chance for a mooring and my hope was floating away as I sought to keep the sailboat from running aground or hitting another boat.

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No Problem

“No problem! No problem!” Ah if only it were true.

In some settings that phrase is a tip off that the person who utters it isn’t really telling you the whole truth. It is code for “I can do this, but it is more difficult than I imagined and as a result it could take more time and cost more money than originally planned.”

In other settings, coming from the lips of believers, it is a statement of faith and an assurance that God is in control.

Years ago I was on a ministry trip to East Africa. For me the most nerve wracking, faith testing aspect of my entire time there was traveling from place to place in my host’s small four door sedan. Every day before we climbed into the car I made it a practice in my mind to race down the aisle, fling myself at the foot of the altar, beg for God’s mercy and get saved all over again.

The driver, bless his heart, often became more engaged in conversation than in keeping his eyes on the road. The roads were narrow and flooded with traffic, especially huge road hogging, diesel exhaust belching trucks. Their only semblance toMinnesotaroads were that they were cratered with potholes like ours after a brutal winter. To top it off the car was old and had bald, threadbare tires.

Being the generous person that I am, I decided that I would buy my hosts a new set of treads. We found a place where they sold tires and at my urging sought to purchase the tires and have them mounted post haste. When the man at the shop said “no problem” I rejoiced. Inwardly I was feeling a tremendous sense of relief knowing that a major source of my stress was about to be eliminated. I should have known better. As we climbed back into the car my host explained to me that there was indeed no problem in getting the tires. It was just that they did not have them in stock but could get them within four or five days. Oh joy!

As it turned out we had a flat tire the next day while journeying out into the bush. There was no spare. No problem! Thankfully we were close to the home of my host’s parents. There we were able to spend the night and the next morning one of the men walked 20 miles carrying the flat tire to a place where he could get it fixed.

I have learned to love the faith of Christians who take the “no problem” approach to life’s hardships. There is much we can learn from those believers who have learned to trust God, roll with the punches, declare “no problem” and then see what God is going to do

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3 Lessons from the Life of Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple passed away this week. His worldwide impact as a computer entrepreneur and innovator is well documented. As a corporate leader he was admired not only for his genius but also for his determination in the face of the adversity that marked his life.

Yesterday, my intrigue about his life caused me to stumble onto an online video of a Stanford University commencement address he gave in 2005, following his first bout with the cancer that eventually took his life. In that address, Steve told three stories from his personal life while extracting three overarching principles that guided his life. Although in the past I had heard and seen references to that address, I had never sat down and watched it from start to finish.

It was short, all of about fifteen minutes, but it blew my socks off. And here is why. This side of heaven, we do not have any indication Steve was a Christian and whatever religious leanings he had are tied to Zen Buddhism. However, the things that Steve conveyed are truths that could have been lifted from the pages of the Bible. God is obviously the author of truth and examining Steve’s address from a Christian perspective is instructive. As I listened, I could not help but acknowledge that the power and conviction of such a message should be on the lips and demonstrated in the life of every Christian.

Now it is important to interject that these life principles, embraced apart from a relationship with Jesus Christ lack His resurrection power and promised redemption. But viewed from a Christian perspective and tied to New Testament “Life” principles these truths are the doorway to discovering and fulfilling God’s eternal purposes for our lives.

And so here are the three Christianized lessons from the life of Steve Jobs.

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3 lessons from the blizzard

The storm of the decade hit the Midwest with a vengeance on Saturday. Blowing winds and nearly two feet of snow inundated the Twin Cities deflating not only the the Metrodome roof but everyone’s plans for the weekend. Storms have a way of getting our attention and testing our hearts.

Job knew something about storms. He was battered by the storms of life including a tornado that killed all his children and a lightning storm that incinerated all his sheep and all his servants. If that were not enough, he also had to endure the chilling blasts of incessant condemnation from his so-called friends. It was fitting therefore that in the end, God chose to speak to him in a storm rather than through a still small voice like He did with Elijah. (Job 40:6)

Some things are only communicated clearly through storms. Storms have a way of getting our attention because they disrupt our lives. God speaks to us in many ways through storms. (Psalm 29:3-9) Most importantly He uses stormy trials in our lives to reveal what is in our hearts. (Deuteronomy 8:3)

Storms bring out the good, the bad and the ugly in people.

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