Category: Responding to Adversity

Shunammite Woman Overcomes Adversity

Compassion, Faith, and Persistent Prayer

The Shunammite woman’s compassion for a stranger led her to man of God Elisha, who prayed for her so she was blessed with a son. Later, when the son died unexpectedly, her unwavering faith and persistent prayer by Elisha restored the son to life. Subsequently, she lost her home and land while living abroad to escape a seven-year famine. However, all her losses and more were restored because she was a living testimony of Elisha’s work. On two occasions she lost something she treasured but her loss was restored in full each time because of unwavering faith and persistent prayer.

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We continue our study series on Responding to Adversity with a discussion of interactions between the Shunammite woman and Prophet Elisha, among other (third-party) participants. The interactions began with the woman’s compassion toward a stranger that turned out to be Prophet Elisha and continued with the woman receiving an unexpected but welcome blessing through the birth of a son.

Map showing Shunem and Mt Carmel
Map showing Shunem and Mt Carmel
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However, the blessing appeared to turn into adversity when the son died after a brief illness. She responded with unwavering faith that she expressed in part by seeking out Elisha at Mount Carmel and insisting that he return to his “sanctuary” at her home in Shunem to ensure her son was restored to life. Elisha obliged, returned to the sanctuary, and prayed persistently until the child came back to life.

Several years later, the woman lost her home and land when she and her household relocated to a foreign land to escape a seven-year famine. However, when the king realized she was a living testimony of Elisha’s work (the woman whose son was restored from death), he ordered full restoration of everything she lost while she was away. Therefore, on two different occasions, the Shunammite woman lost something she treasured but the loss was restored in full because of her unwavering faith, human effort, and persistent prayer.

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Divine Favor—Mordecai Triumphs Over Adversity

Mordecai and Esther Win Deliverance for their People

Mordecai’s triumph over adversity started with King Xerxes recognizing that intense hatred by his second in command Haman resulted in a decree to annihilate Jews, including Esther, his queen. The king also recalled that Mordecai, a lowly attendant at his palace gate, foiled an assassination plot against him but was never rewarded for the courageous act. He ordered Haman executed, elevated Mordecai to second in command, and issued a decree that empowered Jews with the right of self defense. All these occurred in one evening, but started years earlier by Mordecai raising his orphaned cousin as his daughter, reporting an assassination plot against the king, and refusing to worship Haman—all because he lived according to his commitment to worship and serve God in all circumstances, even in adversity.

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Celebrating Mordecai: king's second in command
Celebrating Mordecai: 2nd to king
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Mordecai overcame adversity because of unwavering commitment to worship and serve God in all circumstances. He endured hardship due to living in captivity, modest economic conditions, and a conspiracy against him and his people that was hatched in reaction to his refusal to compromise worship. While living through the hardship, he raised his orphaned cousin as his own daughter and guided her to become the queen of the land; reported an assassination plot against the king and earned recorded credit for the report; and refused to worship Haman, an agent of the king that people honored in a way that connoted worship. Mordecai’s refusal to worship Haman triggered a sequence of events that initially increased the scope and intensity of his adversity but ultimately led him to overcoming the adversity.

As we discuss in a previous bible study under Finding the Bigger Picture in Adversity, Haman reacted to Mordecai’s “disobedience” by issuing a decree under the authority of the king to annihilate all Jews on a chosen date. The decree became law through all 127 provinces under King Xerxes. Jews protested and mourned everywhere. Mordecai protested at the king’s gate until he convinced his stepdaughter Queen Esther to appeal to the king against the annihilation order.

Concerned about going to king uninvited
Concerned about going to king uninvited
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Queen Esther initially was reluctant to appeal to the king because she was concerned about violating a law against visiting the king uninvited, which could attract punishment by death. However, Mordecai redirected her to see the request as an opportunity to use her royal access to appeal the annihilation order and maybe win deliverance for her people. Having thus seen the bigger picture, she called for prayer and fasting and vowed to appeal to the king even if it meant the ultimate punishment [Esther 4:16]: “And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”

Esther’s appeal to the king was successful. The conspiracy against Jews was overturned. Another decree was published on the king’s authority that gave Jews the right to assemble, protect themselves, and destroy their enemy. Thus, Mordecai’s refusal to worship Haman triggered an event sequence whereby he triumphed over the conspiracy against him and his people, defeated his enemies, and overcame poverty. This study focuses on Queen Esther’s appeal and Mordecai’s triumph over adversity as a result.

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Finding the Bigger Picture in Adversity

Example from Mordecai-Esther Interaction—
Understanding Adversity through Bigger Picture

Queen Esther initially was reluctant to honor Mordecai’s request that she appeal to the king against an edict to annihilate Jews. She feared violating a law against visiting the king uninvited, which could attract punishment by death. However, Mordecai redirected her to see the request as an opportunity to use her royal access to appeal the annihilation order and win deliverance for her people. Having thus seen the bigger picture, she called for prayer and fasting and vowed to appeal to the king even if it meant the ultimate punishment: “And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”

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We continue the study series on Responding to Adversity with focus on Mordecai’s life in captivity. We examine his life during the period in terms of three interactions. As we discuss in a previous study under Living in the Image of God through Adversity—Example from Mordecai, the interactions underscore Mordecai’s commitment to worship and serve God and living to uphold the commitment even in adversity. Also, the interactions triggered event sequences that coalesced to propel Mordecai over his adversity.

The interactions are: (1) he raised his uncle’s orphan daughter as his, (2) reported an assassination plot against the king, and (3) refused to worship an agent of the king even while facing a threat of execution for his refusal. As we discuss in the previous study, he not only raised the daughter but guided her to winning a contest to become the new queen of the land. Also, her position as queen cleared the way for Mordecai to report an assassination plot that he uncovered and earn recorded credit for the report.

Worshiping Haman
Worshiping Haman
theglorystory.com freebibleimages.org

This study focuses on events that arose from the third interaction: Mordecai had declined to honor king’s agent Haman because the type of honor demanded of him conveyed connotation of worship. He would not perform the act of honor because it would violate his commitment to worship God, and only God. His refusal to worship Haman ignited an event sequence that initially caused his adversity to grow in scope and intensity before ultimately leading him to triumph over the adversity.

 

 

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Living in the Image of God through Adversity

Example from Mordecai—
Worshiping and Serving God Even in Adversity

Mordecai’s interactions with others show he was committed to worship and serve God, determined what the commitment meant in every situation, and interacted in a way to uphold his commitment. He did this while facing severe adversity due to being the descendant of a captive exile in Babylon. In a subsequent study we show that living in the image of God in spite of his adversity propelled him to triumph over the adversity.

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We continue our study series on Responding to Adversity with a sub series on Mordecai, descendant of one of the Jews that fell captive to Nebuchadnezzar and lived in Babylon as exiles for several decades. We examine Mordecai’s life in captivity, focusing on adverse circumstances that befell him and three interactions with others as he lived through the adversity. We discuss the interactions to show how they relate to the meaning of a commitment to worship and serve God. Further, in subsequent studies under the sub series on Mordecai, we highlight how the interactions triggered event sequences that coalesced to lead him to triumph over his adversity.

The sub series helps us understand the life of Mordecai as an example of living in the image of God through adversity and lifting over the adversity as a result.

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David Proclaims Civil Rights Principle

Responding to Adversity—
Base Burnt, Flocks and Families in Captivity

We discuss a biblical event to illustrate that God could use adversity to guide a person to greater purpose. The adversity of follower families taken captive from his base led David to an opportunity to enunciate principles of basic civil rights and responsibilities. To respond to the adversity, he sought and received direction from God, pursued and caught up with the raiders, defeated them in a battle, and recovered everything and people taken from his base. Also, as he worked toward the rescue, he evaluated and disposed of issues as they arose; such as letting two hundred of his men that were exhausted return to base while four hundred continued in the pursuit. By so doing, he set the stage for resolving a dispute on sharing battle proceeds, which led to his ruling on civil rights and responsibilities.

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An adversity could present opportunities for greater accomplishment. We discuss an example in David’s rescue of follower families captured from his base by a raiding party. The rescue led him to define basis for civil rights and responsibilities while settling a dispute on sharing battle proceeds among his people.

Recovered all plus more
Recovered all plus more
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David and his men had left their base in Philistine territory to present themselves to fight alongside their Philistine host. However, the Philistines refused their offer and asked them to return to their base. On their return, they found their base raided, burnt, and plundered and their families taken captive by the raiders. David sought and received God’s direction, pursued and caught up with the raiders, defeated them in a fierce battle, recovered all that was taken from his base including family members, and took additional plunder. Subsequently, the plunder opened an opportunity for David. To settle a dispute among his people on sharing the plunder, he made a ruling that became a lasting foundation for the interpretation of basic civil rights and responsibilities.

The study provides opportunity for increased understanding that God may use an adversity to guide a person toward greater purpose. Therefore, seek his direction in every adversity. He establishes a way to communicate with every person and will respond to guide you if you seek his direction. Recognizing potential opportunities in an adversity will motivate a person to respond positively by seeking direction from God to defeat the adversity and any temptation that it might represent.

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Temptation through Adversity

Understanding Adversity—Lesson from Job

The experience of Job indicates that recognizing adversity as an attack from the devil is an important step in seeking God’s guidance and direction and ultimately defeating the adversity and the temptation that it represents. If a person lives in the image of God, representing God among other people and fulfilling his/her responsibilities as God’s provider assistant, then an adversity in the person’s life is more likely a temptation instead of punishment for wrongdoing. We learn from Job’s experience that the appropriate response is to declare war against the devil by renewing your commitment to worship and serve God.

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We begin a bible study series on Responding to Adversity, with intention to study events and personalities described in the bible to gain insight into what a Christian should do when facing adversity. The current study examines the temptation of Job to expand understanding of the nature of adversity. Job was an upright, blameless, and successful man: “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” [Job 1:1]. Yet, he suddenly came under a storm of adversity that included losing his children and every earthly possession.

Lost all in quick succession
Lost all in quick succession
The Glory Story | freebibleimages.org

Job’s experience indicates adversity may befall anyone, even a person that has done nothing wrong. His adversity was a temptation whereby the devil attempted to pull him away from God by destroying his earthly comfort and happiness: “But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face” [Job 1:11]. God permitted the devil to tempt Job within a wide but limited scope: “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person” [Job 1:12]. Therefore, we learn from this account that God protects us from temptation but may permit the devil to tempt a person. The devil may in that case choose how to tempt the person. He chose to rain adversity on Job in the study example.

Recognizing adversity as temptation will affect how a person responds. Because Job was upright and blameless, he most likely recognized the adversity as temptation and, thus responded by focusing on his relationship with God and leaving it all with him in prayer [Job 1:21]: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Also, we have encountered previous studies that showed adversity as a springboard to launch a person onto another phase of life with opportunities of great significance. Notable examples include the experience of Joseph in Joseph Called to Mission and Ruth in Ruth Joins Naomi, among several others. There also are cases of adversity befalling a person as punishment for wrongdoing: a possible example being the revolt in David’s family during his reign as king of Israel in Absalom Rises Against His Father David.

Surrender at feet of God
Surrender at feet of God
The Glory Story | freebibleimages.org

This study focuses on the experience of Job to learn that adversity may befall a person as temptation at pulling the person away from God. Recognizing the adversity as such will help fortify the person to respond by relying more on his/her relationship with God. A person that lives in the image of God (e.g., Job’s reputation as upright and blameless) will more likely recognize an adversity as temptation, instead of punishment for some wrongdoing. Thus, he/she will be better prepared to respond positively.

 

 

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