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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
While living in Babylon as captive, Daniel won respect and admiration of many and served three generations of kings in high positions. He was reputed to have the Spirit of God and superior human excellence and as upright and thorough in his conduct of public affairs. He accomplished all these through unwavering commitment to worship and serve God and living in accordance with the commitment even while facing adversity.
Five testimonies in the book of Daniel provide for understanding Daniel’s life in captivity in terms of his unwavering commitment to worship and serve God, how the commitment affected his day to day human interactions, and the reputation that grew about him as a result. He was brought to Babylon as a captive under King Nebuchadnezzar, was appointed a king’s adviser after three years, and served three generations of kings at high positions. During the period, people believed he had the Spirit of God in him, had more knowledge and wisdom than any other person, and was upright and thorough in his conduct of public affairs.
The first testimony arises from events that occurred early in his life in captivity, when he recognized a conflict with his commitment to worship God while being respectful and obedient to the king and functionaries. He negotiated a resolution of the conflict so he could respect and obey the king and his staff without violating his commitment to worship and serve God. The second testimony arises from the king’s demand for someone to interpret his dream but first retell the dream to demonstrate competence in dream interpretation. Daniel recognized the task was beyond normal human competence and invoked the power of God to satisfy the king’s demand.
The other three testimonies were given publicly by highly placed people as part of their interactions with or about Daniel. One testimony was given by King Nebuchadnezzar as he explained his relying on Daniel to interpret a second dream. God revealed to Nebuchadnezzar through the dream that he would be banished to the animal kingdom until he recognized that “… the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses” [Daniel 4:25]. The other testimony was given by the queen of Belshazzar (Nebuchadnezzar’s successor) to calm the king of his fright from a strange writing that appeared on a wall in his palace. She informed him there was a man Daniel in his kingdom with a reputation of understanding and interpreting such mystery. The third testimony in this category was given by a group of administrators and provincial governors under King Darius (2nd successor after Nebuchadnezzar). The group had conspired to raise charges against Daniel to dissuade Darius from setting him up as a chief administrator over the whole kingdom, second only to the king. They searched his several decades of public service but could not find any basis for a conspiracy: “…They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent” [Daniel 5:4]. Finally, they said of Daniel: “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God” [Daniel 6:5].
We discuss these testimonies as basis for an understanding that Daniel thrived in a foreign land despite the adversity of being a captive, because he was committed to worshiping and serving God and lived a life based on the commitment. He lived the commitment through his interactions with people—both ordinary people and those in authority—in his day to day life and his conduct of public affairs. The testimonies provide evidence of his reputation as one with the Spirit of God, more knowledgeable and wise than any other, and upright and thorough in his conduct of public affairs.
Joseph’s father sent him on an errand to check on his brothers and the flock and report their conditions back to him. However, the errand happened to be God’s call to Joseph to undertake a special mission to Egypt: to prepare a sanctuary for the young nation of Israel to survive a severe famine, prosper, and multiply into a great nation. Neither Joseph nor his father recognized the call at the time. God delivered the message by prompting his father to send him on the fateful errand. Also, we learn that God may allow adversity as a channel for effecting a positive change for a person. The person will be in better position to realize the change by remaining steadfast in living in the image of God despite hurting from the adversity.
We continue our study series on parent child relationships focused initially on understanding that God sends messages to children through their parents. In previous sessions, we looked at examples in which the message was clear to the parent. In the Call of Samuel, for example, Eli eventually understood that God wanted to speak to Samuel and instructed him on how to respond. Similarly, each of the examples under Instruction to Parent for Child looked at a clear instruction to a parent to implement something for a child. The current study, in contrast, looks at an example in which the message was delivered as part of normal parent-child interaction with neither the parent nor the child knowing at the time that this was a message from God. We recognize the message today because of the benefit of hindsight based on accounts in the bible.
The example is drawn from the life of Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob (also known as Israel). His father sent him on what appeared like an ordinary errand to go and check on his senior brothers tending flock in the field.
However, later events indicate that God used the errand to call Joseph to a mission to Egypt: to prepare a sanctuary for the young family of Israel to survive a severe famine and grow and prosper to become the nation that God promised their ancestors. The example provides opportunity to learn the importance of clarity of parental communication and a child listening to a parent with intent to understand and implement the parent’s information. Furthermore, we learn from Joseph’s interactions with his brothers and other people that God may allow adversity as a channel for effecting a positive change for a person. Also, Joseph’s behavior during the adversity help us understand that such person will be in better position to realize the change by remaining steadfast in living in the image of God despite hurting from the adversity.
The first step in coping with adversity is to commit personally and wholeheartedly to worship and serve God. Resign to his resolution of the adversity, and commit to living in his image, representing him in every human interaction, such that your actions and words radiate Godliness and elicit positive response from others. Furthermore, resigning to the will of God may include applying human effort to accomplish what you can while seeking his intervention. God will intervene to guide us out of adversity but expects us to apply human effort as part of finding the solution. Because the nature and timing of his intervention are generally not known a priori, we have to actively seek solutions at the human level in order to position ourselves to receive and utilize his intervention.
We continue our study series on Samuel with a study focused on understanding how his mother Hannah coped with the adversity of childlessness. Hannah’s experience leading to the birth of Samuel was dominated initially by her bitterness due to not having a child after several years of marriage. Her husband’s other wife sought to take advantage of her condition. In contrast, her husband was kind and sympathetic and sought to comfort her into accepting barrenness. Hannah, therefore, was alone in seeking a solution to her problem. She dealt with the problem initially by nursing self-directed bitterness that she showed by weeping and often refusing food. However, one day during her family’s annual trip to worship at the tabernacle in Shiloh, she decided she could not continue to bear the problem in her heart. She took the problem to God in prayer and appeared to have left it with him because her demeanor changed completely after the prayer.
We examine her experience in this bible study to understand how she transitioned from wilting under the weight of childlessness to a feeling of being completely relieved of the problem even when there had been no humanly observable change in her situation. Also, we use the opportunity to revisit a previous bible study on David coping with adversity brought on him by virtue of a rebellion led by his son, Absalom. We see that lessons from Hannah’s experience and the lessons from David complement each other and provide useful insight into what a Christian can do to cope with adversity.
From both, we learn about wholehearted commitment to worship and serve God and total resignation to God’s resolution of the adversity in his way and at his time. From Hannah, we learn about living in the image of God as a manifestation of the commitment. And from David, we learn about diligence in human effort while resigned to seeking God’s solution through his intervention.
Hannah’s prayer aligned with God’s purpose and resulted in the birth of Samuel to lead the beginning of a new phase in the life of Israelites. She did not “know” God’s purpose to align with it by any deliberate human choice. Instead, the misery she felt from childlessness and her resignation to God as the only source of relief caused her to lift her spirit toward God, close enough to be guided to a spiritual understanding of her need that was consistent with God’s purpose. Based on her interactions with people and with God regarding the birth of Samuel, we learn about petitioning directly to God, respect for priestly authority, humility, and interacting with a fellow human being facing adversity.
Interactions regarding the birth of Samuel provide opportunities to learn about petitioning directly to God, respect for priestly authority, humility, and interacting with a fellow human being facing adversity. Hannah was grieved of childlessness and a feeling of loneliness due to people around her either seeking advantage from her adversity or asking her to accept the condition as a sentence to barrenness.
However, she did not succumb. Instead, she sought relief from God. In a moment of intensely focused prayer, she petitioned God directly and asked for a son that will be dedicated to serving God full time through all his life. Her prayer aligned with God’s purpose for a spiritual leader to unify Israelites through the next phase of their development. Though she petitioned God directly in the presence of Chief Priest Eli, when Eli scolded her for what he thought was drunkenness, she responded with humility and promise of obedience that moved Eli to join her prayer without knowing her prayer points. God granted her request in the form of the man we know today as Samuel.
King David was faced with adversity in the form of a rebellion against him led by his son Absalom. David’s third son Absalom cultivated reputation among Israeli men as a future king to replace his father. He was successful and support for him grew rapidly. To take advantage, he declared himself king and, because of the strength of his support, David and his people ran from Jerusalem in fear of him and his supporters.