Adversity & Hardship

It would probably be a good thing at this point to attempt a further exploration of some of the reasons behind why challenge, adversity, and even suffering are integral components of God-composed adventures of faith:

“A truly great high school football coach who cares about his players will work them hard during the late summer two-a-day conditioning drills.  The football team that is heading toward a successful season can be heard groaning and complaining about the coach’s tough training methods and seemingly impossible standards for the entire six to eight weeks leading up to the first game of the regular season.

It is only after the team takes the field and discovers that they are well prepared to play high-quality football that they can look back at their coach’s emphasis on physical conditioning and the constant repetition of the same basic plays over and over again until they finally got them right.  The character lessons these players learned from their coach, about how to approach a particular challenge with intensity of purpose, hard work, and a will to never quit, often last them throughout their lifetimes, long after they stop playing football.

                A God who asks little of us cannot have much of an impact upon our lives and can never be considered great.[1] 

This describes the universally understood concept of “no pain, no gain”, but it does not go deep enough to address some of the underlying reasons behind why challenge and adversity are often necessary components of our adventure of faith.

In the Garden of Eden before the fall, God knows in advance that Adam and Eve will eat of the forbidden fruit.  This involves the mysterious and unfathomable depths of the blend between a God who exists in a timeless reality of foreknowledge, and humans on earth living within the limited dimensions of space and time.  The fruit on the tree of the “knowledge of good and evil” is within easy reach of Adam and Eve, and the serpent has convenient access to the garden and can converse with the man and the woman without the presence of God on the scene.

Revelation 13:8 describes Jesus as the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world, which implies that God had foreknowledge of the future need for a Savior for mankind.  The Garden of Eden is set up for a possible free-will choice to disobey the commandment of God…otherwise God would have purposely placed this tree in an inaccessible location in the garden, and banned the access of the serpent into the garden and from any possible encounter with Adam and Eve.

A conjectural interpretation of the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden, entirely on my part, is that it displays a commendable desire for perfection, albeit used in a wrong-headed way, which is part of our innate, in-built capacity that confirms in an indirect and round-about way that we are created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27).

A fundamental fault in this opening scenario critical to mankind’s eternal future, besides disobeying the clear directive of God, is that Adam and Eve impulsively jumped at this seemingly beneficial short-cut to a knowledge of good and evil without patiently waiting to speak with God directly about the pros and cons of such an action.

God told Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil located in the center of the garden.  If Adam and Eve had been mature, savvy moral beings as a result of having personally experienced the ill-effects of sin, darkness, and despair in our broken world…as we all have…they would have responded of their own accord to the audacious speech of the serpent: “What you say sounds appealing on the surface, but we will discuss this with God and then get back to you in the near future.  In this matter that you speak of, there is no hurry.  We will think it over.  And by the way, we know God well enough by now to know He would never withhold something good from us without a sound reason.”

Adam and Eve, without understanding all of the future issues involved, are in essence going along with the false idea of obtaining a knowledge of good and evil, on the cheap.  A knowledge of good and evil cannot be gotten on the cheap.  A quick and easy, “one-click” on the computer keyboard option to a full knowledge of good and evil is not feasible. It is like the impossibility of a square circle, married bachelors, describing colors in terms of their shapes, or drawing with a pencil on paper a one-ended stick.  God knows this.

If God wants to create non-divine people yet made in His image, with free-will choice and the intellectual capacity for moral reasoning…that God can have a loving relationship with over the long expanse of eternity…then those people must have an encounter with the mystery of evil in all its subtle forms…and reject it.

Like the great high school football coach that works his players hard during pre-season training to be ready for the upcoming regular season…unselfishly for their benefit at the risk of temporary unpopularity…God crafts the characters of the people of faith to benefit them with the priceless capacity for joyful living for time without end (Jn. 15:16; Rom 9:21).

In God’s infinite wisdom He knew ahead of time that this fall of man in the Garden of Eden would cost the future incarnation for Jesus the Son of God and the second Person of the Trinity, His difficult human ministry on earth (Isa. 53:3-5), the crucifixion, and the resurrection.  Yet on the night before His crucifixion, Jesus amazingly says to His disciples: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (Jn. 14:27).

Jesus is saying that even amidst the upcoming horrors of His arrest, trial, beating, rejection, ridicule, mocking, crucifixion, and death, that He has perfect divine peace.  Jesus can truly say this because His peace is founded upon an unselfish love for us that is infinite in its scope, dimensions, and outreach.  Yet in the Garden of Gethsemane, even this infinite divine love is stretched to the point of novel and unprecedented challenge as Jesus contemplates the awful ordeal of absorbing the full weight of the sins of the world placed upon Himself on the cross (Lk. 22:42).

God is telling us through the life of Jesus that our impulsive attempt at a shortcut to the knowledge of good and evil will also cost us a similar hard road of first-hand experience to discover God’s perfect peace amidst daunting challenge, adversity, and suffering.

The hard reality of a joint-venture with God down the road to the discovery of “all truth” involves the fullness of experience that must honestly and courageously be encountered in a God-composed journey of faith for Christians living in the danger zone.  This danger zone extends even to the breaking point of having to give up our will and way regarding the big issues at stake in life.

But in terms of a God-composed journey of faith life-script following the pattern of the way of the cross, the theme of this book and arguably one of the main themes of the Bible, is that adversity, challenge, and suffering separates us from self-sovereignty.

Faith in the rigorous training methods of the great football coach…separation from the self-sovereignty of thinking that we know what is best…results in a winning season (1 Cor. 9:24-26; Gal. 2:20).

It is the fundamental tension between the strong pull of worldly conventional normalcy, and the totally unconventional way of the cross… that lies at the central core of every biblical narrative story of faith.  This is the razor-sharp edge that separates out each genuine experience of faith and trust in God…for our benefit and instruction (2 Tim. 3:16)…often tested through the furnace of immediate personal danger and the real potential for overwhelming, crushing defeat.

If the competence, faithfulness, and overall intentions of Jesus Christ our King and Ruler…for all eternity…must be experientially tried and confirmed through a joint-venture expedition of faith through the context of this broken world lost in sin, then the excess baggage of our claim to self-sovereignty must go.

If some measure of adversity, challenge, and suffering will accomplish this separation from our self-sovereignty…then it is God’s positive intention to set-up the precise circumstances for this to occur for each believer…for our eternal good.  This is what we see in the narrative stories of faith in the Bible.  This is why these real-life stories serve as the pattern for our own faith journeys.

This is the dangerous part of following the living God into a genuine journey of faith that we see portrayed in the lives of the people of faith recorded in the Bible.  This is the epitome of being accountable, of not quitting early, and of breaking through…so that we may someday at the end of our own journey of faith, commendably say along with Jesus: “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30).

[1] Barton Jahn, The High Standards of God for End-Times Christians (Create Space self-publishing, 2014), 18-19

Author: Barton Jahn

I work in building construction as a field superintendent and project manager. I have four books published by McGraw-Hill on housing construction (1995-98) under Bart Jahn, and have six Christian books self-published through Create Space KDP. I have a bachelor of science degree in construction management from California State University Long Beach. I grew up in Southern California, was an avid surfer, and am fortunate enough to have always lived within one mile of the ocean. I discovered writing at the age of 30, and it is now one of my favorite activities. I am currently working on two more books on building construction.

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