In my reading and thinking today, I discovered something shocking. Without adversity, we accomplish very little. It is adversity and troubles that ultimately make thinks work in life. I am thinking about this in the context of church history but I think it applies to most of life. In reading church history, I am astonished how hard it was in the past, particularly for Baptists. We were persecuted for the first 100 years. The next 200 or so years we were looked down on as the poor and the ignorant. That cannot be said for us today. But we don’t accomplish what our forefathers and foremothers did before us. Everything they did was hard. Religious freedom, poverty, finding qualified minsters, doing missionary work, spreading new churches to pioneer areas, establishing organizations like Sunday School, all were difficult tasks.
This hard work is our inheritance. But, we accomplish relatively little. It was all given to us and we think that wisdom and growth and souls should be given to us as well. Living the Christian life, bearing witness, wining the lost, building the church for the next generation requires hard work and sacrifice. We fail to see that our adversity now comes from us. We are our own worst enemy.
As those who have inherited the hard work of our fathers and mothers in the faith, our hardest task is to work in a prepared field. The natural inclination of most humans is to try their best to stay away from God. We Christians are God’s agents and we should know that folk do not come to church because they are supposed to. They come because someone, a friend, loved them enough to invite them. The Sunday School class does not grow, the worship service is not full, and the baptistery is not populated by our wishful thinking. It requires effort and work.
So what are our adversities today? We are scared of what people might think of us. We are afraid that we might look silly to the world. Don’t worry about it, you will, just like our forefathers did. We have so many distractions. We like to go here and there. We have our sports interests and hunting and fishing and our TV programs and our friends parties, etc. So did our foremothers and like them we have to pursue what is important, not simply what is pleasurable. We have to learn to take pleasure in doing the right thing.
What is your adversity? Lack funds? Poor health? No friends? Lack of popularity? Grief? Too fat or too skinny? Shy? See, it does not matter what adversity might face you, someone has already faced it and overcome it. Like those before us, let us overcome adversity. “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:1-2 NAU)