4 - The Opportunity of Adversity - Recalculated Expectations
If we know God is working even when the situation is unwelcome, and we know that we are most changed when we are most challenged, then we must conclude that adversity is not a drudgery; adversity is an opportunity. This is why James calls for us to “count it all joy (1:2).”
Easier said than done, right? Why can’t we count it all joy? Why is it so hard to see the opportunity of adversity?
The reason we can’t see the opportunity of adversity is because we “can’t count” we miscalculate.
From 1:5-18 James calls for us to make some recalculations. We need to recalculate three aspects of adversity: expectations, situations, and temptations.
One thing I can say with a fair amount of certainty, when times get tough, people pray. When we pray, we do so with a fair amount of expectations. Those expectations, unmet, often lead to frustration.
Why isn’t God answering my prayer?
Expectations go unmet. We feel as if faith has failed. Once again, we hit hard times and we are shattered.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:5-8 ESV)
This paragraph talks about something God wants to generously give us in our trials. What is it?
While it is true that we serve a miracle working God who can change any situation, notice what the verse doesn’t say.
God heals, but the verse doesn’t say God generously heals.
God provides, but the verse doesn’t say God generously gives us a bunch of money.
God opens doors of opportunity for His people, but the verse doesn’t say God generously gives us a new job.
God is sovereign over the nations, but the verse doesn’t even say God generously stopped the persecution that James’ readers were going through so they could go back home.
The verse says that God generously gives wisdom. Wisdom is the the ability to know God’s will. Wisdom is making the right choice. Wisdom the ability to foresee the bad consequences of foolish choices because you know what God says.
Wisdom is the ability to not make a bad situation worse.
The Bible says God gives it generously. This is an interesting word in that in one sense means exactly what you think it means, yet in another sense it doesn’t at all mean what you think it means.
Generosity is the word used to describe the guy at the ice cream counter who doesn’t just give you one “technical” scoop; generosity means that he keeps digging down in the barrel and he pushes the ice cream down on the cone, he packs it on, and then goes in one more time to make sure you have a huge ball of ice cream up on top of that cone! Generosity means he is going to give you more than the cone can hold! Technically, one scoop can be 4 ounces. Generously one scoop is the size of a basketball! That’s generosity. That’s the obvious meaning.
God gives His people big scoops of wisdom.
However, generosity also means that God is also no arbitrary. He is not wasteful. He is purposeful. There is a sense in the word in which it also means single-minded or focused. And it is this meaning, single minded focus, that we don’t often associate with generosity.
Have you ever seen the footage of the rich guy who goes to the mall at Christmas and dumps a basket of $100 bills over the rail? The people below go crazy in the scramble to scoop up the money. The rich man is celebrated as generous. He may be generous, but is that kind of generosity effective?
In my experience I have found that a person who truly needs $100 is not at the mall. Where will the basket full of money end up? Will it accomplish anything truly good or has the rich man just given the people below $100 license to be greedy and wasteful? There is no way to know.
God is not the guy who dumps a bunch of money over the rail of the mall at Christmas time to see people go crazy over it - that’s not generosity, that’s publicity.
God is the guy who often goes unnamed, who finds a need, seeks to solve a problem, and makes a generous but calculated investment into something that is going to truly make a difference.
God has generous focus.
Notice who He is generous toward, single minded, focused people. Not the double-minded man, who is devoted to doing God’s will one day, but not the next. He is not generous to the one who shows up all pious and religious when he’s in a mess. He’s not generous to those who want only to change their situation but are not interesting in changing their life. He is not generous to those who want prayer answered but are not interested at all about strengthening their faith.
God is interested in giving generous amounts of wisdom to people who are interested in knowing and doing what God wants them to do.
When you are in adversity what do you ask God for and why? What’s your expectation? Are you concerned about THINGS changing or are you concerned about your LIFE being changed?
A lifeproof faith is concerned about encasing us in a generous amount of God given wisdom. The expectation is guidance, insight, information for navigation; not necessarily escape. When we recalculate our expectations, we see the opportunity of adversity clearly. Wisdom helps us to learn things about God and about life that will contribute to our steadfastness; that will help us to hold up the next time life drops. Wisdom makes a generous, calculated contribution to making us, like 1:4 says, “perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
If you want a Lifeproof faith that sees adversity as an opportunity, recalculate your expectations for answered prayer. Ask for wisdom - God gives it generously to God focused people.