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About this series
The ART of Survival
In this series, Chip explains there’s an ART to Survival - skills, honed by practice, that lead to joyful endurance, no matter what. A - is the ATTITUDE that helps us navigate adversity. R - is the RESOURCE God offers in adversity. And T - is the THEOLOGY that guides our perspective in adversity. When challenging times and difficult circumstances threaten to bring us down, God provides the hope and the tools we need to rise above. Life isn’t easy, He never said it would be. In fact, Jesus told us to expect trouble. How we handle the trouble and guard our attitude is an opportunity to demonstrate our trust in the sufficiency and sovereignty of Christ. There’s an ART to survival. Chip shows us, from James, Chapter 1, how it’s done.More from this series
It’s a trite illustration, but for some of you that love to do athletics, you have probably at some point in your time lifted weights, right?
You know, you get some weights and you do some curls or you get some big weights and you do it this way. And if you meet someone who is very strong and very muscular, what most people don’t understand is when you lift weights, the reason you need to do it every other day, not every day, is that as you lift weights what happens is your muscles actually begin to tear. Tiny fibers are tearing.
And then you don’t lift every day because they need time to heal. And so, what happens is you have to take them beyond their point of what they can do and that’s why you’ll see weight lifters help each other do those last few reps because they want to just have microtears.
And then what happens when they grow back, they grow back bigger and stronger. And you know, your soul, your character, your ministry, your future, your relationships, you know how they grow? You know how you become patient and kind and generous and loving and forgiving? You have need of endurance – why? Knowing the testing of your faith. Could I remind you? The test, because you’re a follower of Jesus, is for you to come through it, that God will give you what you need to come through it.
The testing of your faith will produce this endurance, this ability to hold up. And I know the moment you think about tomorrow – how will I do it? You don’t know. Because here’s what I know that this is today. And if you start thinking about out there tomorrow, there’s no grace. But God will give you grace for today. You choose, baby choices, “I won’t give up today. I’ll do what I can today. I may not have quite enough food today. I don’t see how I’ll make it tomorrow.” But as you do that one day at a time, what happens is you are strengthened and God will provide both within and without.
I remember the most challenging time, I was leading an organization and it wasn’t a worldwide pandemic but it was one in the United States where there was a total collapse of money and the dotcom market and I just took over the leadership of an organization and we had people all around the world and the budget was millions and millions of dollars.
And like a faucet, it turned off. And I was the new leader and we didn’t have the millions of dollars and I wondered, What in the world will we ever do? And I remember being in Psalm 34 and I would read it out loud over and over and over. And I would not just cry out to God but I would just cry, because I thought, Lord, what will we do? These people are depending on me and our organization in all these countries and we don’t have the money.
And it’s very interesting, as I look back, it was devastating. And, yet, a year, two, three, four – innovation happened. Those groups learned how to do the ministry without the same amount of funds. They innovated in new ways and we went from about nineteen to a hundred countries in the next four or five years.
It’s during times like this that God changes things. Where crises, they are difficult, they are painful, I don’t mean to minimize. But for those who endure, those who pay the price, God will do something in you and I will guarantee, He will do something great through you.
Question number one is: what can I control? The answer is: my attitude. Question number two is: how do I get through today? And the answer is: I will endure. I will endure because I will claim God’s promises.
It was David who said, “It’s good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn thy statues. If Your Word was not my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.” What you find all through Scripture is the men and the women of God in the midst of difficulty, pain, devastation, and what is unfair – they cling to the promises of God.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me… But my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Jesus said, “I will build My Church,” and you’re a part of it, “and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it.”
This is a time when you grab the invisible promises of God and you hold them dear and you choose to obey and trust when you have no idea how it’s going to work out. And that is the story of how God has built His Church throughout the centuries.
The third “what” question you need to ask is: what hope do I have for tomorrow? Someone has wisely said that hope is the oxygen of the soul. Once you lose hope, you’re done.
So, where do you get hope? Here’s the answer: God will take the worst that you’re experiencing today and use it for your best. God’s going to take the very worst, the very most difficult, the most desperate, the most painful things in your life today, and here’s the promise, an all-powerful, good, kind, and sovereign God in the midst of a very fallen and evil world, is going to take whatever you’re going through and He’s going to use it for good.
And the first thing He is going to change is not your circumstance. I think we have lived in a world where some teaching about the gospel, some prosperity ideas that if you love God, if you are obedient, if you do what God wants you to do, then everything is going to go your way.
And many people are disillusioned and very discouraged because when they do what God wants them to do, like many of you, and yet you find a relative has died, that you can’t open your business, that you don’t have any money, that there’s not enough food, that you can’t even contact the people in your church, that life is not going better. And you say, God, why? I love You.
This last portion explains. He says, “Let endurance,” or, “perseverance have its perfect result that you may be complete and mature, lacking in nothing.” In other words, what God is saying in this passage is that as you – attitude – choose to consider it all joy and as you choose to endure, just moment by moment, day by day, he says, “Cooperate with God. Let this endurance, let God have His way. Cooperate with what He is doing in your heart and in your life, that you could be perfect.”
And the word doesn’t mean you’re going to be sinlessly perfect. The word is teleios. In English, we get our word telescope. It’s the idea of something that fulfills its design. God has a design for you and His design is more than to make you happy. His design is not that everything works out wonderful in your circumstance.
His design is to make you and to make me like Jesus, to conform you to the image of His Son. What is that promise we quote in the most challenging of times? “For we know that God works all things together for the good to them that love God, to those that are called according to His purpose.”
And we usually stop there. That’s Romans 8:28. Verse 29 says, “Whom He called He also predestined that He is going to conform us to the image of His Son.” And so, what he’s saying is in this process, allow God to mature you, to have His way.
And notice the promise, “That you’ll be complete, lacking in nothing.” You know, sometimes in my weakest, most difficult moments, what I, Lord, where are You? And I have asked why. Lord, I took a big step of faith, or, I maybe I moved, or, I gave a lot of money away. Or, like you, you do something and you say, I’m stretching, Lord, to do what You want me to do with all my heart. And this is what I get?
I remember in my basement when my world fell apart and I had all these people around the world that I felt like I needed to take care of and I didn’t have anything to help them with. And I remember crying, just literally weeping.
And I remember the Lord saying, So, when is it your responsibility to make the world work out? Chip, I just want you to trust and obey Me. I have a plan. And My plans don’t always work out in this life the way that some of you all think.
And as I was literally crying, I remember thinking, Well, all the apostles, they obeyed God. They loved Him with all their heart. They birthed the Church. What happened to them? And I thought, They were obedient and every one of the apostles except the apostle John was martyred. They were killed.
And John was stuck on a rock so he could write the book of Revelation. And then I remember the last half of the book of Hebrews. And it talked about those that trusted God and the world was not even worthy of them because of their faith and their dedication and their commitment and their loyalty to Christ. And it says they never saw the promise. They never got to see the big, wonderful answer.
Could I remind you that we do not live for a temporal world and circumstances of today? Our anchor, our hope, our promise is heaven. Jesus said to His disciples, knowing what they would go through, He said, “I am going to prepare a place for you. And if it weren’t true, I wouldn’t have said it.” But here’s the heart, “I want you to be with Me where I am.”
And as painful and as devastating as death is, we need to get our New Testament eyes. “Precious in the sight of God,” says Psalm 116, “is the death of His godly ones.” This life is not all that there is. I would remind you, historically, that in the first three centuries of the early Church, they were persecuted. They were viewed as atheists because they didn’t worship the emperor.
In the midst of all these gods, they were the ones that there were three major plagues in the first three centuries – I mean, pandemics – that would wipe out hundreds of thousands of people, that took down whole metropolitan areas. And the only people that stayed in the cities were Christians nursing people back to health and those who were too sick to leave the city.
And Rodney Stark, a sociologist, in his book The Rise of Christianity, looks at the lens of the growth of the Church, not through maybe a spiritual view of the Holy Spirit and what God did through His Word, but just from a pragmatic, sociological view.
He says, “By 313 A.D., when Constantine became the emperor,” he said, “of the sixty million people in the Roman Empire, it’s estimated that thirty-three million were followers of Christ.” And they were followers of Christ because of the early Church’s commitment through these pandemics to love people, to literally give their life.
When you would serve someone who died in one of these pandemics, you were a martyr. You were among the most esteemed in the Church. God wants us to know that there is an attitude that we are to have and the attitude that we need to have is we choose to consider it all joy, that we are going when we ask ourselves: what can I control? My attitude. What do I do to make it through today? Endure. How do I have hope for tomorrow? I can know for certain that an all-wise God, an all-powerful God, the God who brings about the best possible ends, by the best possible means, for the most possible people, for the longest possible time – that’s the wisdom of God – is on your side.
And in this present life, it may not work out the way we choose. But if we are faithful, if we trust, regardless of what happens, God will take that and at the end of this passage, verse 12, he said, “Blessed are those who endure in suffering and there is a great reward.” There’s a great reward in what happens in our life now, what happens in us and then through us, and there is great reward that God has promised for all of us. We need to keep our eyes on the prize, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of the faith, who blazed the trail so that we could come before the Father, the throne of grace, to find mercy in our time of need.
As I wrap things up, I would just give you some perspective. And these are things that you can pass on and they are things that will help you begin to think and ponder and respond to this passage. But there are five observations I have about adversity, difficulty, pain, and challenges like we’re facing.
Number one, God uses adversity to make us mature because we are forced to depend on God at a new level. Left to ourselves, we tend to be self-sufficient, proud, and insensitive to the Lord. In this time, we will depend.
Second, we are weaned from the temporal, the urgent, and the worldly affairs of life and we are forced to reexamine our values, our priorities, our commitments, and our future.
You know, it’s in times like this where God says, Why are you really living? What really matters? What are you giving your life to? And it’s a time that can only happen when things are this difficult.
Third is trials allow us to witness firsthand the reality and the power of God. Our need becomes the vehicle of God’s grace and our problems become the object of His power. You will see the supernatural power of God like never before as you trust Him. He is Jehovah Jireh, He is the great provider, He is the great protector. Lean in. Trust. Refuse to have self-pity. The Spirit of the living God that raised Christ from the dead dwells in you. He is your hope. And as you do, you will see His power working in you and through you.
And four, they serve as an awesome testimony to the unbelieving world. How we endure hardship shows the world how real God is.
I spent an afternoon yesterday for about an hour and a half with a man going through cancer with his wife with every treatment under the – whatever they have tried: problem, problem, problem, problem, problem, problem. And he has been steadfast. And he was very, very concerned about: if his wife dies, will that be a bad testimony? He said, “I believe, I am trusting.” And I said to him, “Your testimony is not whether your wife lives or dies. Everyone is going to die sometime.” I said, “The way that you and your wife are going through this, both for us as believers and your unbelieving friends, is a testimony of an unexplainable power. Your attitude is amazing. Your love for your wife is amazing. Her attitude is spectacular. And you have been through things that I could never ever imagine.”
And God is going to use your life in lives of others as they see how you endure and respond. And you don’t just respond with: I’m somehow going to make it through.
You choose in the power of God to be the Paul and Silas, who you don’t feel like it, but you start singing hymns in the prison. You say, God, You are a great God. You are the Lord. You’re the maker of heaven and earth. You are My God. You are My hope.
And as you sing and worship and thank God in the midst of things, you will see His power. And the world will see His power in you and through you.
And finally, we become sensitive and caring, compassionate Christlike people. Those who have been hurt deeply love deeply. Those of you who will go through the most devastating and painful things in this season, it won’t last forever. You will become a tender, kinder, more compassionate, more Christlike person as a result of this if you choose to ask “what” and don’t ask “why”.
May the Lord Jesus fill you with His grace and His power.
Lord, thank You that You promised to give us all that we need for this moment on this day. May Your Spirit fill us with hope and encouragement by the power of Your Word and Your Spirit, in Jesus’ name, amen.