TURNING ADVERSITY INTO ADVANTAGE
I have a written perfectly good essay/blog based on our recent few days off called “Finding Favor.” Which we did. Often. Big time! But just over two weeks ago a devasting tornado swept through parts of our city, and it just doesn’t seem to be the right time to share the good times of finding favor when so many are having a hard time. So I’m re-working a previous blog, adding some things, taking away some things, and more than likely, as well written as it is, you probably don’t remember anyway.
I’ve actually slept through a tornado. I was a very new Christian. My father awoke me in the middle of the night saying, “There’s a tornado headed toward our trailer park! Get up, we’re all going to stand underneath the oak tree out front!” (Why is it that trailer parks are tornado magnets?) I laid there a minute and reasoned it out. “If the tornado hits the trailer it will hit the tree. If the tornado hits the tree it will hit the trailer. Either way, I’m a Christian, and the worst thing that will happen is that I’ll go to heaven.” With that I rolled over and went back to sleep. The tornado did hit the opposite end of the trailer park, taking out a dozen trailers—and it wasn’t a very large trailer park! My rebuked me the next morning saying, “You’re so lazy that you wouldn’t even get out of bed for a tornado.” And I thought, “Yeah, but I was warm and dry, and you were cold and wet.” I didn’t say it—I valued my life.
We’ve all been through tornados, some literally, most figuratively. Devastating times when our lives were ripped apart by forces beyond our control, leaving the debris of our lives scattered for all to see. It’s in these times that you need to know how to turn adversity into advantage.
I’m happy to report that only a few of our church families found themselves displaced, and that because of the power outage that followed the tornado. Many had damage to their homes, but, as one woman said, (remember, these are Aspire Church people!), “We were planning on remodeling anyway. Now the insurance company will do it for us.” If you’re in the house, there’s a blessing on the house. We claim it every Sunday—peace, power, preservation, and prosperity. As this is a little different from what I normally share have a prophetic word for you at the blog.
We have, in our church, a faithful woman, a community activist, that we have underwritten for the next few weeks to help people work through their loss. She is coordinating, providing resources, and connecting people to the places where their need can be met. But there is still an element of Divine Provision that needs to be tapped into, and this will show you how to do it.
TURNING ADVERSITY INTO ADVANTAGE
You’ve probably never heard of Lester Dent. He was a pulp fiction writer who wrote most of the “Doc Savage” pulps under the name of Kenneth Robeson. You’ve never heard of him. But you know him. Because every action show or TV thriller follows his famous dictum—
Get the hero in trouble, have him get out of it by dint of sheer determination, or special talent. Repeat. Repeat again. And again. Finally have a novel way for the hero to dispatch the villain. The end. Along the way the hero collects their scars as they overcome adversity.
We all face a certain amount of adversity in life. What you do with it and how you react to it determines success or failure. Though adversity is negative, often times there really is a silver lining in the cloud—but you have to get into the cloud to find it. Let me share three things that I’ve discovered about adversity.
ADVERSITY MAKES YOU WHO YOU ARE
My father was my greatest adversary when I became a Christian. There were many reasons for this, not the least of which was my call to ministry. It all came to a head in a violent altercation that left me with over thirty, (I counted), black and blue bruises. Did that discourage me? No, it made me more determined than ever. And that determination has helped through more than one adversity. The situation turned around that night after I heard the audible voice of God and, (by Divine direction), ran to the local police station where I met a sympathetic, backslidden Pentecostal detective. Adversity makes you who you are. (Later my father became a great supporter, but that’s another story.)
This is not an advocacy for adversity. Don’t look for it. Guard against it. Move proactively to avoid it. But if it comes, face it with the knowledge that faith, and determination will get you through. And when you get through it, because you will get through it, you will find that it has only made your faith and determination stronger—and you’ll have another story.
ADVERSITY MAKES YOU RESILIENT
We took a little Pentecostal church, built it up to seventy people, and then the former pastor, who owned the building, took it back. It was devasting. I was upset. Things looked bleak. And a few days later looked even bleaker. But there is an old saying in the Pentecostal church, that an evangelist is just a pastor who lost their church. So, I became a traveling evangelist and that was the beginning of three years of God wrought, blood bought, angel sought, devil fought, Holy Ghost miracle revival, that established me in the ministry. (BTW—God wrought, etc. was a declaration that we used to make in the revival days. And I occasionally still make it.) It all happened because I was resilient.
The great Don George told me many years ago—“Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be broken.” I don’t know if he saw that on a bumper sticker but I found the bumper sticker and it
has had a prominent place on my curio shelves since. Why? Because the flexible shall not be broken.
There are times to be resistant. You can’t violate your conscious and be authentic. But in a time of change, and we are in a time of change, resilience is required.
Back in the late Nineties Peter Gomes was making quite a splash with his books, “The Good Book” and “The Good Life.” Gomes was the Pusey Pastor of Chapel, and Plummer Professor of Christian Morals, at Harvard University. He was also Black, Gay, and Republican. Thus the splash. The Episcopalian Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati invited him to speak and I gathered a group of ministry types from our church to go with me to hear him. Why? Because, as I told them, “You don’t need to agree with everything that someone says, but you do need to be stretched.” They were. It was good for them. Resilience is required. Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be broken.
A wise man once told me, “An oak tree resists the hurricane and is uprooted. The palm tree bends for a moment and the hurricane passes by.” If adversity comes be resilient.
ADVERSITY MAKES YOU PRIORITIZE
There are things that you need to let go of that you want to hold on to. And you can when things are going well, resources are abundant, and the tide is going your way. Then adversity comes and you have to prioritize. What is essential? What is superfluous? What do I need to get to where I’m going? What was I holding on to that was hindering me from getting there? Adversity makes you prioritize.
We’ve all been there. From the Big Three auto makers to the smallest storefront church. The economy changes, the culture shifts, people start driving SUVs instead of cars, start attending the mega-church around the corner, and new priorities must be set.
GM has just announced that they are discontinuing three lines of automobiles. The plant closings will put over fourteen thousand people out of work and wreak havoc on local economies. Why? Because people aren’t buying those car models and GM doesn’t have the luxury of supporting something that’s not profitable. New priorities have been set. The focus is now on SUVs, electric cars, and autonomous vehicles. And GM will be more profitable for it.
What are you going through that’s making you re-evaluate your priorities? It may look like adversity, but if you come out on the other side in better shape, more profitable, and ready to run, maybe your adversity was really advantage in disguise.
JOIN ME NOW “Behind The Door.” The password is still POWER!