Christian Character Development

How to respond to setbacks

How we respond to difficulties, afflictions, setbacks, and hassles is one of the most important things for a Christian. The difference between success and failure is not the absence of problems. What causes you to succeed or fail is not the problem but HOW you respond to these problems?

Two people may face the same problem and come out completely different. If you study the histories of successful persons you'll see that they failed many times but learned to respond correctly to each failure. Abraham Lincoln is considered to be one of the greatest Presidents of the USA but he failed many times to be elected. Most people would have given up, but he used each setback as a stepping stone to greater things.

If we follow our natural instincts the trials of life will make us bitter and depressed causing us to hang down our head and want to give up. The Bible tells us to respond in a totally different way to how we would naturally respond. We must KNOW certain things about these pressures and trials and how God uses them - then we will be able to RESPOND correctly to these situations. We need a revelation of how God uses these things for our good so that we can rejoice when trials come.

Romans 8 describes the new life of victory that opens up before the christian who has been justified by faith.

1. FREE from CONDEMNATION (v.1)
2. The law of the Spirit of life sets us FREE from the law of sin and death (v2) We can soar above, empowered by the Holy Spirit into a new life.
3. We can now fulfil the righteous requirement of the law (to love God and one another) (v4)
4. Now we can experience life and peace as our minds are no longer dominated by things we can see. We can now see past the problem and be spiritually minded, and see God working in every situation, (v5,6)
5. There is spiritual life and healing for the body(v10,11),
6. Being led by the Spirit (v14-16)
7. We are joint heirs with Christ (v17a)

If the chapter stopped there we would have the wrong image of the Spirit-filled life as a life with no problems! When bad things happen we think: 'Where did I miss God?' You will know if your sin caused it but many things happen in this life that are unfair and are not a result of your sin. The victorious Christian life isn't one without problems but one of overcoming them by God's power by responding correctly to them. Suffering may come from your sin but also comes because you do God's will, and also just because we live in a cursed world.

Romans 8:17,18 says we have a glorious inheritance but how glorious it will be depends on how we suffer with Him. When we suffer in God's will and continue to love and obey God in the suffering, opposition, affliction, trouble) glory is added to us. If in doing right we 'suffer with Him' (and don't let the problem separate us from Him,and continue to praise and walk with God) then that suffering helps us to increase our inheritance. The awareness of our weakness causes us to hold more tightly to the Lord, trusting Him more deeply. This enables Him to impart more of His character and love (His glory) into us and the more like Jesus we become, and the more of His glory we will be able to share.

We can let problems either put a wedge between us and God or they cause us to hold on to Jesus more and we grow spiritually. The degree we suffer and hold on to Him in the troubles of life corresponds to the degree to which He is able to share His glory with us. Sufferings are not sent from God (James 1:13) but nevertheless they are extremely important. God will work them to our immense good if we turn to God in them.

Paul endured great sufferings yet he said:
'I reckon the sufferings of this present age are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.' (v18)
This is like weighing the earth with a few tiny lead weights on the other side. God works a tremendous weight of eternal glory through these sufferings. This glory is already working in us but will be revealed in the resurrection.

The whole earth is groaning because of sin and looks forward to when God's glory to be revealed in us. (v.18-25) All the time we walk in fellowship with God His glory (love, light, nature) is being produced on the inside of us. Hard times of holding on to God make us stronger. Aware of our own weakness we trust Him more and so His glory can work in us more fully. We are not meant to be helpless victims of the circumstances of life. 'Doormat Christians' believe that whatever happens he must lie down and take it. This is wrong. God wants us to respond biblically so that He can work in and through us for our good and turn every curse into a blessing. The Greater One is in us. We are meant to respond by allowing the Holy Spirit pray and move through us (v.26,27) in such a way that He turns every situation for our good, and every setback into a stepping stone.

'We know that God works all THINGS together for good
to those who are loving Him,
the called according to His purpose' (v28)
In order to respond correctly we must KNOW God is working all THINGS (circumstances, people, demons, sufferings, afflictions) for our good.

These THINGS are mentioned again and again:
'will He not also give us ALL THINGS?' (v.32)
'No, in ALL THESE THINGS
we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.' (v.37)
See also v31,33,38,39.
These THINGS cover every situation past, present,and future.

The fact that GOD WORKS ALL THINGS TOGETHER FOR GOOD is a basis to trust and praise God in every situation.

There are 2 conditions upon this promise.
(1) It only works for 'the called' (those who are saved for the purpose of becoming like Jesus, glorifying God, to receive and radiate His glory.)
and (2) it works to the extent you are loving, trusting and obeying God in the problem. This determines how much good (glory) we can receive. We are the ones who limit God.

Look at Joseph (Genesis 45:4-8; 52:20) who endured great trials from his brothers and others but he didn't blame God but stayed in His presence
and God blessed him and turned all these terrible things for his good. Through Joseph God was able to save the world from starvation. Joseph's brothers were believers and God worked even their sin for good, their lives being saved by Joseph. But, at the end of the day God worked far more glory in Joseph's life than his carnal brothers.

'According to the plan of Him who works out EVERY THING in conformity with the purpose of His will in order that we... might be to the praise of his glory.' (Eph. 1:11)

God is not just interested when we are in a 'spiritual mode' but God is working in our every situation and job however menial or unimportant.
God is working every THING for our good as we are loving Him in that hard situation. God has so proved His love and complete provision for us in salvation that we can be sure His plan for us extends to every detail of life and that He is working out His purpose for our life, working all things together for our good. Knowing this moves us from passivity to faith.
Confident that God wants to work all things for our good we can love God by obeying His instructions for how we should respond to a trial. This will then release His glory in our lives.

How should we respond?
(1) REJOICE IN GOD - turn to God and thank Him for what He is working through this (James 1:2-4,12; 2Cor 12:7-10) 'we rejoice in our sufferings (only possible if we know what God is doing) because we know that suffering produces patience,and patience, character (as you stand up patiently in the trial and trust God depth of character is developed in you and the more of His glory you'll be able to contain) and character, hope (of glory) and hope does not disappoint us, for God has poured out his love (glory) into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.' (Romans 5:1-5)

The more you have to respond in love, the more this develops the love of God which is already in you.

'All THINGS are for your sakes.' (2Cor 4:15)
When pressures come we may well feel that pressure to quit
but we do not quit for our inward man is getting stronger (v16),
'for this light temporary affliction works for us a tremendous, massive, weight of glory FOR EVER.'(v17)
This is only true: 'While we look not at the THINGS which are seen' (i.e.problems or people) but focus our eyes the unseen things. We look past the THINGS and onto the Lord and what He is doing, and by faith rejoice in Him and His promises. (v18) 'Lord I know you are working this for my good. Satan wants this to destroy me but I know You are working this for my good.' Give thanks for that person.

(2) SPEAK TO THE THINGS
We know that circumstances will not defeat us, we're in the victory
and so we declare our victory to those things that have come against us. (2Cor 4:13) 'What then shall we SAY to these THINGS ?' (Rom 8:31)
We are to speak to the things themselves. (Mark 11:23; Zech 4:6,7).
Jesus told us to speak to the mountains in our way.

Things come to intimidate and cause us to fear.
They speak to us: 'you'll never win, you'll fail, give up.'
Don't be passive but SPEAK BACK.

WE should SAY to these THINGS:
'If God be for us who can be against us'(v31)
'God is for me - nothing can destroy or defeat me.' (Josh1:5)
We must DECLARE THE VICTORY.
'The Lord is my helper I shall not fear.' (Heb 13:5,6)
Declare: 'God is turning this for my good' (Rom 8:28)
Speak it out with your mouth to gain dominance over the THING.

To things sent to hurt, harm and destroy us we should say:
'He who did not spare His own Son, but gave him up for us all
- how will He not also give us ALL THINGS?' (v32)
We live in a world where there are curses but Jesus died for us (Gal 3:13,14) to turn curse into blessing.

Say: 'By the cross every curse is turned into a blessing for me,
He has turned every attack for my good.'
Then God's power is released to TURN that thing around for my good.

Things come to condemn, discourage and make us feel a failure.
We should say to them:
'Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect.' (v.33)
'The only ONE WHO COUNTS IS GOD and He justifies me.'
Say 'Who condemns me?' (v34)
'Jesus is not condemning me. He died for me and rose again. He conquered that sin and is interceeding for me. He is on the throne of grace pouring out his forgiveness and victory to me'

Things are sent to make us feel unimportant, cast away, unloved.
SAY: 'Who shall separate me from the love of God.' (v35)
'Shall this trouble cut me off from God?' 'NO' (v37)
We must say NO to these lies of the devil.

'In all these things we are more than conquerors through Jesus.'
This means we win the fight and are stronger after the fight than before!!
Victory for the Christian is facing problems IN GOD and coming out stronger.

SAY to the problem: 'I am more than a conqueror over you, nothing can separate me from the love of God. Thank you Lord that you are working this for my good.'
Declare v38,39.

When we obey His Word by rejoicing in those hard times, speaking to those things - we are loving Him and surely then He will work all those things for our good.

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