FACING ADVERSITY WITH JESUS

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FACING ADVERSITY WITH JESUS

There was a scene in Russel Crowe’s Gladiator where Maximus was in the coliseum, chained to his fellow gladiators, fighting enemies on chariots. The group that he was with was a motley crew. They were slaves and mostly had no formal training. So the idea was that the more skilled enemy would be able to pick them off one by one. And because they gladiators were chained to each other, the dead would become ‘dead weights’ for the rest and weigh them down, adding to the burden of those who were alive, and increasing their chances of joining their compatriots in the after-life, or so it was in the movie.

Like those gladiators, the Christian life can sometimes feel that way. We have no formal training to deal with you-know-who. For some of us, the mere thought of being at war with dark forces of evil in any arena other than the movies or computer screens sends shivers down our spine. And when we see a brethren fall, when we feel the tugging on our ankle chains, we start to get afraid, we start to panic, we start to think that we are next and we start to, like the gladiators did, to despair.

But there was one of us, a gladiator in much a similar sense, who even though he was in chains, literally, was still able to say this.

“Not that I have now attained [this ideal], or have already been made perfect, but I press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of me and made me His own.” Philippians 3:12 [AMPC]

Why was he able to say this? How was he able to find the strength to carry on despite his circumstances? Let us see.

The encounter with the closest similarity to our gladiator scene was the one in which Jesus was arrested.

“Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?”
They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
Jesus said to them, “I am He.” And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them.” John 18:3-5

Here you have, quite literally, a detachment of what was perhaps Rome’s finest, in all their regalia, coming for one purpose, and that is to crush the insurgence. Jesus’ disciples were fishermen, not well-armed, well-trained combatants. In a fight, they were sitting ducks. And what was worse was the fact that one of their own, Judas, stood with them.

Ever had that feeling? Persecution is standing in front of you, well-trained and armed to the teeth. But as for you, you have no means and you have no expertise. You are in over your head and you have no idea what to do. So what do you do? Let’s see what the disciples did.

“Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
Then He asked them again, “Whom are you seeking?”
And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
Jesus answered, “I have told you that I am He. Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way,” that the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, “Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none.”” John 18:6-9

They did nothing. Despite that, the soldiers fell back. Not only that, Jesus somehow managed to convince the enemy, in one sentence, that those who were following Him should not harmed. Now how miraculous is that? These soldiers were here to crush the insurgents and even before the fight could break out, they already agreed to the demands of the kingpin?

But a fight did ensue, well, briefly at least.

“Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.” John 18:10

Peter did try and fend for himself and the group. Yet, this was Jesus’ response.

“So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?”” John 18:11

In fact, Luke tells us,

“But Jesus answered and said, “Permit even this.” And He touched his ear and healed him.” Luke 22:51

Jesus did not wish his disciples to cause any harm, make any strike against the enemy. He even made right the damage that Peter caused. So what does this tell us about how we are to face adversity?

We need to realize that when enemies face us, Jesus stands in front of us. And like Maximus was telling his band of fellow gladiators, so too is Jesus saying to us, ‘Stand with me, do not break the line.’

You see, when trials come against us, Jesus will always stand in front of us, because He will always fulfill the promise that He made to our Father.

Jesus answered, “I have told you that I am He. Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way,” that the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, “Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none.”” John 18:8-9

So as He was then, so too is Jesus ensuring that we who believe, we who are His, not one of us shall be lost.

And when we stand with Him, what shall we do? Yes, beloved, follow. Don’t do things your own way. Don’t take your own initiative as Peter did. Don’t think that you have to strike out at the enemy, for remember how Jesus made the soldiers fall? Yes, He just spoke. So even though you can’t see it, even though you can’t hear it, Jesus is speaking to your situation right now. And no matter how resilient the trouble is, no matter how overwhelming the problem may be, remember,

“that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:10-11

Your problems don’t stand a chance.

And why is that the case? Why is it that your problems must bow?

“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,” Philippians 2:9

In fact, that description does not even come close because,

“I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your grace and truth;
for you have made your word [even] greater
than the whole of your reputation.” Psalm 138:2 [CJB]

And do remember that of Jesus, this was said.

“…the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

Now, for want of an illustration, let me use the 2015 Hungarian Grand Prix. Mercedes had achieved their 8th front row lock out in 9 races. Sebastian Vettel was in the second row. No one expected any car other than Mercedes to win. Yet, by the first corner, Vettel was in the lead. And as the race wore on, it seemed like whichever car got close to Vettel either crashed or broke down. It got to the point where commentator Martin Brundle said that it was as if whoever got close to Vettel just fell away.

I’m not here to debate if Vettel’s win was supernatural. But that gives us a picture of how our troubles will just fall away because Jesus is in our lives, standing between us and our problems; just like the soldiers fell away when Jesus spoke.

And that is why we can have the same confidence as Paul did, to say in the face of our trouble,

“Not that I have now attained [this ideal], or have already been made perfect, but I press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of me and made me His own.” Philippians 3:12 [AMPC]

Jesus has laid hold of us. We who believe are His own. So let us

“…press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward.” Philippians 3:14 [AMPC]

“…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,” Philippians 3:13 [AMPC]

“…let us hold true to what we have already attained and walk and order our lives by that.” Philippians 3:16 [AMPC]

“Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” Philippians 3:15 [ESV]

Let us heed Jesus’ call and stay with Him. Let us hold His line for He is standing right there with us and let Him make our troubles fall before us one by one. For that is how you face adversity with Jesus.

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