Have you had a tough week, month, or year? Have you found yourself and your ministry under attack? Regardless of how desperate the situation may appear, God has a way out. I like to say, "It ain’t over 'til it's over, and God's Word says it ain’t over until I win!” The adverse situations you face will turn for the good of the Gospel – if you don't get cynical, doubtful, and fearful.
Paul Probably Had it Worse
I don’t know the problems you’re facing today, but when I experience challenging situations, I remind myself that regardless of what I’m facing, the Apostle Paul had it much worse.
Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27)
Maybe your ministry is facing a financial challenge, or perhaps someone you trusted stabbed you in the back. You're not alone! In over 40 years of ministry, I've had to handle issues involving staff, congregants, money, buildings, legal challenges, city ordinances, and media coverage, among other things. But I've never had to endure what Paul did. I've never been arrested, beaten, put in stocks, or held as a prisoner on a ship in the middle of an extended hurricane-force storm.
Refuse to get Negative
Paul’s letter to the Philippians is known as his “joy letter.” Yet, he wrote it from prison. I’ve never been arrested, and I trust I never will be. But I think the public embarrassment of being cuffed and carted off by officers of the law would be very hard to handle. Incarceration isn’t pleasant today, but it was much worse in Paul’s day. Church historians believe that Paul was held in an underground jail that was more of a sewer than a building. It’s commonly known as the Mamertine prison. Conditions there were inhumane. Prisoners were lowered into a hole in the ground just big enough to hold them captive. The bottom half of their bodies languished in sewer water. The top half was usually naked and chained to the rock.
While suffering in such horrid conditions, this is what Paul wrote to the Philippians: But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel. (Philippians 1:12) Paul refused to get negative! He encouraged the Philippians to believe that his situation would promote the Gospel. He didn’t know how or when, but he was sure that God could take a bad situation and use it for good. Refuse to get negative. God can take the worst problem and use it for His glory and your benefit.
What the Devil Means for Evil
In case it’s slipped your mind, let me remind you that Satan does everything he can to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). He looks for opportunities to create problems, incite division, and instill fear. Please don't give in to him. The devil cannot read your mind. He can, however, hear what you say and watch what you do. Don't say anything that would let him think he has an advantage over you. Speak only the Word of God. Give God praise! And expect God to turn what Satan meant for evil into something good, just as Joseph told his brothers, who sold him into slavery.
And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. (Genesis 50:19-20)
Joseph, like Paul, was unjustly imprisoned. Both Joseph and Paul continued to serve God. They both believed that God would be glorified through their trials. They both were released and continued to do great things for God. But they refused to get cynical. They didn't give up on God, and they kept doing whatever they could to obey and honor God.
When you go through difficult times, remember that God always makes a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). Don't allow yourself to get negative, and never let the devil hear you fret. Speak only God's Word. Continue to praise God and serve Him, and soon you too will joyously declare, "What Satan meant for evil, God has turned for good!”