©Fundamental Evangelistic Association
Advantages of Adversity
"Blessed be God . . . the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us
in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by
the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." 2 Corinthians 1:3 and 4
[Serving as a missionary in the Philippines
under the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, Rev. Friederichsen with
his family were prisoners of war after the outbreak of World War II. This
message was such a personal comfort that it was delivered as an encouragement
to others in the Prison Camp in Manila during the days of starvation before
being liberated February 3, 1945. May the Lord be pleased to make it a similar
blessing to others undergoing trials.]
During our internment by the Japanese in Santo Tomas prison
camp, we sought and found great comfort from the Word of God. Thus we feel
it is our duty, by means of this message to comfort others who may be in
any trouble with the comfort wherewith we ourselves have been comforted of
In this search of the Scriptures for encouragement in adversity, we have
found three main facts: (1) that adversity is inevitable but that (2)
adversity is invaluable, and (3) that adversity is not invincible.
Adversity is Inevitable
God conducts a school of adversity in which many of the lessons are
spelled out in tears, sweat and blood. God has decreed distresses for His children. The
wilderness, is still the road to Canaan. Christ went through Bethany (the house of grief)
before entering Jerusalem (the vision of peace). Gethsemane preceded glory.
What was said of Christ may be said of every Christian, "Ought not
Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?" (Luke 24:26).
The apostle Paul was set forth by the Lord Jesus Christ as the great
example of the Church. "Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy. that in me first
Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering for a pattern to them which should
hereafter believe on him to life everlasting" (1 Timothy 1:16) .
In the apostle Paul, the Lord Jesus Christ portrays as a pattern for
future believers His longsuffering to the greatest of sinners and all longsuffering in the
greatest of saints . "For I will show him how great things he must suffer
for my name's sake'' (Acts 9:16).
We, too. are given this service of suffering. It is often much easier to
serve Christ by working than to serve Him by suffering. When going through troubles it is
a good thing to read the account of Paul 's testings listed in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. Our
hardships are only a pinprick in comparison: "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. Beside those things that are
without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches."
Every work for God is opposed. All Satan' s territory that we invade is
bitterly contended. Paul and Barnabas instructed the Galatians concerning the oppositions
that believers must endure. "They returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and
Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the
faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God."(Acts
To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Paul thus forearmed the
Thessalonians. "That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves
know that we are appointed thereunto. For verily, when we were with you, we told you
before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know"
To the Philippians Paul wrote, "For unto you it is given in the
behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake"
Peter Likewise informs us that adversity is inevitable. "For even
hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that
ye should follow his steps" (1 Pet. 2:21).
In Hebrews 12:6, 7 we are told that sonship and suffering go together. "For
whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye
endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father
chasteneth not?" David. the man after God s own heart, also experienced that
suffering is bound to come to the saint. "Many are the afflictions of the
righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all" (Psa. 34:19).
Our Lord Himself, perhaps more than any other, graciously prepared us in
advance to expect adversity as well as how to meet it. "Behold, I send you forth
as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as
doves" (Matt. 10:16).
Our position as sheep is often precarious and uncomfortable.
In John 15:20 our Lord again reminds us, "Remember the word that I
said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they
will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also."
"Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come:
but woe unto him, through whom they come" (Luke 17:1). "These things I
have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have
tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (Jn 16:33).
Even though the Scriptures, then, fully inform us that adversity is
inevitable, we need not let this discourage us. because. . .
Adversity is Invaluable
The best things of life come out of suffering. Before the flowers can
adorn our gardens, the soil must be broken and the weeds pulled. Before the symmetrical
statue can he erected, the marble must be quarried, sawn and chiseled. Before the
orchestra can send forth its harmony. the instruments must pass through a process of
tuning. Before the body can enjoy healing, the bitter medicine must be applied. Before the
day of graduation, years of study must he passed.
Adversity is invaluable to our character.
"It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn
thy statutes" (Psa. 119:71) . Trouble drives us to the heart of the Word and the
Word into our heart. Adversity not only causes us to learn God 's Word but also to keep
it. "It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy
statutes" (Psa. 119:71). Trouble drives us to the heart of the Word and the Word
into our heart. Adversity not only causes us to learn God's Word, but also to keep it. "Before
I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word" (Psa. 119:67). It is
one thing to know the Bible and another thing to keep and obey it. Suffering is the school
of obedience. "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which
he suffered" (Heb. 5:8).
Sonship nor any amount of holiness. Love or prayer can exempt us from the
school of adversity. Yet suffering does not mar sonship; rather it is the greatest
teacher. Because it touches our self, and sweeps away all shame, thus molding our
character and deepening it in holiness and righteousness. "For they [the
fathers of our flesh] verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but
he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the
present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the
peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby" (Heb.
Often the Lord must permit us to get into trouble in order to draw us back
to Himself. "Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou
shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall
save me" (Psa. 138:7). It is in the center of disaster that He revives us, not
fails us. Have we a broken and contrite heart which God will not despise?
Peter shows us some of the remarkable results of suffering. "But
the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after
that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle
you" (1 Pet. 5:10). We are made perfect, mature, fully equipped as a soldier for
useful duty. Suffering establishes and strengthens us to be firm and powerful to resist
attack. It settles us, giving us as a tree a firm rooting and grounding so that we shall
not be moved.
A tree transplanted every week would not flourish. Thus adversity is the
process used to help us become set in new and permanent and godly habits of life. This
advancement in character is also referred to in James 1:3,4. "The trying of your
faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and
entire, wanting nothing." Patience is a pearl found only in the deep sea of
Again the character-building value of trouble is expressed in Romans 5:3,
4. "We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience
[endurance]; And patience, experience [approvedness]; and experience, hope." In
the natural man, tribulation worketh impatience which sours into hopelessness, while in
the new man, however, tribulation worketh patience which soars to the heights of rejoicing
" in hope of the glory of God."
Our characters are beautified when we have the closest fellowship with the
Lord Jesus Christ. Those who know Him in the fellowship of His sufferings are those who he
become conformed to His likeness. "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the
fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: "But
rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers [sharers] of Christ's sufferings; that, when
his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy" (1 Pet
Job. who went through so much anguish of body and mind, gives us a
beautiful illustration of the character-transforming power of suffering. "But he
knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold'' (Job
In the town of Baguio (Bog-yo), which is located north of Manila in the
mountains of the Philippines, there are a number of gold mines. Once we visited one of
these mines. First we saw small cars on tracks loaded from within the mountain with rock,
emerging from an opening on the hillside. We watched this rock being crushed, pulverized,
and submitted to various chemicals. Minute particles of gold were thus separated from the
useless shale and then submitted to fierce fires in the refining furnace. Later, the
molten shining gold was poured into bricks which were worth around $25,000 each. We were
told that this was not yet pure gold, but it would yet have to endure seven more such
refining fires before it emerged as pure gold.
Suppose that those stones in the mountains could think and speak. Perhaps
they would reason something like this: Why do I have to be removed from my place in the
hills to be pounded, pulverized, by biting chemicals, and finally submitted to seven fiery
furnaces? We would reply to the speaking gray rocks, What use are you buried there beneath
the tons of useless debris? You have within you that which is exceedingly valuable, useful
and beautiful. Through the process of seeming destruction alone can you be separated from
the impurities that keep you from the usefulness, beauty and purity that might be yours.
We so often would rather lie dormant and useless as the dull gray stones
in the mountain just because it takes suffering to polish and reveal the value that should
be ours. Should we not rather praise God that He has blasted us with the gospel, which is
the dynamite of God unto salvation, from our lost estate, and has begun the process of
purification and refining so that we may come forth as pure gold?
Then, too, adversity is invaluable to our conduct.
Suffering is the preparation for the service of sympathy. The training is
costly. Job's friends were miserable comforters because they had never experienced
adversity such as Job was passing through, and their words were powerless to help. The
world is full of comfortless hearts.
Adversity will not only prepare us for a service of sympathy, but it will
also make us fruitful in the service of the salvation of sinners. "Every
branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit,
he purgeth [pruneth] it, that it may bring forth more fruit" (Jn. 15:2). The
knife of adversity is often used to cut away superfluous leaves and branches that prevent
the life-giving sap from producing precious fruit.
The apostle Paul tells how valuable was his experience of imprisonment.
"But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me
have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; So that my bonds in
Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; And many of the
brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the
word without fear" (Phil. 1:12-14).
The Philippians looked on Paul's imprisonment as a calamity, but he showed
them that it was a means of blessing. Paul finally reached his long prayed-for desire of
preaching Christ in Rome, even though he had not anticipated going there as a prisoner.
Adversity is not only invaluable to us in this life for our character and
conduct, but also in the life to come for our capacity for glory.
"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment. worketh for
us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor. 4:17) . If we only
realized the work which our daily tribulations perform for us in storing up a far more
exceeding and eternal weight of glory for future enjoyment, we would not shun and despise
them. but rather welcome all that God permits.
Romans 8:17, 18 indicates that there is a definite quantitative and
qualitative relation between our sufferings with Christ here and our participation with
Christ in glory. "If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified
together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be
compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."
Also compare the value of trials in this life in relation to their reward
in the next life-"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold
that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and
glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. ( l Pet. 1 7).
How often, however, we show a perverted sense of values, for we act as
savages bartering away gold for trinkets. Our Lord counsels us to buy of Him gold tried in
the fire that we may be rich.
The afflicted Hebrew Christians were commended for the manner in which
they suffered the loss of material things in this life because they valued the things of
the next life. "For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the
spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an
enduring substance" (Heb. 10:34).
Adversity Is Not Invincible
The wars and battles of this world may be won. but usually at a great loss
to the conqueror. In life's fight against adversities, Christians suffer the loss of no
essential thing, and thus we can be said to he more than conquerors. "Who shall
separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or
famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?....Nay, in all these things we are more than
conquerors through him that loved us" (Rom. 8:35-37).
As grain loses only the useless chaff by being beaten with the nail, so
Christians lose only the hindrances and impurities by the refining processes of adversity.
Faith is strengthened, love is expanded, experience is deepened, and knowledge is
We, then! have a secret weapon against adversity, a weapon that is put
into our hands by Christ Himself. It is not a death-dealing atomic bomb reigning terror
and horror on mankind, but our secret weapon in this unceasing fight against the troubles
of life is found in one word that is so often coupled with victory over suffering in the
Scriptures . That secret weapon is rejoicing!
"The joy of the LORD is your strength" (Neh. 8:10). But
notice that this joy is not mere pumped-up exuberance that the world calls joy. It is the
joy of the Lord; a joy from God! because of God and in God! "But rejoice inasmuch
as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that! when his glory shall be revealed, ye may
be glad also with exceeding joy" (l Pet. 4:l3). "My brethren, count it all
joy when we fall into diverse temptations and trials" (Jas. 1:2). Do we know the
secret of extracting joy from the jolts of life? Do we experience all joy in all trials?
Do we count it all joy, pure joy, the highest joy, when we are tried?
"In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer. I
have overcome the world" (Jn. 16:33). We are always on the winning side with
Christ. and we cannot lose! for "all things work together for good to them that
love God" (Rom. 8:28). Thus we are more than conquerors, for we have full
assurance of victory all through the battle. "And they departed from the presence
of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name"
We are able to rejoice in suffering for Christ's sake because it is by
Christ's appointment and with Christ's support, "...and took joyfully the spoiling
of your goods" (see Heb. 10:32-35). "Blessed are ye, when men shall
revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for
my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so
persecuted they the prophets which were before you" (Matt. 5:11-12). "We
glory in tribulations .." (Rom. 5:3). "Most gladly therefore will I rather
glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take
pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for
Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
Note the emphasis on rejoicing by the Old Testament prophet in trial. "Although
the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the
olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the
fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy
in the God of my salvation" (Hab. 3:17-18).
Paul was warned of the sufferings ahead, but notice his emphasis on
rejoicing: "And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing
the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city,
saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither
count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the
ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of
God." (Acts 20:22-24).
Out of Joseph's imprisonment came the preservation of a nation.
Out of John's imprisonment emerged the book of Revelation.
Out of Paul's imprisonment flowed the highest revelation of the
Scriptures-the prison epistles.
Out of Bunyan's imprisonment came Pilgrim's Progress.
Truly, they were more than conquerors, even though captives. So, likewise,
if we simply possess our possessions, we shall find that although adversity is inevitable,
it is invaluable, and that it is not invincible because we are, literally,
than conquerors through him that loved us" (Rom. 8:37).