More often than not, tragedy and adversity hit us without warning, like a violent, unexpected storm that leaves a person reeling from the sudden impact. Here in Oklahoma, it seems as though the weather can change in an instant. One minute, the summer sun is shining brightly, and a warm breeze is blowing. Then, only a short time later, the sky is dark, and huge drops of cold rain are crashing to the ground. Sometimes, the dark clouds overhead begin to droop downward, and, soon enough, a funnel-shaped cloud mass descends toward the earth. The tornado that follows can bring incredible devastation where, just moments before, a peaceful serenity existed and people happily went about their business on a pleasant summer day. Once, during His ministry on earth, Jesus told a distressed man, “Do not be afraid; only believe” (Mark 5:36). The real test of our faith is whether we will “only believe” when what we feel inside tells us to give up all hope. Why should we believe? Jesus said:
“In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
We need to remind ourselves that Jesus is greater than our circumstances or anything that the devil might throw at us. (See 1 John 4:4). When we finally determine in our hearts that we are going to believe and stand strong in our faith in God, then we can be assured that we will have victory over our circumstances, no matter how bad they appear to be.
“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world; our faith” (1 John 5:4).
The key to overcoming is simple, yet completely impossible without the help of the Lord. To “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12), we need to know what we will do if tragedy strikes. In other words, we need to be prepared for battle. As I mentioned earlier, tragedy rarely gives us any warning before it strikes. It comes out of the blue and blindsides us. That means we need to prepare now and stay prepared. It means we need to do the “little” things every day—read and study the Bible, meditate on God’s Word, praise and worship the Lord, spend time fellowshipping with other believers. The basics of the Christian life not only deepen our knowledge of and affection for God, but they also help us “stand” after we have “done all” (Ephesians 6:13) and “fight the good fight of faith.” Remember, the Bible says to “resist the devil” (James 4:7), not to fight against him. Why? Because he is already a defeated foe! Jesus defeated him for all eternity when He died on the cross and victoriously rose again on the third day. Jesus’ defeat of Satan means that the devil is not directly part of our fight of faith. After all, why would we need to contend with a beaten enemy? Even the archangel Michael didn’t attempt to fight Satan one-on-one. Instead, he declared to the devil, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 9). So, if Satan is not our main opponent, then what is it we fight when we attempt to stand strong in faith?
We fight a war of the mind, a place where we find “imaginations” and “every high thing” that comes against our faith in God (2 Corinthians 10:5, KJV).
It takes spiritual strength to wage war against the thoughts and emotions that assail our minds. It takes spiritual preparation to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). That’s why we need to keep strengthening and deepening our relationships with God when it seems like everything in life is going smoothly. The day-to-day habits that bring us closer to the Lord are what will determine our ability to fight a good fight of faith when times of adversity come. We often get too short sighted, thinking that, if everything in our lives is going well, we can rest easy in our spiritual walks. We too easily fall into being earthly minded instead of eternally minded. (See Colossians 3:1-2). We quickly find out what is in our hearts and minds when adversity or tragedy comes into our lives. If we’ve been growing in our relationships with God, our faith will manifest itself in our words and actions in times of trouble. However, if we’ve been slack in our daily walks with the Lord, then we are going to find ourselves between a rock and a hard place when tragedy occurs and the fight of faith takes center stage in our lives. The sad thing is that, when you feel like you’re drowning in life, there is no time to take swimming lessons. It’s too late. You either know how to swim, or it’s over. We need to remember this so that our faith in God won’t be found wanting when trails come our way. Too many Christians make the mistake of living their lives spiritually unprepared. This is tantamount to a soldier going to war without any preparation. The time to learn warfare is before the bullets start flying. No soldier goes to class to find out how to fight when there is an actual battle raging all around him. It’s the same for us as Christians. We need to be growing in our Christian maturity by going deeper into the things of God on a daily basis. We need to get God’s Word in our spirits, into our hearts, and into our minds if we ever want to be able to stand in faith on His promises when adversity arises in our lives. Just like soldiers, we as Christians need to train ourselves for future battles (See Psalm 144:1). We need to dress ourselves in the spiritual armor of God that will protect us and allow us to take back what the enemy tries to steal from us (See Ephesians 6:11-17). Our minds must be firmly grounded in the truth of God that declares:
“We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
But all this must be done before we are faced to walk through the fires of affliction. As Cheryl likes to say, “Prior preparation prevents poor performance.” Do you want to know the simplest and most basic key to overcoming tragedy when it strikes? Preparation. Preparation is the key to victory. Preparation will bring us closer to Jesus, and, when life takes a turn for the worse, it will remind us that the Lord is there for us when tragedy blindsides us. Remember that nothing surprises God Almighty. It is He who is able to bring us through the fire so that there is not even a hint of “smoke” about us. (See Daniel 3:27). We cannot overcome unexpected adversity in our own strength, but, by being prepared to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12), we can confidently declare:
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13)!